The electrical panel – A home’s hidden safety gatekeeper

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In today’s fast-paced world in which high-tech gadgets play an increasingly major role in our daily lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget about those items which may sound less exciting but are nevertheless essential for homes that are not only smooth-running but safe too.

You’ve probably got various electrical equipment connected to the wi-fi, such as smart TVs, sound systems and games consoles, which provide pleasure and entertainment. Then, there are those appliances which make life easier – such as dishwashers and washing machines. In addition, we are all increasingly relying on electricity to keep us warm, or charge our vehicles.

It’s true to say that our appliances maybe essential household items, or for pleasure, but we all take them for granted until they stop working!

All of these electrical devices are commonplace and often taken for granted in modern life, but what happens if one of them overheats? Well, there is a chance that a fire could start and, if not spotted quickly, spread through the house. Thankfully, many potential fires are stopped before they even start and it’s all down to the boring-looking electrical control panel sometimes referred to as a fuse box, which is probably hidden away in a cupboard within the house or the garage.

Within an electrical panel are multiple protective breakers, which control the flow of electricity into the house and can be used to shut off a dedicated circuit in the event of an emergency or during maintenance.

Statistics from a number of European countries reveal that electrical fires account for 25-30% of all domestic fires, an increase of 5-10% in last 10 years, according to Feeds (Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety).

The role of circuit breakers

We don’t give the electrical panel a thought until one of the protective circuit breakers, which control the flow of electricity to individual circuits, automatically ‘trips’ when a fault occurs. A ‘tripped breaker’, which could be likened to a shut-off valve, prevents damage to the wiring and the appliances affected – thereby reducing the risk of fire. This is vitally important as electricity is a high-density energy capable of delivering very high power flow through a small copper cross section and therefore the breaker prevents any major damage.

The inventor Thomas Edison had a ‘lightbulb ‘moment when he created the premise of a circuit breaker in 1879 – the same year he invented the incandescent light bulb.

So how did the electrical panel come about?

Well, the idea of centralising electrical distribution goes back to the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the second half of the early 20th century that electrical panels started to look something like those that we have today.

The birth of the circuit breaker took place in early 1920s. The problem with the earlier systems was that they relied on a series of individual fuses, which were a nuisance to replace and in themselves potentially dangerous, due to their limited capacity and the resulting risk of fire.

Thankfully, the evolution of the electrical panel through to the present day has played a vital role in keeping us all safe in our homes – ensuring the protection of our electrical appliances and safeguarding the people living within the property.

Top electrical panel safety tips

  • The size of your home will determine the size of your electrical panel. In the US, a smaller home will have a 100-amp electrical panel, whilst a larger home may need a 200-amp or 400-amp one according to the National Electrical Code (NEC). In the rest of the world, it’s around 63-amps, but depending on the system phase, it could be either 1P+N or 3P+N.
  • Electrical panels supply electricity to each area of the house and gauge the right amount of power to each space.
  • An electrician should be contacted if a breaker regularly breaks.
  • If you live in an older home where the electrical panel is older than 40 years, then you should consider replacing it to prevent any risks.
  • If your lights start flickering, then you should stop the installation before calling the electrician.
  • There is no doubt that the electrical panel is key to the ongoing safety of our homes and, as technology marches forward, it will remain a cornerstone of modern living – ensuring the lights stay on, devices keep running and homes remain safe.
  • With the drive towards sustainability and electrification, more loads are being linked inside the electrical panel. Therefore, it is important to have the panel reviewed by an electrician.

The ongoing march towards electrification has seen old technologies, such as internal combustion engines, being replaced with electric vehicles, whilst processes using fossil fuels such as gas boilers will be phased out and replaced by more sustainable technologies such as ground source heat pumps.

This drive towards sustainability and electrification is leading to more loads being added and connected within the electrical panel. Therefore, it is vitally important that the panel is reviewed by a qualified electrician to make sure it’s fit for purpose.

For more information on our range of electric panels, contact one of our experts today using the online contact form or support centre.

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