The electrical panel is one of the things we inspect during a 4-point home inspection because outdated, poorly maintained, overloaded, or improperly installed electrical systems pose a significant risk to a home and its occupants. Keep in mind that faulty wiring and overloaded electrical panels are a leading cause of residential fires, which cause more than 500 deaths and upwards of $1.3 billion in property damage each year.
If you’ve recently moved into a new-to-you home or are experiencing frequent electrical issues, it’s good to assess whether or not your electrical panel needs to be updated.
7 Signs Your Electrical Panel Needs to Be Replaced
Here are seven signs an electrical panel needs to be replaced or updated to deliver the electricity your home needs safely. And, if you do update or replace the electrical panel in your home, let your insurance company know. There’s a good chance you can save money on future premium payments.
1. The breakers need to be reset frequently
Odds are you don’t think about your electrical panel much. However, that all changes when things begin short-circuiting and breakers continually trip. Today’s homes may be more energy efficient than they used to be, but most homeowners use far more electricity than they used to.
While circuit breakers may occasionally trip, more frequent tripping means circuits are overloaded.
2. It’s more than 40 years old
Is your electrical panel 40 years old or more? If so, the panel may need to be replaced. While most panels are designed to work for 30 to 40 years, that lifespan still depends on how much power the circuit runs. So, if electrical loads continue to increase, as they have for most Florida families, a 40-year-old panel can’t keep up with today’s powerful appliances, year-round HVAC use, and extra demands from household personal gadgets.
An electrical inspection is the best way to determine whether your panel needs to be replaced or whether an update or additional panel will do the trick.
3. There’s a burning smell around the breaker panel (or electrical outlets)
We once inspected a home after the kitchen was rebuilt after a fire. It turned out the homeowner thought he smelled something burning before leaving for work but checked the oven and stove top – and all was well. Unfortunately, it turned out that the burning smell was from a seriously outdated electrical outlet that had sparked and caught the insulation on fire.
Fortunately, the fire was put out quickly after neighbors called 9-1-1, and nobody was hurt. However, our client’s faith was shaken. That burning smell, which included the scent of something rubber or dusty burning, was a big red flag that something was up in the electrical wiring or panel. Never ignore that smell. A home inspection company is happy to come by and perform an inspection to find the source – or put your mind at ease – depending on what we see.
4. Your outlets all have splitters attached
Does your family use electrical outlet splitters (those plugs that turn a single outlet into two, three, four, or more) and multi-outlet powerstrips to turn two-socket electrical outlets into exponentially more? If so, you’re overloading the electrical system. In addition to causing your circuit breaker(s) to trip more often, you also increase the risk of a house fire.
Each socket should have one plug, going to a single electrical device/appliance. If your home is tapped out, it’s time to contact a licensed electrical contractor and see what you need to have a safe, adequate power supply – with an electrical panel that can support that.
5. The electrical panel (breaker box) makes unseemly noises
Locate your electrical panel and take a listen. Do you hear a light buzzing or humming sound? This is normal and is a sign it’s doing its job. If you hear any popping, crackling, or snapping, there is something wrong. In most cases, the breaker is arcing (overloading and overheating).
6. Evidence of melted wires or scorched metal
If circuits are overloaded and overheating, you may find evidence of that in the electrical panel. Open the door and see if there is any evidence of scorched metal or melted wires.
You may notice burns or scorch marks around the breakers or wires themselves; you might see evidence of melted insulation or exposed wires – all of which require immediate attention from an electrician. They are a major red flag that an electrical fire is imminent.
7. You just replaced outdated appliances
Today’s kitchen and laundry room appliances use quite a bit more power than they used to. If you’ve recently replaced home appliances – or you plan to in the near future – your electrical panel may need an update to accommodate the increased load.
Schedule a 4-Point Inspection with SIP
If your electrical panel is 15 to 20 years old, other major home systems probably need inspecting and updating, too. Schedule a 4-point inspection with Super Inspection Pros (SIP). We guarantee accurate reports in 24 hours or less, and we’ll highlight any safety issues so they can be repaired ASAP.