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How To Upgrade Your Electric Panel

Last modified: 2020-06-18 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

The electric panel has the hardest job in any home, as its' smooth functioning is essential to the safety and satisfaction of the daily routine. An electric panel is a connection between your home and your utility company, as it distributes electricity to your appliances through major as well as smaller electrical connections.

On average, the panel has a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, though, with the rapid development of technology, older panels won't hold up against the appliances of today. With that in mind, is here to help you know when and how to upgrade your electric panel to keep your home, as well as your family, safe.

Here's how to upgrade your electric panel

Does my Electric Panel Need Updating?

So, you're not an electrician, but how can you tell if your panel needs updating? There are several telltale signs that you should look out for. If you are finding that fuses frequently blow or that you're required to turn off one appliance just to use another, then it's most likely time to update your panel!

If your lights are flicking or your appliances are refusing to run at full power, then it's potentially a suggestion for you to upgrade. Other problems to look out for are as follows: crackling sounds coming from the panel itself, corrosion or rust on breakers, overheating of appliances, as well as needing surge protectors to protect them.

It often occurs that your insurance company will push for an update to make sure your home is safe from the risk of fire. Another reason for updating your electric panel may be because you are undergoing a home renovation of sorts. Specifically, if you are adding new, or more technologically advanced, appliances to your kitchen or garage.

In this case, it is recommended that you consider upgrading to a panel that can function properly with all appliances running. As we've already stated, updating your panel not only makes things run smoothly, but it has a considerable effect on the safety of your family. It is suggested that you speak with a trained professional regarding whether your electric panel could use an update.

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Upgrading Your Electric Panel

Electric panel

source: Flickr, scottbb

Now that you've concluded that your electric panel needs to be upgraded, how do you move forward with the transition? Labour and material costs will vary greatly, and depend on the condition of the current electrical panel, including what condition wires and conduits are in as well as whether you require new sub-panels.

In Canada, the Canadian Electrical Code or the CEC uses a "demand calculation" to determine the minimum size that your electrical service should be. This calculation should be completed before you move forward with any sort of upgrade on your electrical panel. The information the CEC collects is used to determine whether your home requires a panel change or a service upgrade. Also make sure to be aware of the specific regulations or policies that may arise from a local code or by-law, as well as your insurance company.

A panel update generally determines that the service is in good shape, but you may need to change your panel to accommodate additional circuits or specialty breakers, which require renewed grounding and bonding.  

Step by Step Panel Update Guide

* Please note that in certain jurisdictions, all electrical work must be carried out by certified electricians. DIY jobs could be strictly prohibited in your area. We advise that you check before undertaking any work of this nature. 

First, sever all wires inside the electrical panel with diagonal-cutting pliers, and follow this by unscrewing and removing the old panel from the wall. In order to support the new panel, it is recommended that you attach a 3/4-inch-thick plywood panel to the wall. Now, feed the service entrance (SE) cable through the top of the new electrical panel and attach the panel itself to the plywood. Next, you can go ahead with securing the electrical connections inside the panel.

Feed the house circuits into the panel, making sure each cable is passing through a cable connector. Follow this by connecting the bare-copper wires and white-insulated wires to the ground and neutral bar, then plug new circuit breakers into the bus bar. The main ground wire must be run from the bottom of the new panel to the copper water main. Now, all that's left is for your utility company to reconnect the electrical cables to the exterior of the house!

Some other things to remember when updating your electrical panel is that the power will be out for a minimum of 4 or 5 hours, so make sure to unplug all electronics and keep fridge and freezer doors closed! If you do not feel comfortable completing the updates yourself, or are looking for a second opinion, it is recommended that you talk to a variety of electrical contractors to get a better idea of what you're working with!

Disclaimer: All tasks that touch on electricity are very risky and should be completed under the safest conditions. Additionally, in certain parts of Canada, only certified electricians are allowed to do this type of work. Please check before you do any electrical work yourself.

Get 3 renovation quotes for your electric panel upgrade can help you get quotes for your electric panel upgrade. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will receive quotes from companies that are specialized in home renovations.

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