Ignoring electrical panel issues can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Electrical panels are the central hub of your home’s electrical system, distributing power to various circuits. If the panel is damaged or outdated, it can cause electrical fires, electrocution, and other safety hazards. If you notice any issues, it’s important to address them immediately by contacting a licensed electrician to inspect and repair the panel.
Is your electrical panel causing issues, and you’re trying to decide if you should repair or replace it? Common electrical panel issues typically require a replacement due to electrical code requirements. While you won’t know for sure until a professional electrician inspects the panel, the following factors will help you determine which option is the most likely for you.
- The electrical panel’s amperage
- The electrical panel’s age
- The issues with the electrical panel
- Whether or not you’re renovating your home
We’ll go into more detail for each factor below so that you can get a better idea of whether you should repair or replace your electrical panel.
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The Electrical Panel’s Amperage
Many Iowa homes were built before the 1970s with electrical panels that have under 100 amperes, commonly abbreviated as “amp.” Amps measure the volume of electricity the panel can handle. While 100 amps meet current electrical code standards and are considered safe, they do not fulfill the electrical needs of the average modern household, risking overloading your electrical system. Most homes that primarily use electrical instead of gas appliances will require an electrical panel with 200 amps, and larger homes will need 250 or more.
You can check how many amps your electrical panel has by looking at the main breaker for a listed number. If you would like to add more electrical appliances to your home or have an electrical panel with under or exactly 100 amps, it’s a good idea to replace the panel.
Contact an electrician to determine how many amps your new electrical panel should have. They will assess your home’s total electrical load by calculating the energy needed to power all your light fixtures, kitchen appliances, televisions, washing machines, HVAC systems, water heaters, and anything else that uses electricity. If you want to add more electrical appliances to your home in the future, such as a new outlet, they can also add that to your hypothetical load.
Older homes tend to have a fuse box that does not provide many amps, making it difficult for homeowners to add new electrical circuits or appliances. This fuse box has fuses that shut off power when there is too much electrical current for its metal strip, hence the phrase “blow a fuse.” They are difficult to maintain and harder to reset than a circuit breaker, which is why most homeowners replace their fuse boxes with electrical panels with circuit breakers.
The Electrical Panel’s Age
Electrical panels can last anywhere from 25 to 40 years on average. As your panel ages and loses its ability to meet your electrical load, it’s prone to breakdowns, necessitating a replacement. However, just because it’s older doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in poor condition. Your electrical panel’s lifespan depends on:
- The number of power surges your area has
- General wear and tear
- Any issues or defects
- How well has it been maintained
- Hear crackling sounds coming from it
- Notice your circuit breakers tripping often
- See flickering lights when you use electrical appliances
- Touch it and feel if it’s warm
- Smell a burning odor near it
- See scorch or burn marks on it
- See corrosion or rust on it
If your panel is over 20 years old, we recommend regular inspections by a licensed electrician. Otherwise, you risk breakdowns, power outages, and damage to your home’s electrical system.
The Issues with the Electrical Panel
Whether or not you need a repair or replacement depends on the issues you’re experiencing with your electrical panel.
For example, electricians can usually repair loose or damaged wires attached to your electrical panel. Or, if the service cables connecting the panel to a structural mount break, an electrician can typically resolve the issue with a simple repair instead of a replacement.
A replacement is better if you’re out of expansion slots and know you’ll add to your electrical load in the future. These allow you to add new appliances or anything that requires an electrical circuit to your breaker panel. Likewise, replacement is wise if your electrical panel has water damage.
You’ll want a licensed electrician to look at your panel and help you determine your best next steps.
Whether or Not You’re Renovating Your Home
Are you planning to expand or renovate your home? If so, you’ll want to upgrade your electrical panel to support the extra electrical load. This is especially true if you add large appliances (e.g., washers, dryers) or extra rooms to your home. You’ll need more electricity than your current electrical panel can handle to power the new devices or space.
Before you proceed with your renovation plans, meet a licensed electrician who can calculate if your current panel will meet your home’s new demand. They will also calculate the amperage your potential new panel needs. If it can’t, they will calculate the amperage your new panel needs to meet the load.
Get Reliable Electrical Panel Advice in Iowa with Golden Rule!
Golden Rule has served the Des Moines Metro for over two decades. We provide some of the area’s fastest response times, strongest customer protection, and fairest upfront pricing for electrical panel repairs and replacements. On the day of your appointment, our electricians will let you know when they’re on the way.
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