electrical panel with circuit breakers showing

Understanding Electrical Panels And Circuit Breakers

As a homeowner or business owner, it’s important to have a basic understanding of your electrical panel and circuit breakers. This knowledge can help you identify potential problems and ensure that your electrical system is functioning properly.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of electrical panels and circuit breakers, and provide tips on how to maintain and troubleshoot these essential components of your electrical system.

group of four electrical panels

Take a Look at Your Electrical Panel

The electrical panel, also known as the service panel, is the central hub of your home or business’s electrical system. It receives power from the utility company and distributes it throughout your building via a series of circuits.

electrical panel with circuit breakers showing

The panel is typically located in a utility room or basement and is composed of a metal box with a door that houses a series of circuit breakers or fuses. The size and capacity of the panel will depend on the size of your home or business and the electrical load it needs to support.

What are Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are safety devices that are designed to protect your electrical system from overload, short circuits, and electrical faults. They are installed in the electrical panel and can be reset manually when they are tripped.

electrical panel open circuit breakers

When a circuit is overloaded, the circuit breaker will automatically switch off to prevent damage to your electrical system or the risk of an electrical fire. Fuses work similarly but are replaced when they “blow” and need to be replaced.

One important thing to note is that if you have an older home or building, it may still be equipped with a fuse box rather than a circuit breaker panel.

Fuse boxes work similarly to circuit breakers, but instead of being reset manually, they need to be replaced when they blow. If you have a fuse box, it’s important to have it inspected by a licensed electrician to ensure that it’s functioning properly and up to code.

What’s Next

It’s important to keep your electrical panel and circuit breakers in good condition to ensure that your electrical system is functioning properly and safely.

Here are some tips on how to maintain and troubleshoot your electrical panel and circuit breakers:

  1. Keep the area around the panel clear: It’s important to keep the area around the electrical panel clear of clutter and debris to ensure that it’s easily accessible in case of an emergency.
  2. Schedule regular inspections: It’s recommended to have your electrical panel and circuit breakers inspected by a licensed electrician every 3-5 years to ensure that they are functioning properly and up to code.
  3. Check for signs of wear and tear: Look for signs of wear and tear on the electrical panel, such as rust or corrosion, loose wires or connections, or burn marks. If you notice any of these signs, contact a licensed electrician immediately.
  4. Test your circuit breakers: Test your circuit breakers periodically by flipping them on and off. If a breaker is difficult to reset or doesn’t reset at all, contact a licensed electrician.
  5. Upgrade to a new panel: If you have an older electrical panel that is no longer functioning properly or is not up to code, consider upgrading to a new panel. This can improve the safety and efficiency of your electrical system.

In conclusion, understanding your electrical panel and circuit breakers is an essential part of maintaining the safety and efficiency of your electrical system.

If you’re experiencing any issues with your electrical panel or circuit breakers, it’s important to contact a licensed electrician to diagnose and repair the issue.

The Electric Connection is a reliable and trustworthy electrical contractor that can help with any electrical issues you may have in the Los Angeles area.

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electrical panel open circuit breakers

Is There A Difference Between A Fuse And Circuit Breaker?

electrical panel open circuit breakersThe electrical circuit in your home is a network of wires and outlets that all work together to provide power to various appliances. Electrical power in these circuits can come from either direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). This current can cause power surges or dips when it flows through your gadgets. Protective devices like fuses and circuit breakers are used to make sure that the gadgets or electrical circuits they are installed in are safe to use. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast fuses with circuit breakers and discuss their respective benefits.

Fuses – What Are They?

A fuse is a type of electrical component that melts itself in the event of a power surge or overload, cutting off power to the circuit. Standard fuses are made from wire coil or filament enclosed in porcelain or metallic or glass containers. Given that a fuse is essentially a thin strip of metal or a thin metal wire that melts when an excessive amount of current flows through a circuit, fuses are sometimes referred to as sacrificial devices. Fuses should be replaced or rewired when they are blown, depending on the type.

Circuit Breakers – What Are They?

Circuit breakers are usually installed to prevent your home’s  electrical circuit from being damaged by an overload or short circuit. This switch operates automatically and is only activated when the circuit is in danger.

