Thanks to your electrical panel, you are able to power all your appliances and do things like switch on the lights in your house. The electrical panel usually looks like a rectangular gray metal box with a door and switches in it. To change the panel, electricians charge different rates depending on the amps and the extent of labor they will have to do.
Expect to pay an average of $2,700 to replace or install an electrical panel. Homeowners usually change their panels when their old one is coming to the end of its life, is too small for their future needs, or if there is an issue with their current one. The estimated life of an electric panel is 40 to 60 years.
So if you are planning to get an electrician to change your electrical panel, it’s best to already have a quotation or a guess in mind.
What is an Electrical Panel?
Electrical panels, also known as a breaker box or a load center, are a center point for all the power. All the electricity that is used in your house is supplied through here. The switches that are inside the gray metal box are called breakers and can turn on or off. These breakers are broken down into different parts in the house, as well as the main breaker. Depending on what model or brand your panel is, it will have around 8 to 40 breakers.
This main breaker will also be able to turn on and off except for the fact that it will control the whole house. It will also have a value of amps that it can hold. These amps can vary from 60 to 400. 400-amps are usually for large homes. For an average house of 4 bedrooms, a 200-amp panel is sufficient.
There are two main types of electrical panels; indoor breaker panels or outdoor breaker panels. The indoor ones are more common. You will usually find them in the basement, laundry room, or garage. If you choose an outdoor breaker panel, you will need to get one specifically built for the outdoor conditions. The difference in the indoor/outdoor model is that harsh weather conditions, whether sun or snow, can damage the panel if you choose the wrong one.
What Kind of Stuff Does The Panel Power?
The panel powers the lights throughout our house that is connected to the breaker panel. It also powers appliances like your television, refrigerator, space heaters, and many other things that you could plug into an outlet. It will also be connected to an electric fireplace if you have one.
Sometimes, your dishwasher may also be connected to the breaker panel depending on what plan the electrician who hooked it up followed. There may be so many things connected to the panel that you do not think about daily.
Can a Homeowner Replace an Electrical Panel?
While a homeowner can replace an electrical panel by themselves, it is strongly advised that they do not. Some states even require you to have a permit to make any significant changes to your house, including changing an electrical panel. Even if your state does not require a license, homeowners should not replace it for basic safety reasons.
When you have the electrical panel replaced by an electrician, it is safer for you and your house. You can also save on the potential cost of repairing any further damage, should you mess it up while trying to fix it up yourself.
Why Electricians Should Replace an Electrical Panel
An electrician knows what to do and all the dangers associated with replacing the electrical panel. Some risks might include:
- fire outbreaks
- shocks from live electricity
- serious injuries
Electricians have done the job so many times, and they know what mistakes to catch. They will be alert and will know what to look out for. Electricians can get certain parts to you for cheaper because they could have certain connections or discounts. They will also know the most efficient brand or piece at each price point. They can take all your concerns and questions and bring you the perfect breaker panel to suit your house structure.
What Do I Need to Do if I Still Want to Replace The Panel Myself?
If you, a homeowner, want to upgrade your electrical panel yourself and your state allows it, you must follow several steps. These steps will not be easy or quick tasks. You need to make sure you are confident with handling large amounts of electricity, and you should know the terminology associated with managing panels. Keep in mind that the steps in place are to make sure that everyone is safe.
You get the permit from a qualified electrician, and they give you the yes to go ahead and do it. Along with that, you have to fill out a couple of forms that state your intent, show proof that you own your property, and basic information about yourself.
Some states may even require you to take an exam to ensure you know what you are doing! The exam may be over paper or an oral exam depending on the location. The exam goes hand in hand with showing your plan that shows the layout of your house and specific details about how you plan on implementing your skills to upgrade the panel.
Should I Upgrade My Electrical Panel?
Now that we covered the differences between an electrician and a homeowner upgrading the panel let us talk about when and why you should upgrade it.
When Should You Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?
- Old House: If you stay in a house with the same electrical panel for more than 20 to 30 years, you may need an upgrade. As time goes on, because of technology, electrical panels with higher amps are more commonly used.
- Low Amps: If you have an electrical panel at 60 amps, consider upgrading it to one with a higher amount. The reason for you having this may be because your house is old.
