What Is a Burned-Out Electrical Panel?

Most people around the country think of Southern California as perhaps the greatest weather you’ll find anywhere in the country. To a certain extent, they’re right: our winters don’t get too cold, our summers don’t typically get bogged down with sweltering humidity, and we enjoy more than 300 days of bright sunshine pretty much every year. However, those who live here know that our summers can be downright brutal, especially out here in the Inland Empire. Our desert climate sees temperatures skyrocket into triple digits pretty frequently, and the long hours of daylight means little to no respite for virtually anything that lives outside.

This type of extreme temperature is particularly hard on our homes, including our electrical systems. Heat causes wear and tear, and that wear and tear can lead to a number of problems. One unfortunately common problem is also a serious one: an electrical panel burnout. As the name implies, this is when your panel quite literally burns up due to overheating caused by a combination of extreme temperatures and excessive loads. The combination of heavy electrical usage (usually caused by extensive air conditioner operation) and high temperatures (sometimes including direct sunlight exposure) results in breakers and other hardware overheating to the point where materials melt or burn. As a result, your panel burns up and your electrical system fails.

Burned panels are extremely dangerous. Not only can they spark an electrical fire, causing serious damage to your home or the landscaping around it, but they can also cause extensive damage to your home’s electrical system as well. They can cause dangerous surges that cause an excess of voltage through your lines. This damages anything plugged in during the surge and can fry components like wires, outlets, protection circuits, and more. When the problem is finally brought under control, you could have sustained thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Signs Your Panel is Burning

A burned panel isn’t something that typically happens right away. In fact, it typically happens over a period of time. As components like breakers and switches in your panel overheat due to heavy use and high temperatures, materials will begin to wear out. This is when you’ll start to notice signs of burning in your panel. While a breaker might still work properly, burn marks are something that should be taken seriously and be addressed right away. If you smell burning or see these burn marks in your electrical panel, call a professional electrician right away.

Panel burn can also be caused by defective circuit breakers. There are several reasons a breaker can become defective, including wear and tear due to operating conditions, excessive current, aging, corrosion, moisture, or even just faulty manufacturing. Many of these issues cause overheating, and overheating puts additional strain on the materials your breaker is constructed from. Typically, replacing a breaker is inexpensive and should be done right away if one becomes defective.

If you want to avoid your panel burning out, there are a few ways you can help the matter. First, having your electrical system regularly inspected is a great way to identify issues or problems that could eventually lead to panel burnout. Second, during the hottest hours of the day, do your best to shut off anything you don’t expressly need or aren’t using. That reduces your electrical demand, and thus reduces the amount of energy flowing through your panel. That way your panel will be under significantly lighter load during the most extreme conditions of the day.

How to Fix a Burned Panel

If you open your electrical panel and you both smell burned plastic and see signs of burn damage, you should call a professional for help right away. If your damage is limited, then your best bet is probably to simply replace the damaged breakers—something that’s generally affordable and doesn’t take too long.

If a good number of your breakers are showing signs of damage then you may need to have your panel significantly serviced. There are two options for this: panel replacement and panel rejuvenation. Panel replacement is the more expensive and labor-intensive option of the two. However, it may be the better option depending on what condition your panel is in and how old your current panel is. Panels that are particularly old, including original panels on homes that were built in the 1960s and 70s, are likely better to replace simply because their age has made them outdated with our modern electrical demands.

However, those with a newer panel or who don’t want to bear the financial burden associated with a panel replacement may instead opt for a panel rejuvenation service. This doesn’t replace your panel outright, but instead replaces several of the key components in your panel to improve its efficiency and increase its ability to handle more stressful loads. In fact, rejuvenation can grant a panel several extra years and even extra decades of useable life.

Have your electrical panel inspected or serviced by the pros at All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical! Contact us by dialing (909) 253-0664 today!