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It is an important question. If your electrical panel wears out, you have a bigger problem on your hands than just replacing the whole thing, here are some things to consider when it comes to replacing your electrical panel.
Complications with an electrical panel can mean more than just a fire hazard. Panel replacements are necessary as the panel wears out over time, electrical needs change or an event has caused considerable damage. It is important to know when it’s time to replace your panel.
There are varying degrees of severity depending on whether there is an internal fault such as damaged worn-out components, or exposed wiring, but either way, the safety hazards remain present until the panel has been serviced.
If you’re a homeowner or a landlord, panel replacements can be overwhelming, who do you hire? and what is involved? Getting this done by an electrical professional who is experienced and knowledgeable in the Canadian Electrical Code, will ensure the work is done correctly preventing further costs from downtime or the potential loss of perishables in your fridge and freezers.
Here are the top 10 reasons you should replace your panel:
1) Panel is more than 25 years old
2) Appliances have been upgraded
3) Increasing the electrical load
4) The panel has fuses vs. breakers.
5) Breakers trip frequently.
6) The panel experienced an unexpected event
7) There is buzzing or sparks from the electrical panel
8) Panel no longer meets Electrical Code
9) Parts are no longer available or manufactured
10) Parts of the panel are on recall
The lifespan of Electrical Panels can vary, while code dictates that a panel must be properly grounded and installed by a licensed professional. Most panel manufacturers will state in their product literature how long the panel should last.
Components of a panel wear out over time. Breakers get old and trip more frequently, bus bars become corroded, or connections can become loose causing arcing. More than just wear and tear, new advancements in safety controls are the primary reason to replace your panel every 25 to 30 years regardless of the shape it is in.
Some electrical panels are so old they operate with fuses, these panels and other panel brands like Federal Pioneer are no longer manufactured, parts are not available for repairs and should be replaced.
Other panels like Stab Lok and Federal Pacific have design flaws that can cause safety features to fail, putting you and your family at risk. Components of these panels have been recalled or lost their industry certifications and should be replaced as soon as possible.
It is time to mention your panel is not like changing a light bulb where you just pull out the old one and install a new one. It is more involved than this!
Your electrical panel is the heart of your home and is just as complicated, so what is needed to replace a panel in Calgary:
1) A City of Calgary electrical permit
2) Scheduling an inspection and book with Enmax
3) Making sure the current panel location is to code
4) Determining the size of the panel needed
5) Confirming if the electrical mast and meterbase need to be replaced?
Once it is determined that the panel needs to be changed, you will need a certified journeyman electrician. Not using someone trained can result in improper installation causing thousands in damage to appliances and electronics or injury to you or the installer. Note: A Master Electrician is not required to complete the electrical work in your home but is required to pull a permit with the City of Calgary.
To proceed your electrician will pull a permit and contact Enmax to schedule a date for the power to be turned off. As of 2019 Enmax no longer allows certified electricians in the City of Calgary to turn off the main power to a home, this can now only be done by an Enmax employee. Fees apply.
An inspection is scheduled with a City of Calgary electrical inspector for the same day as the panel is changed. This is to confirm the work was completed to electrical code standards and informs Enmax they are able to restore the power. Power will not be restored without approval from the City.
When the power has been turned off your certified electrician will go about the process of replacing the panel. Panel replacements generally include tying all circuits into the new panel, installing new breakers, and labeling. The complete process from start to finish is approximately 6-8hrs.
Some homes with overhead power lines or built prior to the 90’s, may require the meterbase and electrical mast to be replaced. This is required by Enmax to make certain the components meet the current electrical code and ensure the proper operation of the electrical system.
Other considerations are the size of the current panel and its location. When a panel is located in a place where it does not meet code (i.e. a bathroom or in a cabinet), it must be moved or it will fail an inspection. If the panel being replaced is smaller than the replacement, room will need to be made. This can include cutting drywall or mounting plywood to secure proper installation.
How much does a panel replacement cost?
For most residential homes with normal size electrical uses (i.e.: 3 bedroom home) A panel replacement can run between $2,000 and $6,000 depending on the panel size you need. With regular yearly maintenance, your investment is as low as $279/year*.
*based on a yearly tune-up fee of $139 over 25 years, the average cost of $3500 for a panel replacement. TVM and inflation not considered…
*processes vary slightly for municipalities located outside of the City of Calgary. Okotoks, Chestermere, Airdrie, Rockyview County, and the Foothills of MD are under Fortis Alberta jurisdiction and require licensing.
What to Consider
There are a few signs that might indicate your electrical panel is on its last leg and needs to be replaced.
- The panel is more than 25 years old
- Appliances have been upgraded
- Increasing the load
- The panel has fuses vs. breakers
- Breakers trip frequently
- The panel experienced an event
- There is buzzing or sparks
- Panel no longer meets Electrical Code
- Parts are no longer
- Components are on recall
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