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When to upgrade your electrical panel

RJL Electrical
Serving Ottawa West & Surrounding Communities
Arnprior • Almonte • Barrhaven • Carp • Carleton Place • Dunrobin • Fitzroy Harbour • Kanata • Kemptville • Manotick • Merrickville • Mississippi Mills • Nepean • Osgoode • Pakenham • Perth • Smith’s Falls • Stittsville • Richmond

When is it time to upgrade your electrical panel?

When undertaking a renovation, your electrical panels may lack the space needed for the new circuits. In older homes, the wiring may have begun to deteriorate, or aluminum wiring may have been installed. If your panel was installed in a high humidity environment, it might be rusting. These conditions pose a risk to your appliances and electronics, and may even cause an electrical fire. The team at RJL Electrical are Ottawa’s experts at upgrading electric panels safely and quickly. Give us a call today!

Increase in electrical demand

An increase in electrical demand may require adding another circuit to your electrical panel. If one or more of the items in this list or true, you should consult with a licensed electrician:


  • Lights in the home are flickering.
  • The breakers are tripping regularly.
  • You have recently added an addition to your home or are planning an addition
  • You are planning to add central air conditioning, a hot tub, electric car charging station or any other high demand appliance.

Electrical Panel is Old or Damaged

Electrical panels degrade over time; this is especially true when they are placed environments, such as a basement, where they are exposed to high humidity. The list below shows some of the issues that can arise. If you have any questions about your electrical panel or would like us to come out and make an inspection, just give us a call at 613-612-8417.

Signs of an old or damaged electric panel

Diagram of how a circuit breaker degrades
  • Your electrical panel was installed more than 20 years ago.
  • Your home has aluminum wiring
  • The wiring has become brittle.
  • There is corrosion visible on the electrical panel.
  • If you still have a fuse panel in your home.
  • There has been lightning or water damage.
  • There is corrosion visible on the electrical panel.
  • The electrical panel was installed incorrectly.
  • If you notice any noise, odour or heat coming from the electrical panel.
  • You have a FPE* or Zinsco* panel.

* FPE and Zinsco are companies who manufactured electrical panels between the 1950s and 80s. These panels may not be up to code, and/or have been known to fail. There is a risk of SHOCK or FIRE with both of these manufacturer’s panels. If you have an FPE or Zinsco panel – HAVE IT REPLACED.


How does an electrical panel work?

Your home’s electrical panel is usually located in the garage, the basement, or in the laundry room. When you open the panel, you will see two columns of black switches; these are the circuit breaker switches. Each breaker should be labelled to identify the electrical outlets they are connected to. The labels are found next to their corresponding switches or are numbered and located on the inside of the panels’ cover. The labels relate to the specific appliances (dishwasher, stove, etc.) or the room the outlet is in (living room lights, master bedroom outlet, etc.).

Each breaker controls the electrical current that flows to a specific group of outlets. The breakers protect your electrical system against power surges or current overloads. A “power surge” is a brief spike in electrical current that can occur when large appliances start-up or if there is a lightning strike nearby.

An “overload” occurs when more amperage travels across a circuit than it is designed to handle. An overload can cause the wires in the circuit to heat-up which can cause turn into an electrical fire. This can happen when a breaker panel is installed incorrectly. For example, if a wire that can safely carry 15 amps is connected to a 20 amp breaker, it will allow 20 amps to travel through the wire and potentially overheat.

However, a correctly installed breaker panel will protect your home against fire or damage to appliances. If the electrical current flowing through a breaker exceeds its amperage rating, it will “trip” into the OFF position and cut the supply of power until it is manually reset. If you have breakers that are routinely tripping into the OFF position, it is essential that a licensed inspector determine the source of the problem so that it can be corrected.

Diagram showing electrical panel wired to household appliances

Add a Panel Surge Protector for Extra Protection

Today’s homes contain an average of $15,000 worth of electronics and appliances. Typical surge strips offer only low-level suppression that is ineffective against appliance-damaging surges. RJL Electrical can install a Surge Protector right at your main electrical panel that will block both high-energy surges and low-energy repetitive surges.

A surge protector installed right at your breaker panel will protect your sensitive electronics, as well as appliances that are not compatible with plug strips, such as your HVAC system, refrigerator, stove, washer & dryer, lighting, etc.

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