The electrical panel is an essential component of your home’s electrical system. Within the panel are circuits, which carry electricity throughout your home to outlets, lights, and appliances. The number and size of the circuits determine your home’s electrical capacity.

If you’re experiencing electrical problems like the ones you’ll learn about in this article, it might be time for an upgrade.

The first step in the upgrade process is determining your home’s electrical load. Do you have enough amps to meet your electrical needs? If you think about electricity like water flowing through your home, an amp is the rate at which electricity flows. A few decades ago, 60 amps was enough to suit the needs of the average American household. Today, 100 amps is standard in the average home, with larger homes that use a lot of electricity needing 150 to 200 amps.

Panel updates give your home the ability to process more power and distribute it throughout your home more effectively and efficiently. When it comes to upgrading your electrical panel, you have several options:

  • Upgrade panel to bring more power from the utility into your home
  • Replace meter and circuit breaker with one that can handle more power
  • Replace components that are old or damaged
  • Add circuits so you can add more outlets in your home
  • Replace problem-causing circuits to remove electrical dangers
  • Upgrade circuits to meet current electrical safety standards
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burnt-discolored-outlet-with-charred-power-cordSigns of Electrical Problems in Your Home

Be on the lookout for any of the following signs of a possible problem. If your home is experiencing any of these issues, call a professional to inspect your electrical system, because it might be time for an electrical panel upgrade.

  1. Electrical shocks. Mild shocks and tingling can mean that the wiring is defective or that it was improperly installed. If this is the case, there’s a risk of ‘electrical leakage’ when you touch the switch or outlet.
  1. Burning odors or sparks. The occasional spark is not unusual, but large or frequent sparks can be signs of deteriorated wiring or a faulty circuit. Also pay attention to warm or discolored outlets. Whether the cause is faulty wiring or an overloaded circuit, you’ll want to talk to an electrician about these issues.
  1. Lights that dim when you turn on other appliances. This is a sign that your electrical system isn’t equipped to handle your electrical needs. What’s essentially happening is an overloaded circuit is funneling electricity from other parts of your home to the appliances in an effort to meet the electrical need.
  1. Breakers that trip frequently. Circuit breakers trip because they’re overloaded or because they’re old. You may also hear crackling sounds in older panels. This is a sure sign that it’s time to upgrade your electrical panel.
  1. Reliance on power strips and extension cords. Probably one of the most common signs is a strong reliance on extension cords and power strips to power everything in your home. By upgrading your panel, you can add circuits and outlets throughout your home to reduce potential fire hazards caused by power strips and extension cords.

Benefits of a New Electrical Panel

What can you expect after installing a new electrical panel?

Peace of mind. Your home will be better protected from electrical hazards like overloaded circuits. A panel upgrade also decreases the risk of electrical fire.

Added value. A new electrical panel increases your home’s resale value, gives you the ability to add more appliances, and better protects expensive electronic equipment.

Lower costs. While the upgrade will cost you up front, it will save you money over time. A safer electrical system often translates into lower home insurance costs. You’ll also use less electricity if your house is running more efficiently, so you can also expect your electric bills to be lower.

rewiring-domestic-plugElectrical Panel Upgrade Process

Upgrading an electrical panel is a complicated process that requires an advanced skill set and coordination between the electrician and the electric utility and/or service provider. Expect these jobs to take anywhere from eight to ten hours depending on the complexity of the update.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect during a typical electrical panel upgrade:

  1. Your electrician will determine the size of new panel and the number of circuits that will be added.
  2. He or she will coordinate with the utility company and obtain any required permits for the work.
  3. The utility company will disconnect the power and possibly power connection to your home.
  4. The electrician will replace or update your panel and install the wiring for any new circuits.
  5. If the panel is new, it will usually require inspection by a state electrical or utility inspector.
  6. The utility company will reinstate your electrical service.

Because of everything that’s involved in an electrical panel update, it’s important to hire a qualified and licensed professional to perform this work.

Bottom Line

If you think it might be time to upgrade your home’s electrical panel, call an electrician to check out your system. Make sure you consider the electrical load and consider giving yourself some room to grow (especially if you’re planning on adding appliances or additions to your home).

Know your upgrade and update options, be aware of the danger signs, and consider the long-term benefits of upgrading your electrical panel. And when it’s time to make a move, call a professional you can trust.