Most Florida homeowners look for the upgrades they can make to their home to help add to their property value. One of the necessary parts of maintenance for your home many people miss is upgrading the electrical panel and system. Here’s the information you need to know about when you’ll need an upgrade and the options.
When to Consider an Electrical Panel Upgrade?
In modern Florida homes, an electrical panel is likely going to last longer than most people will own their home, usually lasting 25 to 40 years. However, in the modern context, it’s more common for a panel to become damaged or for the needs of the home to expand beyond the current panel’s capacity. In either of these cases, it’s advantageous to upgrade your panel to safely meet the needs of your home. Here are some of the telltale signs your panel requires an upgrade.
Your Home Has a Fuse Box
If your home was built in the 1960s or before, you likely have a fuse box, and that means it’s time for an upgrade. There are many problems with fuse boxes, the least of which is the inconvenience of constantly having to replace blown fuses. The bigger danger to fuse boxes are the tactics some people use to avoid having to replace the fuses, many of which cause lasting damage to the panel.
Frequently Tripping Breakers
Your circuit breakers are in place to break the electric current in the event the circuit draws too much power. This sometimes happens when there’s a surge on a circuit. However, if this is happening frequently, it’s an indication you either have a damaged or overloaded circuit. As commonly happens with so many electric appliances in every house, one overloaded circuit typically means you have others. It’s time to redesign your panel to create more circuits in your home and reduce the load on each.
Under Coded Electrical Outlets
Modern electrical standards require every outlet in your home to have a ground and that outlets near water sources are GFCI enabled. Any time you do significant work to your electrical system by adding grounds or installing special outlets, it’s a good idea to double-check your panel, too. Older electrical system designs usually come with outdated panels that may be nearing the end of their service life anyway.
Signs of Electrical Wear and Tear
Keep your eyes open for signs of wear and tear on your electrical system. These signs include:
Burning smell coming from your panel or electrical outlets.
Flickering, blinking, or dimming lights.
Discolored wall plates or signs or scorching.
Cracking, buzzing, or sizzling from receptacles.
Sparking when you plug in an appliance.
Mild shock from receptacles, appliances, or switches.
Adding New Service or Appliances
A very common occurrence is adding new service to your existing system, or adding a significant draw to your system. Adding new service typically comes when you renovate your home, finish a basement, or add electrical service to a shed or garage. Changing appliances, or adding new ones, can also significantly add to the draw on your system, taxing what you already have in place.
Oftentimes, people find they have several contributing factors that necessitate an upgrade. Fortunately, not all upgrades mean replacing your entire system, or even your entire panel. Here are the options you may want to consider.
Upgrade 1: Individual Circuit Breakers
Circuit breakers may wear out more quickly than their intended service life, needing to be replaced. This typically happens either because of an overloaded circuit, damage caused to the circuit through surging, or because of ground faults. It’s easy for a professional to identify which breakers might need replacing, and then what caused them to wear out in the first place.
Upgrade 2: Panel Replacement
Your panel itself may have become damaged and require replacing. This does not include an upgrade in service coming to your home, but is caused by many of the same factors as replacing individual breakers. The difference with a panel replacement is that the underlying controls for the panel have become damaged, often affecting more than a single breaker. You may notice scorching within the panel, indicating your panel has experienced dangerous arcing. You may also notice damage to the wiring inside your panel, or melting plastic on individual breakers. All of these are potentially dangerous situations, and require a full panel upgrade to prevent personal injury or extensive property damage.
Upgrade 3: Upgrade Service
Even homes built in the 1990s were only equipped with 100 amp service. If you think back to the time, there were very few consumer electronics, such as phones, tablets, laptops, and battery backups. In modern homes, every person in the home might have three or more of these devices, which all add to the demand on the electrical system.
It’s common to upgrade from 100 or 150 amp service to the more common 200 amp service to continue meeting the demand of modern homes. This includes not only upgrading the service line to your home, but also the panel and the circuits within your home to effectively handle and distribute that service.