So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (2023)

owner tips smart home


Can your home handle the increasing demand for electricity?

Lindsay ListanskyFebruary 2, 2016


Von Fran J. Donegan

With a new electronic device appearing almost every day, it's understandable that you're wondering if your home can handle the increasing demand for electricity. Fortunately, most new electronic devices use very little energy. A cell phone charger uses about 10 watts and a 50-inch LED TV uses only 100-200 watts - compare those numbers to the 75-100 watts required by a typical incandescent bulb. However, there are a number of power hogs that can overwhelm a home's electrical system. A central air conditioning system, for example, requires 3,000 to 5,000 watts to operate.

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A home's electrical system reflects when it was built, or at least when it was last turned on. Homes built or renovated more than 30 years ago can run on 60 or 100 amps (amps are a measure of the amount of electrical power). Newer houses may be 150 or 200 amps. Very large houses may be 400 amps. The proliferation of amplifiers over the years has accompanied the number of new electronic devices.

The amps listed on the main switch in the electrical closet determine the maximum amount the home can safely use. Each circuit in the house is also evaluated by amplifiers. When the current requirements of a circuit approach the amperes for which the circuit is rated, the circuit breaker will trip and shut off power to the circuit due to the risk of overheating the wiring.

If you're considering adding a large electrical appliance like an air conditioner, electric range, electric clothes dryer, or hot tub where you didn't previously have one, you need to determine if your home can handle the increased electrical load. (See “High Power Devices” below.) You should also consider upgrading your system if you are planning to make more space and cannot meet the new power needs by adding additional circuitry to your current junction box.

Devices with high electrical requirements

So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (1)

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Also, consider upgrading your current system if you're hearing box hiss, tripping circuit breakers repeatedly, or if you have an old-fashioned fuse box instead of an electrical panel.

The best way to determine if you need an upgrade is to discuss the system with an electrician. Better yet, get at least three electricians to consult you and provide a written estimate for the job.

(Video) 8 SIGNS THAT YOUR HOUSE MAY NEED AN REWIRE - watch this before contacting an electrician

Upgrading the electrical installation means replacing the current junction box with a new, larger one. The cost to upgrade to a 200 amp panel is $2000-$3000. The work involves a licensed electrician, the utility company and a local building inspector as you will need planning permission to carry out the work. Basically, the utility company cuts off the external power supply to your home so the electrician can safely make the switch. The electrician will rewire the existing circuits into the new box. He also adds new circuits for the new devices or additions. It grounds the box by running a copper electrode from the box into a water pipe or a grounding electrode buried in the ground.

When the electrician is finished, the building inspector checks the work. If the electrical work is passed, the utility can reconnect the outdoor power lines. The utility will not reconnect the lines until the inspector has approved the work. Be warned that the electrician or building inspector may discover other problems with the electrical system while you are working. If the system doesn't meet electrical codes, the inspector won't allow the utility to reconnect the power lines until the problem is fixed. Sometimes the utility company needs to replace the cables that run from the pole to your home. You may be billed for this, so ask for this when you contact the utility about an upgrade.

It is important that you work with a qualified electrician. There are several people involved and you will be without power while the work is being carried out. So make sure you or your electrician have everyone on the same page.

Upgrading your power supply can seem like a daunting task, but it's best to make sure your home can safely support the everyday electrical devices you need.

Fran J. Doneganwrites on a variety of home improvement topics, including when to upgrade your electrical panel to a new one.To view a wide range of new load center options, visit

So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (2)

Lindsay is Director of Media Engagement at Coldwell Banker Real Estate and oversees the brand's media and social media practice. She is also a licensed real estate professional. In 2017 and 2018 she was named one of the top 20 social influencers in real estate in the annual Swanepoel Power 200 ranking.

Lindsay lives in Livingston, NJ with her college friend and now husband Joe, and welcomed another Joe into her life when she became a mother in June 2016.

So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (3)So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (4)

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  1. So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (5)

    Peter Parmar

    March 18, 2016

    Very good article. Thank you for sharing all the information. It's true that many homeowners are not fully aware of how to upgrade their home electrical system. What you can do is hire a building consultant like this one.🇧🇷 There are many certified consultants to turn to and use their experience and knowledge.

    (Video) How Do I Know if My Panel is 200 Amps? (What Makes a 200 Amp Panel 200 Amps)


  2. So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (6)

    Kairi Gainsborough

    July 25, 2016

    I never realized how much energy modern electronics use compared to 30 years ago. My house is at least 40 years old, so I'm wondering if it can still safely handle the amperage our device requires. I need to check the circuit breaker to see how many amps it is handling. The power went out a couple of times when we were using a lot of electronics at the same time, like the vacuum cleaner and hair dryer. That could be the cause! It will definitely be worth renovating our house, because we plan to live here for many years to come.


