Does Your Home Need A New Electrical Panel? Here's How To Tell

One of the frustrating things about living in an older home is the outdated electrical panel. Several decades ago, home builders never imagined homeowners would have multiple televisions, computers, and advanced appliances that consumed so much energy. Homes were not built with electrical systems that could keep up with the demand. That means you may be left to deal with tripping circuits and having to buy older, used appliances unless you upgrade your panel. Here are some signs it's time to invest in an electrical upgrade.

Your Old System Is Under Stress

If your electrical panel can't supply enough power, you may have a system going where you have to turn off the television when you turn on the microwave. Or maybe you trip a circuit every time you turn on the clothes washer at night when the lights are all on and your family is using computers and televisions. If you can't run all your appliances and devices without losing power, then you should upgrade your panel. If you lose power with an old panel, you're fortunate. Some older panels don't work as well as they should and they don't trip off. This is a dangerous situation that causes wires to overheat, melt, or catch fire.

Other signs of an electrical system under stress are flickering lights when a major appliance such as a refrigerator or air conditioner kicks on, light bulbs that have a shorter-than-expected lifespan, and the smell of burning wires or melting plastic.

You Don't Have Enough Outlets

Modern homes need more outlets to power all the appliances and electronic devices that are commonly used. If you need to use extension cords or if you have to overload your outlets with several plugs, then you need to upgrade your electrical system. If your home was built several decades ago, your electricity may not even be grounded. This is probably the case if most of the outlets in your home only have two holes. Modern electrical codes require electricity to be grounded. And any outlets that are near water, such as those used in the kitchen, pool area, and bathrooms, need to have ground fault circuit interrupters, which prevent electrocution.

You're Renovating Your House

If you're renovating your house to bring it into the modern era, it's the perfect time to upgrade your entire electrical system. This will allow you to buy new kitchen appliances that have higher energy demands. If you're adding on a new bedroom or turning your basement into a family room, you'll probably need a new electrical panel to service the additional load. Your old panel is probably fairly small, and it's likely to be full, so no new circuits can be added. If you compare older electrical panels to modern ones, you'll see that the newer ones are much larger and contain a lot more circuits. That's so no one single circuit is overloaded. Even getting a new freezer for your garage or putting in a new hot tub may not be possible with your current panel because it may be so overloaded that there is no room for expansion.

While these are good reasons to upgrade your electrical panel, the most important reason is safety. It may be annoying to constantly trip a circuit, but it would be even worse to have an electrical fire destroy all your belongings. If you're concerned about your system, have it inspected by an electrical contractor. He or she can explain what's needed to bring your home up to current electrical codes, which could mean you need to replace your panel, wiring, and outlets.