In the modern home, the electrical panel plays a crucial part of everyday life. However, many homeowners do not know how it functions or even its purpose. This can be a problem, especially when these same homeowners begin to experience electrical issues. Moreover, they do not know where to begin when it comes to problems with their electrical panel, which if left unattended could lead to property damage and endanger lives. So what are these different problems then, and how should you pay attention to them?
Panel Arcing and Burning
What does burning/arching mean?
When the electrical panel in your house receives power, it then directs it, through the panel, to a specific area of your home for your own use, through a series of wires, outlets and sockets. This is all fine and good, because the electricity is going through predetermined and safe routes. However, there is a major problem when the panel instead arcs, or begins to burn. When a fuse or breaker arcs, the electrical current being supplied to your home is moving through an unintended path. Also called an arc flash, this is a very dangerous and often damaging problem because the electricity in your panel is jumping breakers, wires and switches in ways it is not supposed to. So instead of someone entering your home through the front door, instead they come crashing through the wall. Arc flashes are not limited to occuring in the electrical panel alone though, they can also happen in appliances, outlets and even computers.
Signs of damage
As a result of their destructive nature, a panel arc leaves several different signs after it has occured. For starters, a panel arc or fuse arc (meaning it happened in the electrical panel) has a very distinct odor. This smell is often referred to as electrical burning or even just burning, but it smells like melted plastic and metallic smoke. If an arc flash has occurred then, before you even open the breaker box or electrical panel, you most likely will be able to smell that it happened. It is also important to note that because the electrical panel is not the sole place an arc can occur, you should follow the smell to see where it is coming from. Frayed wires, poor electrical connections and many other culprits could be contributing to the burning smell which is why you should check for other signs of damage.
Burnt Electrical Parts or Breakers
The next way to tell if a panel arc has occurred is to check the electrical panel itself for any burnt or damaged breakers. A burnt circuit breaker will be often slightly melted warm to the touch and smell burnt. Another identifier is if any of the breakers have tripped or the area around the circuit breaker feels extremely warm to the touch. In either case be sure to make note that you should change out the damaged or burnt smelling circuit breaker. If no damage appears to be visible but you can smell something burnt or burning then it could be a frayed wire, or another more internal part of the electrical panel. In this case, the best course of action is to contact a professional electrician who can safely replace your electrical panel or fix the problem. You should also turn off the main breaker and check to see if damage was done to any appliances or parts of your home connected to the burnt circuit breakers or problem areas.
What are some of the causes?
Some of the main culprits behind arcing and panel arcs is bad wiring and/or frayed wiring. When wires are initially installed they have a protective coating around the outside to prevent Arcing. Over time these wires can fray or crack due to regular use and if not watched they can lead to arcing. Just as bad, when the wiring in a home is not done properly, then electricity can arc, jumping through the unintended pathways damaging the home along the way.
When too many appliances are plugged into an outlet or a powerstrip it can lead to panel and circuit breaker burning as well. This is called overloading, and it happens when a specific circuit breaker has a lot of power flowing through it because a specific area of the house is drawing large amounts of power. Usually the circuit breaker will trip if there is too much power for it, but if the breaker is faulty then it will only heat up and begin to melt and damage the panel.
What to do
If you believe that your electrical panel or any other part of your home has experienced an arc then its extremely important that you do not ignore it. The first thing you should do is be sure nothing is actively burning or on fire. If that is the case then locate your electrical panel and turn off the main breaker. By doing this you will be keeping your home from experiencing further problems and could be stopping potential property damage. Then call a professional electrician to fix the problem, because your safety is the highest priority to us at Accurate Electric Services. Depending on who you call, an electrician should be able to figure out and solve your problem very safely and quickly, so that you can go about the rest of your day unimpeded.
What could happen if you don’t fix it
Due to the severity of circuit breaker burning, arcing and electrical panel arcing, it is very important to address the problem immediately. Especially because these problems when unaddressed are the precursors to electrical fires, which can start in an instant. In fact according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, ESFI, more than 55,000 fires are caused by home electric systems every year, resulting in close to 500 deaths and over 1,400 injuries. Moreover, Electrical fires cause close to $1.4 billion in property damage every year.
Again, because of the devastating effects of panel arcing and burning, it is extremely important to solve these problems before they become life and property threatening. If you suspect that you have an electrical problem that needs to be addressed please call us at Accurate Electric, Plumbing, Heating and Air. Our award winning technicians would love to help with whatever your Home Service need is.