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Electrical Panels 101: What Every Homeowner Should Know

Most homeowners take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to electrical panels. As long as everything works properly, you might not give that metal panel in your Dunedin, FL, home a second thought. But when you’re flipping a light switch, charging a smartphone, or brewing a pot of coffee, knowing how that electrical panel works will help ensure the power stays on. Here’s what every homeowner, including yourself, needs to know about that electrical panel responsible for delivering a steady stream of electricity.

What Is an Electrical Service Panel?

Your electrical service panel connects your utility company’s wiring to your residential electrical system. All the wiring in your home meets at this central point. You might say it’s like having a personal power station. You own it, not the electrical company. That means you’re responsible for anything that goes wrong with the panel. Knowing how to prevent costly problems and having a trustworthy electrician nearby makes good financial sense.

Electric Panel Components

Electrical panels typically have a metal covering that swings open. Inside are the circuit breakers that direct power to different areas of your home. These devices have safety switches that automatically trip and cut off power when the demand for electricity exceeds the supply. Once the problem is fixed, turning the switch back to the “on” position is usually a safe thing to do.

Behind the metal door is a protective cover with holes cut into it to accommodate the circuit breakers. The main breaker shuts off the power going to the branch circuits. However, it doesn’t switch off the power coming in from the utility wiring. So, you should avoid touching anything other than the circuit breakers to prevent electric shocks. Once you’ve learned what the components are and where they’re located, it’s best to leave panel repairs to qualified electricians.

All About Amperage

The size of an electrical panel is determined not by its dimensions but by its amperage, or “amps” for short. Amperage measures the rate of electricity flowing through the wiring. Homes built back in the 1950s often have 60-amp fuse boxes. Today, the average home in West Florida has 100-amp panels, but that’s rarely enough for most households. Upgrading to a panel with more amperage protects you from running short on electricity.

  • A 150-amp panel lets you run multiple appliances simultaneously.
  • Homes larger than 2,000 square feet may need a 200-amp panel or larger.
  • A 400-amp panel provides enough electricity to power larger properties.

Safety Considerations

Maintaining electrical panels in good condition is critical for you and your family’s safety and well-being. In addition to electrical shocks, faulty service panels can damage property and even threaten your life. The second leading cause of residential fires, electrical failures and malfunctions pose serious safety hazards for you and your family. A timely upgrade can safeguard everyone in your household. The following signs indicate your panel needs repair.

  • Rust or corrosion inside the panel box
  • A burning smell coming from the panel
  • The panel feels warm to the touch
  • The breakers trip frequently
  • Indoor lights flicker or dim
  • Hot light switches or sockets

Electrical Upgrades and Replacements

With multiple computers, phone chargers, and modern appliances, many of today’s households don’t have electrical panels that meet their demands for electricity. Improving the quality of your life at home is reason enough to upgrade your electrical panel. If yours is over 40 years old, replacing it now will save you money in the long run. Installing an electrical panel with ample amperage is an investment that will also pay for itself when it comes time to sell your home.

Every homeowner benefits from learning the basics about electrical panels. When problems with your panel occur, partnering with a reputable company is equally important. For a company you can trust to deliver quality work, and electric panel and replacement services, call Climate Design today!

Image provided by iStock

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