One of the most frequent places residential fires start is in electrical panels. Homeowners insurance may cover damage caused by fires that start in electrical panels. Coverage eligibility is contingent on the type of your electrical panel, its age, the residential codes in your area, and annual electrical inspections.
Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Electrical Panel Fires?
If there is a problem with your home’s electrical wiring, you may not find out until it is too late. Three out of five electrical fires are caused by arcing which happens when an electrical panel breaker fails to trip. Electrical fires are one of the top causes of residential fires and cause an estimated 500 deaths and $1.3 billion in property damage each year.
If electrical panels can be such a fire risk, then it is important to make sure that damage caused by fires originating in electrical panels is covered by homeowners insurance. Unfortunately, coverage eligibility usually depends upon the following:
- the type of electrical panel
- the age of the panel
- regional code requirements
- annual inspections by qualified electricians.
Your insurance company will cover some types of panel boxes in certain circumstances but may deny you coverage if your panel boxes are older, outdated, or proven to be significantly risky.
How Can I Make Sure My Electrical Panel is Covered?
Bad wiring is a home’s most dangerous fire risk, especially if it derives from a faulty electrical panel. Insurance companies will deny coverage on some panels because of the risk of fires they pose for the homeowner. To make sure your panel is covered, check what type it is and have it examined annually by a qualified electrician for safety and code compliance.
The Types of Panels Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance
If you have one of the following panels, they are probably not covered by homeowners insurance. The following panels have been deemed unsafe to have in your home:
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels – FPE panels are most common in homes built between 1950 and 1980. Federal Pacific Electric will likely be written on the cover of your breaker box. Inside, look for the name Stab-Loc (the brand name of the circuit breakers).
Zinsco Panels – Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania panels were popular electrical panels installed in homes throughout the 1970s.
Split-Bus Electrical Panels – Split-bus breakers are divided into 2 groups with no single disconnect breaker. These panels have not been installed for over 40 years.
Fuse-Box – Screw-in fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of switches.
If your home was built before 1990, you may have one of these outdated panels in your home. These panels are unsafe and no longer meet code requirements for residential safety.
Do I Need Annual Electrical Inspections to Maintain Coverage?
Annual electrical inspections by a qualified electrician or certified electrical inspector may be needed to maintain coverage on your electrical panel, especially if the wiring or panel is older. Electrical panels do not last forever. Heat runs through the connections all day and night, causing them to wear out over time. If your electrical panel is more than 20 years old, it could be a fire hazard. Having the wiring to your electrical panel inspected annually can help with claims should you need to contact homeowners insurance.
When Should I Replace My Electrical Panel?
There are certain instances when homeowners should consider panel replacement:
Your Panel is Over 20 Years Old
If your panel is getting older, replacement is the best way to limit your financial risk. Panels over 20 years of age should be replaced with newer models. Older style panels like those listed above should be upgraded to panels that comply with current residential codes.
You Want to Sell Your Home
If you are planning on selling your home, your panel will need to meet current residential codes to pass inspection.
If Your Electrical Usage Has Increased
Increased electrical load is another reason to replace your panel. Electrical panels come in different amp loads, and the higher your electrical usage, the bigger the amp load you need. As we add appliances, fixtures and outlets to our home, more switches are needed to hold them. If your electrical panel is full, it will get hotter and be more of a fire risk.
Home Additions May Be in Your Future
If you foresee major home improvements or home additions in your future, replacing your electrical panel with an upgraded version may be necessary. The addition of hot tubs, garage heaters, car chargers, and extra rooms to your home may necessitate an upgrade to a larger panel or multiple panels.
Get an Electrical Inspection
Electrical inspections are a smart precaution you can take to protect your home, your insurance coverage, and your family’s safety. An Anthony PHCE electrical inspection provides you with a comprehensive assessment of your electrical panel and wiring system and detects fire hazards before your safety is impacted. Anthony PHCE’s licensed and trained electricians are available to provide you with the best service, electrical solutions, and advice. Call our Anthony PHCE electricians today at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y 268-4669 (913) or (816).
The top electrical product trend in 2021 is smart products. These Wi-Fi-enabled devices that talk to your cell phone remotely now include thermostats, doorbells, smoke detectors, lights, and cameras. Enter the era of whole-home automation systems like Anthony MyHome, in which you can monitor your entire home remotely, including your outlets, garage door, front door lock, sump pump and even your water. Many smart items also contain voice activation, allowing for voice commands with these devices.
