How to Replace a Home’s Main Electrical Panel
Replacing or upgrading the main electrical panel in your home is a great investment. Installing a new electrical panel will help make your home safer by lessening the risk of electrical fires. A new panel will also make your home more energy efficient and increase its value. This guide will show you what all is involved in replacing an electrical panel and how you can know when it’s time to have your panel replaced.
Why Electrical Panel Upgrades Should Always Be Done by a Licensed Electrician
Replacing the main electrical panel in a house typically isn’t all that difficult, but it is a job that should only be done by a licensed electrician. An improperly installed electrical panel is a major fire hazard. It is essential that you hire an electrician to ensure that each of the circuits is wired into your new panel correctly. There is also a possible risk of electrocution if the panel isn’t installed and wired correctly and properly grounded.
Another reason is that an electrical permit is usually required when replacing or upgrading an electrical panel. This is something that only a licensed master electrician can apply for. The electrician will also have to schedule an inspection by the city electrical inspector once the new panel is installed. This is also not something you can do on your own.
If you were to install the panel without the necessary permit and didn’t have it inspected, there is a high chance you could have to pay a steep fine. The city could also force you to have the panel torn out and then a new one reinstalled by a licensed electrical company.
Steps for Replacing an Electrical Panel
In most cases, the old panel can be removed and the new one installed in just a day. The job may take longer if an electrician encounters any unforeseen problems or if lots of the circuits need to be rewired. Replacing the panel can also take longer if you are moving it from one place to another. For example, this could be from inside your house to an exterior wall on the outside of the home. In this case, the electrician will typically need to install a junction box where the old panel was located. They will then have to splice additional wires onto all of the circuits. Then they would pull the wires outside and feed them through a conduit that runs to the new panel.
Before the job can get started, the electrician will first have to contact the power company. They would have them shut off the electrical service to your home. Once the power is off, they will then disconnect all of the circuits from the existing panel and then remove it from the wall. As they disconnect each circuit, they will label each of the wires so that they know which circuit is which when wiring them back into the new panel.
The new panel will then be hung and mounted on the wall, and the wiring will then be reattached to each circuit breaker. As they wire each circuit into the new panel, they will also label the breakers. This is so you can easily tell which appliance, room or part of the home each one controls. This is important so that you can quickly shut off the correct breaker if any issues arise in the future, such as if you have an outlet that starts smoking.
One of the more common reasons for upgrading an electrical panel is if the existing panel is full and you need to install additional circuits in the home. For instance, you might want to install an EV charging station in your garage and there isn’t room in the existing panel for another 240-volt circuit breaker. You will either need to upgrade to a larger panel or install a subpanel. In this case, the electrician will also need to pull wires for the new circuit so that it can be installed in the new panel.
After all wires have been connected to the panel, the electrician will then need to ground the panel by connecting it to the metal grounding rod outside the home. The last step is to have the panel inspected and then again contact the power company to turn your electricity back on.
How to Know if You Need to Replace Your Electrical Panel
Electrical panels are typically rated to last around 20 to 25 years so it’s definitely a good idea to upgrade your panel if it is older than this. It is especially important if your home has a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker panel. Breakers are much safer and fuses are much more likely to start a fire.
If you have an old home and your panel hasn’t been upgraded in a long time, there is also a good chance that your existing panel only has 60-amp service. In this case, you’d need to upgrade to a panel with 100- or 200-amp service. This is in case you wanted to install a high-power appliance like an air conditioner as 60-amp service won’t be sufficient. If you tried to run an AC unit off a 60-amp panel, it would likely overload your electricity system and trip the main circuit breaker. This will shut off power to the entire home any time you tried to use other appliances while your AC was running.
There are also other signs that you should watch out for that can indicate your panel is failing and needs to be replaced. For instance, if you have a circuit breaker that constantly trips, it’s often a sign that your current panel can’t meet your home’s power demands. If your lights often dim or flicker when your AC turns on or you use the microwave, it often indicates that you need to upgrade to a higher amp panel. This will ensure it has sufficient power to run everything in your home. A new panel will channel the electricity to where it is needed more efficiently. This will make your home more energy efficient and could lower your monthly electricity bills by 10 to 30%.
You should always have your electrical panel and your entire electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician once a year or any time you notice any electrical issues. It’s also a good idea to open the door to the panel and check it yourself every month or so. If you notice any rust, scorching or burn marks, you should immediately call an electrician to have the panel replaced to prevent the risk of it catching fire. The same is true if the panel feels warm to the touch.
If you’re looking to upgrade your electrical panel or need to have it inspected, you can trust the experts at Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning. We specialize in the full range of residential electrical services, including repairs and installation. We are also a full-service HVAC company offering expert heating and cooling services for customers in Kirkland, Munroe and throughout the Seattle area. Give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of upgrading your home’s electrical panel or to schedule any other electrical or HVAC service.