Electrical Panel Upgrade: Do I Need One?

Your electrical panel distributes electricity into your home through your utility company’s power lines. If your electrical panel isn’t working properly, it can do a lot of damage to you and your home.

 

An electrical panel upgrade is needed for many homes that were built before the 1970’s that still have their original 60amp panel. Homes today have many electrical devices and appliances thanks to our never-ending realm of technology. The homes built before the 1970’s with outdated electrical boxes and panels aren’t equipped to handle the electrical loads we see powering up our computers, televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, Xbox systems, etc. Today, homes are required to have at least a 100amp electrical panel so that everything we plug into stays safe.

 

electrical panel upgrade

Before and After of 200AMP Electrical Panel Change (Replacement of Old FPE Panel)

 

Bottom line, our homes need to be ready for anything we plug into them. If they aren’t, they are susceptible to electrical fire hazards from electrical overloads.

 

Let us also put this out there: ELECTRICAL PANEL REPLACEMENTS ARE NOT JUST FOR HOMES BUILT BEFORE 1970. For example, if you are adding additional outlets to your home for certain appliances, your service panel may need to be upgraded to that of a higher amperage to account for the additional items being plugged in. This can also be true when adding an addition onto the house.

 

A licensed electrician can inspect your existing panel to determine if an upgrade is needed for whatever the reason. Here are some telltale signs that an electrical panel replacement might be needed for your home:

 

Signs You Many Need A New Electrical Panel

  • Constant flickering lights
  • Your home has its original 60amp service
  • Your home has a fuse box
  • Tripping breakers
  • Blown fuses
  • Dimming of lights
  • Damaged circuit breakers
  • Your appliances don’t run on their full power
  • You are adding more outlets in the home
  • You always have to unplug or turn off an appliance to use another
  • Your home isn’t grounded (it still has two-pronged outlets, and not GFCI outlets in the required areas)

 

Another way to tell if your electrical panel needs replacing is the type of panel it is. There are two brands of panels that should definitely be replaced: Federal Pacific Electric Panels and Zinsco Panels. To see if you have either of these, look for the labels on your panel. If you aren’t sure, a licensed electrician can help.

 

Federal Pacific Electric Panels

FPE panels were made up until the 1980’s and installed in many homes across the U.S. It was later discovered that the circuit breakers in the FPE panels were not tested under UL standards. A lawsuit was filed, and an expert tested the circuit breakers to find out that many of them did not trip when they were supposed to. A circuit breaker that does not trip can cause excess electrical current to enter the panel, causing the melting of wires and overheating of the panel which leads to a fire.

 

FPE Electrical Panel

 

Zinsco Panels

Zinsco panels were installed in homes throughout the U.S. up until the middle of 1970. The components of a Zinsco panel contain an aluminum bus bar. It was discovered that over time as electrical loads increased, the aluminum bus bar would corrode and overheat, melting onto the breakers. This in turn creates circuit breakers that will not trip when suppose to, allowing excess electrical current to enter the panel and cause a risk for a fire to occur. To the naked eye, it may look like your Zinsco panel is fine when the breakers are off; however, the panel may still be producing power.

 

Zinsco Electrical Panel

 

Electrical panel upgrades are necessary when you have an older home with an outdated service panel, or if any of the telltale signs mentioned above apply to you. Adding more outlets for bigger appliances? Building a new addition or renovating the kitchen? If you aren’t sure what should be done with your electrical system when it comes to replacements, and you live in Southeastern PA, call a licensed electrician from KB Electric LLC. We will inspect your current electrical panel to determine if an electrical panel upgrade is the right option for you.