Modern electrical panels range in size from 100 amps up to 400 amps. While most electricians recommend a 200 amp panel for new homes, many older homes are still equipped with much smaller electrical panels. Some are as small as 60 amps, which is not adequate for today's electrical demands.
If you live in an older home or find that your circuit panel is not adequate for your family's electrical needs, you may have to upgrade your panel to a larger one. But what size should you get? While an electrician will ultimately help you determine what size is appropriate for your home, you can estimate your needs by keeping the following three things in mind.
Everything Needs Amps
Every electrical item in your home needs dedicated amps to work properly. While multiple lights and switches can be placed on a 15 or 20 amp circuit, some appliances, such as refrigerators, dryers and furnaces require 30, 50 or 60 amps all to themselves. So before you select an electrical panel, you must add up all the appliances and circuits you currently have -- you can count basic circuits by inspecting your electrical panel. Figure out how many amps each appliance needs and add that number to the number of amps used for basic circuits. The number you get is the absolute minimum size of electrical panel you need.
You Have To Count Circuits
Electrical panels are made with a certain number of slots where the circuit breakers will eventually be located. For this reason, you must select a panel that has enough slots to accommodate all of your circuits. Keep in mind that some circuits, such as 60 amp circuits, will take up two slots in your panel. These are called double pole circuit breakers.
Consider Future Needs
Be sure to purchase a panel that will leave you with free amps and slots so you can upgrade later if you wish to install a new appliance, such as a hot tub. You may also wish to build an addition later on, which will take up space on your panel as well. Always look ahead and plan for all eventualities.
An electrician from a business like B Electric Inc will help you determine what size electrical panel is best for your home. However, most homes do not need more than 200 amps. Many states require that a new panel be at least 100 amps. For this reason, you can plan on installing either a 100 amp or 200 amp panel unless you have a very large home or excessive electrical demands.