As a rule, there are two main reasons to upgrade your electrical service: if it is unsafe, or if it is not big enough for your current electrical demand. In either case, an electrical service upgrade is very important to both your immediate safety and the future integrity of your entire electrical system. If your service is already unsafe, it is fairly obvious why this can be dangerous. Having a system that is not large enough to handle your daily demand, however, can lead to situations that are hazardous as well. A system that is too small typically results in overloaded circuits. This leads to tripped breakers, blown fuses and potentially dangerous shocks if these overloaded electrical circuits are not properly managed.
What Is Your Electrical Service?
Your electrical service, commonly called your electrical panel or breaker panel, provides an entry point for electricity to enter your home. Once the electricity reaches your home from your local utility company, your breaker panel serves as the distribution system that controls, maintains and distributes the electrical current to the many circuits in your home.
In addition to its role in distributing the power throughout your home, your electrical service also serves as your first line of protection against the dangerously high levels of electricity that are being delivered to your home. Each circuit is protected by a circuit breaker, or fuse if you live in an older home. Whenever electrical current becomes too erratic, or reaches unsafe levels, your breakers are designed to flip to the off position, which will no longer allow current to flow to that circuit. This can help prevent overheating, melting, fire and possible shocks.
Signs That Your Electrical Service Is Insufficient
Whenever your electrical service is too small, it can no longer provide the minimum amount of electricity that your home needs on a day-to-day basis. This often happens whenever you add more high-powered appliances or new electrical equipment to your home. The greatest sign that your home might need an electrical upgrade for this reason is frequently tripped circuit breakers. If you have recently added a room, installed central heating and air, renovated your kitchen, or added a hot tub or other power-hungry appliance, you should consult an electrician about also upgrading your electrical service. This could be an upgrade as simple as adding a new, dedicated circuit to your electrical panel, or performing a full service upgrade that will increase the amount of electricity that your electrical panel can actually bring into your home.
Signs That Your Electrical Service Is Unsafe
If you have recently moved into an older home, then you will want to have your electrical panel inspected both for safety and for sufficient supply. Newer electrical panels are installed with many built-in safety features. Many older electrical panels, unfortunately, are not as safe as their modern counterparts. The most common type of outdated electrical service is the fuse box. Other known unsafe electrical panels include Zinsco electrical panels, Pushmatic electric panels and electrical panels built by Federal Pacific Electric Company.
A fuse box utilizes fuses to halt the flow of electricity, rather than a circuit breaker. They accomplish this with the help of a metal filament that is designed to fail and break whenever the electrical current flowing through the fuse reaches a certain level. This will stop the electricity from continuing through that particular circuit. One of the biggest dangers posed by fuse boxes is the temptation to replace blown fuses with oversized replacements. While this may provide you with a greater gap between replacements, it can lead to an overloaded circuit. Most fuse boxes were designed to handle between 30 and 60 amps of power, rather than the 100-200 amps that the average household requires today. This makes oversizing or attempting to bypass a fuse especially hazardous. Your best bet is to upgrade your electrical service, if you live in a home that still has fuses.
Does Your Home Need an Electrical Service Upgrade?
Whether you require an electrical service upgrade due to an undersized electrical service, or one that is fundamentally unsafe, it is important to remember that the safety of both your home, you family and your valuable electronics are on the line. An overloaded electrical system can be just as dangerous as one that has known defects. If you believe that your electrical service may be unsafe or undersized, don’t hesitate to contact your electrician to come check it out.