A homeowner may need to upgrade their electrical service for three main reasons, their panel is an old fuse style, the existing service or panel is in disrepair, and there are plans to add additional loads to the electrical system.
Most homes built before 1960 used fuse style panels to manage the electrical circuits. When circuit breaker panels became more prevalent, fuse panels started to be considered unsafe. Often insurance companies and banks can consider fuse panels a large enough risk to deny coverage or loans. A fuse panels are not in of themselves dangerous. The issue with fuse panels is that it is too easy to oversize a fuse for the circuit. Many people started to use larger rated fuses to replace fuses that frequently went bad due to too much load on them. What people don’t realize is that the fuse is paired to the size of the wire used for the circuit. The larger a wire is the greater the current it can handle without generating too much heat. When too much current is put across a wire it works like the element in an oven and gets hot, which can create a fire hazard. A breaker is more difficult to change and should be done so by a licensed electrician who should not install a breaker that has a capacity greater than what the circuit wire can handle. Instead the electrician should divide the circuit into two and add a breaker to your panel. This is not possible with a fuse panel because they are typically not expandable.
Panel in Disrepair
Unfortunately, service panels can become damaged over time. In the Northeast, over the past two years, storms have caused water damage. Water is one of the worst things for a panel; it causes shorts and, long term, corrosion of the panel components. Often the damage is severe enough to warrant replacement. Corrosion can cause higher resistance and “Hot” spots that can be a fire hazard. It can also cause breakers to lose their ability to trip properly when a short occurs again causing a fire hazard. Sometimes rodents can cause damage to the wires inside a panel because the cabinet is not sealed properly to prevent their access. Rodent damage compromises the wiring making shorts possible. Improperly sized circuits can cause overheated components that can cause similar problems to water damage.
Any of these problems can cause an inspector to deem a panel unsafe. Unsafe panels can delay or prevent a home sale or insurance coverage.
Additions to home electric use
Sometimes homeowners make changes or wish to make changes to their homes that will require that the panel and electrical service to be upgraded to a larger size. Most homes start out with a 100 amp service or less, and many homes now use more devices and appliances that use electricity and can require more service. Often larger electrical services are needed when items like pools, spas, and supplemental electric heat, and additional rooms are added to the home. Even adding extra electrical outlets for home entertainment systems and computers can cause an existing panel to be overloaded. A licensed electrician can help you determine if your circuits can handle these additions to the electrical loads.
Not every home need to have a panel or electrical service upgrade. If you have a modern panel that balances your electrical needs then there you may need to upgrade your panel. If you have a fuse panel, if your panel is damaged, or undersized, contact a licensed electrician like Red Carpet Electric, in Connecticut and New York, at 800.461.5790 or visit our website at www.redcarpetelectric.com.