Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Electrical Service:
When Should You Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?
Your electrical panel – or electrical service – is the point where electricity from your power company enters into your home and is then distributed throughout your home so you can put it to use. Thanks to design and engineering throughout the ages, we regulate the quantity of power allowed to flow so that you do not do damage to your electrical panel, breakers or fuses, wires or circuits, and even your appliances and electronics.
A hundred years ago, this home had a 40 amp electrical service installed. Today that size of service would be completely unheard of – the minimum installation even the smallest residence should carry is 100 amps (according to the National Electric Code). Depending on your region and building requirements, you might not be able to get a home built or insurance without meeting that minimum.
Our electrical demands have changed a lot over the last century; we have evolved from simple strings of lights to having electrical appliances for everything – and then some. While energy conservation is a driving force in home design and purchases, we also use electricity for nearly everything considered ‘civilized’.
That being said, when should you consider upgrading your electrical service? What factors or considerations mean you need more ‘juice’ in your house?
Consider these points when trying to make such an important – and sometimes expensive – decision:
- Getting a hot tub? Installing a new air conditioning unit?
While newer models are far more efficient, hot tubs and air conditioners in general are pretty big power hogs; the average install we do is a 30 amp 240V circuit, which could add up to an additional 24 amp power draw. If your panel is full, your service is on the small side (50, 75, or 100 amps), or your service is already at capacity, then adding in a high-powered pump and heater – or an exterior high-powered heat exchanger (aka Air Conditioner) will be questionable without a service upgrade.
- Installing a ‘new’ major appliance, or switching from another resource to electric?
If you bought your home without a dryer, it’s possible that adding one will require more power then your service can provide. If switching to, or adding, an electrical hot water heater then your power demands definitely need to be considered or calculated. In an ideal world, the electrician you call in to help hook up these types of will tell you these things – but they are human and it might escape their notice, so make sure you try to ask.
- Expanding your home with an addition?
Home additions will require more circuits – lights, outlets, possibly even appliance circuits – and will change the square footage of your home. All of these might put enough strain on your electrical service to require an upgrade. Make sure to perform load calculations (or hire an expert to do it for you) when considering expanding your living space.
- Does your electrical panel use fuses or a split-bus?
While it is easy enough to recognize a fuse-based panel (fuses are usually round, and funny colors), sometimes it is more difficult to spot a split-bus panel. Actual fuse-panels are not dangerous in and of themselves; their problem is more about how small the available service is (a 40-60 amp service can only hold a handful of circuits) and that some homeowners will put in the wrong fuses, intentionally letting too much power flow through their wires and causing a fire hazard or even an electrical fire. A split-bus panel does not have a main breaker; instead it uses up to 6 of the top breakers to control power throughout the rest of the circuit panel. Because the system is an older installation – from 1950-1970 – and has less power, as well as a lower safety rating, it is not unusual to want to replace or upgrade these panels.
If you are experiencing some of the following problems, these are definitive signs that your electrical service is going to need upgrading.
- Do your lights flicker – or go out completely – when using appliances?
- Do your circuits need grounding, or every outlet has a surge protector?
- Are your appliances not completing their tasks or cycles? (Oven or stove turns off, dryer stops before clothes are done, etc.)
- Does your wiring or panel box have corrosion or rust present?
- Are your electrical wires overheating, melting their insulation, or melting altogether?
- Do you run extension cords all across the house or from one circuit to another area?
- Do your breakers repeatedly trip, or NOT trip when they should?
- Will you be buying or selling soon, and have an older electrical service or wiring system?
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call Swartz Electric – your Colorado Springs Electrician. Our estimates are free, and we take your safety seriously!
Swartz Electric – Your Colorado Springs Electrician performs electrical work throughout Colorado Springs, Monument, Black Forest, Fountain, Falcon, Woodland Park, and everywhere in between. We are the electricians in Colorado Springs to solve your electrical problems and meet your electrical requirements.
Call, e-mail, visit our website, or stop by our office today, and allow Swartz Electric to serve YOU.
This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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