10 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Electrical Panel
In 2016, a whopping 73,528 reported fires occurred in the State of Texas. That's one fire incident for every seven minutes.
Not only did these cause the state property losses amounting to $694,172,988; they also claimed 166 lives. Worse, many of the causes, both in residential and commercial properties, were preventable.
Cooking remains the most common fire cause, both for Texas and the entire country. What a lot of people don't know is that many of these fires also resulted from a faulty electrical panel. Nationwide, electrical malfunctions caused 6.5% of residential fires in 2016 (U.S. Fire Administration (fema.gov)).
This said, it's crucial you don't ignore the signs that this part of your electrical system is going bad. Especially if you live in Rockwell County, currently without an official fire department.
If you notice any of these ten signs, it's time you get that panel replaced by a licensed electrician.
1. You Live in an Older Home
Is your home in Rockwell, TX at least 30 years old? If so, it's possible you have a Federal Pacific-manufactured electric panel. You want to have that replaced right away because it's a fire hazard.
The federal government found faulty breakers in many of these panels. In the sense that they don't trip when the circuit breaker overloads and overheats. That completely defeats their purpose, as it's one of their main functions to prevent fires.
Thousands of North Texas homes had these panels installed from the 1960s to the 1980s. Although the company is no longer operating, your old house may be one of these homes. The risk of a fire occurring because of these faulty breakers is too big to ignore.
2. Lights Often Flicker, Even Turning Off for a Few Seconds
Flickering lights can be due to a power disruption, which is normal when the weather is bad. In this case, the power running through your light bulbs get cut off for a few milliseconds. This is normal in such situations.
But if you notice this happening a lot of times, even in perfect weather, that's a sign of a faulty electrical system. The entire electric panel itself (or at least the breaker) may be the culprit. In fact, it's one of the first signs of bigger electrical issues.
If lights flicker almost every time you switch them on, that's a sign you need to replace the electric panel.
3. Breaker Trips Whenever You Turn on an Energy-Hungry Appliance
Does turning on the air conditioner or heater cause your breaker to trip? Does the same thing happen when you turn on the hot water heater or clothes dryer? If so, then that likely has to do with the age and capacity of your home electrical panel.
An outdated panel can no longer support your household's growing electrical needs. That's why it keeps overloading and tripping.
In this case, it's no longer a matter if Federal Pacific manufactured it or not. A breaker that trips in such instances should already be up for replacement.
4. Frequent Tripping of the Breaker
Does the breaker trip regardless of what appliance you turn on? Then that's an even bigger sign you need to replace your electric panel ASAP. It can no longer support lower-electricity using gadgets, much less power-hungry ones.
The sooner you get it replaced, the sooner you'll stop experiencing inconveniences. If you don't, you won't be able to use that home theater system or fancy electric stove/oven you're about to buy.
5. Touching Light Switches or Outlets Gives You Electric Shocks
Even if they're only minor tingling sensations, they're still unpleasant shocks. In some cases, they signal incorrect grounding of the electrical system. But they can also trace back to faulty wiring or outdated electrical panels.
Keep in mind that electrical shocks can be fatal, with about 1,000 people in the U.S. dying every year because of them. That should be enough to prompt you to have an electrician replace your panel or at least do an inspection.
6. Blackened or Burned Spot on the Breaker Box
Breakers or circuits that overheat often leave visual burn marks. If you see a spot (or several) on your electrical panel, that's a sign something's wrong. Get on the phone with an electrician ASAP as this can lead to a fire starting in your home.
7. Burnt Smells from the Breaker Box or Wall Outlets
It's more common for overheating breakers or wall outlets to produce burnt-like odors. These smells can also indicate melted insulation or wires. If you've noticed this stench more often, replacing your electrical panel box may already be in order.
8. Hissing or Crackling Sounds from the Breaker Box
A slight humming sound from a high-amp electrical panel is normal. That's produced by the current's vibrations as it travels to power up your appliances.
It's a different story if you hear loud, hissing, crackling, even popping noises. If you hear these or if it seems there's something "frying" inside the panel, you may have a faulty circuit breaker. Another possibility is loose wiring or connection.
Whatever the cause is, it would be best (and safest) to have a pro electrician come to check it for you. These loud noises are a precursor to a complete panel malfunction. We've mentioned this already, but it's worth repeating: faulty panels are a fire hazard!
9. Overheating Appliances
Faulty electrical panels can send excessive electricity to appliances, causing them to overheat. An overloaded outlet can also lead to your appliances overheating. Poor connections and degraded wiring insulation are also culprits.
If only one of your appliances tends to heat up, it's likely the problem itself. But if many of your appliances overheat, it's time to call a professional electrician. They'll find out if it's the electrical panel causing the issue or if the problem is only for certain outlets.
10. Sparks Come Out of Wall Outlets When Plugging in an Appliance
A very brief spark when you plug an appliance or device into an outlet is normal. But if there's a shower of sparks, that can already lead to a short circuit. Old electrical outlets or water inside them can also cause sparking.
Although the electrical panel isn't to blame in this case, there's still a connection. If you have outdated outlets at home, then the panel itself may also be old and outdated. Either way, you'd want to have a professional electrician inspect things for you.
Keep Safe with a New, Longer Lasting Electrical Panel
Keep in mind that all it takes for a fire to become life-threatening is two minutes. Three minutes more and an entire house can go up in flames.
Bring your risks of house fires down by getting your old or faulty electrical panel replaced. If you're still unsure of what's causing your flickering lights, please feel free to ring us up. We'll gladly answer all your electricity-related inquiries!