electrician repairing panel

How to Know If Your Home Needs a New Electrical Panel

Although most people rarely visit their home’s electrical panel, this piece of equipment has a crucial job. It distributes the electricity from outside your home to wherever you need it inside your home. Every circuit in your home ultimately connects back to the electrical panel through a series of wires. You might also refer to your home’s electrical panel as the circuit breaker panel or fuse box.

Just like any other piece of equipment in your home, the electrical panel will eventually need an update or a replacement. Postponing the replacement can increase the risk of an electrical fire, so make sure to keep an eye out for the following signs.


If you see the following “red flags,” don’t wait to contact an electrician to inspect your electrical panel.

1. Signs of Burning or Scorch Marks

If there are burn marks where a circuit break connects inside your panel, this could signal a serious problem. Electricity may be arcing (or jumping) over a loose connection in the panel—which is a severe fire hazard—and that arcing could be making those scorch marks. It’s also possible that your panel is undersized for your home’s power demands.

2. Melted Wires

You may smell the wire insulation melting before you see it. When electrical wires melt, they can give off a burning smell or a distinctly “fishy” or urine-like odor.

If the panel’s wires have melted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something was wrong with your panel. It’s normal for the insulation to break down over time after years of heating up and cooling down. However, ruined wire insulation is a dangerous problem because it allows electricity to arc, which could eventually start a fire.

3. Panel Is Rusting

If the equipment is rusting, that means water has somehow made contact with it (a roof leak, plumbing leak, etc.). Water and electricity do not mix, and the result can be extremely dangerous. Not only should you replace your panel, but you must also determine how the water damage occurred so that you can prevent the problem from happening again.

4. Flickering or Dimming Lights

A momentary flicker is typically no cause for concern. However, if your lights are consistently dimming or flickering when certain appliances switch on, this is a good indication that your electrical panel is underpowered.


Even if your panel is not damaged or causing issues currently, we strongly recommend a replacement if any of the following circumstances apply to you.

1. Adding a New High-Powered Appliance

Even if your panel has been working just fine up until now, it might now be able to take on the power demands of a new, large appliance. Most homes nowadays have 200 amps of power to work with. If you own an older home with only 60 amps or even 100 amps, you may need to upgrade your panel before you can upgrade your appliances.

2. Panel Still Has Fuses

There are a few compelling reasons to upgrade your old fuse box to a circuit breaker panel:

  • Convenience. Instead of needing to replace a fuse every time a circuit overloads, you can simply flip a switch—much easier.
  • Money. Blown fuses must be replaced. There’s no need to replace any pieces or parts in a circuit breaker panel if something trips.
  • Safety. There’s definite room for user error with a fuse box. Putting in a fuse with the wrong amperage can result in an electrical fire. Circuit breakers also trip faster than fuses, which can be crucial in preventing an electrical fire.

3. Panel Is Outdated and Unsafe (3 Notable Types)

Owning an old electrical panel is one thing, but there are three types of older panels in particular that we never like to see in homes:

  • Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) with Stab-Lok Circuit Breakers. The breakers in these panels frequently fail to trip. Thousands of housefires have resulted from this problem.
  • Zinsco (GTE-Sylvania). Parts of the circuit breakers in these panels tend to melt inside the equipment. As a result, the circuit breakers can’t trip when they need to.
  • Challenger (Eaton/Cutler Hammer). The problematic panels from this manufacturer were made between February and April 1988. Quality control testing revealed that breakers in these panels overheat, which in turn increases arcing and damage to the breaker and bus bar. Eventually, that overheating and damage melt the breaker and bus bar completely, increasing the risk of fires and electrocution.

If you think you might own one of these electrical panels, please contact a trusted electrician to verify if that is the case. If it is, we strongly recommend installing a safer replacement.

Electrical Panel Upgrades and Repairs in Columbus, OH

Nothing is more important than your safety. If you suspect that there might be a problem with your home’s electrical panel, please don’t wait to contact our seasoned electricians at My Electric Works: (614) 515-4520.