Nearly every home in the United States gets built with an electrical panel that controls the electricity in your house. The electrical panel is the motherboard and center of control for the electricity and wiring running throughout the house. Sometimes, however, you might not be happy with the present location of your panel and want to move it.
When moving an electric panel, there are several things to keep in mind. The primary considerations include:
- A permit may be required so check with your local muncipality to determine if a permit is necessary. Permits ensure the work meets current NEC guidelines.
- Moving an main breaker box will likely require some electrical wire improvements or extensions.
- Moving an electric panel is not a DIY project and shouldn’t be attempted without proper training and licensing.
- The cost of moving an electric panel can range from $1000 to $4000 or more depending on the amount of work needed to complete the job. The national average is $1,107 to install a main electrical panel.
In this article, we will discuss all the details involved with moving your electrical panel. We’ll look at the cost expectations of moving or upgrading your breaker box as well as some good reasons to do so.
Is It Expensive to Move an Electrical Panel?
Moving an electrical panel is somewhat expensive considering what you’re doing, but not compared to other home improvement projects. Your most significant expenses will be labor costs because it could take a professional electrician anywhere from1 to 3 days to complete the job.
Electricians typically charge anywhere from $70 to $120 per hour, and the job will take from 8 to 24 hours in most cases. Your labor costs will be from $500 to $2,000 on the high end, depending on what your electrician charges.
There are also a few material charges to keep in mind, such as the extra wire you’ll need. Besides the wire, you’ll also need to figure junction boxes to make the connections. When moving your panel box from one spot to another in your house, the odds are that you’ll have to splice most of the wires going into the panel. The splicing process takes extra wire, junction boxes, box covers, and Romex connectors.
None of these items are costly, but they’re not free either. Junction boxes, the covers, and the Romex connectors needed for each connection cost around $10 to $15 each. Wire costs anywhere from 50 cents to $1.00 per foot, so the farther you move the box, the more wire you’ll need. These numbers will add up fast if a lot of the cables need to be rerouted and extended.
Can Electrical Panels be Relocated?
You can relocate electrical panels to suit your needs, although removing and reinstalling the breaker box and extending wires where necessary takes time. The most challenging part of the job will likely be moving the service wire coming in from the outside.
The process of extending your main service line is the same as any other splice but on a much larger scale. You’ll need specially approved lugs and boxes in which to make your splice. This connection and all the parts needed will be close in cost to all the other connections combined.
The amount of voltage traveling through your primary service wire is 220 volts which are more than enough to kill a person. Ensure that there isn’t any power running through this wire before disconnecting and extending it. This type of work should only be done by a professional electrician or someone with extensive electrical experience.
How Do I Move My Breaker Box?
Relocating a breaker box is tedious work and should be done by a professional electrician. If you don’t have any electrical experience, you’re putting yourself at a very high risk of electrical shock. You should proceed with extreme caution and have an electrical tester handy to check the voltage of everything you touch.
Here is a step-by-step process of how to move your breaker box from one spot to another:
- Make sure that power is off to the house and your primary service wire.
First and foremost, in the process, you want to be safe. The only way to safely handle electrical wiring is to ensure no wires you’re handling are energized. Electrical shock can cause pain, injury, or death if there’s enough voltage.
- Take the outer cover off the panel box.
You will secure the outer cover of the panel box with four or six screws that need to get removed to take the panel off. Make sure you put the screws in a safe place after removing them so you don’t lose them.
- Locate the wires running into the individual breakers and disconnect them.
Your panel box will be full of breakers and wires, and you’ll have to disconnect each wire before proceeding. Your goal is to remove the wires from the breakers so that you can get to the primary service wire. It’s a good idea to take several photos of the inside of the panel box before you start disconnecting wires. That way, you’ll be able to reattach everything precisely as it was.
- Mark, each wire to denote its location in the breaker box and what it’s powering.
Before or immediately after disconnecting each wire, take a marker and denote its location in the box. If you installed your panel box correctly, the installer should have marked each breaker on the cover. By matching up the breaker to the marking on the panel box and writing to which space it belongs, you can keep track of everything when reattaching the wires.
Another way you can mark the wires is by counting down from the top and writing which space the wire belongs in. If a wire is on the left side of the breaker box and it’s the fifth breaker down, mark it as “5 down left” or something similar that makes sense to you.
Every wire must go to the same breaker you removed because different wires and breakers have different amounts of power. Matching a wire that’s too big or small for the breaker could result in an electrical malfunction or a fire hazard.
- Make sure not to remove any breakers, so you don’t lose track of where they go.
When removing the wires from the breakers, make sure not to loosen any of the breakers themselves. You want everything to go back together exactly as it came apart.
- Disconnect the primary service line coming into the house.
Once you’ve disconnected and removed each of the individual wires from the box, it’s time to disconnect the main wire. The wire and lugs they attach to are much larger than the rest of the cables. You’ll likely need a larger screwdriver and pliers than the ones you used to disconnect the smaller wires.
- Detach the breaker box from the wall it’s attached to.
Most breaker boxes are screwed to the wall they’re connected to. Get a drill and right kind of bit to disconnect the breaker box from the wall, making sure you don’t lose track of the screws. Remove the breaker box from the wall and prepare for the next steps.
- Select the new location for the panel box.
Ensure that the new spot you pick is where the breaker box can reside for the rest of its existence. After you finish the current move, the odds are that you won’t want to do the process over again. If you plan to remodel or add an addition to the house, make sure you keep your panel box away from these areas.
