There are several reasons the age of electrical panels matters, including the ability to safely perform for the building and its occupants. Electrical panel inspections are included in four-point, whole home, and electrical inspections.
How Old Is Your Home’s Electrical Panel?
Understanding the age and shape of the electrical panel is essential to protecting the structural integrity of your home and minimizing fire risk. Just because all the lights and outlets work doesn’t mean things are okay.
Many of the four-point inspections we perform here in Volusia County are for homes built in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. And while their electrical systems seem to work just fine, a closer inspection of the electrical panel and internal wiring tells a different story.
Replace & Inspect Electrical Panels Every 25 Years
If your electrical panel and system were designed and installed to code, it might function just fine for 10, 20, and even 40+ years afterward. However, after the 25-year point, the odds are you need a new panel.
There are several reasons for this:
- Electrical systems 25 years old or more aren’t designed to handle current energy demands
- Panels are built with better safety features to handle heavier loads and high-power appliances
- We use different panels and wiring products, all of which are safer and more fire- and moisture-resistant
- Older panels are not designed to accommodate the number of appliances and electrical devices used in the contemporary home
Once panels reach their 25th “birthday,” odds are they need replacement, especially if it was made by a lower-quality manufacturer or the manufacturer is out of business.
Signs Your Panel Needs to Be Replaced
There are several signs your electric system would benefit from a replacement panel.
1. You have to use multi-outlets to meet power needs
Electricians install an electrical panel based on multiple factors, including the size of the home, building code specifics, and the average electricity needs at the time. So, a house built today has far more electrical outlets in every room and has proactive features to accommodate future needs (like EV charging stations, audio/video options in each bedroom, etc.).
However, older homes have fewer outlets and more electrical appliances and gadgets. The solution? Every outlet needs a multi-outlet extension or power strips to meet electrical needs. This overloads the circuits and is a recipe for electrical issues in the near future.
2. Flickering lights
Do your lights flicker every time multiple appliances are on simultaneously? Or maybe when the air conditioner or other “heavy load” appliance kicks on? Sometimes, you might notice them flicker for no reason or immediately after turning them on. Flickering lights are a sign of an overloaded panel or faulty wiring.
3. Circuits keep tripping
Has your family become an expert at running to the panel to reset specific breakers that trip on a regular basis? This is most common in kitchens, where a coffee maker, stovetop, hood, and microwave may all be plugged into outlets on the same circuit.
You’ll hear the tell-tale click, then the power goes out, and only resetting the breaker restores power. This shouldn’t happen often at all, let alone on a daily, weekly, or monthly.
4. You don’t have GFCI outlets in the kitchen or bathrooms
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are one of the safety features mentioned above. They cut power to an outlet in the presence of water, protecting you from shock, electrocution, or potential fire risk. While you can replace regular outlets with GFCI counterparts, the lack of GFCIs couple mean the panel was installed more than 25 years ago.
5. The electrical outlet, surrounding wall, or panel area feels warm to the touch
Areas surrounding electrical outlets and the panels should always feel cool to the touch. Turn off the main breaker and contact an electrician ASAP if you notice any of the following around electrical outlets or the panel:
- A brown/black/grey discoloration indicating smoldering
- A burning smell (this might have a plastic or chemical smell due to burning wires, cloth wire covers, or other materials inside the walls).
All of these are a sign of danger and pose a significant fire threat. Faulty electrical panels and wiring are a leading cause of house fires in the U.S., so any of these signs require immediate attention.
6. You see sparks or get shocked
A brief spark may be visible when plugging/unplugging electrical cords – especially in a dark room. However, you should never see a shower of sparks or feel small shocks when using plugs or light switches. In most cases, this is a sign of faulty wiring – rather than a bad panel. But faulty wiring usually indicates an outdated panel, so sparking or shocks means it’s time to inspect the electrical system.
Schedule an Electrical Panel Inspection With Super Inspection Pros
Are you worried your electrical panel is outdated or unable to keep up with the home’s electrical needs safely? Schedule a 4-Point Inspection with Super Inspection Pros. Homes with outdated electrical panels typically have issues in other major home systems, all of which are uncovered in the standard home inspection. We’ll help you determine which outdated home systems are ready for replacement.