Most modern homes come with a minimum service panel of 200 Amps. This service panel allows you to run the multiple appliances you need in the house, like the water heater and the electric stove, at the same time. But how many watts does the panel hold?
A 200-amp residential service panel house provides a maximum of 240 volts or 48,000 watts. Incoming electric utility voltage fluctuates between 220 and 240 volts. For example, a single-pole breaker (120 volts) fits in one breaker slot and provides 22kw to 24kw or 22,000 to 24,000 watts. A two-pole breaker (240 volts) sits across two breaker slots, providing 44,000 to 48,000 watts.
The total wattage output will depend on the number and type of electrical circuits. Electricians recommend not to exceed 80% of circuit capacity. In this case, a 200 amp service should not exceed 160 amps at any time or 32000 watts.
Watts is constant and does not vary. However, voltage and amperage will vary. The amperage determines how much power can run through an electrical panel. The fixture or appliance will specify the wattage needed to operate.
Using the formula Amps = watts/volts determines the breaker size and the breaker amperage you need to power the circuit.
The utility company provides a meter that fits the incoming amperage. A 200 amp meter will have CL200 listed on the meter. Larger amp meters, like CL320, are often found in larger homes that require more power.
Read on to figure out how your electrical system works.
How Many Watts are 200 Amps?
As mentioned above, using a 200 amps panel means having a maximum of 24,000 or 48,000 watts available for your appliances.
The watts denote the amount of power that flows into the house. To arrive at this number of watts, you will multiply the volts by the number of amps.
Wattage is calculated as Volts x Amps = Watts
In this case, it will be either 120 volts x 200 amps = 24,000 watts or 240 volts x 200 amps = 48,000 watts.
However, incoming power from the utility company used to be only 220 volts, but now it’s more like 230 volts to 240 volts. A 3% maximum voltage drop equals 223 to 232 volts. Therefore it’s safe to say that household wattage can vary from 44,600 watts (223 volts) up to 48,000 watts.
We don’t add up breakers because it’s nearly impossible for all circuits to be live at once.
Can You Overload A 200 Amp Panel?
Yes, you can overload a 200-amp service panel. Yes, but it’s not necessarily easy to do. You will damage breakers and the wiring when you do, making your system a fire hazard.
Breakers are safety switches that should automatically shut down the electrical system when overloaded. But when you overload the service panel, these damage breakers are shattered and unable to do their job. As a result, the following happens:
Damage to appliances
When the panel is overloaded, it supplies more current than it is rated. That means your electrical devices and appliances receive more current than their rating allows. The excess current will introduce a lot of heat to the device, destroying components like capacitors, inductors, and resistors.
The appliances that pull the most wattage in a house include:
- Heat pump (60 amp or 14,440 watts)
- Electric range (50 amp or 12,000 watts)
- Clothes dryer (30 amp or 7,200 watts)
- Air conditioner (35 amp or 8,400 watts)
- Electric furnace (35 amp or 8,400 watts)
- Electric tank water heater (30 amp or 7,200 watts)
Note: Amps are estimated based on typical breaker sizing. Breaker size may vary. Wattage will vary based on actual amps used.
Increased risk of electrocution and fire
An overloaded panel has a lot of power flowing through it. That makes the components risky to touch because they can easily electrocute you.
Also, the overflow of electricity generates a lot of heat which remains undetected within the electrical box. The heat wears down the wiring within the panel, and if it goes on for long, it will ignite a fire.
Appliances that are likely to overheat and cause a fire include a
All the above appliances have heating elements capable of igniting when overheating.
Using an old panel that can’t handle the number of devices and appliances you have will eventually lead to a fire.
Damaging the entire panel
Because the panel receives more electricity than it can handle, the wiring can’t withhold the excess power causing the breaker to trip and shut down.
Unfortunately, the breaker may get damaged if the overloading occurs frequently. Once that happens, nothing stops the excess electricity from destroying the fuses and rendering the panel unusable.
Overloading occurs because the service panel is not adequate for your needs.
You can tell that the 200-amp panel is not enough when you begin to see the following signs when using appliances:
Dimming of lights when an appliance comes on
The lights will dim, flicker or blink because the appliance has drawn more power than the service panel offers.
An appliance like the AC unit needs a large amount of power to start up. So, it drains the power from other appliances like your TV and lights to come on, causing them to flicker or dim temporarily.
Discolored or heated wall plates
The smoke from the burning wires can cause discoloration of the panel. Typically, you can expect the walls to become darker and even smell of smoke a bit.
In addition to checking the walls for discoloration or excessive heat, look out for the smell of burning wires from the panel box.
It isn’t uncommon for components in the panel to be warm to the touch. After all, the electricity is generating some heat.
But it is abnormal if you reach the panel to touch a component, and it is hot to the touch.
Electrical wires are insulated with a plastic covering. The odor of burning wires is distinctly like burning fish.
A buzzing, sizzling or crackling sound emanating from the panel box
Buzzing, crackling and sizzling sounds usually mean that the integrity of the connections in the panel is compromised, causing an “arc” that generates the sound.
The buzzing, sizzling or crackling sound remains constant no matter what day. It is an audible warning that all is not well with the wiring.
Even if these sounds are not caused by overloading, they signify another problem, like worn-out parts that need replacement. Call an electrician to check the panel.
Frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers
You may hear an explosive sound as a fuse blows or see sparks emanating from the panel box. If you notice bright lights coming from the panel, switch it off and call an electrician immediately.
When the breakers trip frequently, the excessive heat leaves burn marks around the box. Also, you may notice burned or frayed wiring. But even if there are none of these signs, do not risk switching on the panel again.
A tingle or mild shock from switches and appliances
Reaching into the panel box to turn breakers on or off should be safe, providing that the panel cover has not been removed or damaged. But when there is an overload, even a slight touch may cause you to feel a tingle or experience a mild shock.
Is a 200-amp Service Enough for a House
Household wattage used will vary. However, the average American household consumes 10,800 kilowatt-hours per year. How many watts a house will use should be based on peak-hour use. It’ll take about 8,000 to 12,000 watts to run an average household during peak hours.
Larger families will consume more wattage. Even so, a 200-amp panel producing between 44,600 to 48,000 watts will safely meet this demand for the average household.
A 200-amp service panel meets the needs of a 2,000 and above square feet house.
A 3,000 square feet house with no central heating can get by with a 100-amp service panel. On the other hand, buildings with much bigger houses or heavy machinery like an elevator in the home may need a 400-amp service.
With a 200-amp service panel, you can power
- Household appliances like washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc.
- Devices like computers, laptops, tablets, and phones
- The lighting system
- The heating and cooling system
- Some large and small power tools like jigsaws, sanders, table saws, and circular saws
During peak hours, if you used:
- Electric stove – 50 amps or about 12,000 watts
- Lights and tamper-resistant outlets in 3 rooms – 45 to 60 amps or about 4,950 to 6,000 watts
- Clothes dryer – 30 amps or about 7,200 watts
- 3-ton Electric heat pump – 65 amps (varies) or about 15,600 watts
You’d consume up to 40,800 watts at any given time. Residential households rarely draw this much wattage simultaneously. Appliances and electronic devices often draw about 80% or less of the breaker amperage rating when used. For instance, heat pumps cycle on and off, and cooking or drying clothes is often only for about an hour.