The history of the electric power system is just as intricate and fascinating as the myriad, orderly circuits connecting electrical panels.
For residential setups alone, numerous questions pop up among homeowners, one of which is “When did 200 amp service become standard?”
The short answer is that it started as a trend in the 1980s, and it’s still lingering up to the present. Different types of household appliances increased in numbers, and homes’ power systems needed to evolve to keep up. More appliances required services with higher amperages, leading to the existence of the 200-amp service.
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How Residential Electrical Services Evolved and 200a Became the Norm
For comparison as to how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, a 200 amp service panel is more than double the amps of a standard 1950s electrical panel. Those older load centers topped out at 60A, while services in 1960 had 100A on average.
Ever wonder why there was a noticeable jump in average service amps in just a decade, as opposed to how long your average 200 amp breaker panel has been around?
To answer this, we have to look at when appliances requiring dedicated circuits became commonplace in various households.
What readily comes to mind? Air conditioners, countertop microwaves, and compact freezers, to cite a few. Almost all of these high-draw appliances became a normal presence in homes starting in the 1960s.
It became apparent before long that the older 60A panels didn’t have sufficient circuit slots for these types of equipment anymore. So, the 100 amp service panel came to the rescue for progress’s sake.
It was also during that time that many people saw circuit breakers replace fuses because of the former’s more practical benefits. Incidentally, circuit breakers first used in home were typically Zinsco ones, which have since gone out of commission because of safety issues.
So, in the end, the evolution of service panels all comes down to that: the growing demand for electricity due to the increasing number of appliances we’re using on a daily basis.
An Ever-Changing Standard
With time, our definition of the “modern home” with regard to how many appliances are found and used in it changes. The modern home of today may have a water purifier, multi-burner stove, and air fryer ready for use in the kitchen.
Most people nowadays can’t do without electric water heaters, furnaces in the winter, garbage disposals, laundry machines, and hair dryers. All these appliances need separate circuits. Sometimes, people may even upgrade 200 amp panel to 400 amp ones.
It just so happened that 100 amp and 200 amp services hit the sweet spot for the average modern home’s power and circuit requirements – except, perhaps, for properties that require larger HVAC systems. It’s for this reason that the 200A typical amp service has been popular since the 1980s.
While the standard amps for house are still 200A, that, unsurprisingly, may be changing soon. Much like its predecessors in earlier decades, it’s slowly being replaced with the advent of 400A or 600A service panels in many newly-built homes.
That 200 amp services managed to remain the standard electrical service for residential use and almost always came out on top in the usual 200 amp vs 100 amp debate is an achievement in itself.
Even in the 2020s, a lot of electricians I know still take a 200 amp service upgrade project or two, and I still meet people who ask what’s involved in upgrading to 200 amp service.
And as all that is happening, the 200 vs 400 amp service discussion is slowly gaining traction. Ultimately, if a 200A service can still manage your home’s present and future power requirements, there’s no need to upgrade yet.
Do most homes have 200 amp service?
For modern homes, yes, it’s the standard. As for most homes as a whole, it can either be 100 amps or 200 amps, with the latter prevailing a bit more than the former, since many households can’t do without modern appliances anymore.
Come to think of it, these facts cast a lot of doubt on people who claim or ask, “When did 150 amp service become standard?”
Is it worth upgrading to 200 amps?
I always tell people to consider their property’s power requirements first and foremost before going ahead with a 200-amp upgrade.
I understand that some folks prefer to live as minimalistic and frugally as possible, to the point that they don’t have to rely on modern gadgetry to get on with their day-to-day lives.
It’s only worth upgrading if you know that your present service can no longer handle your home’s power needs or the service panel is already more than two decades old.
How do you tell if you have a 100 or 200 amp service?
You’ll have to look at the panel’s main circuit breaker. It should have printed information revealing its maximum amperage.
Another reliable way to check is to use the size of the conduit entering the service as a reference. A 200 amp service will normally use a 2-inch pipe, while a 100 amp one will be served by a 1 ¼-inch pipe.
Overall, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in history and understand the importance of services and circuits to get a more satisfactory answer to questions such as “When did 200 amp service become standard?”
In the end, all these debates about which amp service panel fits a home are rooted in what’s convenient for a property and its inhabitants. With that in mind, don’t expect the average amperage to stay at 200 amps forever.
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.