It can be scary to even imagine having to do anything beyond switching on and off the power switch of the panel. How then do you find out that your panel needs to be replaced and then also go ahead to select the panel for replacement? Worry not, this article will help you understand what needs to be done and in what order.
What is a Circuit Breaker Panel?
A circuit breaker panel is an enclosure that houses the circuits and main power switch for all of your home’s electrical needs. It connects the wires coming from the utility line, or electricity company, to the wires that run throughout your house. It also gives you access to overload protection, surge protection, as well as various types of breakers that can be used if something goes wrong with your wiring. It is also known as the main electrical service panel.
As electricity enters your home, it goes through the meter, the supply system, and your main electrical service panel wiring. Here, the primary circuit (from the power grid) separates into secondary circuits.
Circuit breakers are switches that work as overcurrent protection devices. These breakers trip to disconnect current from the circuit when it detects an overload or short circuit, thus preventing electrical damage and potential fire hazards in your home.
When to Replace Circuit Breakers
Are you regularly flipping the breaker back on or replacing fuses as a result of circuit overloads? Are you noticing any flickering lights or buzzing noises coming from the panel? Do your outlets show signs of burns or are always warm?
If that is the case, your electrical system may be carrying more load than it should. It is probably time to upgrade your panel. Also, if you have a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker box, it is recommended to upgrade at the earliest.
If you live in a single-family home, you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of your electrical system. If you are a renter, it’s worth checking with your landlord or property manager before undertaking any repairs.
It is important to know the age of your panel. The life expectancy of a panel is generally 25 to 30 years and if it is older than that, you should consider replacing it. The same applies to your breakers. Newer circuit breakers are designed to be much safer and can provide your home with the protection it needs.
Getting Ready to Replace a Circuit Breaker Panel
Replacing a circuit breaker panel is not a DIY project. You can be exposed to a serious electric shock if you are not experienced in this type of work. It is always best to hire a qualified electrician for the job.
The cost of replacing your panel varies greatly depending on the number of circuits, capacity, type of panel that you need, and other factors. Your electrician can help you decide which one is right for your home.
To be able to make the right choice of panel, you need to know the number of breakers it should have as well as other features like surge protection, overload protection, energy monitoring breakers, smart breakers and several other factors. You also need to consider the size, material, and type of panel to choose.
Selecting The Right Location
To select the best location you need to consider these factors.
- It should be close to heavy-load areas like kitchens.
- It should be placed in a brightly lit location.
- There should be no obstacles or obstacles that can block the way to the panel.
- It should be placed in an area where it is easy to access and is not exposed to extreme temperatures.
- It should not be in bathrooms.
Service panels are often found in basements and garages. The panel, ideally, should be installed in a dry location where it will not be exposed to moisture or condensation. Consult your licensed electrician before deciding on the final location.
Electrician’s Preparatory Work
The electrician can help you apply for the permits that you need. Your electrician will also inspect the existing wiring, check for any damages, and give you a list of repairs that need to be done before proceeding with the installation.
Homeowners Preparatory Work
You should get ready for a half-day or full day without power. Clear the area near the panel of furniture and other items to provide easy access for your electrician. At the end of the task, the assigned inspector may come to check the installation to ensure it was done properly and safely.
Choosing The Right Service Panel
The amount of power you require will determine which panel is the most suitable for your home. This can be determined by the number of circuits and breakers in the existing panel. The size should also be big enough to accommodate future additions like additional outlets, appliances or other equipment that you may need.
How to Determining The Right Size For Your Service Panel
From the size of your circuit breaker panel, you can tell how many electrical appliances you can safely use in your home at the same time. The size should be determined by an experienced electrician who will be able to advise you on the right power output needed for your home.
If your home uses electricity and gas, a smaller panel will be required. Larger panels will be needed if more energy is being used, such as in a factory or large commercial buildings.
Residential main breaker panels are available in multiple sizes. From 100 amps on up. The size you should choose for your home depends on the power requirements and usage that you anticipate in the future.
Circuit Breaker Panel Amperage
The strength of an electric current is expressed in amperage. While voltage is a measure of the pressure that causes the flow of electrons, amperage is the volume of electrons. The amperage rating will determine how much power can be safely handled by your panel. If your home takes up 150 amps, for example, then your panel should be rated for at least 200 amps.
Because most homes have circuit breakers that provide 100 to 150 amps, most homeowners have to upgrade their panels to get the extra power they need. This can be done through the installation of a new service cable and a panel with more circuit breakers and a higher amperage rating. This move increases the value of your home.
Types of Circuit Breakers
Always consider the types of circuit breakers you’ll require when selecting or replacing a circuit breaker panel.
