A residential service panel receives electricity via two 120-volt service wires from outside. It then distributes this electricity to all the circuits in your home and to every appliance, electronic device, and light fixture. Under normal circumstances, your service panel, its outer door, and circuit breaker switches are safe to touch, but any misuse can result in serious injury or death.
Here are some dangers you may encounter by not using your electrical panel correctly:
Touching a receptacle the wrong way, or contacting one that’s faulty, will give you a strong shock. However, you could be fatally injured by touching the service lugs if the panel’s protective cover is removed. The service wires connect directly to two hot busbars, from which every circuit branches from; that’s a lot of electricity!
When the breakers work normally, they’ll trip when too much voltage is passing through them. Removing the protective cover around the breaker switches is unsafe even if the main breaker is turned off. This doesn’t cut the power received from the utility service lines. Screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, and other tools can act as conductors if you accidentally touch internal components.
The risk of shock and electrocution being so high, it’s wise to let a licensed electrician handle any service panel repair work.
Service panels are highly energized. They should always be covered. Leave the door closed when you don’t need to access circuit breakers, or else dirt and dust can collect inside and cause damage to sensitive components. If anything malfunctions or there is a fault, an arc flash can occur. Anyone standing nearby or touching the panel is likely to be electrocuted.
Overheating is the primary fire hazard with an electrical panel. Wires will overheat if there’s too much voltage running through them; an overheated circuit can cause wire insulation to melt. When the conductor inside is exposed, it can become extremely hot and spark. Both heat and sparking can trigger an electrical fire you might not see at first.
To avoid an electrical fire, have your panel serviced if the circuit breakers trip frequently. Also, pay attention to the demand you’re putting on the panel. If a circuit trips immediately after you reset a specific breaker, the circuit is likely overloaded. Plugging fewer electrical devices in can resolve the problem, but if you notice signs of corrosion, burning, or wear, contact an electrician right away.
Proper covers help avoid fire by protecting the panel from dust, humidity, and water. Covering the panel with paper or cardboard is dangerous. It should always be closed using the right breaker panel cover for the unit.
Damaged Appliances and Electronics
Your service panel is designed to distribute electricity and stop problems associated with electrical faults and overloads. Uncontrolled current and surges can short circuit devices and cause them to fail prematurely, even if spikes in current aren’t that high. Expensive items such as stoves, washing machines, air conditioners, televisions, and computers can be damaged beyond repair. Using your panel properly and having it serviced can therefore save you a lot of money.
Misusing your electrical panel can result in frequent outages due to tripped breakers. Wear and tear eventually take a toll and can make the panel more prone to overloads. It won’t be able to keep up with demand. Damage to breakers, connectors, and busbars can disrupt connections while rust can cause trouble too. Improperly installed panels/components and old wires are also issues to watch out for. If the panel fails, it might not only be an immediate shock, electrocution, or fire danger; your entire home electrical system may not work.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require at least 3 feet of clearance in front of electrical panels. Less than that can be a safety hazard and restrict access when a technician needs to service the unit. There must be sufficient workspace around the panel. A basement or garage meets the requirements for service panel access, provided there are no flammable materials nearby or appliances blocking it. The panel must also be accessible and reachable to occupants of a home.
Call Sky Heating & Air Conditioning
Whether your electrical panel has been misused or is old, damaged, or outdated, our skilled electrical technicians provide professional breaker panel replacement. Frequent outages and electrical issues may mean you need a service panel upgrade. To get started, schedule service online or call 503-673-9083 today.