When it comes to home electrical systems, one of the most visible and critical components is the electrical panel, or distribution board. Generally speaking, electrical panels are the main tool used in regulating the flow of power from the house’s main electrical connection and the individual circuits in your home. If your circuit breaker is older, it might not be able to support a modern lifestyle.
First, electrical panels regulate the flow of power down each circuit in the home. They use circuit breakers, which are devices which can detect power surges and shut off flow to a circuit. This is important because each circuit is only meant to handle a certain amount of electrical energy. If a circuit handles too much energy (whether a single large burst or small amounts of excess over time), it can be damaged by the power which exceeded its design parameters. Older electrical panels use fuses instead of breakers, and this can be a major problem for homeowners. Not only are fuses much more difficult to replace when power overloads a circuit, they also can be a fire hazard. If your home electrical panel still uses fuses, it is almost certainly time for you to get an upgrade. Home safety should always be taken seriously and failing to upgrade could leave your house uninsurable as well.
Another reason your electrical panel might need to be upgraded is if the current power needs of your home exceed the limits of what the panel can provide. Remember how the electrical panel serves as the gateway for energy into the home? If you want to suck large amounts of energy, an older panel simply might not be able to support it. This is particularly true if you are going to be installing something which will need a lot of power.
However, installing a newer electrical panel alone will not solve the problem. The flow at the electrical panel is restricted for good reasons. Remember that circuits can become damaged when they channel more energy than they were designed for. If you are looking to install something which will need more power than your current circuits can safely provide, not only will you have to adjust your electrical panel, but a new circuit will need to be installed which can deal with the larger amounts of energy being transmitted. Remember that this is a very important safety issue.
If you cannot be sure that your circuits can handle the electricity that you need, get them inspected and upgraded. Over time, the power will be discharged as heat, which can slowly damage wiring or potentially cause a fire in the surrounding area. Electrical fires can be particularly devastating, as they can start deep within the infrastructure of a home. Slowly charring and smoldering over time, by the time they have eaten through the walls it may be too late to save the structure. Because it can take so long to detect an electrical fire compared to other fires, you are much more likely to suffer extensive property damage when an electrical fire begins in these conditions.
Another great reason to upgrade your electrical panel is if you are using a faulty or unreliable panel. Sometimes, recall notices will be sent out when it is discovered that a company was producing an electrical panel which is a fire or safety risk. You should check to make sure that your home electrical panel does not have any known safety defects.
Consult with a trusted electrician to determine the best replacement, and perhaps use this time to make sure that you have everything ready so that if you decide to upgrade in the future, you have a panel which can support that.
Additionally, sometimes circuit breakers and electrical panels fail or become damaged. If you have a breaker tripping when there should be no load on a circuit, or you have had water damage to your panel, repairs might be needed. Remember that this often controls the flow of electricity to the entire residence, so you do not want to be in a situation where a component this critical is failing.
Even if the panel itself is fine, noticing these issues might also point to a deeper more dangerous problem with your electrical system. The issues at the electrical panel might simply be a symptom of a problem which could become incredibly expensive or dangerous if left to fester. Calling out a trusted and experienced electrician to assess the situation when you see unexpected behavior from your board is a great idea. Whether or not there is a problem, you will be able to rest with peace of mind, knowing that you have thoroughly investigated or solved the problem at hand.