Single Pole Circuit Breakers (120 volts)
This type is mostly used in residential circuits. It is designed for lighter-duty sections and lighting with ratings of 15-20 amps.
Double Pole Circuit Breakers (240 volts)
This type of circuit breaker is used in larger appliances such as air conditioners, ovens, and electric dryers. They are designed to protect two circuits that carry 120-volt power.
Be careful to pick the right circuit breaker for your needs. An incorrect choice can cause serious damage to both your home and the appliance it is connected to. Always consult with a licensed electrician if you are unsure.
It’s important you know that different circuit breakers have different configurations. There’s the standard or panel mount circuit breaker. This has the wiring hidden away by the panel with only the switch visible at the front. This is the most widely available type of circuit breaker.
Hi-amp circuit breakers and blade circuit breakers are two other types of circuit breakers. Hi-amp circuit breakers are made for special applications where very high current must be protected.
Types of Circuit Breaker Panels
You are most likely aware of your main breaker panels. Some homeowners are also aware of a secondary power cut-off switch close to the electric meter. This is an additional safety feature allowing for continuous power and a quick shut-off in case of emergency.
But did you know there are other electrical panel types?
Main Breaker Panels
With a built-in main breaker, you can easily control the power coming into your home. Not all homes can use this panel type. There are distance and electrical code factors that determine when these can be used.
This type of panel is used when more circuit breakers are required than your service panel has space. The addition of one of these panels requires that the loads on the system do not exceed that of the breaker feeding the subpanel or of the main breaker rating of the entire service.
A sub-panel is also used if you have an area in your home that is separated from the main panel but needs multiple circuits. A patio, basement, or workshop may fall into this category. It is sometimes easier and more cost effective to run one larger cable to a subpanel rather than running all of the circuits to the main panel.
Main Lug Panels
A Main Lug panel has no built in main breaker and relies on an outside source for overload protection. These are mostly used in residential applications as a sub panel. This panel has to connect to a breaker at the main panel.
If you own a backup generator, you’ll need to install a transfer switch. Transfer switches allow your generator to power essential circuits when the main power goes out. They also provide additional protection so that your generator won’t back feed into the utility lines and cause an unsafe situation.
Some transfer switches have a built-in subpanel as well. This isolates circuits within the subpanel to be the only circuits in the home that will be backed up by the generator. This allows you to have a generator that does not need to be large enough to back up the entire electrical service saving you money on not having to buy a large generator.
Circuit Breaker Panel Brands
You will have to choose the right brand of circuit breaker panel when you are ready to purchase. The more popular brands include Leviton, Siemens, Eaton, Square D and GE. These companies produce top-of-the-line products that meet strict safety standards.
There are also brands that, in the past produced poor-quality products with low safety standards. Examples are Zinsco and Federal Pacific. If you have one of these two brands of electrical panel in your home, it is HIGHLY recommended that you call MRE immediately to get it inspected. Some of the panels produced by these manufacturers are known fire hazards. It’s important to select a brand that is reputable and well-known for producing reliable circuit breaker panels.
How to Buy a Circuit Breaker Panel
The best way to purchase an electrical panel is to consult with a professional electrician. They can help you select the right panel for your home and make sure it is installed correctly. Also, they can advise you on any additional safety features that may be necessary to comply with local building codes.
Once you have consulted an electrician and identified which type of panel is best suited for your home, you can then begin shopping for the right product. Look for panels that are UL listed and come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Also, make sure to read reviews from other homeowners who have purchased the same model.
Working With an Electrician
Electricity can be very dangerous and even deadly if it is not handled correctly. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to work with an experienced electrician when you are replacing or installing a new circuit breaker panel in your home. They can help you choose the right type of panel that meets your needs and provide professional installation services.
Having a reliable, well-maintained electrical system in your home is essential for safety and convenience. By choosing the right circuit breaker panel, you can ensure that your family remains safe and protected from potential hazards. With the help of an expert electrician, the process can be quick and easy.
Has Your New Panel Proven to be a Success?
When you replace or install a new circuit breaker panel, you can relax and enjoy the benefits of reliable, efficient power throughout your home. With proper maintenance and regular inspections, it should last you many years.
If you find yourself having trouble with your new panel or experiencing problems such as flickering lights or tripped breakers, don’t hesitate to call an electrician who can help you diagnose the issue and take the necessary steps to fix it. With the right panel and professional assistance, you can ensure that your home has a safe and reliable power supply for years to come.
We Can Help With All Your Electrical Panel Needs
If you’re looking for a reliable and experienced electrician, then M.R. Electricians can help. Our team of experts has decades of experience in the electrical industry and is committed to providing top-notch products and services. We specialize in residential and commercial installations, repairs, upgrades, troubleshooting, and more. Contact us today at (301) 871-0477 to see how we can help.