Is Your Electrical Panel Safe?
By Mike LeBlanc
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, electrical problems are the cause of more than 46,000 home fires in the United States each year. If the breakers in your home are tripping, or the lights are flickering, it may be time to upgrade your electrical system, as these are warning signs that your electrical system may not be able to handle the demands of modern appliances and technology. Today’s appliances and hi-tech equipment use much more power, and it is essential that your electrical system be able to handle the demand. Today’s circuit breaker panels conform to much higher safety standards than outdated fuse panels. The Ground Fault and Arc Fault circuit breakers, which are part of these modern systems, also help reduce the risk of an electrical fire.
Over the past decade, electrical service panels have improved greatly, and are designed to operate much more efficiently. If you live in an older home, it is important that you have a licensed electrician determine whether or not you need to upgrade your electrical system. If your home has a fuse panel, or overloaded circuits, a service panel upgrade can help to ensure the safety of your home and family. If your home’s electrical system is not up to date with current safety standards, your homeowners’ insurance carrier may require an electrical panel upgrade for renewal.
Electrical fires are especially dangerous, because often the electrical wires heat up and smolder, not setting the smoke detectors off until it is too late. And electrical fires can be very complicated to extinguish once they have started. It pays to be proactive and have a professional assessment done before any visible problems arise.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission studies of residential fires show that the majority of serious fires could have been avoided. Warning signs that your system needs to be assessed immediately include:
- Power outages (fuses need replacement/circuit breakers need to be reset)
- Sparks or unusual sounds from the electrical system or outlets
- Overheating of outlets
- Permanently installed power cords
All electrical wiring work requires an electrical permit and inspection to ensure that the work is done properly and to code. Proper permits and inspections not only help to ensure your safety, they can also protect you financially if you sell your house in the future, or if an insurance claim ever becomes necessary for any type of house fire. Many insurance companies are no longer renewing policies without an inspection. If the electrical service or panel are in poor condition or if the panel is a FPE the owner will likely be required to replace it before a new policy is issued.
About the Author: Mike Leblanc is the Manager of the Electrical Division at E.F. Winslow Plumbing & Heating. He is a master electrician with more than 25 years in the industry, and has serviced thousands of homes and businesses.