Electrical panels have several important roles in your building’s infrastructure. Required to provide both electricity and safety. And while an electrical panel plays an important role in every home, many homeowners find themselves wondering, “should I upgrade my electrical panel?”
Navigating how to upgrade electrical panel systems and whether it’s time for an electrical panel replacement isn’t something we all are taught upon purchasing a home. Additionally, the cost to upgrade electrical panel systems can be quite steep.
Typically, electrical panels will last anywhere from 40 to 60 years. That being said, the electrical panel must operate properly, otherwise, it is time for an electrical panel replacement.
To answer all your questions, including “when should I upgrade my electrical panel?”, our electrical contractors are breaking down all the must-know details below.
Let’s Start with the “Sweetest Thing” - Cost to Upgrade Electrical Panel
So, how much does it cost to upgrade your electrical panel? A licensed professional electrician is required to upgrade an electrical panel, and their material and labor costs can vary from person to person, making navigating how much an electrical panel upgrade a complicated question.
Factors That Go into the Cost Include:
- The amount of work needed to upgrade.
- The size of the electrical panel.
- If it will be relocated.
- How many circuits need to be installed?
- If the service amperage needs to be increased.
With all that in mind, the average electrical panel upgrade costs anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000. Additionally, relocating the electrical panel will add $500 to $2,000 in costs.
Benefits of Upgrading Electrical Panel
There are several benefits to upgrading electrical panel systems. These perks include:
- Electrical Safety: Upgrading reduces the risk of fire and electrical shock in your home.
- Increased Power: panel upgrades help better improve power distribution for any appliance changes in your home.
- Energy Efficiency: Older electrical panels use more power, so newer ones can help reduce your energy use.
- Lower Maintenance Costs: Proper maintenance helps reduce the chance of significant repairs and replacements in the future.
- Lower Insurance Costs: Up-to-date electrical panel upgrades impact the amount you pay in homeowner’s insurance premiums.
What Is an Electric Panel?
An electrical panel, also known as a breaker panel, is a metal box that’s typically built into a wall. Within this box, there are your home’s breaker switches. These switches can be toggled on and off, turning the electrical current on and off. Essentially, an electrical panel is the main power line of the home and is responsible for how the electrical currents are distributed to different areas.
Why Do I Need to Upgrade My Electric Panel? The Most Often Signs & What to Consider
Wondering, “when should I upgrade my electrical panel?” There are many signs that it’s time to upgrade panel systems for a better-operating electrical panel.
To figure out if you should upgrade an electrical panel to 200 amps and other changes, we are breaking down each of the signs below!
Circuit Breakers Keep Tripping
If circuit breakers keep tripping, it’s a sign that the electrical demand is too high for your current electrical panel. If the panel is overtaxed, it can cause an electrical fire, which everyone wants to avoid.
Warm Electrical Panel
A warm electrical panel signals that wires are not properly connected and insulated. If your panel is warm to the touch, it’s important to have it checked out sooner rather than later.
Bad Wiring and Ungrounded Wiring
Bad or old wiring can pose some safety issues. Examples of this include:
- Oversized breakers: Mismatched electrical breaker bands are unsafe and dangerous.
- Double-tapped electrical breakers: These are a fire hazard. Any breaker labeled with “1 Pole” should only have one circuit wire connected.
- Messy wiring: Seen frequently in older homes, this refers to when multiple electrical connections have been made outside the electrical junction box.
Your Home Is More Than 20-25 Years Old
Electrical panels are good for 25 to 40 years, so if your home is 25 years or older, it’s important to have your panel checked out and potentially look into replacing electrical panel systems.
Electrical Fuse Panel Needs to Be Replaced
If you have a fuse-based electrical panel, while there isn’t anything outright wrong with the system, it is considered outdated and tends to not be as powerful, thus not meeting modern electrical needs.
Breaker Box Smells Like Burning Plastic
A burning smell is never a good sign. Burning scents coming from an electrical panel can point to serious, dangerous issues with the breaker box and electrical system, and require a professional to come to take a look ASAP.
