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Scherer Electric Blog

What Your Electrical Panel Does—And Why It May Need a Replacement


The electrical panel for your house serves a vital and necessary function. You probably already have some sense of what it does if you’ve ever had to reset tripped breakers or shut off the power to part of the house. But can you give a good “job description” of your electrical panel and why it’s so important? If you can’t, that’s no problem. You don’t have to be an electrical expert about all parts of your home—that’s why you have professional electricians in Orchard Park, NY like us to help you out.

We’re going to give you the basics about your electrical panel, and then we’re going to go into the question of whether you need to have a new one installed.

The Job of the Electrical Panel

The electrical panel, a.k.a. the breaker box or load center, is what replaced the old fuse box as the “switchboard” for electricity in a home. Electricity from the municipal grid enters a home but it needs to be divided and sent to the separate circuits in the building. It’s the job of the electrical panel to take this incoming voltage and distribute it to the different circuits. In some homes there may be an additional subpanel used for later additions to the house. 

Each circuit runs through a breaker, which is designed to trip and cut off voltage in case of a voltage surge to prevent damage to the electrical system. There’s also a main breaker, usually located at the top of the panel, that can be used to shut off power to all the circuits (but not the power coming from the municipal source). If you look at the main circuit breaker in your electrical panel, the amperage listed there is the amperage capacity of the whole electrical panel. For most homes today, this is 200 amps, but higher ones are also common. 

Why You May Need a New One

Electrical panels age, like any other part of a house. Because electrical demand from appliances continues to increase, panels can become outdated after only ten years. If you checked on the amperage of the main breaker and saw it was lower than 200 amps (100 and 150 amps are common), we strongly urge you to call us to replace it. The panel will have a difficult time handling standard electrical loads and breakers will start to trip regularly. 

There are several types of panels that we recommend replacing. The main one in this area are the Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breaker panels, which have a potentially dangerous fault in them. (Find out more as well as how to identify if you have an FPE panel.) If you see Zinsco or GTE-Slyvania on your panel, this is another potentially hazardous panel. 

In general, we advise you to have an electrical panel that’s more than 10 years old professionally inspected to see if it’s ready for a replacement. We’re experts at handling panel upgrades and can help see you have the best panel working for your house. 

Call us if you think your house may need a new electrical panel. Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician!

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