The Breaker Panel is the heart of the home’s electrical system. If your house is over 25 years old, it’s worth checking out the condition of your breaker panel and see if it is time to replace it. Breaker Panels aren’t like a fine wine – they don’t get better with age.
Breaker Panels wear out, and if they were installed over 25 years ago, they were designed for the technology of that time – not for the technology of today. We have many appliances and comforts that we didn’t have in the past.
Did you know that air conditioners and microwaves are on the list of things that homes weren’t originally wired for? Not to mention, some older breaker panels have documented design flaws that present life-threatening dangers to you and your family.
Here is the information on ensuring that your home’s electrical panel is up to date and in good working condition.
What is a Breaker Panel?
The panel has a few different names: breaker box, breaker board and service box.
Your panel can be found in a few different places in the house depending on when your house was built. In newer homes, it is probably in the garage or the basement. In older homes, it may be in a closet or other room. No matter where it is, keep the area easily accessible with no less than one meter working space clearance around it.
The breaker panel controls the electricity coming from the utility company into your home. More specifically, the breakers that are attached to each circuit regulate the amount of electricity that the wires can safely handle.
If a problem like an overloaded or shorted circuit arises, the breaker will trip and prevent any electricity flowing into that circuit. Once the problem is resolved, the breaker can be turned back on to allow electricity to flow through the circuit again.
When Does A Breaker Panel Need Replacing?
- If your home is older than 25 years. If you are unsure of the age of the panel, find out the age of your home and consult a qualified electrical contractor.
- If there is any corrosion (like on old batteries) visible anywhere on the panel or panel cover.
- If there are several different brands of breakers installed. Be on the lookout for different sizes, colours or manufacturer labels.
- If rusting has occurred or is visible on or anywhere near the panel.
- If any of the breakers are hot to the touch.
- If the main breaker that controls all the power to the house keeps tripping for no apparent reason.
- If there is a burning plastic or metal odour in the panel area.
- If a renovation is planned or addition of larger loads such as hot tubs, saunas or new kitchen appliances is scheduled and there are no more breaker spaces available in the panel.
- If the existing panel has no main breaker to disconnect all the power to the house.
- If the panel box is making a crackling sound.
The most recent addition of the Electrical Safety Authority Safety Code came into effect May 5, 2016. The most impactful revision to the Code is the requirement for arc-fault protection on any new circuits powering receptacles. Although arc-fault can be adapted to any electrical system it is most advisable to replace your breaker panel if it cannot accommodate arc-fault breakers. Consult a Licensed Electrical Contractor.