How to Upgrade Your Circuit Breaker Panel

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Circuit breakers
Electric panel
Wire stripper

If you have an older circuit breaker panel in your home, then you may find that it does not have enough amps to manage all of the items in your home. Older panels will only have an amperage of around 60 amps, while the more modern panels can have 200 amps or more. Older panels will not be able to manage the electrical demands of the average home. One solution is to upgrade the circuit breaker panel to a greater amperage. This is perhaps not a project which you should do without help from an electrician, but if you have a permit, you can upgrade your power panel on your own.

Step 1 - Get Permission

Before you proceed in upgrading your circuit breaker panel, you will need to obtain permission from your local building authority. You can do as much to your own home as you like, without needing to call an electrician, but you have to get a permission certificate from them before you proceed. This is important, as you may find yourself being prosecuted if you do any electrical work without getting clearance beforehand. In addition, even if you do get permission, you may find that you need to have a building inspection once you have finished ensuring that everything is working correctly.

Step 2 - Open up the Panel

Once you have the necessary permits, you can then start to work on upgrading your circuit breaker panel. Study the service panel to learn which of the circuits controls the various parts of the home. You should be able to leave the power for the bathroom and the kitchen, but you will need to assess the capacity of the other circuit breakers. Use a multimeter or voltmeter for this task. Turn on all your power, and then scan the devices. Compare the circuit load with its capacity. You may find it is near the limit.

Step 3 - Install a New Panel

Start by adding your new service panel. Turn off the mains electricity, and then remove all of the circuits from the panel. Place this to one side, it can be discarded as scrap later. Screw the new service panel into the wall. You should take the mains wires, and cut off a small amount of the insulation. Wire up the panel as before. You can then attach the circuit breakers to the panel.

Step 4 - Divide the Circuits

Circuits that are under a lot of strain need to be divided into different parts. Push the new circuit breakers into the new slots on your panel. Locate the circuit wires which you wish to enlarge, and wire these into the breakers. The grounded and neutral wires must be placed securely before you proceed. If necessary, add more wires to extend the reach of your circuit. You should then have the mains power turned back on, and check the voltage in your circuits.