Every home has at least one electrical panel or breaker box, as they were once known. It is where the electricity comes into your house and is distributed to the different rooms and areas on what is known as circuits. Using the circuit breakers in the panel, you can turn off the power to certain parts of your home or specific large appliances like your air conditioner or furnace. The circuit breakers also add a layer of safety by tripping when there is an issue with the incoming power like a spike or surge.
But just like every item in your home, your electrical panel can wear out or become outdated. And when this happens, there is an increased risk of electrical damage to your home’s electronics and appliances. But even more concerning is the increased potential for an electrical fire or electrical shock hazard when using your home’s outlets. So it is vital to know the signs of an electrical panel that needs to be upgraded.
If your home is still using a fuse box rather than an electrical panel with breakers, you need to schedule an upgrade as soon as possible. Fuse boxes have not been used since the late 60s and are not designed to meet a modern home’s electrical needs. As we mentioned, a breaker will trip and open the circuit to stop the flow of a power surge or an electrical spike. But a fuse simply melts or blows when there are abnormal fluctuations in power being supplied to your home. This method of stopping the flow of electricity represents an increased potential for an electrical fire in your home. It is also more challenging to correct the problem because the fuse must be replaced instead of simply resetting a breaker.
Your home’s age will dictate the size of the electrical panel in your home. Most older homes were built with 60-amp service. But today’s houses have 100 or 200-amp service to meet the needs of larger appliances and the increased number of electronics. Also, the wiring in those homes was only designed to accommodate the 60-amp service. So it is very likely that you are overloading both your electrical panel and your home’s wiring. Both of these issues increase the potential for electrical fires and damage to your home’s appliances and electronics.
This issue goes hand in hand with the age of your home. A few decades ago, there were no electronics and far fewer appliances in the average home. And that resulted in fewer outlets than you would expect to find in a newer home. Your solution might be using a variety of extension cords and power strips to keep everything working. But those are also increasing the chances of an overloaded circuit, damage to your home’s electrical components, and an electrical fire. Upgrading your electrical panel and adding outlets to a larger circuit is the only safe solution to having too few outlets.
If you notice your lights flicker regularly or dim when an appliance is turned on, then you should be seeking a price quote for an electrical panel upgrade. These are signs that you do not have sufficient electrical capacity to operate everything in your home correctly. Other indications include singed outlets, frequently tripped breakers, sparks when you insert a plug into an outlet, and a burnt odor around outlets. For more information about upgrading your home’s electrical panel, call (703) 463-9866 to schedule an appointment with the pros at Circuit Doctors.
If you live in an older home, you are sure to have discovered that there are no three-prong outlets in the house. That is not uncommon, but it is a problem because all major appliances have required three-prong plugs since 1969. So your only fast and cheap option has been to add a three-prong adapter to each three-prong plug that you need to plug into your older outlets. But over the years, you have started to wonder if adding adapters is a real solution or are you creating a substantial risk of an electrical fire in your home. There are a few things to consider when you evaluate your plugs and your home’s electrical system.
The big question is, can your home’s wiring safely supply the power that your appliance or tool will demand. So you need to consider the amps required by the item. It is a general given that most older homes with only two-slot outlets used cloth-insulated wiring. And that will not accommodate the high electrical demand appliances and tools used in most of today’s homes. You will find that the device works, but you are overloading the wires, which will become hot and can start a fire. Look at the breakers or fuses in your electrical panel to determine the amps available on each circuit. And then decide if the three-prong plugged device is low amp enough to plug in with an adapter.
If the electrical box is grounded, the wire will be attached to the center screw in older two-slot outlets, attach the adapter to the same screw via a grounding tab. If you can ground the adapter to the outlet, it is generally considered safe for short-term use. But again, this only applies if you have checked the amperage requirement for the device, and it is within the limits of your wiring and breakers.
It is important to note that the use of three-prong adapters is not always a wise choice, even if you have met the above criteria. Check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to see if three-prong adapters are called out. Many insurance companies will not cover fire damage or injuries resulting from appliances plugged into a three-prong adapter. And the same could be true for the warranty on any electrical items like appliances, HVAC equipment, and electronics.
You know that having only two-prong outlets is a sign that your home’s electrical system is older. But there are also other indications that the electrical system is not meeting your appliances and electronics’ needs. If you see the lights dim or flicker when an appliance turns on, you should be calling (703) 463-9866 for an evaluation from the pros at Circuit Doctor. Other signs of electrical overload hazards include:
All of these are strong indications that there are serious and very dangerous electrical overloads in your home. Left unaddressed, any of these outdated outlets or the wiring in your home to overheat and start a fire. Never risk the safety of your loved ones or your home. Call (703) 463-9866 for an electrical evaluation from the Circuit Doctor pros. We will determine if you need an electrical upgrade, new three-pronged outlet installations, or other repairs to keep your electrical system functioning correctly and safely.