There are a bunch of reasons you might need a panel replacement. Most circuit breaker panels ought to be replaced after about 25 years of use, and certainly within the first 40. Some panels are known as fire hazards. Any damaged or obsolete breaker panels ought to be replaced. Whether you’ve got a damaged, outdated, or just plain dangerous breaker panel it’s time to get an upgrade.
What does a circuit breaker panel do?
Breaker panels are 1 part safety and 1 part distribution. When power comes into your home it comes in around 200 AMPs at a time. Your breaker panel’s first job is to make sure 200 AMPs don’t go to all your devices. The breaker panel sends out the proper amperage for your devices, kind of like a distribution hub for your house’s electricity. Secondarily, and maybe most importantly it keeps your wiring from overheating, and in some cases devices from sparking (or arcing). It does this by tripping the breaker attached to that device.
What happens in a panel upgrade?
During a panel upgrade, the breaker box is replaced, all the breakers are replaced, and all the wiring is rerouted into the new panel. There are some other things to be considered as well. If your panel is in a dangerous room of the house like a closet, it may need to be moved to a new location, which means all the wiring going into your panel will need to be moved too. It is very common to put the circuit breaker panel outside next to the Meter.
What am I paying for?
With a panel upgrade, there may be many factors in the cost. If the electrician must move the panel and extend the wiring of each circuit, if Arc Fault or GFI breakers are needed, attic access and the number of circuits will all play a huge part in the cost of a panel upgrade. Getting an estimate from your electrician detailing everything that may need to be taken care of during your panel upgrade is important.
There will also need to be permitting from the city and most likely electrical inspection fees. This is a necessary part of the upgrade process. If unpermitted work or uninspected work happens the city could have the power company turn off your power.
The most expensive part of a panel upgrade is the labor. While the material costs, permits, and inspection fees can be significant; the primary cost is going to be a licensed and insured journeyman electrician’s time to make sure it’s done safely and correctly. This is far and beyond the most important part of a panel upgrade. Having a licensed and insured electrical journeyman is imperative. Panel upgrades are not a DIY task and are illegal and dangerous to perform it yourself without the proper training and licensing.
How long does it take?
Most panel upgrades can be accomplished in a single day, but this will depend greatly on the scope of work. Things that would increase the amount of time it would take to replace the panel would be:
- Does the panel need to be moved to a different wall?
- Do you need to run any new lines to/from the panel?
- Does the panel mast need to be altered in any way?
How much does a Panel Upgrade cost?
For smaller homes, a 100AMP panel upgrade will most likely cost between $2,500 and $5,000 for the panel upgrade alone. That is not to say some panel upgrades, depending on the scope of work cannot cost significantly more, as they certainly can.
A 200AMP panel will start out a little closer to $3,500 and $6,000.
For a service larger than 200 AMPs, I would expect it to cost no less than $6,500 but it could cost significantly more depending on specific needs.