Smarter Smart Speakers
Google, Alexa, or Siri? Yes! Most people have used a voice-activated “smart” speaker, allowing you the convenience of searching the internet through voice commands, such as “Hey Google, what is the score of the football game,” as well as to give commands to other smart devices, such as “Alexa, unlock the door.” But something to note, Google, Alexa and Siri devices will not talk to each other, only to their own family. For example, Google will only talk to Google devices and so forth. In a world of competing voice activation platforms, there are finally smart speakers that work with multiple versions. And they make smart soundbars too, to match your smart TV. Now isn’t that smart?
Electric Car Chargers
Electric vehicle supply equipment, or “EVSE,” is the proper term for what is commonly called electric car chargers or charging stations. The actual charging equipment is built into electric vehicles; the EVSE provides a safe supply of electricity to the vehicle using your home’s electricity. Most electric cars come with a Level 1 charging cord, which plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet, but the drawback can be a slow charging process. Therefore, purchasing a Level 2 charging cord which plugs into a 240-volt electrical supply is recommended. Level 2 charging stations typically deliver anywhere from 16 amps to 80 amps of power. If you plan to eventually upgrade your electric cars at a later date, it is recommended that you have a charging device that can provide you with the most amperage. And in case you were wondering, electric vehicle supply equipment also comes in smart versions, which you can talk to remotely with your phone.
Smart Recessed Lighting
Recessed ceiling lights, loved for their modern look and even lighting, are now smart too! These “smart” lights can be activated via voice, app or even the clap of your hands. They can dim from soft light to bright, from warm light to cool, and can morph into hundreds of different colors. They can even pulse and change colors to the beat of music or gaming sounds. And multiple lights can be configured into complex scenes to match holiday decor or to provide a specific ambience.
More and more decorative indoor and outdoor lighting solutions are becoming “smart.” Check with your Anthony PHCE electrician to see what smart options are available before you purchase lighting for your home.
Smart Ceiling Fans
Smart ceiling fans can be connected to your thermostat and be programmed to turn on and off, optimizing the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Some also have reversible motors for bi-directional blade movement, which means no more teetering on a ladder to switch the fan direction each season. And many have lights which are smart as well.
Electric Meter Remote Usage Monitor
Electricity meter usage monitors are the newest way to monitor your electricity usage, and therefore saving money on electricity bills. Do you know which of your appliances use the most electricity in your home right now? Usage monitors attached to your electrical panel sit discretely within your panel box and send usage data to your phone. These monitors can detect power outages, and sniff out any energy hogs in your home, allowing you to unplug or replace these offenders.
Your Appliances are Surfing the Web
The internet is everywhere, even in your appliances. Your refrigerator, stove, washer, and dryer now have computers which send and receive updates, data and communicate to and from your mobile devices. This type of technology is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Surge Protection – It’s Smart Too!
As you fill your home with smart items that are Wi-Fi-enabled and equipped with their own computers, it becomes necessary to consider a whole-home point-of-entry surge protector to keep your devices safe from power surges. Which begs the question, are there smart surge protectors? There certainly are.
Curious about Smart Products? We Can Help
Anthony PHCE electricians can install any smart products that your home desires. Call our “smart” electricians today at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y 268-4669 (913) or (816) and we will get you plugged into to these exciting new electrical products.
The main function of an electrical panel is to shut off power when connections get too hot. A lot of heat runs through your electrical connections, and that heat can cause connections to fail and arcing which causes fires. There are 3 main reasons to replace or upgrade your electrical panel: age, type and increased electrical needs of your home.
Age Matters: Electrical Panels Do Not Last Forever
Electrical panels do not last forever. Heat runs through the connections all day and night, causing them to wear out over time. If your electrical panel is more than 20 years old, it could be a fire hazard that can threaten the safety of your home and family. Older panels have breakers that fail over time and will not trip as needed.
One of the most common causes of residential fires are worn out electrical panels. According to the National Fire Protection Association:
- Fires involving electrical failures or malfunctions accounted for the highest share of civilian deaths (18%) and direct property damage (20%).
- Nearly two of five fires (39%) involving electrical failure or malfunction occurred in the cold weather months from November through February.
- Arcing was the heat source in approximately three of five home fires involving an electrical failure or malfunction.
Arc flashes commonly occur in electrical panels. Arcing occurs when one of an electrical panel’s many circuits becomes overloaded and overheats. Once damaged, a circuit breaker can malfunction and continue to let electricity through, potentially causing arcing and the possibility of a fire.
Codes Change for a Reason: Get Rid of Outdated Panels
Older homes are more likely to have outdated electrical panels that are extremely unsafe and no longer meet codes for residential safety. If you own home built before 1990, you might have one of these outdated main electric panels boxes in your home. These unsafe panels include:
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels – FPE panels are most common in homes built between 1950 and 1980. Federal Pacific Electric will likely be written on the cover of your breaker box. Inside, look for the name Stab-Loc (the brand name of the circuit breakers). FPE electric panels’ circuit breakers fail to trip when they should, leading to thousands of fires in the United States. FPE is the only manufacturer to be forced into bankruptcy due to liability associated with home fires.
