“What is involved in upgrading to 200 amp service?” frequently pops up online since electricity demand grows over time and service panels don’t have perpetual durability.
Because upgrading electrical mains is a complicated project, it’s best to let a licensed electrician or electrical contractor do it for you.
They, along with an inspector, will evaluate the panel and your power needs, check whether the service entrance conductors and other present wires need replacing, tally up the cost to upgrade, acquire the necessary construction permit, and lay out what exactly needs to be done for a proper 200 amp panel upgrade.
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Once you decide to push through with an upgrade, prepare a few essentials beforehand, like your exact budget and a complete material list.
This list can either be long or short, depending on whether you need new wiring for an electrical panel upgrade 200 amp, trenching, or want to install a new main breaker or panel elsewhere.
The key is for you to clearly explain to your electrician your requirements, particularly why you’re upgrading to a 200 amp service. You won’t end up with the ideal setup otherwise.
How to Upgrade
It’s never wise to upgrade service to 200 amp if it isn’t really needed in the first place. Therefore, you have to make sure that installing 200 amp service is, indeed, the way to go.
It doesn’t hurt to let the electrician confirm this first by letting him or her evaluate your electricity needs, your present service panel, and its respective conductors’ state.
- Knowing your exact power needs will prevent you from upgrading from 200 amp to 400 amp service in a span of just a few years. That only means more money saved.
- You’ll also learn which option is best for your setup. For instance, perhaps, it’s better just to set up a new main circuit breaker panel and convert the previous panel into a subpanel instead of replacing it and disturbing the existing wires in the process.
- Do you really need to upgrade and replace your main panel from 100 amps to 200 amps or just need to add another 100 amp subpanel to provide power to another room or detached structure?
The point is, it’s hard to figure out whether you’re doing an optimal setup if you plan all these things yourself. Maybe you really needed to upgrade to 300 amps, all along?
You might also overlook a local code or two, which the inspector will quickly point out once he or she comes to visit, and that’s obviously something you don’t want to have to deal with.
How the Actual Upgrading Process Usually Goes
Admittedly, don’t expect this process to be the same for everyone. Some homes will be pretty straightforward in that the existing wires won’t be touched.
Others will need extra steps like replacing the original conductors, conduit placing and trenching, and installing a meter socket, among others.
1. Simple Projects
The electrician will take care of removing and replacing the old breakers of the previous panel and adding new breakers for any new circuit that needs to be made.
After all, the main difference between 100 amp and 200 amp service panels is that the latter have more circuit breaker slots (up to 42) and, thereby, more circuits.
In such projects, you likely will need an electrical permit if you’re replacing not just a branch breaker but also upsizing the panel. The electrician will call the local power company to disconnect power to your home so that the old breaker box can be removed and for the new one to take its place.
The wires will just be hooked up to the newly swapped 200 amp service panel, assuming there’s no change in amperage for all the rooms served by the main panel.
And, that’s it for these types of jobs; they’re usually done if the old main service panel needs to be replaced because it’s just dilapidated.
2. Complex Projects
In other cases, Code updates, special requirements, and problems complicate the whole process.
- If you need to lay new PVC conduits or pull wires on existing conduits, you may need to do some trenching. This will require you to acquire a permit and rent or buy tools for it.
- If you discover that some portions of the conduits have been damaged, they may require replacing already.
- The drywall may need to be cut or repaired. This will also call for construction permits and equipment.
Here’s an example of a new 200A service being installed, based on an actual 2021 quote with a $5,000 asking price:
- Dig a trench, install PVC conduits, then pull the service entrance conductors through them.
- Install a 200A single exterior meter socket that comes with its own main breaker.
- Mount the new 200A main breaker panel in the appropriate location. Afterward, a 200A aluminum service cable will need to be run from the meter to the said panel.
- Then, the present wires and the new 200 amp service wire/s will need to be fed to the correct-sized breakers on the panel.
- Since this is a new panel upgrade, a ground wire and two grounding rods will have to be installed.
- Once done, the electrician will put circuit labels in the panel for easy maintenance and install a surge protector to safeguard against power spikes.
Since you’re working with a professional electrician, you can expect most service upgrades and quotes to take the form of the latter rather than the former more rudimentary one.
Costs to consider
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact figure when doing a project as big as this since every property is different. You never really know when you’ll discover a problem that will need to be addressed first for the upgrade to push through.
That issue, in turn, only balloons costs further. You get the picture.
Now, assuming you’re 100% sure that such unforeseen problems won’t rear their ugly heads, you can expect to pay at least $2,000 for a job that entails significant work.
Don’t be surprised if quotes up to $5,000 become standard, for which I suggest you be persistent in looking for cheaper options in your area.
Electrical work is no different from other services in that the more steps that need to be done, the greater the cost. In most projects I’ve handled, it’s rare that only swapping the panel is required, which can still cost $750. Reddit denizens confirm as much.
Pros and cons
The benefits of upgrading service panels are compelling:
- Addresses issues such as random breaker trips or fire hazards from overloaded panels.
- More circuits to meet your power needs.
- Enhances the efficiency of your appliances and electrical equipment while extending their lifespan.
- May improve your property’s overall value.
The only major disadvantage that a lot of people obviously don’t like is the cost. I’ll let the figures I mentioned above speak for themselves.
How to know if your system is ready for a 200 amp service upgrade?
If upon evaluation, the electrician cites that your current service is considerably aged (>30 years old) to the point that it’s becoming a safety hazard, then it’s high time to upgrade.
The same goes if you mean to install appliances that will greatly bump your amperage requirements like HVAC systems, most modern appliances like washers, and new lighting in all rooms, to cite a few.
Does a 200 amp service upgrade increase the value of your home?
It depends. Most likely, yes, if the previous panels have already been proven to be a serious fire hazard, and the new one you install will erase that risk. Otherwise, the high cost may offset any real price-boosting advantage.
As you can see, the answer to “What is involved in upgrading to 200 amp service?” morphs quite a lot. Some quotes may entail simple electrical work, but you can never really be certain whether a problem will spring up that will complicate the endeavor.
If you stick to an electrical contractor’s or electrician’s recommendations, once you’ve disclosed all the essentials, then the process should go smoothly. Be sure to prepare a generous budget, though.
- The Number of Sub Panels You Can Have on a 200 Amp Service
- Total Cost to Install a Subpanel
- Main Panel vs Sub Panel: Pros and Cons
I am Edwin Jones, in charge of designing content for Galvinpower. I aspire to use my experiences in marketing to create reliable and necessary information to help our readers. It has been fun to work with Andrew and apply his incredible knowledge to our content.