How Can I Tell If My Older Home Needs A Panel Upgrade?

Panel upgrades can prevent circuit overloads and electrical fires, saving your family and property from true devastation. However, not all older panels need to be upgraded. Some panels, while old, still supply the appropriate amperage for the needs of the homeowners. Knowing how to determine whether or not your electrical panel is overloaded or needs replacement for other reasons will help ensure the safety of your family and property and that your home has what it needs to continue running properly. 

Sounds, Smells and Sites of an Overloaded or Failing Electrical Panel

Your home's electrical system will begin to display certain symptoms when overloaded.

  • Crackling panel box. If your panel box makes a buzzing or crackling noise, this is a sure sign of an overload and should be inspected immediately.
  • Hot face plates and electrical outlets. If the face plate on your outlets, or the outlets themselves, are uncomfortably hot to the touch, consult with an electrician. 
  • Sparks. Appearance of sparks at the panel box, even if only temporary, are a clear sign of danger. 

Fuse Boxes and Upgrades

Fuse boxes are basically the panel boxes of yesteryear. In the event that a circuit overloads, the fuse associated with that circuit will blow and the power to that circuit will be cut. If your home still uses a fuse box--and there are many out there that do--there's a good chance the fuse box doesn't supply your house with the amperage or conform to the safety standards expected for a home in today's world.

The decision to upgrade your fuse box should depend on the condition of your fuse box and the amperage the box supplies. If your home is constantly blowing fuses, then it's time for an upgrade. If you're not sure if your fuse box is adequate for your needs, or still safe to use, have it inspected by a qualified electrician.

Older Panels Deemed Unsafe

Some older panels have now been deemed unsafe and should be replaced, even if they exhibit no outward signs of trouble. Federal Pacific Electric was a common brand installed in homes before the year 1990. Recent independent tests of these panels have showed that under some conditions, overloaded circuits may fail to trip as much as 80 percent of the time. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell if an existing Federal Pacific Electric brand box is destined to fail, and endurance is not an indication of safety. Panels that haven't failed yet can still fail in the future, leading to a devastating electrical fire. If your panel is labeled with the Federal Pacific Electric name, have it replaced as soon as possible. 

For more information about getting your electrical panel replaced, speak with a qualified, experienced electrician.