Do I Need To Upgrade My Electrical Panel? A Florida Electrician Answers

March 09, 2018

Wondering if you need a new electrical panel?

Here’s what you need to ask yourself:

  • Is my electrical panel under 100 amps? If so, then YES—you need to upgrade your panel.
  • Is my electrical panel over 100 amps? If so, the answer is “It depends”.

Note: To determine the size of your electrical panel, find the number displayed on the main breaker inside your panel (100, 200, etc.) This is your panel’s amperage rating.

We’ll take a closer look at both of these situations below...

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Need an estimate on a new electrical panel for your home? Give us a call and we’ll quickly send over one of our expert electricians to give you a quote.

Electrical panel under 100 amps? Yes, you need to upgrade

If you do have an electrical panel that’s under 100 amps, we definitely recommend upgrading to a newer panel that has at least 200 amps. These panels can safely handle the electrical demands of most modern homes.

You see, the “amperage” of your electrical panel tells you the strength of electricity that’s flowing into your home. The higher the amperage, the more electrical appliances your home can power.

Homes that have less than a 100-amp electric service (i.e. a 60-amp panel), were likely built before 1960. And pre-1960 homes had very few electrical appliances to power, so less amperage was needed. But because today’s average home has a lot more electrical appliances to power, we suggest upgrading to a higher amperage panel.

Electrical panel over 100 amps? Upgrading depends on the situation...

Below are 6 signs that you should upgrade your electrical panel (we’ll explain each sign in more detail below):

  1. Your electrical panel is 40+ years old
  2. You notice the signs of a worn electrical panel (signs revealed below)
  3. You’re out of expansion slots
  4. You’re adding onto your home
  5. You have a fuse box
  6. You have one of these 3 defective breaker panel brands: Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco or Pushmatic.

#1: Your electrical panel is 40+ years old

Circuit breaker panels usually only last 25 to 40 years, so if yours is 40 years or older, it’s time to consider replacing it.

Older electrical panels can’t support the electrical demand that modern appliances require, so it’s best to replace them to prevent electrical hazards.

#2: You notice the signs of a worn electrical panel

If you notice the following warning signs, you might want to have an electrician inspect your panel:

  • You hear a crackling sound from the electrical panel
  • Your circuit breakers trip often
  • The lights flicker or dim when you use other appliances
  • Your electrical panel feels warm to the touch
  • A tripped circuit breaker won’t stay reset after you flip the switch
  • You smell burning odors coming from the electrical panel

#3: You’re out of expansion slots

Many circuit breaker panels come with empty “expansion slots”. These expansion slots allow you to add a circuit breaker when you get new appliances that require a new electrical circuit.

Expansion slots on an electrical panel

But if you’re out of expansion slots, and you’re trying to cheat it by using extension cords or power strips to create additional outlets for your home, it’s time to replace your panel.

Why? Well, trying to power more appliances than your panel can handle can lead to electrical fires.

#4: You’re adding onto your home

Whether you’re building a new room, or adding big appliances like an AC unit or a spa to your home, you’ll likely need a new electrical panel to accommodate the new electrical load.

Like we mentioned earlier, electrical panels can only support a certain electrical load (amperage). When you add heavy-duty appliances to your home, it increases the amperage your panel needs to support.

Contact an electrician to help you calculate what size panel you need for your new home additions.

#5: You have a fuse box

If you have a fuse box, you should replace it for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Fuse boxes are older, which means they’re more prone to break down and malfunction. Fuse panels were replaced by circuit breakers in the mid-1950s.
  2. Fuse boxes usually don’t provide enough amperage. Most fuse boxes range from 30–60 amps. Most homes need a 200-amp panel to meet the demands of modern electronics.
  3. Fuses can’t be easily reset like circuit breakers. Every time a fuse takes on a high electrical load, the actual fuse melts to break the flow of electricity. But this means the fuse needs to be replaced entirely, instead of just flipping a switch like on a circuit breaker.

#6: You have a Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco or Pushmatic panel

Each of these types of panels are dangerous and should be replaced. Here’s why:

  • Federal Pacific Electric panels fail to trip when they should, which has led to electrical shocks and fires.
  • Zinsco electrical panels were taken off the market in the 1970s because they had a defect that allowed electricity to flow even when the breaker was switched off.
  • Pushmatic electrical panels 404 have weak breaker “buttons” (not switches), which makes them harder to reset over time. If you can’t reset your circuit breaker then…
    • You may lose power permanently to your appliance (if the breaker button won’t turn on)
    • You run the risk of an electrical shock or fire (if the breaker won’t switch off)

For more info about these outdated and faulty electrical panels, read our article “4 Outdated and Unsafe Electrical Panels That Could be Hiding in Your Home.

Need to upgrade your electrical panel?

Give us a call. We’ll quickly send over one of our expert electricians to visit your home (we complete 96% of all service calls the same day).

Our electrician will give you an honest and fair estimate on the cost to install a new electrical panel for your home.

In the meantime, visit our electrical panel page to learn more about our services.

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