Typically, circuit breakers have two distinct mechanisms for activation. The first uses an electromagnet, while the second employs a bi-metal strip.

When the switch is in the “on” position, electricity can flow freely between the lower and upper terminals. In the event that the current reaches dangerous levels, the magnetic force of the solenoid will be sufficient to move a metal shutter in the switch mechanism, thereby severing the electrical connection and cutting off power.

Fuses Vs. Circuit Breakers

Although fuses and circuit breakers help protect your home’s electrical circuits from damage, here are some distinct differences between both electrical components:

  • Working Principle: When a fuse blows, it does so because of the high temperatures generated by the underlying conducting materials. Circuit breakers, on the other hand, make use of the electromagnetism switching principle in addition to the thermal properties of the electric current.
  • Reaction Speed: When compared to circuit breakers, fuses have a significant advantage due to the speed with which the metal fuse melts, which interrupts the flow of electricity.
  • Conducting Material: Fuses are pieces of wire that melt in the event of an electrical short or other malfunction and are typically made of either copper, tin, aluminum, lead, or silver. However, circuit breakers use microprocessors or relays to detect malfunction and trip the device.
  • Reusability: Fuses are used just once and need to be replaced afterward in order to keep working. A circuit breaker, on the other hand, only requires a reset when it trips.
  • Use-Case Scenario: In general, fuses are only installed in low-current-drawing electronic devices and in homes with minimal electrical demands. In contrast, circuit breakers rely on motors and other heavy machinery, which consumes a lot of electricity.

It is important to note that circuit breakers are increasingly becoming more popular than fuses for use in modern homes due to one simple fact – reusability.

air conditioning unit

Why Do Your Lights Flicker When Your AC Unit Turns On?

air conditioning unitYou’ve probably noticed that your lights momentarily grow dim whenever you turn on your AC Unit. Have you ever wondered why? If you haven’t then you are not alone; several people also experience the same thing. It’s very easy to get used to such things when they happen ever so often but in today’s article, we’d take a look at the reason your lights flicker when you turn on the AC.

Should I Be Worried That My Lights Flicker When I Turn On The AC?

It shouldn’t be a problem if the lights go out for only a few seconds when the air conditioner kicks on. The initial power draw of a high-energy gadget, such as a modern air conditioner, can use up a lot of energy. This can reduce the brightness of your lights.

A flickering light is a common electrical response to a power interruption or diversion, and should not be cause for alarm. However, there could be a number of factors that can make the lights go out.

Lights that gradually fade in brightness, flash on and off often, or only dim on some circuits could be an indication of a more serious electrical problem.

In what situations should you seek expert help, and what are the more serious concerns that you may encounter?

You Have A Faulty Capacitor
Your AC unit’s compressor motor needs a little extra jolt of electricity to get going, and your capacitor serves this purpose by acting as a battery.

However, your capacitor’s storage capacity might degrade as time passes. If the lights dim by 30–40% whenever the air conditioner kicks on, you may have a faulty capacitor.

If the capacitor isn’t able to supply enough power to the compressor, the air conditioner will resort to pilfering power from other devices to kick into gear. Perhaps the lights are dimming because your air conditioner is using too much of the available power.

There Are Loose/Damaged Wire Connections
Do your lights instantly turn off and on when you turn on your air conditioner? Potentially frayed or damaged wires in the electrical system could be the culprits to blame. Sometimes, the reason your lightbulb is experiencing some electric current loss is because of a damaged or loose cable.

When you include the voltage drop that occurs when your air conditioner first turns on, the current loss could be enough to temporarily make your lights dim or even flicker.

Your Electric Circuit Is Overloaded
When circuits are overused, problems arise. Overloading your circuits can cause the breaker to trip or the air conditioner to make buzzing noises. Remove any appliances from the same circuit as your air conditioner if you see any of these warning indicators. As a result, fewer fires and shocks will occur.

Your Home’s Electrical Wiring Is Outdated
There may be a decrease in energy supply to your home’s appliances, including lights, if the wiring is old, damaged, or otherwise not up to par. Turning on the air conditioner will consume a sizable portion of the available electrical current, leaving less for other uses.

