Chuck Davis was getting ready to leave town and went into his guest bedroom to get a suitcase out of the closet. He walked in the room and turned on the light switch, but nothing happened. He figured the bulb was out and walked over to turn on a lamp, but again, nothing happened. That’s when he knew there was a major problem.
“We don’t use the guest bedroom very often, but I knew the coincidence of both the overhead light and the lamp being burned out wasn’t very probable,” said Davis. “My wife and I were getting ready to leave for a vacation and knew that I needed to figure out what the problem was quickly, so I called John Moore and they came out the next day. The technician looked around and figured out that we had a small electrical fire in the back of our panel which had completely burned up the circuit breakers for that part of the house.”
The electrical panel is a very important part of your electrical system because it is what houses circuit breakers and what brings electricity into the home. Electricity flows through power lines, which are connected to every home through separate underground or overhead lines. These lines are then connected to a meter can that is located outside your home, usually in the back yard. And the panel is connected to the meter can.
“Inside every panel is a copper or aluminum component called a busbar. All circuit breakers are attached to this internal component,” said John Moore Services Electrical Manager David Floyd. “The busbar distributes electricity in a proper way to all the circuit breakers, which in turn power everything that is plugged into a receptacle inside or outside the home.”
Because the panel plays such a critical role inside the home, it’s important that it is installed properly and maintained on a regular basis. Not doing so creates a dangerous situation and can even start a fire. But unlike most items inside your home, age is not a big factor in determining if your electrical panel needs to be replaced or serviced because they can last up to 50 years. But just because they can last that long does not mean they will.
“Heat is the main factor in determining how long your panel and circuit breakers will last,” said Floyd. “Say there is a wire that is undersized for the breaker that is being used. This will cause too much heat and will cause wear and tear on the wires and the panel itself.”
Other factors that affect the life of your electrical panel are:
- Wires becoming flaky or discolored. This is usually a sign of too much heat going through the wire.
- Poor workmanship. If your panel was installed improperly, it won’t last as long as it should.
- Having a panel too small for your home. If your panel is small and you are using a lot of electricity, you are creating more heat, which shortens its life.
- Tandem breakers. These are two breakers that fit into one breaker slot. Normal breakers are 1 inch thick, which helps dissipate heat. But when you have tandem breakers that are not used properly, you are doubling the amount of heat, which has a tendency to start a fire.
- If your panel is outside, the weather causes damage – especially here in Houston, with our famous heat and humidity.
“My circuit breakers were creating so much heat that they caused a fire to start inside my electrical panel,” said Davis. “I was lucky that I called John Moore before another fire started and did any real damage to my home.”
Faulty electrical panels and wiring account for 28% of house fires across the United States. But with routine maintenance on your electrical system and panels you never have to worry. The licensed electricians at John Moore Services are trained in the latest electrical code and can give you tips on how to prevent electrical damage and fires inside your home. If you have any questions or are concerned about the safety of your panel, give us a call!