If you are unsure just what an electrical panel is, it is basically your Command Center for the electrical system in the home. The power may be turned off and on and sent throughout your home to the various outlets from the panel. It is also referred to as your breaker box. In the electrical panel box there are fuses or breakers that will “blow” or “trip” in response to an over current or short. The capacity of the panel is measured in amps and the normal for residential electricity needs use to be sixty amps.
The reason that you may need to upgrade the electrical panel is that with today’s electronic devices and supersized appliances it may not be strong enough to handle all those electrical needs. There are several indications that it is time to upgrade, or replace, your old electrical panel. This is something that you cannot do yourself so you will have to hire a residential electrician to do the upgrade.
One of the indicators is your homeowner’s insurance is demanding the installation of a new electrical panel. Another indicator is having frequent bugs in your electrical system. When mentioning bugs, this means fuses blowing, lights flickering or burning out rapidly, or breakers tripping. The third indicator is having a plan to add to the load of the electrical panel significantly by purchasing a new major appliance, installing an electrical-powered hot tub, or doing a remodel causing an increase in the square footage of your home. The last indication is if you decide that you want to put your home up for sale, it will bring a higher selling price if there is upgraded electrical capacity, especially for your bathroom and kitchen. However, the main reason to do an upgrade is safety. The older electrical panels are more apt to cause a fire due to being overloaded.
Today, the minimum allowable amp for an electrical panel is one hundred amps but you can get amperages in one hundred fifty, two hundred, and four hundred. Your electrician will help you decide which amperage you need by either measuring how much electricity you use or performing a home energy audit. Both are done using a special electric metering system referred to as power analyzer. You may also need to replace old wiring and other upgrades. The cost will vary according to how much amps you need, any additional upgrades or equipment is required, and the cost of a local building permit. In some areas, a master electrician who is licensed can only do this type of electrical work.