Replacing your electrical panel is a good idea if you own or are purchasing an older home, especially if you are planning to bring along a truckload of modern appliances and electronics. The fuse box or circuit box that brings electricity into your home may not be big enough to accommodate your lifestyle and will soon exhibit some telltale signs that call for a visit from a licensed electrician.
Signs You Should Consider Replacing Your Electrical Panel
Inadequate Power - In order to accommodate the basic kitchen appliances, plus a home computer network, TVs, your HVAC system, and all other electronic conveniences found in most modern homes, homeowners typically need about 200 amps of power servicing the home. Most electrical panels only have 100 amps, so if you want to charge your cell phone, watch TV, and cook breakfast while you are drying your hair, you may have a problem such as flickering lights or a tripped breaker or blown fuse.
Still have Fuses - You may still need to consider replacing your electrical panel, even if you have no problems, if you still have fuses. Some older systems with fuses only have 60 amps coming to the house or may be improperly wired. To prevent a fuse from blowing out when it is overloaded, some homeowners put in larger fuses, which create a fire hazard. Circuit breaker systems are the safer route when replacing your electrical panel.
Age of Electrical Panel - Electrical panels are meant to last 20 to 30 years, so an upgrade is often necessary on a home that is older than that. You should have one circuit breaker or fuse for every wire or circuit to be in line with modern building codes.
Costs of Replacing Your Electrical Panel
Typically, when you upgrade service, the power company will bring new wires from the pole, add a new meter, and run any new wires to your main panel without charge to you; but, your electrician has to take some steps before and after the upgrade. Replacing your electrical panel can be a costly endeavor for several reasons:
- Depending on the area of the country, wage rates for electricians vary.
- Work permits and electrician licensing fees mandated by local law also vary.
- The amount of work it takes to remove the old box and put in a new one can affect costs, especially if it is hard to access or requires demolition and replacement of walls, floors, or baseboards.
- Replacing the panel can uncover other problems, such as obsolete wiring, that add to the cost. This is also true if the work is done in conjunction with remodeling.
When all costs are considered, the project for upgrading the panel might range from $900 to over $4,000. While there is no way to estimate the cost of panel replacement without a licensed electrician evaluating your particular situation, you can request multiple estimates from different electricians. The estimate should be detailed enough for you to get an understanding of the steps necessary in the upgrade.
Using a Licensed Electrician
Replacing your electric panel is not a job for amateurs. When you make a decision on which electrician to use, make sure to consider workmanship, quality of materials, and the extensiveness of the job, as broken out on the estimate. The supplies alone for the job are costly, so you do not want to waste materials on a job that will be unsafe or fail to pass local codes.
Replacing your electrical panel can be a smart, and safe, decision based on the age of your home and your power consumption.
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