Melted Wires and Scorch Marks
Typically, with a burning smell, comes melting and scorching. The heat from old wiring can cause melting of the shielding of wires which can start a fire. A trained electrician will know how to fix this issue.
Your Electrical Panel Is Lower Than 200 Amp
Older homes relying on less-modern appliances have fewer power needs. However, today, the standard is 200 amp service, versus the 100 or 150 amps of years past. Any system lower than 200 amps will require an upgrade.
High-Pitched Noise Coming from Outlet
A high-pitched noise coming from an outlet, or any buzzing, clicking, or humming, means there’s something wrong with the outlets, wiring, or electrical panel. An inspection by a professional will solve the issue.
Rusted Electrical Panel
A rested electrical panel signals that there was contact with water inside the panel, which can be a fatal issue. To avoid a corroded panel and get ahead of the issue, a rusted electrical panel must be replaced.
Lights Flickering and Dimming in House
Dimming and flickering lights signal an underpowered panel that’s in high demand or point to faulty wiring. In either scenario, an electrical inspection will alleviate the issue.
If any water damage is found on or around an electrical panel, it will need to be looked at to check if you must replace electrical panel systems. Water can destroy circuitry, leaving you less protected.
Should You Upgrade an Old Electrical Panel?
Wondering if it’s time for electrical panel upgrades?
Many older electrical panels do pose safety concerns, making the need for an upgrade pretty serious. Older systems are known to overheat, which, as we know, causes very unsafe conditions.
You should start thinking about upgrading if you have one of the following outdated electrical panel brands installed:
- Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Electric Panels
- Zinsco Electric Panels
- ITE Pushmatic and Bulldog Electric Panels
- Challenger Electric Panels
- Murray Electric Panels
- Westinghouse Electric Panels
- Wadsworth Electric Panels
- General Switch Electric Panels
- Bryant Electric Panels
Split Bus Electrical Panel. Should I Replace It?
With the improvements in technologies and home appliances, split bus electrical panel options are not the best available today. A split bus panel can more easily become overloaded, which can lead to unsafe conditions. Due to the older design and condition due to its construction, it’s best to replace a split bus panel.
Should You Upgrade an Old Fuse Box to Circuit Breakers?
Fuse boxes are a commonly found electrical solution in homes. Popular in the 1960s, one of the biggest concerns with a fuse box is that they need to be rated for the circuit, and the wires have to be the right kinds for the fuse box. Installing a higher-rated fuse will cause over fusing.
How Long Does It Take to Replace an Electrical Panel?
Now that we know when to replace an electrical panel, it’s time to know how to replace electrical panel systems and how long it takes.
When looking to upgrade an electrical panel, you may wonder, “Can I upgrade my electrical panel myself?” This process is always best left to the professionals, and the process of replacing or upgrading will take between 6 to 8 hours. You can expect to be without power during this time.
In the case you need wiring updates or relocation, this process can take several days. However, the total time will depend on how much work needs to be done and the number of circuits being relocated.
Electric Panel Upgrade Vs Replacement?
Wondering whether it’s time for upgrading or replacing an electrical panel?
Upgrading an electrical panel is a great way to address many concerns you may be having about the safety and efficiency of your current electrical panel. There are several ways this can be done, but one way is to install a subpanel. While this isn’t compatible with all older panels, it can help alleviate some of the electrical burdens on older systems.
If your electrical panel is worse for wear, it is time for a replacement. This is the case if your home is over 25 years old, or the panel smells burned, is tripping often, or you bought a major appliance that is putting more stress on the older version, to name a few reasons.
Ultimately, a professional electrician can help you determine the best route for your home.
Do I Need a Permit to Upgrade My Electrical Panel?
There are many things to consider when upgrading an electrical panel, including the question of do you need a permit to upgrade electrical panel systems.
An electrical permit is required whenever the size of the panel or main service must be increased. Additionally, a permit is needed to replace the main service or panel when there is damage. Plus, permits are often needed during the relocation process, or with any outdated equipment.
If you’re unsure if you need a permit, consult with a professional electrician.
From the cost to upgrade an electrical panel to 200 amps, to how to upgrade an electrical panel, there’s a lot to know before diving into upgrading or replacing an electrical panel, no matter how much research you do.
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