You should have an electrician and HVAC technician to take a look at your system if you suspect a wiring problem. The Electric Connection is your go-to residential electrical servicing and installation company if you need further information on why your lights flicker with the AC on.

swimming pool in backyard with a lot of trees around

How Much Amount of Electricity Does Pool Equipment Consume?

swimming pool in backyard with a lot of trees aroundWhen everyone thinks of their dream house, there’s almost always a pool. Most people want a pool in their house, and so if you’re planning to have one installed, welcome to the club!

However, there are very crucial factors that must be considered before embarking on such a task. One of such factors is if your electrical service can sustain the extra power needed for a swimming pool? To which end, there is a great need to know how much electricity the pool equipment you seek to install will consume.

You need not worry any further. We’ve written this article to let you know just how much electricity installing a new pool will cost you and help you know if upgrading your electrical service will be needed.

A swimming pool comprises several types of equipment that consume quite an awful lot of power.

Below is a list of the common pool equipment and their electricity requirements.

  • Salt Water Chlorinator: 240v, approx 5-8 amps
  • Automatic Pool Cover: 220v, 5-7 amps OR 110v, 11-13 amps
  • Pool Lights: 12v, 3.5 watts each
  • Self-Contained Hot Tub: 240v 50 amps
  • LP/NG Pool Heater: 240v, 3 amps
  • Pool Heat Pump: 240v, 50 amps
  • Pool Pump: 240v, 10 amps

These numbers might seem confusing and that’s because these things are better handled by a professional electrician to fully ascertain the state of your electrical service and circuits.

Would I Need An Upgrade On My Electrical Service To Install a Swimming Pool?

A service upgrade occurs when your electrician and the power company increase the capacity of your home’s electrical system.

There are a few DIY assessments you can carry out to find out if your home’s electrical service can cope with the installation of a swimming pool.

The availability of more space in your panel box is a sign that your current electric service will most likely be able to manage a regular pool pump and pool lights. You should consult an electrician if you decide to install more power-demanding equipment like a pool heat pump or a hot tub.

What Amount Of Electricity Does A Pool Pump Use?

Pool pumps take about 2,500 kWh per year to filter and circulate about 20,000 gallons of water, which is roughly 5,000 gallons more than the average human will drink in a lifetime. The pool pump is the largest power-using equipment in an average swimming pool, aside from the air conditioner. According to research reports, a pool pump can add up to $300 to an annual electric bill.

If you find it difficult to diagnose the situation yourself, as is often the case, then contact us at The Electric Connection. We not only offer proper guidelines but also offer expert services for every household electrical fixes and installations.

Replacing an Electrical Panel Los Angeles

replace electrical panelMost homeowners find it difficult to assess the condition of the panel in the home. It’s usually because you know so little about how it works.

Thankfully, we can simplify what you need to know about replacing an electrical panel in Los Angeles.

An electrical panel serves two purposes in any building. It provides electricity and ensures safety. An electrical panel in Los Angeles can last about 40-60 years. But age is not a vital factor when you want to determine the condition of the panel. Excessive use, wear, and tear could lead to wires loosening in your electrical panel, accumulation of dust that shortens the lifespan of the panel, and corrosion.

Signs to replace an electrical panel in Los Angeles

The age of your home doesn’t determine how long your electrical panel will remain in good condition. What’s important is that your panel is large enough for your electrical needs and can function properly to provide power and safety. If your panel needs replacing or repairs, there are signs to look out for. They include;

  • Rusted components

The presence of rust or corrosion in your electrical panel means the panel has been exposed to moisture. You can observe this if you open the breaker box. Rust is never a good sign because water in your panel can be dangerous. The panel will have to be replaced and the source of the rust or moisture determined to prevent it from happening and putting your home at risk again.

  • Constantly tripping circuit breakers

This is usually where the safety function of the electrical panel comes in. When the circuit breakers sense an overload or power surge in your electric system, they trip off to protect the system. However, constantly tripping circuit breakers are another issue entirely and indicate a fault.

