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How to Tell When it's Time to Renovate Your Electrical Panel

Having problems with your electricity? It's time to take a look at your electrical panel. RenoQuotes.com is here to help you figure out if those flickering lights indicate a deeper problem that you should act on quickly. 

Within the list of renovation and home improvement projects that should only be done by professionals, electricity comes out on top. When you start playing with plugs and outlets, the stakes are really high and potential dangers of electrocution are always present. However, there are ways to see whether or not the problem is grave, without having to contact an electrician right away.

Examining your electrical panel: what to look for

In order to know when it is necessary for your safety to renovate, it is best to deal with an expert who will evaluate your electric installations. That being said, you could also determine yourself first if something is wrong with your electricity. If you've never even opened, let alone touched your electrical panel, it's best to hire a professional who will look at it with you, so they can find the source of the problem.

While they are working, ask them to tell you more about how the panel works and how you should manipulate it. Each panel is different so we couldn't possibly cover all the possibilities in one article. That's why we recommend asking someone to look at it with you. Once you know a few basic things, you'll be able to notice any irregularities by yourself. Here are a few telltale signs that you should look out for:

  • Electric cords hanging out of your main panel;
  • Your electrical outlets are heating up when your devices are powered up;
  • Your main panel contains fuses instead of circuit breakers, (fuses are present in older systems, these types of panels should be replaced as they are considered a fire hazard);
  • A spark occurs when you activate a switch;
  • Flickering lights;
  • Your electrical cords are messily intertwined.

When to call an electrician

If you find that your electrical panel exhibits any one of the signs mentioned above, call an electrician. Even if you feel that you are qualified to do the work yourself, if you don't have a permit to do so, you might be exposing yourself to some legal troubles.

In Quebec, the Building Act (art. 49) stipulates that electrical work inside a private home must be completed by a certified electrician.

This article concerns major renovation work, as well as minor tasks such as installing a power outlet. If you carry out the work by yourself, you are exposing yourself to a hefty fine ($1028 to $154,000). 25% of all house fires are caused by faulty electricity. Going against the law means that you might not get covered by your insurance company. If you’d like to know the rates for an electrician in Quebec, check out the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (CMEQ) website for information about suggested hourly rates.

In Ontario, all electrical work requires a permit from the Electrical Safety Authority. If homeowners wish to perform electrical work themselves, an electrical permit referred to as an “Application for Inspection” must be taken out within 48 hours of the project, and the permit can only be taken out by the individual performing the work. If you choose to hire a contractor, they must be a licensed electrical contractor. Ontario homeowners who do not follow these rules risk a hefty fine of anywhere between $6000 to $20,000.

In Alberta, all electrical installations require electrical permits. A certified electrical contractor must both apply for the permit themselves and complete the work. To be eligible, the contractor must hold an Alberta Master Electrician certificate while also completing an online application for qualified trades. 

In Nova Scotia, electrical installations must be performed by someone who holds a certificate of qualification in the Electrical Construction trade, as issued by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. Further, only said person can apply for a permit to complete the work. There are a few stipulations to this rule, and so if you are a homeowner interested in performing the work on your own, it would be worth researching on the Nova Scotia Power website.

Disclaimer: All tasks that touch on electricity are very risky and should be completed under the safest conditions. Additionally, in certain parts of Canada, only certified electricians are allowed to do this type of work. Please check before you do any electricity work yourself.

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