2 Signs Your Home Electrical Panel Is Overloaded

If you have ever driven past a home fire, you probably assumed that someone was playing with matches or not paying attention to the stove. However, electrical issues cause more than 40,000 residential fires each year, claiming hundreds of lives and causing over a billion dollars worth of property damage. Fortunately, you might be able to fend off trouble by spotting problems early. Here are two signs that your home electrical panel is overloaded, and what you can do to fix the problem:

1: Breakers That Trip Constantly

Does it seem like you are always running out to your garage or down to your basement to flip that breaker back where it belongs? Although tripped breakers might seem like a common inconvenience, perpetual tripping might be a sign of an electrical panel that can't handle your electricity demands.

Breaker boxes are responsible for monitoring electrical current and shutting down if they detect that too much voltage is passing through the lines. Each wire is designed to handle a certain amount of current, and surpassing this limit creates heat in the line. If a wire starts drawing too much current, the breaker will trip to keep the line from getting too hot and sparking a fire. Unfortunately, some homeowners try to solve breaker problems by replacing fuses with larger versions. Although this action will keep the breakers from tripping, it might also let the lines get too hot. Keep in mind that breaker boxes are in place to keep you safe, not to inconvenience you.

If your breakers trip frequently, hire an electrician to inspect and upgrade your panel. The cost of upgrading an electrical panel varies depending on the size of your house, but upgrades start at around $800. Before you balk at the price, keep in mind that the expense of upgrading a panel is nothing compared to the cost of rebuilding your house or the emotional toll of losing a family member.

2: Flickering Lights

Those gently flickering lights might give your upcoming Halloween party a little extra ambiance, but it could be a symptom of a larger electrical problem. As electrical panels age, they can develop internal mechanical problems, which can make your lights dim and brighten occasionally. Here are a few electrical panel issues that might cause flickering lights:

  • Loose Connections: Over time, ground movement and normal wear and tear can loosen the electrical connections inside of your breaker box. In addition to making your lights flicker, loose connections can also create bad smells.
  • Strained Power Load: If your lights dim whenever you switch on your dishwasher or air conditioner, it might be a sign that your electrical panel can't handle your electrical load. These types of problems are common after homeowners install new appliances or renovate without evaluating what their panel can handle.

To keep your lights bright and steady, hire an electrician to perform a load calculation. Although it might seem simple to add up all of your individual circuit limits, the process is a little more in-depth than you might think. Each circuit is usually designed to carry about half of its overall load limit, which means that your electrician will have to evaluate how much power is running to each line. However, this load might vary depending on how your electrical devices are being used, which is why you should enlist the help of a professional.  

After your electrician has finished calculating your home's electrical load, take notes so that you can respond to new electrical changes in the future. For example, if your home's load is on the high side, you might need to have a sub-panel installed before you renovate your place or add extra power outlets.     

By recognizing an overloaded panel early, you might be able to protect your home and sleep a little easier. 

For more information, contact a company like Skyline Electric, Inc.