Whether you’re buying an expensive fixer-upper home, renting a cheap apartment, or upgrading your current place with brand new electrical wiring, upgrading your electrical panel is essential. In all of these situations, the electrical panel is what keeps the power flowing safely to all of your light fixtures and appliances within the property. In fact, if you think about it, upgrading your electrical panel should be among one of the first things on your to-do list when moving in or making any upgrades to your home.
An old and outdated electrical panel can lead to some very dangerous conditions and leave you at risk for fires and other hazards. Luckily, there are many ways that you can upgrade your electrical panel without needing to hire an electrician.
What is an Electrical Panel?
An electrical panel is the central hub that controls the flow of electricity to various areas of a home or building. Electrical panels are most often found in homes and buildings that were built before 1990 and have not been upgraded. Electrical panels are crucial to the safety of the users of a home. The panel itself is a thick steel casing that is mounted to the wall or in some cases, the floor. Each electrical circuit has a breaker or fuse that is used to shut off that circuit in the event of an emergency.
Know the Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
If you want to know if your electrical panel needs to be replaced, look for these signs: Worn Out Wiring – If you have an older electrical panel, the wiring might be starting to wear out. This will not only affect your electrical panel but also your light fixtures and appliances as well. When wiring starts to wear out, it doesn’t conduct electricity as well. This can lead to light bulbs burning out more quickly, faulty circuit breakers, shorted wires, and other problems.
Poor Panel Design – Electrical panels that were built in the 1970s and 1980s had dangerous design flaws. One of the most notorious is the single-breaker design, in which the panel has only one electrical circuit breaker to power the whole house. Because the breaker can only handle so much power at once, it’s possible to overload a single-breaker electrical panel and cause it to trip or even catch fire.
Why Should You Update Your Electrical Panel?
Beyond the safety issues that can arise from an older electrical panel, there are many other reasons why you might want to upgrade your electrical panel. With an older electrical panel, you might not be able to install certain types of modern devices, including new appliances. If your electrical panel is too old, it might not even be possible to install new wiring. If you’re renting, an older electrical panel can be a big headache for the landlord, who may even require that you replace it before you move out. And if you’re buying a home, an older electrical panel can give a potential buyer reason to walk away from the deal.
Check the Age of Your Panel
The first step when upgrading your electrical panel is to check the age of your electrical panel. While you can use this guide to determine the age of your electrical panel, there’s a quick and easy way that you can use at home. Simply look for the UL mark on your electrical panel. If you see this mark, it means that your electrical panel was approved for use no earlier than October 9, 1969.
If, however, your electrical panel doesn’t have that UL mark, you’ll need to use the chart above to determine its age. So, once you know the age of your electrical panel, you need to decide what you want to do with it. You can either change out the existing wiring or you can replace the whole electrical panel.
Change Out Old Wiring
If your electrical panel is relatively new (i.e. it was installed after 1990), and it’s still in good condition, you may only need to change out the wiring and breakers. This is called a re-wire, and it’s a quick, inexpensive way to update your electrical panel. A re-wire can involve changing out the wiring inside the panels and connecting the new wiring to the breakers. You may also need to re-route the wires to make room for new wiring and outlets.
A re-wire is a do-it-yourself project that can be completed in a weekend with some elbow grease and a few tools. You can hire an electrician to do a re-wire if you’d like. This can be a good option if you’re renting or your electrical panel is in bad condition.
What Type of Panel Do You Have?
Before you can decide whether to change out the wiring or replace the whole electrical panel, you need to figure out what type of electrical panel you have. Electrical panels come in two main types: – Single-circuit panels have one circuit breaker, which is often located on the top of the panel. This type of panel is very old, and it’s not safe to use. It’s not uncommon to find this type of panel in older homes that have never been updated. – Three-circuit panels are the most common type of panel in homes built between the 1930s and the 1990s. It’s important to note that there are two main varieties of these panels: single-breaker and double-breaker. The double-breaker panel is the safer of the two, but both types are very old and should be replaced.
Install New Circuit Breakers
If your electrical panel is too old for a re-wire and you want to replace the whole thing, the best option is to install new circuit breakers. This is the best option if your electrical panel is newer. It’s also the cheapest option. But it takes time to order and install new circuit breakers.
With this option, you would not have to rewire your home. Depending on the type of new electrical panel you install, you may be able to keep your existing wiring. However, you should always hire a licensed electrician to install new circuit breakers in your home. A professional will know how to safely install new breakers in your electrical panel.
Upgrading your electrical panel is a crucial step in the home improvement process. It’s important to know when you need to upgrade your electrical panel, the signs that it’s time to update your electrical panel, and the best ways to go about upgrading it. If you have an older electrical panel, it’s important to know what type it is and whether or not it’s safe to use.
If you need to replace the electrical panel, you can either re-wire your home or install new circuit breakers. Regardless of which route you take, it’s best to hire an electrician for the job, especially if your electrical panel is in bad condition.