I remodeled my house this last year. I’m talking about a complete, down to the studs, move walls and replace all the wiring kind of remodel. As a part of that remodel, I went ahead and upgraded my main electrical panel.
As I was putting it back together and running all the new circuits, I spent a lot of time thinking about the electrical safety in my house. I wanted to be careful not to create an overloaded circuit. One of the things I thought about during that time was how can I tell if my breaker box is overloaded?
How To Tell If Your Breaker Box is Overloaded
Each year, many people are injured in their homes because there are unsafe conditions due to their breaker box not working properly. One of the main reasons for this is that the circuits in the electrical panel are overloaded, also known as circuit overload.
And overloaded circuits and often times result in electrocution and fires. Both of which none of us want anywhere near our house or our family.
So, how can you tell if your breaker box is overloaded? That’s exactly what this article is for. You’ll learn what it is you can do to make sure your main panel and the electrical circuits are not overloaded and do not pose a fire risk to your home.
It is important to go through your home and check to see whether the breaker box is overloaded or not. This is the best way to keep safe and prevent fire hazards in your home. The good news is there are a few things you can check to see whether your breaker box is overloaded or not.
1. Check For Tripped Circuit Breaker
First, you should spend some time taking a close look at each individual circuit breaker, or fuse. Your breaker box can last a long time , but you do need to replace an old circuit breaker or fuse often as well as resetting them. You can do the resetting on your own, but if they need replaced, it is best to work with a licensed electrician on that. If you decide to DIY it, always make sure you turn off the main breaker in the electric panel to eliminate any electrical current to the tripped breaker.
If one or more of the breakers or fuses in your home is tripping or blowing often, then this is a tell tail sign that the circuit breaker panel is being overloaded.
However, if this just happens after a storm of some kind, then being overloaded is generally not the culprit. But if your finding a random tripped breaker, then this is a sign to take a closer look and fix the underlying issue.
Keep track of how often this happens and what activities you’re doing at the time. If it seems to happen when a lot of appliances are hooked in and being used at the same time, then it is likely you have overloaded your breaker box and need to make some upgrades to the wiring or circuit.
2. Rating Of The Breaker Box
You also need to be careful about overrating your circuit breaker box and the whole electrical panel. Branch circuits are there to make sure what is considered the right current for the box and the safe capacity for the amperage (amp).
The problem that occurs though is that many electrical panels will contain circuit breakers or fuses that are rated with higher currents than the breaker box can handle. As soon as a power surge happens, this mixture can cause major problems for your breaker box.
Check the current that your breaker box is able to handle ahead of time and then consider whether this matches up with the type of energy that you are sending over. If you are having troubles with the breaker box, the currents not matching up are likely the problem.
3. Watch For Sparks
A big sign to watch for are sparks from the breaker box. If you notice that there are any sparks or bright lights that come from the breaker box, this is a sign that there is some kind of danger in your electrical system.
As soon as you see this, it is critical to turn off all electrical power to the breaker box before a fire does occur. Once you are certain all power is gone, you can examine your breaker box for signs of smoke or burns.
Often you will see smoke or burns around the breaker box to show some of the damage. Even if there are none of these signs, you should use caution and consult with an electrician to be safe.
The next sign to look for is overheating. It is not abnormal for some of the components of your breaker box, including the plugs, cords, outlet covers and switch plates to be warm. This is pretty normal in fact, so you do not need to worry too much.
However, they should never be so hot that they are painful to the touch. Overheating from the panel box is a sign that it is overloading and that you are just moments away from having some kind of problem with your outlet. Get this taken care of right away.
5. Listen For Buzzing Or Other Sounds
It is important to listen for buzzing sounds around the breaker box. This is an audible warning that something is wrong. It is a sign that either there is overloading on the box or you have some parts that are worn out and you should replace them.
Do not assume that things are better if you hear a buzzing and then it stops. In fact, this is the time when you should inspect things more. It is possible that this buzzing sound is from the contacts arcing or from a mechanical vibration.
In some cases, the buzzing is because the bimetallic strip is tripping the breaker. No matter what is causing the buzzing sound, it is important to call in an electrician to come inspect the breaker panel and see what is up.
6. Look For Damaged or Frayed Wiring
The final thing we need to take a look at is any damaged or frayed insulation. If there is some wiring material that is cracked, damaged, or cut is a big sign that the wiring is getting old or there is an overload in the electrical current.
This is a situation that you need to take care of right away. It can quickly get out of hand and will ruin your wiring. Right when you find this condition, you should talk to an electrician about getting the wiring replaced.
When Should I Inspect My Electrical Wiring?
There are a few signs, like the ones above, that show your wiring is getting overloaded and the breaker box is not able to handle it. When these show up, it is time to either change how you use the wiring, such as plugging in fewer things, or update and replace the wiring.
There isn’t necessarily a set time to inspect your electrical system. However, it does need to be done on a regular basis. If you can’t remember the last time an inspection was done, this is dangerous to your home and you should consider hiring an electrician to help take a look.
Most areas will have a local or a state electrical inspector that will look over the wiring. This has to be done while the home is being built. However, if your home is older and there are no local or state inspectors, you may have no record on the breaker panel for when it was inspected last.
Whether you have lived in the home for a long time without an inspection or you do not know when the previous owners did an inspection on the wiring, you should assume it has been some time and then get the inspection done.
When you have an older electrical system in place and your breaker box has not been updated for a long time, it is easy to overload the system. We have more electrical appliances and components than in the past, which makes it easy to overload a system that is not used to this.
Once the system gets overloaded, you have the issue of it getting ruined over time. It may burn, your circuits can blow often, and you risk electrocution and fire in your home. You should always look for the signs that overloading is happening that we discussed above.
If you ever do see some of these signs show up, it is best to not try and do the work on your own. Call in a certified electrician to help you get the wiring taken care.