While you probably don’t give it much thought, your home’s electrical panel is an important component of the electrical system.
As consumers use more power on a daily basis, there is a good chance that your electric panel is unable to meet your electrical needs. Alternatively, it may just be outdated.
In either instance, it may be time to consider an electrical panel upgrade. Keep reading to learn how to know if an upgrade is necessary and what costs you can expect to be associated with such a task.
When Is It Time To Do An Electrical Panel Upgrade?
As a general rule, electrical panels only last somewhere between 25 and 40 years. Therefore, if you have lived in your home for about 25 years and have never replaced your electrical panel, there is a good chance it’s time to upgrade.
The good news is that you don’t have to upgrade an electrical panel unnecessarily. There are a number of warning signs that you can keep an eye out for that will alert you your existing system is becoming outdated and unsafe, requiring a replacement sooner rather than later.
Home Is 20+ Years Old.
If you have been living in your home for at least 20 years and have not replaced the electrical box, or if you have recently moved into an older home and aren’t sure how long the existing electrical panel has been in the home, the main circuit breaker could need an upgrade.
Older homes tend to be equipped with breaker panel boxes that are rated for 60 to 100 amps. However, modern panels generally operate at 200 amps due to the fact that the majority of newer appliances and electronics have this much amperage to operate properly.
The fuse box is considered the oldest form of the electric panel, so they are extremely outdated. In addition, fuse boxes are a serious safety hazard if still being used. Unfortunately, the dangers of fuses are gravely underestimated.
In the event a fuse blows, the electrical current within the panel may not necessarily stop. This can pose a grave fire risk. Therefore, if your home still has an amp panel that uses fuses, an electrical panel upgrade is almost a necessity.
Frequently Tripped Breakers
If you find yourself constantly having to head to the breaker box because the breakers are tripping, then this is a sign that there may be a possible electrical issue with the panel. Of course, it may be indicative of a bad breaker.
Breakers that are constantly tripping do so for a reason. More often than not, you just have overloaded circuits, but there may also be an electrical fault somewhere in the circuit, or the wiring is not sized properly for the system.
Generally, your circuit breakers trip problem will just be with a single breaker (or two), but if possible, it doesn’t hurt to replace the entire electrical panel. This is particularly true if any of the other signs here are present.
If your lights have been flickering or dimming, especially when you turn on an appliance, this is yet another warning sign that you may have a faulty electrical panel & a replacement is in your future.
Home lights tend to flicker when your electric panel is unable to keep up with the electrical demand in your home. In some instances, the wiring may be loose or faulty.
Regardless, an electrical panel box inspection and replacement is likely necessary from a professional electrician.
If you go near your electrical panel and notice a burning odor coming from it, you may have a bad circuit breaker or bad connection on your hands. In either case, you are at risk of an electrical fire, so this burning smell of the electrical wiring warrants an electrical inspection to get down to the bottom of the problem.
If you are contemplating a significant electrical appliance upgrade or home addition, an upgraded electrical panel should also be taken into consideration.
More than likely, your new appliance or room addition is going to require more power than your current panel is able to handle, which means a replacement or a sub panel is necessary.
Why You Need An Electrical Panel Upgrade?
Did you know that almost 10 percent of household fires are caused by electrical problems in the home? These fires can result in serious and fatal injuries, not to mention costly property damage.
With an upgraded electrical panel, your home will be safer, and the risk of electrical fires won’t be nearly as high.
In addition, replacing your old electrical panel with a newer, modern design may increase your property value. The new panel gives you the amp capacity to install newer, high-efficiency electrical appliances.
This may help you save money on your home insurance premiums, in addition to the money that you’ll save each month on your energy bills.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Old Electrical Panel?
The cost of replacing an old electrical panel will vary from one job to the next. Your neighbor may tell you they paid X amount of dollars, and when you get a quote for your own replacement from an experienced electrician, yours may be more or less than theirs.
