How to Replace Obsolete Knife Switches in your Home’s Electrical Panel

Why You May Need to Replace Knife Switches

Knife switches were commonly used in older homes to control individual circuits. Over time, these switches can become obsolete and need replacing for several reasons:

So if your home still has old knife switches, upgrading to modern breakers is recommended.

Dangers of DIY Knife Switch Replacement

Replacing switches in your home's electrical panel can be extremely dangerous if done incorrectly. The main hazards include:

Only a licensed electrician has the training and experience to safely replace knife switches. Never attempt this yourself unless you are a qualified electrician. The risks are simply too great.

Steps for Replacing Knife Switches

While you should hire an electrician, here are the basic steps involved:

1. Turn Off the Power

The first step is to shut off all power to the panel. Locate the main breaker or fuse disconnect switch and flip it to the off position. Verify power is off by testing with a non-contact voltage tester.

2. Remove Old Switches

With the power confirmed off, the old knife switches can be removed. The electrician will disconnect all the wires, unscrew any retaining hardware, and pull the switches out.

3. Install New Breakers

Modern breakers or fuses will be installed in place of the old switches. The electrician will match up the amperage and number of poles. Connections will be made securely.

4. Connect Wires

The new breakers will be wired up matching the previous connections. The electrician will ensure good, tight connections. Any old, worn wiring will be replaced.

5. Verify Proper Operation

With the new breakers installed, the main power can be turned back on. Proper operation of each circuit will be verified. The electrician will check for any issues.

6. Clean Up Panel

Finally, the electrician will tidy up the look of the panel, bundling wires neatly and securing everything properly. The dead front cover will be reinstalled.

Finding an Experienced Electrician

Only hire a licensed, insured electrician with experience in electrical panel repair. Get estimates from multiple electricians before choosing one. Ask about their experience replacing old switches specifically. Electricians experienced with old homes are ideal.

Replacing those obsolete knife switches in your home's electrical panel makes your home safer and more reliable. But the project requires great expertise, so be sure to hire a professional electrician. Don't take chances doing this yourself.