Your electrical service panel is the brain of your home’s electrical system. It is the dedicated place where the hardware of your electrical circuits is located. The electrical service panel is most often found in a basement or a laundry room, convenient but not primary living space. The service panel is always located on an outside wall. A proper assessment of your electrical service panel for capacity and proper function can save problems and aggravation in the future.
Electrical Service Panel - What is it? Where is it? How Does it Work?
Electrical power comes into your home from the electrical power source, typically on two 120-volt wires, for a combined voltage of 240. The electricity is measured in volts. The first place the energy goes inside your home is the electrical service panel. How many amps of electricity that panel can safely distribute can vary widely. An old house might only have an electrical service panel rated for as low as 30 amps, while a new home, with lots of appliances and technology, may be as high as 400 amps.
The electrical panel is the switchboard. Each circuit is wired into the panel and draws the current it needs when it is turned on. The circuit breakers in the control panel offer another level of safety by turning off the power if there is an electrical surge or event.
A lot goes on in the electrical service panel, which means that components need the correct gauge wire, and the amp cannot override the breaker or fuse (if your home still has fuses, it’s time for a change). Most of that information isn’t necessary for you to know as a homeowner. It’s essential for anyone who works on any part of your electrical system, however.
The total amperage of your service panel is usually printed at the top of the inside of the box. In addition, you can see if there are empty spaces within the service panel. If so, you probably have room to add on to the load. One more possibility is to find out if you can swap out a breaker for a tandem load breaker, which will send the power to two low circuits.
Signs of Problems with Your Electrical Service Panel
There are a few warning signs of potential problems with an older electrical service panel. Noticing any of these signs may mean it is time to get a service panel upgrade, what we call a heavy-up.
- If your service panel has fuses or is more than 25 years old, it’s time to heavy-up.
- If you’re frequently flipping breakers or blowing fuses, it’s time to call.
- If your electrical service box is rusty or damaged, it’s a smart move to replace it.
- You can smell something burned around your panel. Call NOW.
- If your lights flicker off and on frequently, ask an electrician for a panel assessment.
- If you’re adding a new appliance or hot tub, you quite possibly need a dedicated circuit. Depending on the current condition, a new panel may be the way to go for safety and savings.
Don’t ignore problems with your electrical service panel, and please, don’t overload it. Electricity is no game.
Wilcox Electric has been providing superior electrical service throughout the D.C. Metro area for over 20 years. We’ve got the training, the team, and the talent to take care of your electrical service panel and all your electrical needs. Contact us today or call (301) 583-8888 or (202) 546-1010.