Electrical Panel – When Should I Replace my Electric Panel?

The electrical panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system. The panel connects to the power lines and brings current to the circuits in your home. The panel also contains the circuit breakers which prevent overloads.
Lack of maintenance is one of the top reasons why these electrical panels require repairs. The homeowner might find an older system constantly in need of fixing, which can become expensive.

How Do I KNOW That I Need A New Electrical Panel?

Frequently news reports on catastrophic fires give electrical wiring problems as the cause. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that electrical problems caused 144,000 house fires over a four-year period. Of course, you don’t want that to happen to your home. Some of the warning signals might be dimming lights, discolored power outlets, burning odor, or minor electric shocks. If the electrical system in your home is still using fuses, it’s time to move up to circuit breakers. Fuses are outdated and may pose a safety hazard.

How much does it cost to Replace an Electrical Panel?

Replacing a 100 amp electrical panel normally runs $1200-$1800 while a 200 amp runs $1800-$2400. To upgrade to 200 amps expect to invest $3500-$4500 to start while we have had some clients invest upwards of $7000 for the top of the line and all the addons. This is due to all the parts of the electrical system that will need to be installed to meet the code requirements for the 200 amps. The addons most of our clients spring for are generator hookups, whole-home surge protection, a better quality electrical panel, and installation of AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) breakers to make the home safer.

When Should I Replace my Electrical Panel?

You should consider replacing your electrical panel if:
  • It’s over 30 years old
  • You’re adding large appliances
  • You have a panel that isn’t safe
  • It’s showing signs of rust/corrosion

Electrical safety standards are constantly being updated to provide safe, clean, and efficient power to your home. As the electrical system ages, parts can deteriorate not only in performance, but in physical condition. We have seen circuit breakers not trip when they are supposed to while others may trip frequently. A good time to consider replacing your panel is if you plan on adding on to your home, or need more power for a larger appliance. The most common items that can trigger this are electrical vehicle charges, computer servers, hot tubs, electric heat pumps, tankless water heaters, and electric stoves. Maybe you want to finish your basement and turn it into an apartment or in-suite. These typically will increase your power needs.

Can I Replace my own Electrical Panel?

We do not recommend replacing your own panel. Bluntly speaking, electricity is dangerous and poses a serious life threatening hazard. You could hurt yourself as you work on your panel, or hurt a family member if something is hooked up incorrectly.

We strongly suggest hiring a professional electrician. A quality electrician would be trained to ensure the job is done right and that the project results in a safer home for you and your family. Even hiring an unlicensed handyman can be dangerous. Plumbing and electrical projects are not things that should be left in the hands of someone unskilled or uncertified.

Let Our Certified Electricians Help You Decide

The first thing on the list for a certified electrical technician would be to examine the current system. Technicians frequently provide a free initial inspection. In many older homes our electrician will find an older panel providing 60 amps of power, or perhaps a standard breaker-type panel at 100 amps. Today, 200-amp panels are recommended. These panels allow for future upgrades and are better when you resell the house.

Water Damage: A Sure Sign Of Trouble

If there has been a water leak anywhere near your panel, call a professional immediately. Leaks can be dangerous and need to be fixed right away. A less obvious sign of a water problem is when you see rust stains on the panel cover or a chalky white corrosion on wiring and other metal parts.

Give Your Electrical Box A Regular Check Up

You’ve heard “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” How about a new phrase?: “If it ain’t broke, still check it.” The Federal Pacific Stab-Lok, Zinzco, and Challenger B series all have had their safety rating revoked and responsible for approximately 2000 house fires per year. These were installed from the 1960s through the 1990s. If you’re not sure what you have and want us to check, please email us at info@haasandsons.com and we will help verify what brand you have. With an estimated 28 million of these panels still in use, you may have one.

Inferior brands that don't hold up well over time are GE, Bryant, Murry, Westinghouse, Bulldog / ITE Pushmatic, and Wadsworth. Wadsworth and the ITE Pushmatic have been out of business since the 1980s and incredibly hard to get parts for. Some might say, “I’ve lived in this house for years and haven’t had a problem.” If you find yourself in this situation, you’re a fortunate person. One of the main purposes of a circuit breaker is to shut down a line when it is overloaded and prevent a fire. Too often Stab-Lok breakers fail to shut down the circuit. A visual test will not determine if you have a problem. Once again, this task is best carried out by a certified technician. The Stab-Lok panels and circuit breakers are labeled. If you see this on your panel, have it checked out.

What are good panels to buy?

The two best panels currently are the Square D QO series and the Cutler-Hammer CH series. Siemens also makes a decent panel but is used much less across the industry. Leviton has recently released a new type of panel that has wifi capabilities among other really neat features. Both Cutler-Hammer (BR series) and Square D (Homeline) make a residential series which we do not recommend, because of the inferior quality and materials used. The industry leaders being the QO and Ch series both utilized solid copper bus bars (the parts that breakers connect to and flow electricity) which are often plated to protect the copper from corroding over time.

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Getting A New Panel

Think about all the electronics in your home. From the flat-screen TV, to kids’ games, to sensitive financial and work-related data stored on your computers. Do you want to risk losing that to an aging, or malfunctioning breaker box? Probably not. Of course, any new installations must conform to the local electrical code. Your Maryland-certified electrician will make sure you are equipped with an electrical panel that will have you worry free for years to come. An electrical inspection may not be required when you are rehabbing a kitchen or converting your basement into more living space. Still, an inspection of the electrical panel makes sense. Find out about potential problems before they become a nightmare.

Conclusion

If you have a panel over 25 years old you should look into getting a replacement. You should also consider replacing your panel if you’re experiencing problems with yours, have an FPE, Zinzo, or Challenger B series.

It doesn't hurt to have a professional out to evaluate your electrical system to see what options you have to not only make your home safe but ready for those future projects. Square D QO and Cutler-Hammer CH are the best and longest-standing models on the market that you want in your home. We would be more than happy to help you evaluate your electrical system. Call us today!

CONTACT HASS AND SONS FOR A PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION OR INSPECTION OF YOUR ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT IN CENTRAL MARYLAND.  443-396-3797.

 

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Great Service, Fast & Professional This is the second time I’ve had service with Haas & Sons and both times have been exceptional. Nick was professional, knowledgeable and friendly. He completed everything that I needed in the same day (new recessed light installation, switch rewiring, fixture installation). Definitely my go to company for electrical work. Michelle Severn
Great service We lost multiple lights due to a power surge. Michael quickly diagnosed the problem, clearly explained the issue and options, and performed the work perfectly. When the work was completed he thoroughly cleaned the work areas leaving no trace behind. Joel Highland
Fantastic service-reasonable price Alex is an outstanding employee and electrician, very focused, customer satisfaction is a priority, neatness and proficiency are paramount in his work. He was concise and easy to comprehend concerning scope of work and follow up inspection and heavy up reconnection. Thank you Alex and Haas and Sons. Steve Lanham