  • Burn marks in the panel

As the electric panel ages, parts of it may break down and generate heat. This leads to obvious burn marks in the electrical panel, and like rust, it can be very dangerous. The panel will have to be replaced.

Other signs you need to repair or replace your electrical panel are;

  • The electrical panel is underpowered and not large enough to serve your needs.
  • Breakers don’t work at all to protect your home.
  • Old wiring that is no longer safe.
  • Lights flickering or dimming in the home, especially in an older home with an older panel.
  • You hear buzzing sounds or perceive strange/burning smells from the electric panel.

Replacing the electrical panel in Los Angeles

Now you’ve seen all the signs or a few. The next step is to call an electrical contractor in Los Angeles to confirm you need a replacement. Replacing an electrical panel can be costly, and this cost is determined by two major factors.

  • The condition of the panel/scope of the work.
  • The electrician’s rate.

What’s more important is to get a licensed electrician on the job to make sure you get a proper replacement service.

What Is A Main Panel Upgrade?

los angeles panel upgradeIn your utility room, basement, or designated area, you will find a big grey metal box known as the electrical panel. The box comprises a series of wires and circuit breakers that determine where power goes in your home.

An efficient or upgraded main panel determines the right amount of voltage to meter out and ensures power is distributed safely and properly.

A main panel in need of an upgrade is more inconvenient than you would imagine. Hence, when it becomes necessary, don’t hesitate on a main panel upgrade.

The options that come with an upgrade

Upgrading your main panel depends on your precise electrical needs. If you need to upgrade from a smaller panel to a big one, that’s one option. It might be because your current panel can no longer provide enough power. You may also upgrade to fix faulty or damaged parts of the panel. The options usually involved with an electrical panel upgrade include;

  • Getting a bigger panel to bring more power into your home
  • Upgrade circuits to meet current National Electrical Code standards.
  • Replacing damaged or old components.
  • Increasing the number of circuits so you can add more outlets.

Ask all the right questions first.

To upgrade your main panel, you will need to hire a professional electrician. The electrician should be licensed and experienced in panel upgrades.

But, before you dive into signing any contracts and starting the work, ask the right questions to confirm that you need an upgrade and what to expect.

This is relevant as you may want an upgrade for the wrong reasons. For example, some homeowners take on this project when an electrician performs the inspection to say you need an upgrade; you think your insurance company demands it; you’ve heard something scary about fuses; you experience lights dimming and flickering, and so on. Within this list could easily be someone trying to sell you a bill on what you don’t need and your fear.

An honest electrician can tell you if you really need an upgrade and why. If they don’t tell you why be sure to ask first before agreeing.

When it’s time for the upgrade, the electrician should also have ready,

  • A detailed electrical estimate of the cost of upgrading the main panel.
  • Permits sorted before any work can take place.
  • An installation date on a day with good weather.

What happens when it starts?

A main panel upgrade can be highly disruptive or not so much depending on factors like the work involved and your electrician. It’s best to know what to expect to stay prepared.

The power to your home will be turned off for a minimum of 4 hours to as long as the electrician estimates to finish. During that time your appliances should be unplugged. You can also avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer door until it’s over.

The electricians will need access to your home. They will work mostly around the area of the panel and possibly others like your water tank or meter area. If there is wiring involved, they would work room to room.

How to Pull an Electrical Permit in Los Angeles

pulling permit in los angelesNot all projects require a permit, but most electrical works do. In Los Angeles, it’s easy to pull an electrical permit if you meet all the requirements. Since pulling permits differ from state to state, we have put together the Los Angeles guide you need.

An electrical permit is an approval you get from your building department to go ahead with electrical projects in a home.

In Los Angeles, you will need electrical permits for any kind of electrical works. These include work related to;

  • All residential and commercial buildings
  • Installing a new electrical panel
  • Installing a new sub panel
  • New buildings or addition to a building
  • Any electrical installations over 600 volts.
  • Installations of lighting including exits lighting and security lighting.
  • Installations in hazardous locations.
  • New, expanded, or replaced electrical items
  • Installation of a complicated electrical system as determined by the Department, such as Emergency, Legally Required Standby, Fire Alarm, and Gas Detection Systems.

