Upgrade your electrical panel when it is:
- Unsafe. If your panel is old, or uses fuses, click here to learn more about unsafe electrical panels.
- Too small. If your circuit breakers keep flipping off, your fuses keep blowing or you have been informed that more power is needed, get more information here about upgrading to a larger electrical panel.
What Are Electrical Panels?
Your electrical panel is the core of your electrical system, much like the trunk of a tree. It takes the electricity that comes from the utility company and redistributes it throughout your home. Flowing out of the panel, the electricity is diverted into several larger branches, which turn into smaller currents as they are channeled through your home.
If there was too much electrical current flowing through your home electrical system, the wires would melt. This could start a fire. In the case that you accidentally came into contact with an overloaded wire that was damaged, you would most likely get an electrical shock. In order to prevent too much power from flowing through your wires, your electrical service panel is designed to detect any problems when they occur and break the circuit so that the flow of electricity is halted. If you have an older panel, a fuse will blow. Newer panels have circuit breakers that will flip off.
It is vital to your home safety that your circuit breakers and fuses always be operating properly. It is also important that your electrical panel be large enough for the electrical needs of your family. When adding a room, air conditioning unit or other large appliance, for example, an electrical panel upgrade may be necessary.
There are many other names for an electrical panel, such as electrical box, electrical service panel or circuit breaker panel. For a full list, read the end of this article.
How Do I Know When I Need a Larger Panel?
When adding large appliances to your home, your breaker panel will not always be able to provide the additional electricity that is required. If you find that you are frequently flipping circuit breakers because of this, you will probably need to upgrade your panel.
The following are common reasons for upgrading your electrical pane:
- Adding a Room
- Kitchen Renovation
- Installing Central Air Conditioning
- Moving to a House with Old, Undersized Breaker Panel
- Adding Hot Tubs, Spas, Ovens or Other Large Appliances
If you believe that your breakers are turning off due to too much power, or a contractor has informed you that you need more, call us for a consultation.
Replacing Electrical Panels for Safety Reasons
Modern electrical panels are designed for maximum safety. If you have an older home, however, your electrical panel may present fire or shock danger. Although they were safe when first installed, fuse style boxes and the brands listed below are known to become less safe as they get older. Electrical Panels that can cause safety issues are:
- Fuse Boxes
- Zinsco electrical panels
- Pushmatic electrical panels
- Federal Pacific Electric Company electrical panels
Fuse Box Safety Problems
Older breaker panels utilize fuses instead of circuit breakers. When fuse boxes were the norm, most family homes needed much less electricity. The majority of all fuse boxes were built to process only 30-60 amps of power. Today’s homes typically require between 100 and 200 amps of power. As a result, older homes equipped with fuse boxes are often overloaded, which causes fuses to blow frequently.
Naturally, this can be very inconvenient. To solve this problem, you may be tempted to replace your fuses with larger fuses to stop them from blowing as often. This is not a viable solution, however. Using oversized fuses will lead to overloaded and overheated wires, which leads to fire hazard. You will also find the occasional person who has placed a penny in the fuse opening as a fuse replacement. This presents a huge fire hazard, due to the fact that a penny will never break the circuit if it becomes overloaded.
Although it is not common knowledge, it is possible for homeowners to accidentally place their fingers into fuse openings when replacing fuses, causing them to be electrocuted. The best solution for outdated fuse boxes is to replace them with a new circuit breaker box.
Federal Pacific Electric Company Electrical Panels
The Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) was responsible for the installation of millions of “Stab-Lok®” electrical panels in the years from the 1950s to the 1980s. Unfortunately, many of these models contain flaws that can cause shock or fire danger.
According to Dr. Jess Aronstein, a consulting engineer for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “The presence of a Federal Pacific panel in a home should be classified as a ‘Safety Defect’… There is no question but that the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative.”
A class action lawsuit by the State of New Jersey was successfully brought against FPE for safety violations in their Stab-Lok® panels in 2005.
If you have an FPE Stab-Lok® panel in your home, please call us for a consultation.
Zinsco Electrical Panels
Although Zinsco stopped manufacturing their panels in the mid-1970s, their panels have serious manufacturing flaws that can cause circuit breakers to melt, leading to malfunction. Furthermore, their breakers can appear as if they have flipped off, but are still allowing electricity to flow through the circuit. All Zinsco panels should be replaced due to the fire and shock hazard that they present. For more information on Zinsco electrical panel hazards, click here. If you have any questions, or have a Zinsco panel, call us today for a consultation.
Pushmatic Electrical Panels
Over time, Pushmatic electrical service panels have shown themselves to be very unreliable. As they age, the breakers get harder to re-set. Some breakers will even flip off because they are no longer strong enough to hold themselves in place.
There are man Pushmatic panels that also have no main breaker. The purpose of a main breaker is to cut power to the entire panel, rather than a single circuit, in the event that too much electricity is flowing in. Although many Pushmatic panels do not have this feature, modern electrical panels come with main breakers for this reason.
The Many Names of Electrical Panels
Electrical panels are often called by the following names:
- Circuit breaker panel or box
- Panel board
- Load center
- Distribution board
- Main Panel
- Breaker box
- Power breaker
- Fuse box
- Electrical service
- Service panel
- Fuse board
- Residential service
Although they are worded differently, these names all name the same thing: the panel that takes the electricity from the utility companies and feeds it through the circuits in your home. This box also contains circuit breakers or fuses to ensure that these circuits do not become overloaded.
What do I do next?
If you believe that you need to upgrade your panel to add additional power handling, or because of safety reasons, please call us today. Talk to our in-office electrician to get a consultation or schedule a home safety inspection.