February 6, 2024

The Cost of Updating Your Electrical Panel: What You Need to Know

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10 Min. Read

In the modern age of technology and electrification, electricity is a fundamental aspect of powering our homes and our lives.

Electrical panels serve as a central control for the flow of electricity entering your home and distribute a controlled amount of power to different circuits, ensuring safety and managing the electricity that fuels everything from appliances and lighting to your heating and cooling system or electric vehicle charging.

However, as time progresses and your electrical panel ages, potential safety concerns may arise. Additionally, your panel may no longer be able to meet the evolving energy needs of your home as you update appliances, install new technology, or begin to include various energy transition technologies and upgrades in your home.

As a homeowner, understanding when to replace your electrical panel is crucial to ensuring the continued safety and efficiency of your electrical system.

In this article, we’ll explore the average cost of updating an electrical panel, help provide a thorough understanding of when to replace your electrical panel, and provide key tips on safely upgrading your electrical panel with a licensed electrician to ensure you and your home are protected.

The Basics of Electrical Panels

Electrical panels have two main purposes, playing a pivotal role in both the seamless interface of power and the robust safeguarding of your home against electrical hazards.

Power Interface

Primarily, an electrical panel acts as an interface between your local electrical power grid and the various circuits and appliances in your home.

Power enters your home electrical system through the panel and is then distributed to different circuits and sections of your home.

Each circuit in the electrical panel is also equipped with a circuit breaker, which allows greater control over energy management by allowing you to individually turn a circuit on or off. Additionally, these circuits serve as a safety measure to prevent an electrical overload or fault from leading to catastrophic damages within your home.

Safety

Aside from controlling the power within your home, your electrical panel is also designed to protect your home from electrical hazards. While older panels use fuses to interrupt the flow of electricity in case of overload, most modern panels rely on circuit breakers.

In panels with circuit breakers, the breaker trips and interrupts the power flow to prevent overheating, arcing, and electrical fires when a circuit becomes overloaded.

Your electrical panel is designed to last for years, but an older electrical panel or an electrical panel that isn’t designed for the amount of energy your home needs can lead to a system overload, frequent circuit breaker tripping, dangerous hazards, and even a reduced efficiency of electrical use.

While some situations will require an electrical panel upgrade, ensuring your electrical panel is regularly inspected and maintained can help prevent some of these concerns and give you a better understanding of when you will need to update or replace your electrical panel in the future.

Maintenance

Routine maintenance by a licensed electrician is crucial to ensuring the circuit breakers will trip as intended. A well-maintained electrical panel also ensures proper distribution of power between the different circuits, providing greater energy efficiency and control with the energy management of your home.

Maintenance typically includes your licensed electrician checking the safety of your electrical connections, inspecting the electrical panel for signs of damage, making sure the circuit breakers are properly labeled, and reviewing the load calculation and breaker ratings for your electrical panel.

Signs Your Electrical Panel Needs an Update

Is it time to replace your electrical panel? Here are some factors to consider before deciding if it’s time to upgrade your electrical panel.

Electrical Issues

An electrical panel can last 20 to 40 years, but electrical issues can appear sooner if the panel is damaged or wasn’t properly installed in the first place.

Warning signs include breakers that trip often, hearing unusual noises coming from the panel, or seeing signs of rust and corrosion on the panel itself. Other signs of electrical issues include dimming or flickering lights and shocks coming from outlets when you plug in an appliance.

If you are experiencing any of these electrical issues, it may be time to update your electrical panel, but a licensed electrician can inspect the panel to determine what solutions are available for your situation.

Safety Concerns

When it comes to the safety of your home and your family, anything unusual with your home’s electrical system is cause for concern.

Each year, electrical issues cause over 51,000 fires, a phenomenon that typically results from wire housing overheating and melting, which causes power to arc and start a fire.

Acting quickly to have the electrical panel inspected and ensuring that everything is properly connected is crucial to preventing this. Furthermore, by proactively having a licensed electrician inspect your electrical panel for routine maintenance needs, you can further prevent future issues caused by an improperly installed, overburdened, or otherwise aging electrical panel.

Even if you’re not noticing anything unusual with your electrical system, older panels often fail to meet modern safety standards and should be replaced as a preventive measure. This can also increase your property value and will ensure your home is future-proofed and ready for any additional electrification upgrades you want to add in the future.

Energy Efficiency

Outside of safety and electrical hazards, an older electrical panel can fail to limit the amount of power a circuit draws, resulting in higher power consumption. Additionally, a malfunctioning electrical panel can allow circuits to overload and overheat.

The phenomenon causes wear and tear on the wires and can lead to higher bills since damaged wires don’t transmit electricity efficiently.

A newer electrical panel can help prevent this, and upgrading your electrical panel to one with greater capacity can also make a huge difference in the energy efficiency of your home, especially if you install a smart electrical panel.

Electrification and Changing Needs

You can also look into a panel upgrade if your energy needs are changing or your electrical panel is already not meeting your energy needs.

The National Electric Code (NEC) recommends a minimum capacity of 100 amps, but many households are upgrading to 200-amp panels.

