How do I know if I need to upgrade my electrical panel?
In today's age of connectivity, the search for an electric outlet seems to be top priority. We aren't only plugging in our TVs, washers, dryers and refrigerators. We are plugging in to charge our cell phones, computers, iPads, and voice activated home assistants. We are adding outdoor living spaces to our homes, which may also require additional electrical power. We love to use energy, but can our electrical panels handle the load?
Building code requires that new homes be built with adequate electrical service, taking into consideration the size of the home, and the electrical demands of the design. Most homes are built with 200 amp service, but can include up to 400 amp service to meet the electrical demands of today's homeowner.
Many of the existing homes on Staten Island connect to the power grid with 100 amp 240 volt service, and utilize a 100 amp circuit breaker panel. If there are no plans to add significant equipment to your home, if there is adequate room in your panel and if your main breaker does not occasionally trip, you are in good shape. Meaning, the 100 amp service is adequate for your home and there is no need to upgrade your service.
Some homeowners may think if they are experiencing individual breakers tripping, that it's time to upgrade. That is not necessarily the case. A breaker's purpose is to protect the electrical circuit from damage when there is an overload or short in the circuit. In this case, you may just need a repair, not a complete upgrade of your service or panel replacement.
Power enters our homes through the electrical panel, and is then distributed to outlets, switches and junction boxes. This panel contains either fuses or circuit breakers and can only handle a certain amount of electrical amperage. If the appliances, and electrical demands exceed your panel's capacity, it is time to upgrade your electrical service.
If your electrical panel utilizes fuses instead of breakers, you may want to consider converting to circuit breakers. Many insurance companies have identified that fuses are unsafe and may be a fire hazard, and therefore will not write policies for homes where they are utilized. It is also important to check with your existing insurance company, if your panel has fuses, to make sure they will cover a loss in the event there is a fire due to faulty electrical service.
You should consider upgrading your panel when; you are adding additional equipment or appliances that require independent circuits and there is no more room in the panel; if there is an overload in the existing panel which is causing circuits to trip; if you are adding a sub panel, which requires the use of more amperage than is available; or if you are doing a major renovation to your home, as it may be cost effective to include that in the electrical workload. If you are not planning this type of work, or you do not have circuit breakers tripping from overload, and the breakers in your panel are not overfed, then chances are your existing service is adequate.
If your home utilizes a Federal Pacific brand panel, you should have a licensed electrician evaluate your electrical service immediately. Federal Pacific panels are dangerous and can cause a fire in your home. These panels are easily identified by name and the bright orange circuit breakers inside the panel.
This company is no longer in business and lost their UL listing license in the late 1960s. A UL license ensures that a lighting product or electrical components has a safety-related certification and has been tested, and inspected for the safety of its users.
These circuit breakers do not have short circuit protection, which means when a circuit is shorted they will not immediate trip the breaker. They will arc and continue to burn until the circuit opens. This is a potential danger to your home and should be replaced immediately. Currently no major home mortgage lending institution will allow the sale of a home with a Federal Pacific panel.
If you are concerned about any type of lighting or wiring inconsistency in your home, you should consider having a licensed electrician evaluate your home electrical system. Be proactive and protect your family. A routine home evaluation is complimentary and can provide you with peace of mind.
Donald Pagano, President - DRP Electrical Contracting Inc.
(718) 477-7275 firstname.lastname@example.org