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Electric Panels

Electric Panels

What does an electric panel do?

The more electric appliances you install in your home, the harder your panel will have to work to ensure power is distributed safely and effectively. As homeowners begin to consider electrifying more of their home energy use, it is important to determine if panel upgrades are necessary.  Investing in electric panel upgrades may be an important step for ensuring new technologies and appliances can be supported in your household.

Understanding your home’s maximum capacity for power will help you identify if you need to plan for a panel upgrade. If your hourly power consumption is close to the maximum capacity, consider a panel upgrade.

Below are some signs that you may need to upgrade your panel:

  • If your panel is older than 25 years old;
    • It is recommended that a panel be upgraded when it reaches 25-40 years, or if your home was built more than four decades ago with no panel upgrade in that time.  
  • If you have a circuit breaker that frequently trips up. Signs of this include appliances restarting constantly;
  • Your panel is warm to the touch;
  • If your energy bill has noticeably increased over time; and/or
  • If your home has flickering or dim lights.

Things to consider when upgrading your electric panel

The Center for Energy and the Environment estimates that the costs of an electric panel upgrade can range from $2,000 to $5,000 for a new service panel. Upgrading your electric panel could be an essential part of your electrification journey, so being mindful of these costs  can help inform your budget and timeline.

There are varying thoughts about when panel upgrades are needed. Some contractors use  what is known as a “watt diet” for electric panel maintenance as a way to avoid or delay the need for upgrades to higher amperage.  Under a watt diet, you monitor your electricity use and ensure you aren’t running too many electric appliances at once. This approach encourages residents to manage and optimize their energy use, creating room to meet the demands of any new electrical additions to their home on their existing panel. A watt diet can involve extensive planning but can lessen the electrical burden on your panel while saving you money. 

In some cases, a panel upgrade may also trigger the need to upgrade utility lines connecting to the home. This would result in additional costs. Another concept gaining interest is a “Smart” panel that can effectively manage load without requiring upgraded utility lines. You could determine if a “Smart” panel would be a more cost-effective option. A smart panel, while currently more expensive than a standard panel, could also offer additional benefits to consumers by aiding in monitoring and managing energy use. Similarly, customers with a smart meter can have access to real-time data that shows how much electricity they are using and when.  These smart systems could in turn benefit utilities and the electrical grid, as they work to manage load and demand for electricity.

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