There are a few different factors that can play a role in the average cost of your electric panel upgrade, including:
- The overall amount of work that must be performed to complete the replacement
- The size of the new electrical panel
- Whether the electric panel will be relocated (installed in a different area than the existing one)
- The number of electrical circuits that must be installed in the new electrical panel box
- Whether the amperage needs to be increased in the box
- Whether wiring updates need to be made
On average, you can expect $1,000-4,000 cost for both labor costs and material costs, depending on your individual circumstances. If the panel needs to be relocated, or if the electrical contractor runs into significant wiring or other electrical issues during the job, you can expect additional costs.
The actual cost will vary from job to job, which is why obtaining cost estimates and detailed quotes from up to a dozen contractors is essential to getting the best price.
Electrical Panel Upgrade Process
Upgrading an electrical panel is not an easy feat, and because of this, it is recommended for an experienced electrician to perform the job.
One of the first things that must be done in the electric upgrade process is an assessment of the current electrical panel.
During this assessment, the size of the new panel and the number of circuits needed will be determined while also determining the extent of any underlying damage, such as frayed or faulty wiring that needs to be replaced.
An electrician will work with your local power company to have the electrical service cut off for the day of the job and secure the necessary permits. When the electrician arrives on-site, they will contact the electric company so they know they can cut the power.
You should expect your power to be off for the bulk duration of the job, and the time frame for electrical panel replacement is 1-3 days, depending on the extent of the job. You can expect your electric panel replacement to take longer if you have it relocated to a different area in the home.
Therefore, ahead of the day of the electrical project, make sure you have made the necessary arrangements for any electricity.
For instance, if you need to work online, you will need more than your fully charged laptop or tablet. You will still need the internet, and your internet modem requires electricity. So, you may need to rearrange your work schedule or head to a local café that offers internet access.
Be sure if you need to leave your home for any reason that the electrician is aware you’re leaving and when you plan to be back. Leave them with access to any areas of the home they may need while you’re gone.
An electrician will replace the electrical panel, the circuits, and the wiring as outlined in the project specifications. If any issues come up during this time, those will be addressed.
After the installation has been completed, an electrical and building code inspector will be called to come out to your home and perform an inspection on the electrical panel to ensure all electrical and building code requirements have been met.
Once the new panel box has passed the inspection process and no code violations have been found, the electric company will switch your power back on.
Professional Electrical Panel Upgrade
Some homeowners prefer to attempt repairs and upgrades to their homes to save money. However, when it comes to electrical repairs/upgrades in Charlotte or any other location, including an electric panel installation and amp wiring, it is best to leave these tasks to the professionals.
Electricity is dangerous, and if you are not 100% sure what you are doing, you may end up with serious or fatal injuries.
The last thing you want is to come into contact with a live wire and get electrocuted because you didn’t realize it was still hot after you turned off the main breaker.
Plus, most local and state laws require that a licensed electrician perform electrical work. This ensures that the job is done right from the get-go, including that the proper cables, breakers, etc., are all installed, and the panel is compliant with all of the latest regulations.
If your electric panel seems to be older than your grandmother, it’s time to replace it. The cost of doing so far outweighs the expenses you’ll be out if an electrical fire sparks in your home.
Give yourself the peace of mind that you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your home and family.
It is best to reach out to an experienced electrician in the Charlotte area, or one of our other locations throughout the country for a custom quote for a modern panel upgrade.
Here at Bates Electric, we would be happy to give you a quote, so reach out to us for a quote.
Does upgrading your electrical panel increase house value?
Upgrading your electrical panel will not only reduce the risk of electrical fires and improve the overall safety of your home, but it may also increase the resale value of your property.
This can be beneficial for you as a seller, especially in a competitive market.
Can a homeowner replace an electrical panel?
Essentially, yes, especially if you have an electrical background. However, a lot of things can go wrong when working with electricity, some of which can lead to fatal injuries.
Therefore, it is recommended to leave electrical work to the professionals.