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When and How to Change an Electrical Panel

When and How to Change an Electrical Panel

Interior renovationsWhen and How to Change an Electrical Panel

Electricity is a vital component in modern households, powering appliances, lighting up rooms, and facilitating day-to-day living. However, over time, electrical panels, or breaker panels as they’re commonly referred to, are often neglected, becoming near obsolete and presenting potential safety risks and, ultimately, limiting energy efficiency. 

Have you noticed any electricity-related problems in your home? If so, then it might be time to replace your electrical panel, as unbeknownst to some, they do have a limited lifespan. Get ahead of any unfortunate circumstances by checking out your breaker panel to see if anything might be out of the ordinary, hinting at its imminent replacement. The latter also applies if your electrical panel isn’t compliant with the new, updated 2018 Canadian Electrical Code.

Here Are 5 Warning Signs that Your Breaker Panel Should Be Replaced

Faulty electrical panel

Source: Canva

Your home’s electrical panel performs a myriad of important tasks, such as preventing an electrical circuit overload. Hence why it's primordial to ensure that your electrical system is in good working order, and should that not be the case, see to its replacement. Certain problems might point to a need for an immediate replacement.

1. Sudden flickering or dimming lights or appliances

A brownout or voltage dip is when electrical appliances experience a drop in intensity. It’s a sudden 10% or more drop in voltage. These can last anywhere from eight milliseconds to one minute. Generally speaking, brownouts are electrical disruptions. They’re not considered power outages or interruptions. On average, they last less than a second and present a voltage drop of 60% or less. 

If electrical appliances or lights in a house undergo sudden drops in voltage, this could be an indication of faulty wiring or a circuit overload. If you fail to fix the situation, you’re essentially increasing the risks of sparking a fire in your home. 

2. Your electrical panel operates on fuses

If you reside in an older model home and failed to replace the electrical panel for years now, chances are that it operates on fuses. This outdated system is nearing extinction. In its place, homeowners prefer having circuit breakers installed. According to Cyrille Châtelain, Création et Design Électrique, “an older model or obsolete electrical panel isn’t necessarily a risk in itself since it all depends on the type of usage, but more so on the renovations carried out.” However, during a short circuit, the fuses are harder to manipulate, and in some cases can cause shocks, and could potentially be a fire hazard. 

Furthermore, if your insurance provider gets wind of the fact that your home is still equipped with a fuse box, they may decline your claim in the event of a house fire. Consider replacing your electrical power system with a circuit breaker box. The latter is especially easy to use. Should the circuit trip, you simply need to flip the breaker in question back into position. Once a year, inspect all breakers to ensure they’re secured in place. At times, with wear, they will become flimsy.

3. Your electrical panel is rusty or hot to the touch


Source: Canva

Danger! Call an electrician right away. 

The presence of rust indicates a potential water leak that may compromise the proper functioning of electrical circuits. It’s a sign of wear that requires swift intervention from a qualified electrician to assess the damages and carry out the necessary repairs. 

As for the heat factor, it’s another alarming sign that points to a severe problem. Heat emanating from an electrical panel is often synonymous with a system overload. This may be caused by excessive power usage in the home or a dysfunctional panel in itself. A system overload can lead to overheating panel components, leading to a potential fire hazard.

4. Recurring short-circuiting

Recurring short circuits are typically indicative of an electrical system overload, often resulting from an insufficient electrical panel capacity concerning the home’s power needs. Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Multiple plugged-in appliances: Overloading a single outlet with too many appliances functioning at once can cause short-circuiting. 

  • Old electrical panel: Such panels weren’t designed for modern-day power consumption and, therefore may experience difficulty in meeting the current demand.

  • Faulty electrical installation: Short-circuiting can occur due to direct contact between two electrical conductors, often the result of a faulty electrical installation. 

  • Defective appliances: A strained or older model appliance can cause short-circuiting.

  • Damaged wiring: It can cause short circuits, electrical arcs, and fires. 

Note that your panel’s capacity might be too low. Back in the day, people didn’t consume as much electricity as is common nowadays. Older electrical panel models weren’t designed to supply this growing energy demand. For example: A new panel can supply a 200-amp service, while older models reach capacity at 60 amps.

When faced with these circumstances, it’s advised to hire a professional to assess your electrical panel’s capacity, and if necessary, replace it.

5. Electric circuits are no longer functional

When in doubt about a circuit in your panel, use a multimeter to detect the electrical current. Doing so allows you to carry out an accurate diagnostic test and discover the source of the problem. If, after proceeding with a thorough verification, you determine that it might be time to change your electrical panel, call an electrician. It’s the sort of task that should always be carried out by a professional, considering that the potential for error is too great. 

How much does it cost to replace your house’s electrical panel?


Source: Canva

Prior to replacing an electrical panel, you must first determine the related costs to properly plan this electrical update. Prices vary based on several factors, such as the size of the panel, the complexity of the installation, and local electrical standards.

Check out our article Cost of Electrical Renovations in 2024 for more information on the subject matter.

Key Considerations

What’s for sure is that replacing an electrical panel is a crucial solution to ensure the safety and efficiency of your electrical system as a whole. Throughout this article, we’ve explored the warning signs pointing to a need to change your existing system.

By understanding the process and enlisting qualified professionals, you can ensure an electrical infrastructure update, adhering to modern-day safety standards and facilitating new technological add-ons. 

In a nutshell, replacing an electrical panel is a mandatory investment for your home’s safety and electrical performance, contributing to your peace of mind and the overall durability of your residence.

Want to keep reading about household electrical problems? Check out our article The 9 Most Common Electrical Problems.

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Last modified 2024-02-13

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