Zinsco Panels – Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania panels were popular electrical panels installed in homes throughout the 1970s. The circuit breakers inside many Zinsco panels melt to the main bus bar. This means the breaker won’t ever trip, even when there’s a short or overloaded circuit. So, if there ever is a short, or other problems, the surge of power melts wires and starts a fire in your home.
Split-Bus Electrical Panels – Split-bus breakers are divided into 2 groups with no single disconnect breaker. Because these panels have not been used for over 40 years, they are unsafe because of their age.
Fuse-Box – Screw-in Fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of switches. These boxes typically use too few circuits, so circuits are tripped often, causing homeowners to replace fuses with larger amped fuses, or worse yet, a metal object like a penny.
Room to Grow: Home Improvements Require Larger Electrical Panels
So you finally installed those extra outdoor outlets, a new ceiling fan in the guest room, and a freezer in the garage to store your extra food… and now you are saving up money to install that hot tub outside. Stop right there; the more appliances, outlets and fixtures you have in your home, the bigger the electrical panel you need.
Electrical panels come in different amp loads, and the more your electrical needs, the bigger the amp load you need. Plus, the more appliances, fixtures, and outlets you have, the more switches you need to hold them. If your electrical panel is full, it will get hotter and be more of a fire risk. Replace full panels with larger ones that can better handle your current load plus your home’s future electrical needs.
Don’t DIY on This One – Call us Today
While we encourage you to learn as much about your electrical system as possible, electricity is not a good candidate for a DIY project. DIY wiring is not only dangerous, it seldom meets codes and can be far more costly to repair in the future. Anthony PHCE’s licensed and trained electricians provide you with the best service, electrical solutions and advice. Call our Anthony PHCE electricians today at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y 268-4669 (913) or (816).
Imagine you are hunkered down at home during a thunderstorm, you and your family working away on your respective computers, and zap, a nearby lightning strike causes a power surge to flow through your home’s electrical wiring and ethernet cables. Computers go down, data is lost, the television stops working and your home’s smart appliances go on the blink. A whole-home surge protector could have saved you a whole lot of trouble.
Do You Need a Whole-Home Surge Protector or Are Power Strips Enough?
Most people know enough to plug their computers into high voltage surge protectors with back up batteries. But what about the computers in your TV and your smart appliances like your refrigerator and washing machine? Many new appliances come with their own computers that talk to the internet; this new technology is called internet of things (IoT). Electrical surges can damage or destroy these expensive devices. Whole-home surge protectors can protect all of the electronics and appliances in your home, including those items hard-wired into your electrical systems that cannot be protected on power strips.
What Causes Power Surges?
What are the causes of power surges? Several things can cause power surges that can damage your home’s electrical systems:
- Lightning strikes near your home
- Compressors that turn on and off in appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators
- Power surges originating from your electric utility company during power grid switching
Large increases in voltage above an appliance’s normal operating voltage can cause an arc of electrical current within the appliance, and the heat generated in the arc can damage electronic circuit boards and other electrical components.
Smaller, repeated power surges can cause damage, too, and could be the reason your TV or cordless phone mysteriously stops working. These smaller surges can cause damage slowly, so your computer or TV may continue to function until the integrity of the electronic components finally erode. This shortens the life span of appliances and electronics.
What is the Best Type of Surge Protector?
There are two types of surge protection; point-of-use and service entrance. Point-of-use surge protectors includes devices such as power strips with surge protectors that protect the devices plugged into them. Service entrance surge suppression devices, also known as whole-home surge protectors, mount on your main electrical panel or at the base of your electric meter.
Whole-home surge protectors protect all of your home electronics and all of the items on your electrical system, including lights, motors, outlets, light switches. They protect the items that are hard wired into your electrical system, like your oven and CO/smoke detectors that cannot be placed on point-of-use surge protectors. Whole-home surge protectors also provide a second tier of protection to devices on point-of-use surge protectors.
There are many types of whole-home surge protection options and depending upon your home you may need more than one. Installation of these devices is not for novices; working on high-capacity power circuits can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, and many manufacturers recommend hiring an electrician to perform the installation. Our Anthony PHCE electricians will assess the best protection for you home and install it for you, so you know it is working correctly.
Call a Qualified Anthony PHCE Electrician
Today’s homeowners possess a sizeable investment in home electronics and appliances. Whole-home surge protection is a smart investment to prevent damage to, and extend the life of, the electrical items and systems in your home. Call our Anthony PHCE electricians today at A-N-T-H-O-N-Y 268-4669 (913) or (816).