October 31, 2023

How to Know When It’s Time for an Electric Panel Upgrade: Assessing Your Home and EV Charger Installation


6 Min. Read

Homeowners undergoing electrification will have to switch appliances, vehicles, and heating and cooling systems from gas power to electricity—a major change that will increase their household electricity consumption. An electric panel upgrade might be necessary to accommodate the additional electrical loads.

There are certain signs of an inefficient panel that will indicate it’s time for an upgrade. We will discuss those in this article and how to assess your current panel’s load capacity to determine whether it needs upgrading.

Recognizing Electric Panel Limitations

The first step in determining whether you need an electrical panel upgrade is understanding how much electricity your panel can handle. It should be capable of supporting the appliances and devices in your home, including your EV charger.

Load Capacity Assessment

To ensure your home’s electrical panel can handle additional demand, you must evaluate its current load capacity. Electrifying your home does not always necessitate increased power.

More than 50% of American homes receive 100 amps or less electricity, but that is typically insufficient to support an average electrified household’s HVAC systems, common appliances and lighting, and an EV charger.

When you switch your energy source from gas or oil to electricity, you will generally need around 121 amps, often necessitating an electric panel upgrade.

A licensed electrician can assess the health of your system and give your upgrade a green light. The process may include installing a new panel, additional circuits, and breakers to support your EV charger.

We recommend hiring a professional who can perform a load calculation to validate what your current panel can handle and ensure all installations and upgrades meet local code requirements for a safe and efficient power supply.

Appliance and Device Load

When assessing the load capacity of your electrical panel, account for all equipment and appliances that currently run on electricity, as well as recent or future purchases, such as air conditioners, exercise equipment, cooking instruments, and anything else that will require electricity to operate.

Factor in any recently completed and planned renovations as well, such as a new basement, an expanded garage, and additional rooms to ensure your load calculation is a comprehensive review of your current and future electricity needs.

Signs Indicating Upgrade Necessity

Circuit breakers that frequently trip, lights that flicker, and outlets that don’t work properly point to the need for an electrical panel upgrade. These issues indicate that your panel is struggling to handle your home’s electrical load.

Other signs to look for are recurring outages, dimming lights, constant resetting of circuit breakers, appliances running inefficiently, slow charging of devices, and strange sizzling or crackling sounds from outlets.

Your panel can also manifest symptoms of aging. If it is at least 25 years old, rusty, hot to the touch, equipped with fuses instead of circuit breakers, carries 100 or lower amperage, or is otherwise obviously damaged, it’s time to upgrade your electric panel.

Visible wear and tear, such as brown or black marks surrounding outlets or outlets that emit smoke, likewise suggest that your electric panel needs to be replaced and may be a sign that additional electrical work may be needed to ensure the continued safety of your home.

There are imperceptible signs as well: high utility bills, using plenty of power strips, or unplugging one appliance to accommodate another.

When your panel is no longer code-compliant, upgrading becomes non-negotiable. A licensed electrician will check for improper wiring as well as any recalled parts and panels, ensuring the existing infrastructure is up to code and meets all current safety standards.

Panels manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric Panel have been deemed unsafe by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Hiring a licensed electrician is a valuable investment in ensuring the safety and integrity of your home, as this type of work can be even more costly if done improperly and can compromise the safety and security of your home.

Benefits and Timing of Upgrades

Upgrading your electrical panel offers a range of benefits that can significantly improve your home’s electrical system. Knowing when to take action is equally vital. It wouldn’t be wise to wait until minor issues become major problems.

Enhanced Capacity

An upgraded electric panel can accommodate increased power demands, allowing you to add more appliances, devices, and an EV charger without overloading the system.

The cost of replacing an electrical panel depends on the amperage upgrade. Your electrician will recommend the amount of electricity your household requires. Typically, this recommendation is made after an in-person assessment and walk-through of your home to determine the home’s size and list all your electrical appliances and devices. If sufficient images are provided, an in-person visit may not be required but is always recommended to further boost the accuracy of any exact electrical needs within the home.

Your EV charger is also an important consideration, as it typically constitutes approximately one-third of your home’s total electricity consumption and generally requires a dedicated circuit. Take a closer look at the charging rate and power capacity of the charger, as well.

Switching to bidirectional EV charging alongside an electrical panel upgrade is an option that offers additional benefits. Aside from energy savings, it provides grid charging flexibility and the opportunity to sell excess power back to the grid.

When you choose bidirectional charging, your EV can be used for energy storage in low-demand hours and as a power source during outages or high-demand periods.

After considering all factors, it’s possible your electrician may determine a panel upgrade is unnecessary and propose replacing parts instead. This could include subpanels, a circuit breaker switch, or the meter box.

Future-Proofing Your Home

An electrical panel upgrade ensures the longevity and functionality of your home’s electrical system. You can stay ahead of future power demands, be prepared for technological advancements, and easily adapt to new appliances, devices, and charging needs.

Consider upgrading to a smart electrical panel equipped with monitor, schedule, and control capabilities unavailable in standard panels. These features will enable you to efficiently distribute power through your home during outages, save on energy bills, and charge your EV when grid costs are low.

A smart panel may even prolong the life of newer appliances and devices through a power conditioner that balances voltage fluctuations. It’s a worthy investment that brings peace of mind and improved functionality to your home.

It’s Time for an Electric Panel Upgrade

You should heed the signs indicating your current panel is no longer in its best state and needs upgrading or replacing for a more efficient electrical system. Simplify the process by hiring a licensed electrician who can assess your home’s electricity requirements and determine the load capacity you need, as well as provide a safe, high-quality installation that will ensure your electric panel will last for years to come without compromising the safety and security of your home.

Embrace modern electrification with confidence by contacting the most trusted network of certified electrical contractors in North America. With a track record of over 86,700 electric panel upgrades, 18,500 battery storage systems, 53,000 solar integrations, and 269,000 EV charger installations, Qmerit is the ideal partner for homeowners looking to upgrade or convert their homes for smart panels or install other energy transition technologies and solutions, such as EV charging stations.

With the hightest customer satisfaction scores in the industry and our Qmerit-backed Peace of Mind Guarantee, Qmerit makes electrifying your home seamless. Contact Qmerit today for a safe, high-quality electric panel upgrade you can rely on for years to come. Qmerit is electrification made easy.

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network