Posted on February 22, 2020
Webster Electrician Advice on Electric Panel Upgrades
Electric panels are one of those devices that only operate until they don’t. Many homeowners know how to fix the circuit breaker that moves, but few people besides the Webster electrician give the large gray box in the garage or laundry room a lot of thought until the lights go out.
Next time you’re next to your large gray box, take a look inside. There’s going to be a large breaker different from the others. It should be labeled as 80 Amp or higher. This is the maximum capacity of your entire home electrical system, in volts.
Why do amps matter?
Amps are a function of how much electricity can pass through a circuit. Your home is split into several loops, all of which intersect on the control desk. Both the individual circuits and the master service panel have a limit on how much electricity can flow through them before they overheat. Circuit breakers in the main panel minimize power to individual circuits as they start to draw more current than is safe.
But most older breaker panels can’t handle the sum of all the home circuits anywhere. So on an older breaker panel, when you plug a hairdryer, a coffee pot, and then someone goes to make a toast, it’s lights out. Too much power has been drawn from the entire system, even if no single circuit has been overloaded. The guilty party is a low-capacity service panel.
Advantages of the 200 Amp Service Panel Security
An improved service panel will allow your home electrical system to operate more safely. Even if you’re not tripping the breakers right now, a 100-amp panel in a modern home is working far too close to the ability to be safe for long-term use. As a rule, no electrical circuit should maintain a maximum capacity of more than 80 percent of the load. The extra amperage capacity is a safety buffer that electrical engineers build into home circuits so that the sudden power spike does not dangerously overload wires and outlets.
You’re not allowed to draw more than 80 amps in a 100 amp device. Out of this power, 15 to 20 amps are used for home lighting. The extra 20 watts will be used for the air conditioner or boiler. Before you even turn the radio on, it’s halfway to your home’s safe capacity. Add a few computers, smartphone chargers, a TV, and your evening power draw will easily exceed the system’s safe limits.
What’s going to happen then?
The best-case scenario is a breaker trip when the system exceeds the absolute limits of the safe working potential of the system. It is also possible that an electrical fire could be triggered by an overloaded outlet or light fixture in an older system.
Even if your current system has a total capacity to meet the needs of your home, individual circuits are often limited. Smaller service panels have less room for circuits, and these circuits are usually rated for lower amp draw than larger panels.
This might come in handy in a couple of ways.
By dividing your house into more circuits with fewer things attached to it, you can run more gadgets with the same electrical capacity. This can be very useful if you ever need power tools. In dividing your workspace into two circuits, you can run bigger equipment, and if you ever work on projects with a friend or family, you can run multiple shop tools at once without overloading any circuits.
Room to Grow
If you consider any major home upgrades, such as a backyard pool or basement bar, upgrading to a 200-amp service panel will give you the power to spare. It’s also a good starting point if you’re looking to update your office or home theater, which can be a major power drain even with modern equipment.
After your service panel has been upgraded with a reputable electrical company like Bay Area Electrical, there’s a step you can take to get even higher performance from your home electrical system. Just by upgrading to a 200-amp panel, you’ll be able to take full advantage of your 100-amp service without losing 20 percent of the safety limits.
If you want even more power, most homes can be switched to higher amplifier service. This can give you a safe working capacity of 160 amps in your home, with a 40 amp reserve for high-draw situations such as Christmas lights or an electric snowblower.
I hope you realize you need a new electrical panel upgrade to keep your home safe and allow all your appliance electricity in your home.