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    7 Signs That It's Time to Replace Your Home's Electrical Panel

    Electrical panels are out of sight, out of mind, so most homeowners aren’t considering when their breaker boxes need to be replaced. However, it’s essential to keep this in mind because outdated circuit breakers can be a safety hazard if not maintained or updated. This article will outline signs you need to replace your electrical circuit breaker panel and the best way to do it. 

    How Do I Know if My Electrical Panel (Breaker Box) Needs to be Replaced?

    1. It’s old. Unbeknownst to many homeowners, the average lifespan of an electrical panel is only 20 - 50 years. So if you live in an older home, you should have your electrical system inspected, as your panel may not be suited to handle modern electrical needs.

    2. You can find recall lists on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for panels needing replacement due to hazards or safety concerns.

    3. If breakers trip regularly, your panel may need to be replaced. 

    4. There’s been a short or fire within the panel: this can happen if connections aren’t properly installed or aren’t tight enough, which causes arching in the wires and then a short + fire in the fuse box.

    5. If you hear noises coming from your panel, your breaker box could be arching or vibrating caused by loose connections within the panel. This is a bad sign.

    6. If you see signs of corrosion in the electrical box. Corrosion happens over time when moisture is introduced within the panel. If you open the panel and visibly see corrosion or signs of moisture, you’ll want to address this ASAP. Corrosion could look like a build-up of rust and/or chalky white substance around the screw terminals. (pull images online). Additionally, if you notice a bad smell emanating from the panel, it is a red flag that warrants prompt attention.

    7. When lights start flickering, or outlets stop working, these could be warning signs of a panel issue or wiring needing to be updated/replaced. Lights and outlets on the same circuit can cause flickering lights as well. Modern building code requires lights and outlets to be on separate circuits.

    When Should I Replace My Electrical Panel Box?

    How to Determine Your Electrical Service Amps

    When you need to replace your electrical panel depends on the brand, location of the box, amount of moisture within the environment, etc. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard for the panels' lifespan; it’s all based on each manufacturer and the parts and pieces within the panel. Generally speaking, your home’s electrical system must be replaced once the electrical panel has reached its service life. You can consult the manufacturer of the box to find out what this is for your specific model, but the average panel lifespan is 20-50 years.

    How Do I Know if I Need to Upgrade My Electrical Panel?

    Upgrading a panel usually means replacing an old one. Older homes built in the 40s and 50s have 100 amp panels or smaller amperage, and today’s electrical requirements are 200 amps or more, depending on if you have a heat pump, electric range, or forced HVAC. During remodels, it’s typical for renovations to include new appliances or additional outlets added, which will exceed the existing panel’s capacity, leading to a panel upgrade. This is why replacement usually needs to happen during home remodels in older homes.

    Don’t Try This At Home

    Electrical diagnosis usually requires a licensed electrician to evaluate your circumstances and offer solutions. A design-build company like Better Builders will have a network of trusted trade partners who can provide this service. Because this is a safety issue, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Electrical work is not the time for a DIY unless you are a professional.

    For more information on routine home maintenance and how to keep your home in check, please download  our eBook, “Redefining Home Maintenance: The Proactive & Essential Guide for Homeowners.”

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    Pete Baughman

    About Pete Baughman

    Home renovation and custom home building have been a part of my life since birth. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all Carpenters. It was only natural for me to be drawn to it as well. I worked as a Carpenter and Project lead helping him create and produce many extraordinary projects. My experiences have varied from Carpenter, Lead Carpenter, Project Manager, Production Manager, Project Developer, and Sales Manager. I started with Better Builders in 2011 and, in 2019, became an owner.