Don’t Be an April Fool! Check Your Electrical Panel

April Fool’s Day might have passed, but your opportunity to make foolish decisions has not. One way many of us carry the April Fool’s spirit beyond April first is by neglecting parts of our home that can lead to emergencies and dangerous situations.

Neglecting your home’s electrical panel is one such mistake that too many homeowners make. It’s essential to ensure that your electrical panel is working correctly because the panel is what distributes power throughout your entire home.

While it’s often out of sight and considered maintenance-free, neglecting maintenance of your panel can lead to interruptions in power and safety issues. It’s important to understand what your electrical panel does and how to properly maintain it to ensure that you don’t have interruptions in power and that you’re not at risk for an electrical fire.

Electrical Safety and The Importance of Professional Care

The electrical panel is the central distribution point in your house. It receives power from outside wires and then distributes them to circuits throughout your home.

The use of circuits protects your home from power surges or overloads. Under normal circumstances, it’s safe to touch your box when the protective cover is in place.

However, when the protective cover has been removed, you’re at risk of receiving a dangerous, potentially fatal, shock if you touch certain areas. There is a risk of touching either a charged lug or one of the two heavy-gauge wires that come in from the outside.

Further, with the cover off, shutting off the main power will not necessarily keep you safe. Finally, when you’re working with tools without the cover, you risk one of the tools touching dangerous areas of the panel and giving you a deadly shock.

You should never remove the protective cover of your electrical panel to perform maintenance or to inspect the panel. Doing this can be incredibly dangerous and should only be handled by experienced professionals.

Electrical Panel Risks: Power Shutdown

Your electrical panel either has fuses or circuit breakers that deliver power to circuits throughout your house and protect you from overloads.

Fuses provide overcurrent protection by having their main component melt when it gets too hot, causing an interruption in the current. When a fuse burns out, it must be replaced.

In contrast, circuit breakers provide the same safety function, but rather than melting and burning out, the circuit breaker trips, interrupting the flow of the circuit. As a result, a circuit breaker can simply be reset – as opposed to being replaced – to resume normal operation.

An overload to a fuse or circuit breaker can result in limited or widespread power outages in your home. Further, problems with the panel itself, with the incoming power meter, with your main connection or with individual circuits can result in a power shutdown. To avoid interruptions in your service, it’s important to maintain your electrical panel and to ensure that all of its components are working correctly.

Electrical Panel Risks: Fire

While a power shutdown is an inconvenience, it’s not the worst-case scenario when dealing with improper electrical panel maintenance. The primary risk is an electrical fire. An outdated panel, a panel that has less than 100-amp service or an improperly working panel can create a risk of fire.

Older homes are at a higher risk for these issues, so if your home is more than 20 years old, it’s even more important to have a professional evaluate your panel. Also, there are a few outdated panels that should be replaced immediately.

If you have a Federal Pacific Electric panel, a Zinsco panel, a split-bus panel or a fuse box you should call a professional and schedule a replacement as soon as possible. All jokes aside, not doing proper electrical maintenance on your electrical panel is foolish. It can result in the headache of regular power shutdowns or worse, the risk of an electrical fire. Call Meisner Services today at (610) 770-1007 to schedule an electrical panel inspection.