The Permit Process

To pull an electrical permit in Los Angeles, you must first file electrical plans with the indicated department. These plans and the first step are referred to as electrical plan check. Only when this plan check has been approved or deemed not required will a permit be issued.

Electrical permits in Los Angeles can also only be issued to an electrical contractor with the appropriate license, the property owner, and or an agent representing either the contractor or the property owner.

Why it’s important to pull a permit when necessary?

Pulling a permit in Los Angeles may seem like a hassle to you, but it’s necessary if you want to avoid certain unfriendly situations. Electrical work carried out without a permit is considered illegal. Such unpermitted work can cause even more problems in the future if the option of a resale comes up. There’s also no assurance that the work was done up to code.

Where can I obtain the permit in Los Angeles and how much time is involved?

You can obtain an electrical permit from the local Building and Safety District Office serving your area. For online permits, you can go through Los Angeles County’s Electronic Permitting and Inspection (EPIC LA).

For simple projects that do not require a plan check, you can get an express permit when you apply online.

For small-medium projects, a plan check can take 45-60 minutes and as the projects get larger, plan checks extend to even weeks.

After obtaining the permit, the permit expires within 12 months if work has not started from the time it was issued.

It’s possible to get an extension on your permit, but that might require an extra fee.

How to make obtaining an electrical permit in LA easy

Start by hiring a professional and licensed electrician for your electrical needs. It’s legal, easier, and safer to let this experienced technician pull the permit for your project. All you will need to do is likely to bear the cost.

Licensed electricians can get permits faster and pass inspections easily too. They are also updated on current codes, and this saves you any future problems.

Reasons to Upgrade to a 200 Amp Service

You certainly love the confidence and convenience of plugging in any appliances you need whenever you need them. You love this so much that it becomes easy to forget that your electrical panel cannot give more than its capacity.

According to experts, electricians, recent electrical codes, and homeowners who have had unique experiences, the standard capacity for an electrical panel is a 200 amp service. If you have less, then you probably require an upgrade. Here are all the reasons why.

Amps and Your Electrical Panel

The industrial grey box in that safe, dry area of your home distributes electrical power across circuits that serve you. This box is the electrical panel or breaker box, and every panel has its dedicated capacity. Depending on how much power you need, your electrical panel can be between 100-400 amps.

Old homes often used 60-100 amps panels because they had fewer electrical demands. Using similar sized panels in these modern times can be insufficient for your home needs. It can lead to fire hazards, lights out, faulty appliances, and much more.

Why upgrade to a 200 amp electrical panel

  1. To enjoy increased capability and safety

Electrical panels often work at a certain maximum capacity. This helps to ensure the safe working of the panel. Going over this safety threshold can not only cause your breaker to trip, but can also lead to a fire caused by overloading circuits/outlets.

  1. More circuits

With an upgraded 200 amp panel, you get enough room for dedicated circuits. This further improves electrical safety and allows you to run an increased number of appliances and more power demanding appliances without your breaker tripping.

  1. Future demands

Switching to a 200 amp breaker is one of those good decisions that helps you prepare for the future. With this service upgrade, you can add new devices, remodel your home, and do much more without worry.

  1. Everything is just easier

Another solid reason to upgrade to a 200 amp service is the increased efficiency you get to enjoy. Everything is simply much better and easier with a 200 amp panel. The panel is easy to reset and repair with compatibility for GFCI circuits.

How to know you need an upgrade

  • Breaker tripping frequently
  • Dimming lights, especially when appliances are turned on
  • Buzzing or crackling sounds.
  • Breaker won’t reset

Always confirm the exact source of your electrical issues from your electrician.

Humming Noise from Electrical Panel

You are right to worry about suspicious buzzing or humming electrical noises around your home. Electrical systems are designed to work quietly, offering you power and efficiency with no hassle.

Your electrical panel controls the power supply in your home while keeping you safe from electrical hazards. Hence, any annoying or worrying sounds from the panel could indicate problems of different kinds. See what these noises could be and what they might mean below.

