You’re sitting in your home, minding your own business—maybe reading or watching TV. Suddenly, your lights flicker. And we’re not just talking about one or two—we’re talking about the lights in a whole section of your home.
What’s going on? Is your house haunted?!
What’s likely going on in this scenario is that your electrical system is trying to tell you something—that it’s overwhelmed. This is a common sign of an outdated electrical panel. Homeowners in our area often don’t think about this, but we’ve been steadily increasing the demand on our electrical systems with the addition of high-efficiency appliances, computer systems, and rechargeable devices over the last couple of decades. If your home is older than this, it’s likely you need an upgrade!
An outdated electrical panel can lead to a number of problems, with some of those problems being potentially unsafe. In addition to flickering lights, you should watch for:
Circuit Breakers Constantly Tripping
The most interaction any homeowner has with their electrical pane is typically to reset one of the circuit breakers. In a really old electrical panel, this may involve replacing a fuse—otherwise it means resetting a switch to complete the circuit again.
Usually, a circuit breaker trips because that particular circuit was overloaded. So, moving some electrical appliances around and plugging into different outlets may resolve the problem. But if the panel keeps tripping the same circuit after being reset and following this tip, then you may have a bigger problem—you may have an outdated electrical panel that needs upgrading.
A Burning Smell
This is, hopefully, an apparent sign that something is wrong—if smoke is coming out of your electrical panel or you smell something burning, don’t touch it! Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be best to call the fire department. If the smoke subsides, please call our electricians—this could be the signal of a very harmful problem, and it should be handled right away.
Failure to Reset
This is similar to the problem of constantly tripping circuit breakers. If you try to reset a circuit breaker and it doesn’t seem to want to do so at all, you certainly have a problem. There could be a number of different reasons this failure occurs, but one thing is for sure—it shouldn’t go unaddressed. Make sure you have a professional electrician check it out ASAP.
Circuit Breakers Not Tripping at All
The entire purpose of an electrical panel is to break an electrical current when it’s too strong. A circuit that has too much power moving through it is going to experience serious issues, like wires melting.
That’s not necessarily to say that you should expect your circuit breakers tripping every once in a while. But if you notice things like flickering lights, an electrical buzzing noise, and acrid odors coming from your electrical panel, and your circuit breakers haven’t tripped, it’s time to call in a pro.