Our homes in the digital age have quite a bit of electrical demand, making our electrical panels one of the most important pieces of equipment we rely on day in and day out. Without a properly sized and functioning main electrical panel, the list of potential issues you can encounter would be a longer one. If you need an electrical panel replacement or upgrade in Boulder, CO, you can trust that Save Home Heat Company has the full range of experience, products, and skills to perform this important service with the safety, professionalism, and quality you deserve.
Understanding Electrical Panels and Circuit Breakers
Your main electrical service panel is referred to by many names. Whether you call it a circuit breaker box, electrical panel, or electrical service box, we’re talking about the same thing. In most homes, you’ll find your electrical panel located on a wall in an attached garage, a mechanical room, a closet, in an unfinished part of a basement, or even outdoors attached to the side of your home in a weatherproof enclosure. This is the heart of your home’s electrical system, and typically looks like a rectangular metal box with a latch to open the door in the front.
Opening your electrical panel door will display a series of switches, referred to as circuit breakers. Circuit breakers are responsible for controlling the flow of electricity around your home. You’ll find both 120 volt and 240 volt circuit breakers inside your panel, with 120 volt breakers taking up a single slot, and 240 volt breakers taking up two slots in the panel. Most homes will have somewhere around 20-40 different electrical circuits, each with a corresponding breaker switch inside the electrical panel. These breakers should all be labeled for which areas of the home they serve, or if they are dedicated circuit breakers, which specific appliance they are responsible for. You’ll usually find that 240 volt circuit breakers are used as dedicated circuits for larger appliances like AC systems, hot tubs, well pumps, and other heavy-draw electrical devices.
When Should I Consider an Electrical Panel Upgrade?
Answering this can be a tricky question, especially to those unfamiliar with current electrical code and how your home’s electrical system operates on a more granular level. There are several things to consider. Firstly, if your home was built more than 15 years ago, it’s highly likely that your main electrical panel is not up to current code. That doesn’t mean you have to replace it, however, but is worth keeping in mind for enhanced safety and reliability.
Consider all of the things in your home that depend on electricity. Chances are, the amount of electrical devices and appliances you use has greatly increased over the years. From desktop computers and EV charging stations, to a new hot tub and other additions, you’ve probably added a good deal of things to your home that are connected to your electrical panel. If the electrical load on your breaker box has grown past its ability to do the job safely and effectively, that’s a great reason to move forward with an electrical panel upgrade.
Other potential reasons to consider an electrical panel replacement can include the internal wiring deteriorating or coming loose (this can happen, over time), or perhaps the most obvious, you’ve had breakers tripping frequently in your home. While a breaker trip every once in a while isn’t a huge cause for concern, multiple trips per month are something worth investigating. Another big reason to look into an upgrade or replacement is if you’re still using old style fuses instead of resettable breakers. Panels of this design should be considered ‘on borrowed time.’ In addition, there are now electrical panel upgrades available that provide unparalled real-time connectivity with your home’s electrical system, along with the very latest in safety features and circuit breaker options.
Reasons for replacing your home’s electrical service panel may include:
- Existing electrical panel cannot support current home electrical demand
- Safety concerns
- Loosening internal wiring (usually due to age of the panel)
- Circuit breakers on one or more circuit trip frequently for no discernible reason
- Frequently flickering or dimming lights on multiple electrical circuits
- Electrical service panel, or wiring near the panel, is warm to the touch
- Rust or burn marks inside the panel
- Steady or occasional buzzing sounds coming from the panel
- An experienced, trusted, professional electrician considers the condition or age of your panel to be cause for replacement
- Desire to upgrade to the latest, safest types of electrical breakers that are now required by code in many areas of new homes
- Desire to upgrade to a Wi-Fi connected Smart electrical panel/load center that provides for remote monitoring, management, and control of your home’s electrical system – including performance and safety alerts.
There are cases where an existing main electrical service panel does not need to be replaced, but an electrical subpanel, aka. a satellite circuit breaker panel, may be added to the system to power a specific area of the home for convenience, space, or efficiency reasons. Your trusted electrician (Save Home Heat Company in Boulder, we hope!) can tell you if or when it makes sense to consider adding a subpanel to your home’s electrical system.
What About Circuit Breakers?
Maybe you’re wondering if you need an entire electrical panel replacement for your home in Boulder. Can’t the individual circuit breakers be replaced? The answer is yes, potentially. Unlike their predecessor, replaceable fuses, circuit breakers can be reset when tripped. However, if they are tripping frequently, it’s time to investigate. In some cases, replacing circuit breakers if your service panel is still in good shape may be worth considering.
There are different types of circuit breakers to keep in mind, as well. Standard, resettable circuit breakers, which respond to overcurrent and short circuit conditions associated with shocks and possible electrocution, have been in use for more than 40 years. Starting in 1999, AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers began showing up in electrical code. AFCI breakers go a step further and also help prevent fires that can be caused by circumstances such as damaged wire insulation, electrical surges, and other fire risk conditions. In 2017, National Electrical Code (NEC) was expanded to include AFCI breakers in virtually all residential electrical circuits.
All of the above indicate that if your electrical panel is getting up there in age or you’re having problems with multiple circuit breakers, it might just be time to update to current code.
Reasons to consider replacing some or all of your electrical circuit breakers include:
- Age of your circuit breakers
- Condition of your circuit breakers
- Breakers hot to the touch, appear discolored, or give off a burnt smell
- Specific breakers tripping frequently, will not reset, and all else checks out ok
- To upgrade to AFCI circuit breakers
Of course, paramount to all of this discussion around your electrical service panel is your safety. While flickering lights can be quite annoying, the real concern here is to make sure that your home is safe from potentially dangerous electrical conditions. From electrical shock to fire risk, there is plenty to be aware of. For example, your electrical panel should be able to respond to a variety of conditions that would otherwise cause a potentially dangerous situation. These can include circumstances caused by aging or malfunctioning home appliances, electric motors, electric heating elements, deteriorated wiring or wiring insulation, wire connections that are no longer secure, electrical surges from both interior and exterior sources, and more.
Whether it’s upgrading from standard resettable breakers to AFCI breakers, replacing aging or faulty breakers, or even a full electrical panel replacement with new breakers in the package, Save Home Heat Company is a highly experienced and trustworthy source of electrical service in Boulder and surrounding areas. Our Master Electrician and our team of skilled electricians is glad to provide expert assistance in assessing the condition of your electrical service panel and circuit breakers, to determine if any courses of action makes sense for you to consider for your home. All this in an informative, low-pressure manner.
Trusted Electrical Panel Upgrades and More in Boulder
If your home was built as recently as 10 years ago and an experienced electrician hasn’t inspected your electrical panel since then, we recommend having a pro take a closer look. If you’ve added lots of electrical appliances, or are considering an addition or remodel, those are other good reasons to have a trusted electrician from Save Home Heat Company come out to look over your electrical service panel and breakers.
To learn more about our electrical panel replacement and related services in Boulder or to schedule service, please contact us today.
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