  1. A light buzzing sound

By a light buzzing sound, we mean a faint buzzing sound from your breaker. It’s not the type to keep you up at night or be highly noticeable. The cause is often current flowing through the breaker, like water flowing in some direction. This light buzzing sound is generally normal and harmless. But, if it gets louder or involves clicking and other horror-movie sounds, be sure to call an electrician.

  1. Medium humming sounds

This sound is louder and more obvious than a light buzzing sound. It can take various forms such as a sizzling noise, sparking, a clicking noise, or a humming breaker. So you can hear sizzling sounds with occasional sparks and this certainly means something is wrong with the circuit breaker. The cause may be frayed and loose wiring which is incredibly dangerous and an electrical hazard. It is necessary to call an experienced electrical technician to replace and repair the wiring quickly.

  1. Loud and continuous buzzing sounds

Now, this is what keeps you up at night. Constant loud buzzing sounds can be disturbing because they are loud. The cause often stems from the breaker not tripping when it should, and this, in turn, indicates that the breaker is bad. Your electric breaker shuts off the power supply during a power surge to protect your home. But when it fails to do this the flow of current to the wires increases leading to a buildup of heat, the loud buzzing sound, and an electrical hazard. Circuit breakers go bad for several reasons such as wear and tear and a faulty panel. This humming noise should not be ignored, and an electrician should be called immediately.

A buzzing and humming sound is normal if…

The sound isn’t loud as we have described above.

If the buzzing sound starts right when your AC comes on but stops once the appliance is working smoothly.

Trying to solve this electrical issue yourself can be very dangerous. Therefore the first and safest way to solve humming and buzzing noise from your electrical panel is to call a licensed and experienced electrician.

It may be time for an electrical panel upgrade — contact an electrician for more information.

What’s the Cost To Replace Federal Pacific Electric Panel?

panel upgrade los angelesA safe electrical system is invaluable to every home and if you have a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel (FPE), replacing it is the best solution to ensure your electrical safety.

Federal Pacific Electrical Panels are commonly found in homes between 20 and 70 years old. These panels were first introduced by Reliance Electric in the 1950s and quickly became installed in millions of homes across the country. It was soon discovered that FPE panels were unsafe and present a great risk to homes that use them.

Your home’s electrical panel distributes electrical power safely across all circuits. It is also built to ensure protection by tripping off in situations like a short circuit, circuit overload, power surge, and so on. If the breaker cannot do this, the chances of an electrical fire starting increase dangerously.

How an FPE breaker puts your home in danger.

According to reports from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Federal Pacific breakers may fail to trip during an overload or short-circuiting. FPE breakers have recorded high rates of not tripping when necessary for your electrical protection. It was also discovered that the breakers tend to enter a lock-up. A lock-up describes a situation where a breaker that has tripped once will never trip in the future regardless of dangerous conditions like an electrical overload.

Studies estimate over 2,800 electrical fires caused each year by a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel that didn’t trip.

Most of the unreliability of the panel is due to the use of cheap materials in its manufacture and their limited original design.

Distinct risks and problems posed by a Federal Pacific breaker also includes;

  • The crowded wires often found within the panel box.
  • The breakers to do not switch off even in the OFF position.
  • Arcing occurs at the bus.
  • The Federal Pacific breakers trip unexpectedly when the dead front cover is removed.
  • Breakers are often not tightly connected to the bus bar.

Electrical inspectors always encourage homeowners to replace and not repair a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel. Electricians may also hesitate or refuse to fix problems with these panels because they cannot guarantee the results or your electrical safe afterwards.

Identifying a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel

You may have a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel if your home is as old as between 20 to 70 years. Since the company no longer exists, you can’t purchase a new FPE panel. It can only be present if it was installed in older homes. You can identify an FPE panel with the labels or logos on the front cover. The common appearance is an orange and white label.

You can also look out for the name Stab-Lok written inside the panel or on the breaker. A signature red label across the front of the panel is another indication.

The cost of replacing a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel may vary across electricians, location, and other factors. The replacement can generally cost anywhere from $1500 to $2000, and even more.

The replacement will include any necessary repairs, rewiring, moving the panel location, and installation that are up to recent codes.