Pros and cons of a panel upgrade

The secret that no one is telling you: you can probably electrify without a panel upgrade

Electrifying everything in your home (or even some of it) will increase the amount of electricity you use to run your home from day to day. In some cases, this will require upgrading your electrical panel, which determines how much electricity can flow into your home. But with some upfront planning, most homes can electrify without a panel upgrade. Yes, you read that right! 

So can you electrify without upgrading your panel? Let’s find out. 

(If you don’t already know your panel size, start by reading our How to determine your panel size guide.)

If your panel is less than 100 Amps (e.g., 40 or 60 Amps) then you will likely need an upgrade. 

You may also need to replace your panel if it is extremely old, degraded or otherwise unsafe. You can replace your panel without increasing its amperage.

If your panel is 100–150 Amps you can usually fully electrify without a panel upgrade, but it may require some planning effort. Check out our How to electrify on a 100 Amp panel guide to learn how. 

If your panel is greater than 150 Amps you can usually electrify without an upgrade and without careful planning. Still, we recommend that you check out our How to electrify on a 100 Amp panel guide to help you save money when you electrify by selecting power-smart choices that use less energy.

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of upgrading your panel.

Downsides of a panel upgrade

Cost: Upgrading an electrical panel is an added cost (typically $2,000–$4,000), involving the cost of the panel itself, labor charges, and any necessary electrical work or rewiring. The exact cost will depend on factors such as the size of the panel, the complexity of the installation, and the local market rates. It will also depend on the availability of electricians in your area who can provide the work. 

Costs might be much higher ($5,000–$25,000) if a service upgrade or transformer replacement is required. These upgrades are particularly costly if the wires that run to your home run underground. Your electrician can help you determine if you need a service upgrade.

Time: A panel upgrade often needs to be coordinated with an electrical service upgrade, which is your utility’s responsibility. In some utility regions, this can result in months-long delays in scheduling the upgrade and may impact the overall project timeline. The availability of electricians can also add time regardless of whether you need new electrical service.

Impact on the electrical grid: If many homes in a neighborhood or community increase their electrical load simultaneously it can place additional strain on the local distribution infrastructure. In such cases, the utility company may need to assess the grid's capacity and make necessary adjustments to ensure reliable power delivery, which can increase bills. In this way, your decisions now impact your neighbor's ability to electrify, your own future ability to add new load, and energy costs for everyone. You should make sure you need the upgrade before you decide to get one.

Benefits of a panel upgrade

Increased electrical capacity: A higher amperage panel allows for more electrical power to be distributed throughout the home. This means you can power more devices and appliances simultaneously without overloading the panel. It might also give you more options when selecting appliances, such as choosing a larger water heater or faster EV charger. 

For most households, though, the power-smart choices will give you plenty of hot showers and EV mileage! Check out our How to electrify on a 100 Amp panel guide to learn more.

Future-proofing: Upgrading to a higher amperage panel ensures that your electrical system can accommodate future electrical demands as your needs evolve. It provides flexibility for future expansions, renovations, or additional electrification projects, possibly saving you from costly upgrades down the line.

It is usually possible to fully electrify a home with a 100 Amp panel (or larger). And, though it requires making some smart choices about power-efficient appliances or circuit-sharing devices, we typically recommend avoiding a panel upgrade if you can. Talk to your electrician about electrifying your home on your existing panel, and be sure to share your preference with them.

Learn how to prep your home for electrification with Rewiring America's free electrical panel guide. Check it out.

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Rewiring America is the leading electrification nonprofit working to electrify our homes, businesses, and communities.

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