- Electricity Problems: Sometimes, there is a problem with an electrical panel if you notice that lights are dimming if you turn a different appliance on. For example, if you use your fan but notice that the lamp dims for a second, it could be a breaker panel issue. If you have also noticed lights flickering or your outlets are not functioning the way they are supposed to, you should look into upgrading to a more significant amount of amps.
- Operating on Fuses: Electrical panels have breakers that control the electricity in different locations. Some older houses have fuses instead and are not as reliable. Old fuses would also be a reason why you should upgrade. An electrical panel is also more frequently covered in insurance, whereas fuses may not be. If a fuse goes out, your only option will be to replace the whole thing, which can lead to a lot of work if it ends up going out a lot.
- Higher Consumption: If you recently have gotten more devices and appliances using more electricity, the number of amps you use will naturally go up. So the more people you have in your house, the higher the amps you will need to look into. If you are going to have more people using multiple devices permanently, it will be necessary to upgrade.
- Remodel: If you want to extend your house or add additional appliances to your home, it may also be wise to replace your electrical panel to help support that. This way, you are ensuring that all your devices will get the electricity it needs.
- Warm Panel: A warm panel means that you are consuming more energy than the panel can handle. Higher consumption means that people in your house use devices and appliances more frequently and for more extended periods.
- Strange Smell from Panel: This is similar to the warm panel. Sometimes you might not think that you are using a lot of energy. Keep in mind that things like power strips or extensions can consume more energy than you think.
Why Should You Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?
Above, we listed when a good time is to upgrade. Those reasons are also primarily why you should replace them as well. You want to make sure that the item supplying electricity throughout your entire house is operating safely.
If you have a 60-amp electrical panel, you should upgrade it because sometimes insurance companies will not cover it. If something were to go wrong, you want to make sure your insurance covers all aspects of potential issues.
60-amp electrical panels were good for back in the day when minimal appliances were consuming electricity. There would be around two to three appliances consuming energy per day, and that was it. Today, we have electricity consumption in every room, and some devices take up a lot of energy.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a 200-Amp Panel?
If you are going to upgrade from a 60-amp or 100-amp panel to a 200-amp panel, it will cost somewhere from $1,500 to $2,800. The range is given to express the difference in location, type of labor, and what kind of panel you are upgrading from.
The price mainly includes labor and time that the electricians are devoting. The panel itself can cost from $11 to $1,500. The prices on the lower side of this range are for 60 to 70-amp panels. In each of these panels, you will be able to choose the amperage (amps), the number of spaces, and the number of circuits.
An average price for a just 100-amp panel without the labor costs will be around $80 for a popular brand. An average price for just a 200-amp panel without the labor costs will be about $150 for a well-known brand.
Here is a table that estimates how much it will cost to replace/upgrade each type of electrical panel from your current panel.
|100||$500 to $1,500|
|125||$750 to $2,00|
|400||$1,500 to $4,000|
How Much Does it Cost to Install a New Electrical Power Panel?
If you want to install a new electrical power panel, it will cost more than upgrading one. The process of breaking down any wall and determining what location would be the best for installing a new power panel are additional costs that the electrician will quote you. Depending on how many amps you want, the installation process will cost more.
The actual panel itself does not cost very much, but the labor and the level of detail the electricians will pay attention to is what you will be paying for. The total costs will look something like this:
|100||1,200 to $1,600|
|200||$1,800 to 2,500|
|400||$3,000 to $4,500|
If you are looking for something more than 200-amps, the next best option is to have 400-amps. Sometimes, electricians will install two 200-amp panels to operate as one unit to supply electricity throughout your house.
If you currently have a fuse box and you want to replace it with an electric panel, the prices will be between $1,000 and $2,000. Although this might be the average price, if you have a situation where there might be issues with the internal wires, you will be looking at paying more. Even though it might cost more, it is wise to replace it because the average energy consumption has gone up and will continue to go up as technology evolves.
Is it worth having an electrician do the job?
Yes, for sure! For starters, you will not have to worry about much knowing that a professional is helping you. They will be able to catch all the mistakes that a regular homeowner will not be able to. Make sure you ask all the questions that are on your mind.
Keep in mind that upgrading or installing a breaker panel will ensure your energy is being used efficiently. It will also make sure everyone in your house is safe from unexpected accidents that a simple procedure can prevent.