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Summer is in high-gear in Texas.  Is your electrical handling the load?

This is somewhat of an “unofficial” Part 3 of this blog on Federal Pacific panels, further elaborating on the general subject of your main breaker box (panel).  “Part 2” would probably be right here.

There are many reasons to replace or upgrade an electrical panel:

  • You have an older home or an older/outdated/discontinued panel
  • You need more power for newer appliances (older homes are often not equipped to handle the power demand for modern devices, even “energy-saving” types)
  • You are remodeling, renovating, or building an addition and need more power to run the spaces
  • Or, in the worst-case scenario, you have continual power failures due to older materials and breakers.  Breakers and panels do have a shelf life, but it’s often in the 30-40 year range.  On the other hand, we’ve worked on operational panels built in the 1920’s!  So each installation and build is unique.

Depending on which city you live in and who your power provider is, there will be certain steps involved in upgrading or replacing your main electrical service (outside panel or breaker box), but the general outline is the same for most of Central Texas.

Just about all homes have an exterior electric meter and accompanying breaker box.  Some homes have one breaker on the outside (“main lug panel”) that controls the inside panels, and some homes have a full panel on the exterior.

There are National Electric Codes that apply to all installations across the states.  In addition, there are city ordinances that must be followed, and certain design and installation specifications, based on your utility company’s requirements.  The work must be scheduled and coordinated with you, your electrical contractor, the city, AND your utility company!  And yes, this work absolutely must have an electrical permit with your city.

In our case, we like to have a day or two of preparation before the day of the replacement – it makes things easier on the day of your shutoff (described below), especially for larger homes or more complex installations that require moving around circuits, underground trenching, installing a new power pole, or installing new protrusions through the roof for overhead services, like the one pictured here.

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On the day of the job, the power to your property will be shut off by the utility company at their scheduled time (by law, we are not allowed to disconnect the power ourselves), usually first thing in the morning.  So we ask that all homeowners be prepared to have their power shut off for most of the day: have all important devices are already off or unplugged, keep all refrigerators and freezers closed, and keep windows/doors closed so you don’t lose too much heat or cool.  The replacement takes place over the next several hours.  The inspector arrives to check the work, and then the utility company returns to turn the power back on same-day.

Austin Energy hooking up a temporary power pole for construction.

Austin Energy hooking up a temporary power pole for construction.

[[ As a disclaimer, we have to note this: there have been extremely rare cases where the power has been off overnight and the city/utility did not return until the next morning to turn the power back on.  This is obviously not the ideal scene and not what we want for you, but we do ask that as a safeguard you be prepared to be without power overnight.  We’d rather be safe than sorry.  Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence. ]]

Once everything is on, we will check all the circuits and re-label the panel with all the circuits you have.  In most replacements, we also include a whole-house surge protector as part of the deal.

A similar process applies to commercial panel replacements, but there will be differences in building codes and city requirements for commercial buildings.

If you have only an interior panel you want to replace, such as the one in your garage or one that controls an addition/shed/outbuilding, it’s a much easier process – it’s simply a matter of replacement, and you won’t need to turn off your entire house.

Do you suspect you will need or want to upgrade or replace your panel?  Contact us today for an estimate!