As one of the most important electrical components in your home, the electrical panel may require an upgrade. Like most homeowners, you may face difficulty understanding what the upgrade entails and when is the best time to perform it.
In this article, we will cover what an electrical panel upgrade is, how to identify the need for upgrades, and some factors to consider before making any changes.
How Important is an Electrical Panel?
Also known as the electric panel or electric service panel, this box houses crucial electrical components, such as wires and circuit breakers.
The significance of having one installed in your home lies in its role as the central connection that helps distribute power to various areas where it is needed.
Out of Sight; Out of Mind
Have you ever heard the statement, "out of sight, out of mind?" You probably have, and its simplest interpretation is that when something is not within your reach, you tend to forget about its existence.
Although the circuit breaker panel, also known as the electrical panel, houses the core electrical components in your home, you might actually overlook its presence. This is because it is often isolated, either mounted on a wall or stowed in locations that are not easily accessible.
Due to its inconspicuous placement and infrequent interaction, there is a chance that you may not pay attention to it. Consequently, when it is time to upgrade, you might not be aware of the need.
How to Determine the Viability of Electrical Panel Upgrades
You should not simply replace electrical panels because you have extra cash or notice that one of the components is not functioning as it used to.
Several indicators or factors can guide you in determining whether you need an electrical panel upgrade. Let's examine some of these factors:
The Electrical Panels are Old
Just like your smartphones and other gadgets, you may need to replace or upgrade the electrical panels in your home.
Typically, this is recommended for homes with panels installed for a period of 25 to 40 years.
Continuing usage beyond this period could potentially expose you, your household, and employees (if installed in an office) to danger.
While the 25-to-40-year period is standard, there is also a chance that your electric panels may require an upgrade even before that time. Keep reading to discover other signs to look for.
Tripping Circuit Breakers
A circuit breaker's function includes stopping current flow when a home or office becomes overloaded. Doing so helps prevent associated dangers.
Therefore, if your circuit breaker frequently trips, it is a sign that the load has become too heavy. In this case, your office space or home could benefit from an upgrade to help distribute electricity more effectively.
The Box is Warm
Although the electrical panel is responsible for electricity distribution, it should not be warm to the touch. If it is, this indicates that it is not performing as expected.
The reason for this is that well-insulated and connected wires should not heat up. It is the heat generated by wires touching each other that warms the box. If you notice this, consider contacting an electrician to help you determine the cause.
It may be an issue of overloading, which affects the wires. In some cases, it might be because wires have disconnected from their intended locations and are now touching.
Similar to wire-interfacing causing the panel's box to be warm, it can also produce a burning smell. Ordinarily, the box should not emit any smell. However, when it does, it is usually because wires have become badly burnt and are giving off the odor.
Change the Fuse-Based Electric Panels
Given modern electrical panel designs, fuse-based panels are now less popular. If you have one in your home , it is time to follow the trend and replace the fuse-based electrical panels.
Unusual Noises from the Panel
In the absence of a circuit breaker popping up, there should be no significant noise coming from your electric panel. If you hear noises like something sparking or any sound other than a flick, it should be a cause for concern.
One of our electricians can help inspect the panel to find out where the noise is coming from and if anything has been damaged in the process.
Damaged wires and overloading are the two main factors responsible for flickering lights in your office or home. If these are the causes, you may continue experiencing flickering lights and an unstable power supply, as the circuit is trying to balance the power.
To Replace or to Upgrade?
A significant concern after noting the factors above is whether the electric panel needs to be replaced or upgraded. Often, the terms "replacement" and "upgrade" are used interchangeably, but they are quite different.
The scenarios calling for an electrical panel replacement differ from those requiring an upgrade. Here are some of the distinctions between the replacement and upgrade of an electrical service panel:
The Extent of Changes
Both electrical circuit breaker panel replacement and upgrade involve making essential changes to the home's wiring. However, the scope of the changes differentiates one from the other.
On the one hand, replacement entails minimal changes or replacing damaged parts/components with new, functional ones. For example, a worn-out circuit breaker can be removed and replaced.
On the other hand, you need an electrical panel upgrade if you need to increase the load in the office, industry, or home. For example, an upgrade is required if you have new appliances to add to the existing ones.
Depending on your budget, you may find an electrical panel replacement less costly than upgrading the entire system.
Additionally, the extent of the changes to be made (such as the new systems and appliances to be powered) can help you determine how much to allocate.
Choosing between an Electrical Service Panel and Fuse Boxes
Both the service panel and the fuse box serve the same purpose – they help balance and regulate power supply in offices and homes. However, the electrical panel is generally preferred over the fuse box.
In some homes, fuse boxes are still present, but it is more common to install electrical panels. Here are some of the differences between the two:
Number of Phases: Fuse boxes are mostly designed for single use. Consequently, they are destroyed or rendered unusable when they melt. In contrast, electrical panels come in various formats, such as single-phase and three-phase panels. You can use the former for residential purposes and the latter for commercial, office, and industrial settings.
Ease-of-Use: It is more convenient to work with an electrical panel due to the ease of installing and removing components, such as circuit breakers. On the other hand, fuse boxes require more time spent screwing in and pulling out the fuses.
Benefits of Making an Electrical Panel Upgrade
Upgrading the electrical panel in your office, home, or industry offers many advantages. Besides protecting the occupants of your home and employees at your workplace, it also simplifies power distribution and management.
Here are the top benefits of making an electrical panel upgrade:
Increase the Circuit Count
Some electrical panels are already filled with numerous circuits, leaving you with little or no space to add more circuit breakers.
By upgrading, you can create more space to add additional circuits to power new appliances in your home and workplace.
For the best results, contact us so we can assign one of our engineers to examine the panel and determine the most suitable way to make the connections.
Increased Electrical Safety
Overloaded electrical panels pose various risks, such as electrical shocks, flickering lights, and malfunctioning components and wires.
An upgrade helps to address these issues in several ways, including supporting more circuit integrations and reducing the risks associated with faulty components and wires.
How to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
Attempting to upgrade your electrical panel yourself exposes you to risks, such as incorrect installation, electric shocks, and fire outbreaks due to improper connections.
It is advisable to contact a professional for the upgrade. Our engineers at Mikano International Limited have the technical expertise to identify existing issues with your current panel, provide recommendations on how to resolve these problems, and assist in installing the new components required for the upgrade.