Guide to Upgrading to a 200-Amp Electrical Panel

A 200-amp panel may be just the solution if you need an electrical panel upgrade. But how do you know it’s time to update your breaker panel? Such a project is not cheap. However, upgrading to a 200-amp electrical panel can free your home of many issues and save you money in the long run. We’ll look at signs you should consider an update and answer common questions customers ask about upgrading electrical panels. 

About 200-Amp Capacity

The capacity of an electrical panel is measured in amperes (Amps), which refers to the volume of electricity that can flow through it and into your home’s circuits. A 200-amp electrical panel is larger and can fit more circuits than a 100-amp unit. If your electrical panel is 100 amps, it may still be safe to use if your electrical demands aren’t that high. But if you’re relying on lots of modern appliances, tools, and the latest heating and cooling systems, 200-amp panels are recommended.

In general, a home under 3,000 square feet without an electrically operated HVAC system can have a 100-amp panel. However, larger homes with electric AC, heat, and modern appliances require more capacity.

Do I Need a 200-Amp Electrical Panel?

Many homeowners ask us if they need an electrical panel upgrade. Not everyone does, but you should consider it if you’re dealing with any of the following:

1. Tripping Breakers

Everyone has had a tripped circuit breaker. But once you’ve reset a tripped breaker, it should not switch off again. This can be a sign the circuit is overloaded. However, it can also mean the breaker has gone bad or there’s an issue with the wiring or the electrical panel. Replace the panel if any breaker has rust or burn marks. Nonetheless, the issue of constantly tripping breakers is often only resolved by upgrading from a 100-amp to a 200-amp panel.

2. Your Home Is Older

Older homes often have outdated wiring and low-capacity panels. If you still have aluminum or cloth-insulated wiring or even a 60-amp panel that’s often overloaded, it’s time to consider an electrical panel upgrade. It can increase property value and at least allow you to use higher-power appliances.

3. Your Current Panel Is Overloaded

If your electrical panel is overloaded, it can lead to frequent power outages or an electrical fire due to melted wire insulation. An older panel can’t handle as much of an electrical load. Therefore, it’s at risk of having overheated components, while arcing, short circuits, and power surges are a possibility. 

Signs your electrical panel is overloaded and your home is in danger include:

  • Burning smells
  • Hot panel
  • Scorch marks
  • Belted wires
  • Flickering lights
  • Popping and buzzing sounds
  • Reliance on multiple sub-panels

4. A Modern Appliance Requires a Higher Load

A 200-amp panel can meet the future needs of your home. While an electrical panel upgrade may not be your priority, a project such as a kitchen or a bath remodel or garage conversion can increase your home’s power demands. Adding a luxury item such as a hot tub can also first require updating electrical capacity.

5. Your Electric Bills and Insurance Premium Are High

Higher electric bills can mean your main panel is inefficient or faulty wiring is leaking current. Installing a new panel, even if it carries more power, can help lower your utility bill. It can also lower your insurance premium, as your home will comply with the latest electrical code and be less of a safety liability.

6. There Aren’t Enough Circuits in Your Home

Are you running out of outlets and using extension cords and power strips? Perhaps you’ve added subpanels to address the demand. These are signs you should consider upgrading to a 200-amp electrical panel.

All of the above can be resolved with an electrical panel upgrade. But the panel you choose and how you use it impact how much you benefit from the investment. The following questions and answers will help you see more safety, function, and value from an updated 200-amp system.

How Do I Calculate My Electrical Load?

Every light fixture, appliance, television, and device in your home requires electricity. But every home’s electrical requirements differ. Here’s how to calculate what sized electrical panel you need:

  • Calculate the wattage of your lighting branch circuits and add the numbers together.
  • Add up the wattage of circuits serving your plug-in outlets.
  • Add up the wattage of heavy-duty appliances.
  • Add these three values together; then subtract 10,000.
  • Multiply the number you get by .40 and add 10,000.
  • Find the wattage rating of cooling and heating appliances (add in the larger of the two, since you only use one at a time).
  • Divide the total value by 240 to obtain the number/amperage needed to power your home.

Can a 200-Amp Panel Overload?

A 200-amp electrical panel can still become overloaded, even if not all the slots are filled up. This can cause the circuit breakers to trip. Wiring may also overheat so the issue can become a fire hazard.

Does the 80% Rule Apply to 200-Amp Panels?

An electrical panel should never be stretched to its full capacity or beyond. To be safe, the load should not exceed 80% of its capacity. This means the full load on a 200-amp electrical panel should not be more than 160 amps. In short, the actual load should always be smaller than the panel’s maximum rating.

How Many Breakers Are in a 200-Amp Electrical Panel?

If single-pole breakers are used, a 200-amp panel can have 40 to 42 slots. Assuming you have all double-pole breakers installed, the panel will have 20 slots. The number of breakers can exceed the panel’s amperage rating so long as they’re not all used at once. 

Can I Install More Than One 200-Amp Panel?

If you have 400-amp service, it’s often installed as two 200-amp panels. The second panel would essentially serve as a sub-panel. However, the total amperage should not exceed the capacity of the service entrance conductors.

Do I Need an Electrician to Install a 200-Amp Electrical Panel?

Having an outdated or damaged electrical panel is dangerous enough. Attempting to replace it yourself is even more dangerous. There are several high-power components and the project requires re-wiring the circuits and installing a new service wire. The project will also require an inspection and a permit, for which you need a professional electrician.

Express Electrical Services Will Handle Your Breaker Panel Upgrade

If your home was built before the 1960s, it may still have a fuse panel. But even homes built later have lower capacity breaker panels that don’t meet modern demands. We install 200-amp electrical panels to support higher power loads and improve the safety of your home. A 200-amp panel can support the load of a new air conditioner, refrigerator, or even a hot tub. Our electricians are fully trained, licensed, and insured and we offer competitive pricing and financing. To schedule your electrical panel upgrade, call (323) 727-7799 today.

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