Whether you call it the breaker box or the electrical panel, it serves the same purpose – it's the safety control center for all the circuits in your home. The box is full of protective fuses, or circuit breakers, that are designed to turn off if a circuit is overloaded. This prevents hazardous electrical conditions, including fires. The breakers are also designed for manual shut-off, such as when you are working on an electrical item. Sometimes your needs may outgrow your existing box, or you may have an older box with issues. If any of the following signs pertain to you, it may be time to upgrade the box.
Sign #1: Constant Trips
Although the circuit breakers are designed to trip in the event of an electrical overload, they shouldn't do so often. Constant tripping can indicate one of the following problems:
Increased electrical needs. Most families use more electrical items than they did in the past, which means you may be overloading outlets with too many computers, tech peripherals, televisions, phone chargers, and more. You will need an electrical contractor to add more outlets and to update the panel and circuity to handle the heavier load.
Worn out panel. Older panels can simply wear out. Old circuitry and breakers become overly sensitive or begin heating up dangerously even when under a low load. When this occurs, full replacement is the only safe option.
Miswiring. If tripped breakers have been an ongoing problem and you have a newer box, something could be wired wrong. DIY shortcuts are also sometimes to blame. For example, when a new light fixture in wired into an existing heavily used outlet, causing an immediate overload when the light is turned on. An electrical can find and repair these wiring mishaps.
Sign #2: Fire Symptoms
Small electrical fires can occur without any flames, so you may not notice that they are occurring inside your breaker box. These small electrical fires often present as a metallic odor, instead of a smoke scent. If you open the breaker box, you will see dark discolorations on or around the fuses. Sometimes the fuses continue to work, but generally they are blown completely. While a single fuse may blow once due to a power surge, it indicates a major safety issue if it happens often or to multiple fuses at different times. If you suspect blown, scorched fuses are occurring in your box, it's time to call in an electrician immediately. Modern boxes don't use fuses like older boxes, instead they have hard-wired in circuits. This helps them resist dangerous blow-outs, so your electrician will likely advise a new box installation.
Sign #3: Issues Beyond the Box
Not all problems show in the breaker box. Signs of an overloaded or out-of-date box can surface in other parts of the home. Dimming lights, bulbs that don't last as long as expected, or shocks or sparks when touching light switches or using outlets are all signs of inconsistent voltage. Not only is this annoying, it can lead to a fire if a wire overheats. You should call an electrician so they can make sure your box is up to the load and demands upon it. They can also check the wiring throughout the rest of the house to make sure the problems aren't stemming from somewhere other than the breaker box.
To learn more, contact a company like Mid City Electric.