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Why Electrical Panel Upgrade

Why Electrical Panel Upgrade

This article will address following:

  1. Why upgrade electrical panel
  2. How long of a process is panel upgrade
  3. What type of electrical panel services exist
  4. Cost of electrical panel upgrade
  5. Electrical panel upgrade VS. electrical panel replacement
  6. How To Upgrade Electrical Panel Step-by-Step

1) Why upgrade electrical panel

200 Amp Electrical panel-Breaker boxThere are many reasons Today in the year 2016 as to why you would ask yourself, should I get an upgrade for my electrical panel. Nevertheless this is the technology era. Every imaginable idea can and eventually will become an electronic gadget that we will need power brought to in our home. This truth is only growing with more gadgets, bigger, better appliances and an overall need for more power. Simple as that! Old panels that were installed in 70’s were 100 amps. Today it is recommended and the most commonly installed electrical panel upgrade is 200 amp. These reasons can come from both functional and financial point of view. Electrical panel has gotten many names over the years (breaker panel, circuit breaker panel, breaker box, etc.) you can refer to Wikipedia for the full list.

2) How long of a process is panel upgrade

First and foremost we want customers to know that during the process of a breaker box upgrade or electrical panel upgrade, they will be without power for not more than 8 hours.  This is the amount of time that takes to perform panel upgrade. The project will be started in the morning and electricity will be restored by the afternoon.

If performing a complete electrical service upgrade where the utility electrical meter base is also replaced or upgraded; customers will have the power inspected by the city or locality and back on the same day as the electrical panel installation was started. With coordination through the city inspectors; the power will be safely cut back on;installation of the breaker box upgrade will be to NEC (national electrical code) and temporarily wired through the new meter base from the old meter base. The permanent replacement is by the utility company. It will happen within 2 weeks based on the utility companies availability.

Time breakdown:


  • Typically 1 day for temporarily wired meter installation
  • Typically 1 day for panel replacement or electrical panel upgrade
  • Typically  2-3 business days for the city electrical inspection and release to the utility company to permanently reconnect
  • Typically 10 – 14 days for utility company to reconnect power


3) What type of electrical panel service are available

As we briefly mention above in old days they were installing electrical panels with a lot lower amps.  Back in the day homes did not have as many gadgets, appliances, or overall electrical demand and quite frankly a 100 amp electrical panel was plenty. Today’s era the situation is a lot different. Following is the breakdown of amps and their progression by decade:


  • 50’s – 40 amps
  • 60’s – 60 amps
  • 70’s – 100 amps
  • 80’s -150 amps
  • 90’s plus  – 200 amp


Keep in mind these are not mandatory and even today there are homes that are build with less than 200 amps (Which is rare) . There are also panels with a lot higher amps which are used in commercial buildings, mansions, museums, malls. Available recommended electrical panels are:


  • 200 Amp -> recommended for newly build and/or remodeled residential homes
  • 400 Amp -> recommended for very large homes and small commercial buildings
  • 1200 Amp -> EX. Grocery stores
  • 1600 Amp -> EX. Small shopping centers
  • 2000 Amp -> Ex. Larger shopping centers
  • 6000 Amp -> Skyscrapers; This is the largest electrical service you will ever see; after this they just create more electrical services different locations on the building.


Project is performed by the electrical contractor to the NEC, inspected by the City, released to the utility company for permanent reconnection.

4) Cost of electrical panel upgrade

Cost to upgrade electrical panels vary by amps. Ex. 100 amps to 200 amps vs. 200 amps to 400 amps will vary because of the size increase. The cost is also affected by the city you live in due to the labor cost of that particular area. The price will consist of the breaker box or electrical panel itself, new service entrance cable if needed, new breakers, upgraded grounding system to meet new NEC code requirements, and other materials purchased and of course the labor to install the electrical service upgrade. There could also be significant additional cost due to old wiring, worn outlets, damaged circuits, old fixtures that are outdated and other. These upgrades can significantly increase the cost of the electrical panel services. Generally we see following cost to upgrade electrical


  • 100 to 200 amp electrical panel replacement is     $1499.00
  • 100 to 200 amp electrical service upgrade is         $1898.00


5) Electrical panel upgrade VS. electrical panel replacement

braker boxSimply, electrical panel replacement is just a replacement of your breaker box along with the new beakers. Typically this takes around 8 hours and your power is restored the same day. Typically there are no city inspection or permits required for this work. It is important that the work is being performed by state certified electrician and that they start work in the morning. This will ensure completion and electricity being restored by the afternoon.


electrical meter base1On the other hand an electrical panel upgrade is in addition to the new electrical panel and breakers will include new wiring with new service cable wires  from the meter to the panel & new meter box. Also an include is an upgraded grounding system required by the NEC when the electrical service is upgraded. Electrical panel replacement will typically not include any work on the meter base (picture on the right).

6) How To Upgrade Electrical Panel Step-by-Step

Generally there are around 10 to 15 steps to perform complete electrical service upgrade from start to finish:

  1. Install temporarily wired meter
  2. Completely sever wires inside existing electrical panel
  3. Remove old electrical panel from the wall
  4. Prepare and secure the area for mounting a new larger electrical panel.
    1. EX. – increasing the area with new larger panel 3/4 -inch plywood.
    2. EX – measure the length and width of the new electrical panel and cut the drywall to match the size of the new breaker box and fasten the new panel to the studs
  5. Feed the SE cable through the top of the new electrical panel
  6. Screw the panel to the plywood and ensure the panel is level
  7. Feed all the house circuits into the new electrical panel, ensure each cable passes through a cable connector
  8. Connect the bare-copper ground wires and white-insulated wires to the ground and neutral bar inside the panel.
  9. Install new circuit breakers into the bus bar
  10. Label each circuit breaker with the correct house circuit
  11. Run the main ground line from the bottom of the electrical panel to the copper water main
  12. Schedule city electrical inspection
  13. Request utility company to reconnect the electrical cables to the meter on the exterior of the house.
  14. Remove temporarily installed wired meter

On the large project such as commercial and industrial size there will be a lot of materials that will have to be disposed when replacing and performing panel upgrade. Therefore use of a roll off dumpster is very practical and can save a lot of time disposing of old wires,  studs & drywall leftovers, outdated old fixtures and panels.

Nipper Electric will help you, guide you, install, replace and upgrade electrical panel. Call us today at 757-842-1710, or make an appointment online to schedule free consultation. We’ll have your new panel installed before you know it.