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100 Amp vs 200 Amp Electrical Panels: Which One to Opt?

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

100 amp vs 200 amp electrical panels

Electrical panels are used to properly distribute electricity coming from the service line to different feeders or branch circuits in a home. Two of the most common electrical panels available are the 100 amp electrical panel and the 200 amp one.

Because electrical demand has been an increasing trend for the past few years, a 200 amp service might be more beneficial for newer houses than a 100 amp service. A comparison between a 100 amp vs 200 amp electrical panel clearly shows an easy win for a 200 amp panel.

Is 100 Amp Service Enough?

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The National Electric Code, or the NEC 2020, requires that a service panel must be at least 100 amps, and it used to be the standard amps for house of a small family with no electrical heating.

100 amp is still enough for some houses that do not need electrical heating (such as natural gas sources).

However, a 100 amp service panel is only allowed to have a service amps of 80 amps, and may be small for power-hungry appliances that require 220 v circuits, like HVAC units, on top of heating appliances like ovens and dryers, as well as your home entertainment systems among others.

Is 200 Amp Service Enough?

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A 200 amp service panel is the one commonly used for newer houses, especially that newer appliances like dryers and heaters, will need 220 v circuits most often. It can supply up to 160 amps, and obviously has more circuit breaker slots than a 100 amp panel.

It might not be surprising that 300 amp or 400 amp circuits will be the norm in the future, but 200 amps is still a big leap from the 100 amp service panel.

Comparison of 200 Amp Vs 100 Amp Panels

1. Future-proofing

200 amp panels are a better future proofing choice than 100 amp ones. As the demand for electricity grows and newer appliances are produced, an installed 200 amp panel may be ready for your future needs than a 100 amp panel.

This may also be a good selling point if the house will be sold as buyers will no longer get concerned about upgrading the service panel in the future.

2. Cost

200 amp panels may have a slightly more expensive upfront cost than 100 amp panels. Aside from the cost of the panel, the larger loads of a 200 amp service mean thicker wires and a different meter socket compared to the requirements of 100 amp panel.

When upgrading from a 100 amp to a 200 amp service, however, the upgrade cost may vary by as much as USD 2000.00. Always have the upgrade done by a licensed electrician since these kinds of projects may have different code requirements per locale.

3. Safety

Because 200 amp panels can accommodate more circuits than a 100 amp panel, the appliances can be spread out to different circuits. This reduces the chance of overheating the wires and frequent circuit breaker tripping.

Frequently Asked Questions

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How do you tell if the house is 100 amp or 200 amp?

The easiest way is to check the amp rating printed on the main circuit breaker of the panel. What does a 100 amp or 200 amp breaker look like in a panel? It depends on the manufacturer of the panel, but it is usually separated and distinct from the other circuit breakers.

Is it worth upgrading to 200 amp service?

It is worth it, especially if you plan to have an additional air conditioning system or other 220 v appliances in the house.

How many 220 v outlets on a 100 amp service?

There is no limit to the number of outlets that could be placed, as long as the total amp draw does not exceed 80 percent of the total rating (in this case, 80 amps).

Also, different manufacturers will have different circuit breaker configurations, so it’s best to check manufacturer’s instructions.

Can I DIY the upgrading of my 100 amp panel to the 200 amp panel?

Please do not do the upgrading yourself. Always have these kinds of projects done by certified electricians.

Remember, the service panel connects the service wire (that is always live) to the feeder or branch circuits in the house and is a big risk for electrocution or burning.

Conclusion

The 200 amp service panel provides significantly more benefits to a home than a 100 amp service in terms of future-proofing and safety. Even though its cost is not insignificant, a 200 amp panel still proves to be the current standard installation for newer homes.

A 100 amp service panel, though, still has a place for smaller or older homes, but considering the differences between 100 amp vs 200 amp electrical panels, the 200 amp service panel will definitely give you more bang-for-the-buck in the future.

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