A panel’s amperage represents the total amount of power it can draw from the grid and distribute throughout your home. With various use cases such as EV charging using 16 amps to 80 amps or electrical furnaces drawing 60 amps to 80 amps, electrification projects often require a panel upgrade to account for the increased load.

Electrification is sweeping across the country and the world as we continue to integrate technology and electricity-fueled appliances into our lives and our homes, but adoption is not equal.

Older homes may be less prepared for newer technologies and may require more extensive upgrades to electrical panels or wiring throughout the home to support new energy demands.

Understanding the Cost of Updating or Replacing an Electrical Panel

The cost of updating an electrical panel varies based on a few different factors. You should consider the age and condition of your current electrical panel. Is it an old panel that you need to replace, or can you upgrade the existing panel by adding a few circuits and safety features?

The cost of updating an electrical panel will also depend on the NEC requirements and any local codes. You might have to invest in additional upgrades to bring your electrical system up to the latest standards.

The cost of updating your electrical panel can also increase if your unique needs dictate any additional upgrades, such as installing a subpanel or extending your system with new circuits.

What’s the Average Cost of Updating or Replacing an Electrical Panel?

Depending on the size of the panel you need, you should plan on spending $250 to $450 for the panel itself. Installation and labor costs are separate. Labor for upgrading your electrical panel can cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $3,000 depending on the complexity of your installation.

If you want more control over your energy usage or plan to install other energy transition technologies such as creating a microgrid with solar panels, battery storage, or even a bidirectional-capable EV charger installation, you may want to consider a smart electrical panel upgrade as well.

Smart electrical panels can cost from $2,000 to over $5,000 but will provide lower energy costs, greater efficiency for energy usage, the ability to automatically switch between different energy sources such as solar panels, battery storage, the electrical grid, or a bidirectional-capable electrical vehicle, and the ability to view and manage your electricity usage or any issues that arise remotely through your mobile device.

The cost of updating an electrical panel can vary widely if you need additional upgrades. A complete home rewiring project can exceed $8,000 and if you have to move your electrical panel, it can add another $800 to $3,000 in labor costs, and installing a subpanel can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,800.

While the costs might seem high, the cost of an aging or failing electrical panel can be even greater, and an updated electrical panel can help you reduce your energy usage, improve the safety of your home, and more efficiently manage the energy needs to power your life.

Additionally, there are many incentives for homeowners looking to replace or update their home’s electrical panel. Savings can come from the federal, state, and local levels, and many utilities also offer rebates or credits for electrification upgrades such as an electric panel replacement.

Replacing your electrical panel will increase the value of your property and can help you save on energy bills. You might even be able to negotiate a lower rate for your homeowner’s insurance policy if your upgraded electrical panel offers added protection.

DIY Vs. Professional Services

The cost of updating an electrical panel can be a lower upfront cost if you do it yourself, but a DIY installation is not ideal for several reasons.

Working with electrical systems can be dangerous if you don’t have proper training due to the risk of electrocution. Upgrading your electrical panel is intended to improve the safety of your home, but failing to install the new panel properly or choosing the wrong electrical components creates a major risk that likely won’t be covered by your insurance.

There are strict requirements to follow when working on electrical systems. If you don’t get the right permits or fail to meet the requirements outlined in the NEC and your local code, you’ll have to invest in further electrical work and could even face fines.

The best option is to hire a qualified electrician. A professional electrician will know how to obtain the right permits and will perform quality work that will last for years while ensuring the safety of your family and home.

Financing Options

You can offset the cost of cost of updating your electrical panel by exploring financing options and rebates.

Electrical work can be financed via a home improvement loan, which can take the form of a personal loan or home equity line of credit. You can also take advantage of the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit to save up to 30% of the project’s cost with a limit of $600.

Upgrading your electrical panel is an important financial decision. You should review the total cost, compare your upgrade options, and calculate the additional value of the project, outside of enhanced safety and increased energy efficiency.

For example, replacing an older or smaller electrical panel so you can charge an EV at home will represent significant savings over time as you save money on driving an electric vehicle and charging at home as opposed to utilizing public EV charging stations.

Is It Time for a Panel Upgrade? Qmerit Can Help!

Electrical panels play a crucial role in ensuring you can run all your appliances while protecting your home from electrical hazards. Maintenance is important for managing your energy bills and making sure your panel is offering adequate protection.

If you have an older panel or find that your panel no longer meets your needs, replacing it is often the best course of action, but finding a qualified electrician can be challenging. Qmerit can help.

With over 86,700 electric panel upgrades, Qmerit’s nationwide network of certified installers can help make your home safer while meeting your electrification goals. Every member of the Qmerit network is fully trained, licensed, vetted, and background checked, and with the Qmerit Peace of Mind Guarantee on every installation, you can rest easy knowing that your installation will be done right.

Contact Qmerit today to learn more! Begin your electrical panel upgrade with a trusted professional electrician in your area who can discuss your options and help you determine if a panel upgrade or replacement is right for you.

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network