3 Signs Your Current Electrical Panel Is Overloaded

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When there is a problem with your electrical system, warning signs usually indicate potential issues. It’s essential to pay attention to these warning signs because problems with your electrical system usually directly translate to potential damage to your more sensitive electronics like computers and televisions, and even worse, are a fire hazard.

Electrical problems are the leading cause of house fires in the United States, with an average of 46,700 homes burning down annually between 2015 and 2019.

electrical panel undergoes repair

An electrical panel, or breaker box, is a critical component of your electrical system. It manages the electricity coming into your home and directs power to specific areas. Inside is the main breaker, which controls the power for the whole house, and all the individual breakers for different zones in the home. Panels are designed to handle a certain amount of electricity; if too much electricity is pulled through, it becomes overloaded. 

When an electrical panel is overloaded or supplying a higher amount of current than it is rated for, it can cause damage to sensitive devices like computers or refrigerators or lead to an increased risk of fire or electrocution.

3 Symptoms of an Overloaded Electrical Panel

To keep your home and your family safe, you should be aware of the common signs that indicate an electrical panel is overloaded and seek professional assistance if you cannot quickly correct the problem.

man checks electrical panel with phone light during power outage

1. Power Problems

One of the most common indications of an overloaded electrical panel is breakers that trip frequently. You’ll know when a breaker is tripped when a section of your house no longer receives power in a sudden shutdown, often with a “click” sound. When you look at your breaker box, you see all the labeled switches. Almost all of them will be flipped to the same side. Look for the switch that isn’t flipped the right way, often in the middle. That will be the breaker that tripped. 

Breakers are safety components in your electrical panel that protect your home and appliances when they sense a dangerous surge of electricity. They trip when that electricity reaches a certain danger point, which can often be triggered by trying to pull too much electricity through a breaker at once. It is not unusual for a breaker to trip during or right after a storm, which is normal.

While it is common to trip a beaker occasionally, if one or more breakers trip often, even after moving devices to other circuits, it may be time to add additional circuits or upgrade your service panel. An overloaded panel can also cause less noticeable power problems like flickering lights, power surges, frequent light-bulb failures, or suboptimal performance of certain appliances.

2. Overheated Breakers and Wiring

Excessive amounts of current can cause the breakers, wiring, and other components in your electrical panel to overheat, creating a fire hazard. During normal operation, these components may feel warm, but if they become too hot to the touch or show signs of melting or burning, there may be a severe overload, and your system should be professionally inspected. 

Another common sign of breaker box overload is damaged wiring. If you notice any electrical wires with cracked or frayed insulation, this may also indicate overheating problems. Homes over 50 years old may have wiring that has reached the end of its lifespan. If you notice a lot of damaged wiring, it’s probably time to consider a whole-home rewire.

electrical panel fires

3. Buzzing or Sparking

If you hear a buzzing sound or see sparks near the service panel, this indicates a major electrical problem. Overloaded circuits can damage breakers, connections, and wiring, leading to arcing that creates sparks or buzzing noises and a severe risk of fire. Buzzing sounds can also be made by worn contacts, failing breakers, or excessive vibration. If sparking or buzzing is present, a professional should be called immediately.

Carefully turn off all electrical power to the breaker box until an electrician can arrive and fix the problem. Do not assume the problem has disappeared if the buzzing or sparking stops. There is still a problem, and parts of the breaker box must be repaired or replaced. 

If you have concerns about your electrical panel or the rest of your system, contact our team of qualified electricians at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing to schedule an evaluation in Greater Cincinnati. We have been serving the area since 1910.

We can also do a whole-home electrical inspection and evaluation for residents in and around Greater Cincinnati. We’ll inspect the electrical system of your entire home and look for code violations, fire hazards, and old or faulty wiring and components. We offer a complementary electrical evaluation annually for those on our Apollo Care Plan

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