Whats So Special About My Electrical Panel ??
We never think about it. Yet it serves us every day. It is the largest safety device in your home, but most do not appreciate what is does.
It is your electrical service panel. It is the heart of the home electrical system and is in essence the heart of our modern lifestyle. Every year that goes by we require it to do more and more.
If you went to your main service panel and shut off the main breaker what would your life be in your home? No lights, no heat, no cooking, no TV so on… and so on.
As a home inspector I had a curious thought. Why is it when I recommend a panel be replaced it becomes more of an issue than other components of the home?
As home inspectors we often cite that a roof need replacement or if an air conditioner or heat pump is old it is ready for replacement, or your water heater needs replacement. Most people understand and are used to the thought that these types of components reach the end of a useful lifespan and should be replaced.
But the main service panel, now that is a different story. This seems to get homeowners and some realtors get a little jumpy. They start to question my recommendation and ask more questions.
This brings me to my main point. Service panels and their associated components were built for the time they were installed. As such they were not designed in many ways for our modern lifestyles and demands. Americans use more electrical power per person than do people of any other country in the world, but that does not mean that we have a better understanding of electricity.
Safety features and design requirements have been developed, improved and implemented in newer installations.
Through time many of these older panels become overcrowded and their initial design was poor at best. Time is not a friend of electrical systems, and they should be replaced. So here is a thought, roof replacement cost is about 6-7 k and up. An air conditioner/heat pump can be 2-3k and up. The cost to replace a service panel is usually in the $1200 to $1500 range.
I know this is not cheap, but this is the one component that may save your life. A roof leak is bad but it most likely will not kill you. If your service panel catches fire or does not properly function it may have a devastating consequence.
Now I acknowledge that the events that have to happen to create a life-threatening situation is a low probability, but this is a safety device. It is like the airbag in your car, you sure hope to never need it but you will be glad it is there in the event of an accident.
The NFPA reported in 2009, an estimated 44,800 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments involved some type of electrical failure or malfunction as a factor contributing to ignition. These fires resulted in 472 civilian deaths, 1,500 civilian injuries, and $1.6 billion in direct property damage. NFPA electrical fires report.
A study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the 1980s indicated that the frequency of fires in residential electrical systems was disproportionately high in homes more than 40 years old. The thought is that the aging of older electrical systems, combined with the fact that older homes were not built to the more rigid building codes of recent times, were deemed the most likely contributing factors.
If you have a panel manufactured by Zinsco, Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) or even Bryant, these panels have a reputation for being problematic and a potential safety hazard and should be replaced sooner versus later but any electrical system 40 years or older needs a thorough evaluation.
As home inspectors we are hired to provide information. There is no pass or fail of a home. We all assume some risk but understanding that risk will help you make a better decision.
It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. Very interesting details you have noted.
When I read your information about how the frequency of electrical fires was higher in homes that were more than 40 years old, I got worried. It makes sense that they did not have the same building codes back then. We want to make sure this home is extra safe since we just had our first child about three months ago. It is probably a good idea to contact an electrician so we can have an inspection done on the elements in our home that may contribute to these fires. We will call within the next week.
Your article on electrical panels provided valuable insight into the importance of understanding the electrical panel in your home. As you noted, the electrical panel is a crucial component of a home’s electrical system and it’s essential to have it inspected by a licensed electrician regularly. Your explanation of the different parts of the electrical panel and their functions was clear and easy to understand, making it a valuable resource for homeowners. Thank you for sharing your expertise on this important topic.
I recently came across your blog post titled “What’s So Special About My Electrical Panel?” and I wanted to express my appreciation for the insightful information you shared. It’s always important to understand the significance and functionality of our electrical panels, as they play a vital role in the safety and efficiency of our homes.
Your article provides a comprehensive overview of electrical panels, highlighting their purpose, components, and key considerations. I found it particularly helpful that you explained the importance of having an adequate electrical panel capacity to meet the demands of modern electrical usage. As our homes become increasingly reliant on electrical devices and appliances, ensuring that our electrical panels can handle the load is essential.
I also appreciate your emphasis on the importance of professional inspections and evaluations of electrical panels. Engaging the services of a qualified home inspector can uncover potential issues, such as outdated components or improper installations, that may pose safety risks. By highlighting the need for expert assessment, you are promoting responsible homeownership and proactive maintenance.
Furthermore, I found the section on panel labeling and organization to be particularly valuable. Clear labeling and proper organization of the circuits within an electrical panel can significantly aid troubleshooting and maintenance. Your tips on labeling each circuit and keeping an updated circuit directory are practical suggestions that can save homeowners time and effort when dealing with electrical issues.
Overall, I wanted to express my gratitude for your informative blog post. Your dedication to educating homeowners about their electrical panels and encouraging them to prioritize their maintenance and safety is commendable. The knowledge and insights you shared will undoubtedly help homeowners make informed decisions and take necessary steps to ensure the electrical systems in their homes are safe and efficient.