Electrical Panel Replacement - Why Yours might be due for an upgrade
An electrical panel replacement of your home’s electrical panel is an important upgrade that can greatly improve the safety and efficiency of your electrical system. This article will explain what an electrical panel is, when you may need to replace or upgrade it, what’s involved in the upgrade process, and the costs associated with panel replacement. Read on to learn why upgrading your panel can provide major benefits and peace of mind.
You can also read a few of our other posts on electrical panels below!
What is an Electrical Panel and What Does it Do?
Your home’s electrical panel, also called the breaker box or service panel, is the central hub that receives electricity from the utility company. The main panel routes electricity through circuit breakers to all the rooms in your home. Inside the panel, you’ll see many circuit breakers controlling separate circuits or parts of the house. (Resource: The Spruce)
The main purposes of the electrical panel are shown below. To learn more about electrical panels, visit our service page here.
- To receive electricity from the utility company and distribute it throughout the house through multiple circuits
- To provide circuit breakers that protect each circuit from overload
- To allow circuits to be easily turned on/off for safety during electrical work
- To allow easy shutdown of electricity to the entire house during emergencies
If your home’s electrical panel is outdated, too small, or damaged, it can’t properly perform these critical functions.
When To Replace An Electrical Panel Replacement?
Here are common signs that it may be time to upgrade your electrical panel:
- Your home still has the old 60 amp or 100 amp service – Most modern homes require 200 amp service to handle all the electrical appliances, electronics, and lighting used today. Upgrading to 200 amps future proofs your home.
- You don’t have enough circuits or breaker space – If your panel is full and you need to add a new circuit, it’s time to upgrade. Most modern homes require 30-40 circuits.
- You have circuit breakers that frequently trip – This is a sign of an overloaded panel and insufficient amperage. Upgrading to a higher service size will provide more power.
- You have ungrounded wiring – Outdated wiring without grounding poses safety hazards including fire. A panel upgrade allows running new grounded wire.
- You need arc-fault or GFCI protection – New building codes require arc-fault breakers to prevent fires and GFCIs in areas with water. Upgrading enables adding these important new breakers.
- Your home has aluminum wiring – This wiring is outdated and prone to problems. A panel upgrade is recommended when aluminum wiring is present. (See this blog post detailing Aluminum Wiring)
- Your panel has signs of rust, water damage or corrosion – This poses serious safety hazards including short circuits, fires, and electrocution. Replacing the panel removes the risks.
- You’re remodeling your home or adding onto it – More living space usually means the need for more circuits. Upgrading through remodel wiring service can provide capacity for additions.
If any of these apply to your home, it’s wise to consider a panel replacement. An upgraded panel provides safety, value, and peace of mind.
What's Involved in Upgrading an Electrical Panel?
Electrical panel replacement is a major project that requires hiring a licensed electrician. Here are the steps involved:
- Full shutoff of electricity – For safety, all power to the house must be turned off at the main breaker.
- Removal of the old panel – The electrician will detach all wires, remove the old panel, and discard it according to local codes.
- Installation of a new panel – A new UL-certified panel is securely installed and attached to your electrical meter.
- Running new wire circuits – Grounded and sufficient wire sizes are run from the new panel through walls and ceilings to connect all existing and new circuits.
- Circuit labeling – Each new circuit at the upgraded panel must be labeled clearly. This helps identify which switch or outlet is on which circuit.
- Local inspection – Most areas require an electrical inspection to ensure the new panel meets all electrical code requirements.
- Electricity restoration – Once everything checks out, the main power can be turned back on and your new panel takes over!
The complexity of the installation depends on if you need a main service upgrade, the panel’s location, if walls must be opened, and other factors. That’s why you need an experienced, licensed pro. Never attempt a DIY panel replacement.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Electrical Panel?
Upgrading to a 200 amp panel has an average cost of $1,500-$3,500 including labor costs and materials. Here are the main factors that influence total electrical panel replacement costs:
- Panel amperage – Upgrading to 200 amps is standard. For 200 amps expect to pay $2,000-$4,000. A 100 amp upgrade would be less.
- Main service upgrade – Moving your electrical masthead and meter can add $500-$2,000+ to the project cost.
- Home’s size – More circuits required in large homes increases costs, while smaller homes may be less.
- Panel’s location – More labor involved if the panel is buried behind walls or requires opening drywall.
- Conduit installation – Running new wire through walls via conduit increases labor time and cost.
- Additional electrical fixes – Fixes like grounded wires, GFCIs or removing aluminum wires add cost.
- Electrician’s rates – Prices range from $40-$100 per hour based on location and experience. Get multiple quotes.
- Permit fees & inspection – These can cost $200+ depending on your municipality.
While not cheap, the cost to upgrade your electrical panel is an excellent long term investment that adds safety and value to your home. Tax credits, rebates, and financing may offset some of the cost as well.
FAQs – Replace Your Electrical Panel
1. How much does it cost to replace an electrical panel?
The cost to replace an electrical panel can vary depending on various factors such as the size of the panel, the complexity of the installation, and regional labor rates. On average, the cost can range from $1,500 to $3,000 for a basic panel replacement. However, it’s recommended to get a professional assessment and quote from a licensed electrician for an accurate estimation.
A panel upgrade refers to replacing the existing electrical panel, also known as the service panel or circuit breaker panel, with a new and larger panel to meet the increased electrical needs of a home or business. This is typically done to accommodate additional electrical loads, improve safety, and comply with modern electrical codes.
3. How much does it cost to upgrade an electrical panel?
The cost to upgrade an electrical panel can vary based on several factors, including the size and complexity of the upgrade, the type of panel being installed, and the local labor rates. On average, the cost can range from $1,500 to $4,000 for a standard panel upgrade. However, it’s best to consult with a licensed electrician for an accurate cost evaluation.
4. When do I need an electrical panel replacement?
There are several signs that indicate the need for an electrical panel replacement. These include frequent circuit breaker trips, outdated or inadequate electrical capacity, flickering lights, burning smells, and charred or discolored electrical panel components. If you experience any of these issues, it’s recommended to consult with a licensed electrician to determine if a replacement is necessary.
5. What is a sub panel?
A sub panel is an additional electrical panel installed separately from the main service panel. It is used to distribute power to a specific area or equipment within a building. Sub panels are commonly installed in larger homes, workshops, or commercial buildings where more circuits are needed to handle the electrical load.
6. What is involved in an electrical panel replacement?
Replacing an electrical panel involves several steps. First, the power supply to the panel is shut off by turning off the main circuit breaker. Then, the existing panel is carefully disconnected and removed. The new panel is then installed, and all the circuits are reconnected and properly labeled. It’s crucial to hire a licensed electrician for this task to ensure the safe and proper replacement of the electrical panel.
6. What are some other situations that might require a new panel?
A few other common examples that may require a new electrical panel could be the need to install an at home EV Car Charger (see our service page). Or, you might want to add a new, large appliance like a full house generator (see our service page).
Conclusion: Invest in Electrical Safety With a Panel Upgrade
An electrical panel replacement is a major project, but one that yields invaluable safety benefits and peace of mind. If your home (older home or not) shows any signs of insufficient electrical service, overloaded circuits or outdated materials, now is the ideal time to upgrade your panel. A new 200 amp panel future proofs your home for the next 20+ years.
Schedule a consultation with qualified electrical contractors to explore if a panel upgrade makes sense for your situation. Though not the cheapest home project, the boost in electrical capacity, safety and value are well worth the investment. Your family will enjoy reliable, sufficient power for years to come.