- Fasten the panel box to your new location on the wall.
Using the same screws that were previously attaching the panel box to the wall, reattach the breaker box to its new location. If you lost the screws or deemed them unusable, get some new ones similar in size and strength to the old ones.
- Extend the main service line from its old location to the new panel box location.
You’ll need specially approved lugs and a junction box suitable for the service wire for the main service line. These are much larger than typical wire connectors and boxes and need to be the same size as the lugs inside your breaker box. You’ll also need to purchase extra wire to perform the splice and extension.
- Rewire each of the wires into their breakers, extending the wire where necessary.
Depending on where you moved your panel box, there’s a good chance not all the wires need splicing. You can start by reinstalling any wires that are long enough to hook up without splicing.
Once you install those, it’s time to splice the wires too short and install junction boxes in appropriate locations. A junction box should be readily accessible at all times and easy to get to. Every wire going into a junction box requires a Romex connector to protect it from the sharp edges of the metal boxes. If you use plastic boxes, Romex connectors aren’t needed. Once the wires are installed and spliced with wire nuts, it’s time to put the outer covers on each box.
- Put the panel cover back on the breaker box.
With all of the wires reinstalled and spliced where necessary, you can put the panel cover back onto the box. Use the same screws that you removed from the box initially and securely fasten the cover.
- Turn the power back on to the main service line and the house and conduct a practice run.
Now that everything is back together as it should be, it’s time to turn the power back on and conduct a test run. Use an electrical tester on each wire and check if there’s power running to the wires. Next, start flipping switches and turning devices on to make sure that everything works.
Can I Move the Box Myself, or Do I Need a Professional?
Attempting to move a breaker box or panel box yourself is extremely dangerous. Unless you have electrical experience and the proper tools, you shouldn’t do the job yourself. If you electrocute yourself, the main electrical line coming into your house has more than enough power to kill you.
Professional electricians have the skills and training necessary to do the job properly and safely. Electricians are accustomed to working with high amounts of voltage daily, and they have the tools essential for success.
Cost to Upgrade and Move an Electrical Box
The total cost of upgrading and moving an electrical box is slightly different from simply moving the electric box. Most older houses are only equipped with a 100-amp service, while newer homes have a 200-amp service. If you have the former and want to upgrade to the latter, it will take a little more money than simply moving your electrical box. You can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000 on the high end to move and upgrade your box.
There are also 400-amp services that you can upgrade to. Upgrading to this type of service is where the $4,000 cost comes into play. Here’s a table with more information about electrical panel upgrade costs.
|Upgrade from 60 to 100 Amps||$850 – $1,100|
|Upgrade from 100 to 200 Amps||$1,300 – $1,600|
|Upgrade from 200 to 400 Amps||$2,000 – $4,000|
|Install New 100-Amp Panel||$1,200 – $1,600|
|Install New 200-Amp Panel||$1,800 – $2,500|
|Install New 400-Amp Panel||$2,000 – $4,000|
While these prices might vary from company to company and electrician to electrician, it’s a good expectation of what you’ll spend. Don’t forget always to expect labor costs and material costs if you choose to move your panel while you’re upgrading it. Moving will add an extra $500 to $2,000 to the project depending on difficulty, time, and materials your electrician uses.
Common Reasons to Relocate Your Electrical Panel
There are many reasons that you might want to relocate your electrical panel. Sometimes you want to clear up space, and other times you’re remodeling, and the panel box is in the way. Here are a few of the main reasons for relocating an electrical panel.
- Move the box from the outside to the inside
In some regions of the country, installing the electrical panel on the outside of your house instead of the inside is common. If you move into a home where this is the case and want the box inside, moving it is an option. Make sure to check your local building code before doing so.
- Move the box to a safer location
Many older homes have electrical panels in poor locations like clothes closets, bathrooms, over staircases, or inside kitchen cabinets. These locations are no longer considered safe according to NEC guidelines.
There are many benefits to relocating an old electrical panel. Many of these panels are obsolete, and relocating (and replacing the breaker panel) would make the house a safer place to live. If you have an older breaker box like Federal Pacific, Zinsco, or Challenger, you will benefit from relocating and upgrading the electrical panel.
- Move the box up or down a floor
The panel box is in the basement for easy access and easier installation in most newer and older houses. As people get older and stairs become more difficult to traverse, some want to move the electrical panel upstairs for easier access. Moving your panel box, for this reason, is a valid one and could make your life much easier.
- For remodeling purposes
One of the most common reasons for moving a panel box is for remodeling purposes. If a panel box is on a wall in the middle of your house and you need to remove that wall, you’ll have no choice but to relocate it. Moving the panel box is an extra cost to keep in mind when planning your next remodel project.
Another construction-related reason to move a panel box is when you’re adding an addition to your existing house. Additions often require moving the panel box or upgrading to a larger service to accommodate the extra electricity you’ll need.
- Upgrading from one amp size to another
Many older houses only have 60-amp or 100-amp services running into them. This amount of power doesn’t provide a lot of extra juice for when you want to run multiple devices at once. Upgrading to a larger service is expensive, but it might also be necessary. For most people, improved safety is worth the additional cost.
As you can see, if there’s a need or desire to move your electrical box to a new location, then it’s possible. Moving a panel box is a lot of work and expensive, but it’s also necessary at times. Whether you’re moving an old breaker box or upgrading to a new one, this type of work is best left to the pros. Don’t put yourself or your loved ones at risk because you want to save some money.