Do You Need Your Electrical Service Increased?
Another way that electricians describe a service increase is “heavy up”. However you say it, it means that the ampacity of the electric service for a property is increased so the electrical system can handle an increased load. This increases available amperage at the service panel, often from 100 to 200 amps, especially if the house was built in the last 30 years. Larger homes may have an existing 200 amp service and need an increase to 400 amps. In homes built more than 30 years ago, the service may be as small as 60 amps. This is found in many homes built between 1950 and 1965. Many items in your home that you couldn’t imagine living without may not have even existed during this time period. Electrical appliances such as dishwashers, large HVAC systems, hot tubs, and computers make a 60 amp service far less than adequate.
Does a homeowner need to be concerned if they have a 60 amp service panel? Not necessarily, but this service is very small by the standards of today with so many electrical appliances and devices. It works this way: if you are using more than 60 amps at one time with your combined electrical appliances, the fuse or circuit breaker will blow. This isn’t necessarily unsafe because the fuse/breaker is performing as it should and shuts power off, protecting the wiring. But most likely this will be aggravating, inconvenient and possibly costly for the homeowner.
Another important thing to consider is the size of your branch circuit breakers/fuses. With either a 60 amp or 100 amp service,15 amp circuits can only power so many appliances at the same time (15 amps worth). Some homeowners increase the fuse/breaker size to an amperage larger than the wiring can handle, not knowing this could cause the wire to overheat and create a very unsafe condition, or even a fire. Adding more circuits can be the fix for this, but the service panel needs to be large enough to accommodate the additional breakers and wiring. In some cases, a sub-panel can be added to allow for additional circuits. This depends on the existing service size and electrical load, among other factors.
From the 1950s through the 1980s a well-known company (Federal Pacific Stab-Lok) manufactured circuit breaker panels installed in millions of homes in North America. These panels were found by some experts not to provide proper protection to homeowners. They found the panels would work well for many years but then overheat after one over-current situation or short circuit. The overheating would occur when a breaker failed to trip and shut the electric off in the home, allowing a large quantity of power to surge to the panel from the outside electric supply. In this situation, the current cannot be shut off and will burn until the wires melt causing irreversible damage to the wiring and even fire can ensue. Millions of U.S. homes were built with these circuit breaker panels that some experts questioned as a potential fire hazard. To read more…
Signs your home needs an electrical service increase:
- Circuit breakers blow often
- Your panel has fuses in lieu of breakers
- Lights flicker when another appliance kicks on
- You plan to add a large appliance that draws major power
- Adding an addition to your home
You should consider increasing your electrical service if you experience any of these issues on a regular basis, or are considering home improvement. The 200 amp service is the standard installed in most modestly sized homes today. This size system will offer your home the amperage needed for living with today’s appliances. Upgrading your service should be completed by a licensed master electrician and will involve an electrical inspector and the local utility company. Permits are required for this type of work, and the work must be coordinated with the utility company. They must ensure that the existing wiring and transformer that service your home can handle the existing load as well. They may also need to disconnect power from the home temporarily (usually less than 8 hours) while the new system is being installed. Increasing your electrical service can increase your home’s value and assure that your home is safe for all of the everyday electric power your family needs.