  3. So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (7)

    Mike Meyers

    December 6, 2016

    Very informative article as most homeowners are unaware of the demands that our modern day electronics place on the electrical panels in their homes. Dallas electricians find homes that need updating as you describe weekly. Thank you for sharing this information. They will greatly benefit homeowners and electrical engineers.


  4. So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (8)


    March 22, 2017

    My wife and I want to set up a home theater in our house, but I'm concerned that we don't have enough power for the system. I'd rather play it safe and talk to an electrician about whether or not I need an upgrade. What tests or parameters would he use to determine whether or not we need extra energy?


  5. So you'll know when it's time to upgrade your residential electrical system (9)

    Marke A

    20. September 2017

    Thank you for the tips! I've been trying to figure out if it's time to update my house!


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How do I know when to upgrade my electrical panel? ›

11 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Electrical Panel
Jun 24, 2019

Is it worth upgrading to 200 amp service? ›

Do I Need a 200-Amp Service? Even with a 100-amp service, many homes will run close to maximum capacity. An upgrade to a 200-amp system will ensure your existing and future power needs are met, so you can install new appliances and hi-tech devices without worrying about running out of juice or overloading the system.

How much does it cost to upgrade electrical panel from 100 amp to 200 amp? ›

If you live in an older home with a 100-amp or fewer service that's susceptible to overheating or a blown fuse, upgrading to a modern 200-amp circuit breaker can provide modern convenience and safety. Expect to spend $1,000 to $2,000 for this upgrade, or more if you opt for a higher amperage.

What is the average cost of upgrading electrical panel? ›

The average cost of an electrical panel upgrade is between $1,300 and $3,000. This is the typical range for upgrading from 100 amps to 200 amps; for smaller or larger upgrades, you may pay anywhere from $800–$4,000. Below are the factors that determine the total cost: Panel size: Panel size ranges from 60–400 amps.

Do electrical upgrades increase home value? ›

It increases your home's value

If you decide to put your home up for sale, an upgraded electrical panel that has a high amperage will certainly serve as a key selling point, since more and more people have power hungry appliances and devices.

At what age should you rewire a house? ›

If a property is more than 30 years old and has the original wiring, it is likely to need updating, at least in part, to meet modern standards, including replacing the fuse box with a modern consumer unit. A sign a rewire is necessary, is dated rubber, fabric or lead-insulated cabling.

How many amps should a house have? ›

Most homes require an electrical service of at least 100 amps. This is also the minimum panel amperage required by the National Electrical Code (NEC). A 100-amp service panel will typically provide enough power for a medium-sized home that includes several 240-volt appliances and central air-conditioning.

How many years does house wiring last? ›

The Life Expectancy of Wiring

Wiring can last for decades in most situations, so you aren't looking at needing to re-wire your entire house every five years or so. As a general rule, home wiring can last past 50 years.

Is 200 amp service enough for a house? ›

200-amp service is the current standard for new homes and updated service panels. It can supply all standard electrical needs in a typical family home but may not support a large electric heating system. In large homes, 300-amp or larger service capacity may be needed, particularly if the home has electric heating.

How much does it cost to upgrade from 150 amp to 200 amp? ›

Factors That Impact The Cost to Replace an Electrical Panel
AmperageEstimate Cost
100-Amps$1,200 – $2,500
125-Amps$1,500 – $2,700
150-Amps$1,800 – $3,000
200-Amps$2,000 – $3,500
1 more row
Jul 27, 2020

What happens when you upgrade to 200 amp? ›

Greater Capacity

A 200 amp service panel will provide more electrical current than a 100 amp panel, allowing a home to safely power large electrical appliances and heating and air conditioning equipment, and other appliances simultaneously.

How to go from 100 amp service to 200? ›

It is not possible to upgrade from 100 amps to 200 amps simply by replacing your breaker panel. To upgrade to 200 amps from a smaller service, you will need a new breaker panel, circuit breakers, meter socket, service conductors, grounding electrodes and bonding conductors.

When should I upgrade to 400 amp service? ›

The 400 amp service is usually required for larger homes that demand more heating and air conditioning capacity, as well as homes that utilize jetted tubs, hot tubs, saunas, or other large demand appliances and equipment.

Does a 1970s house need rewiring? ›

Does a 1970s house need rewiring? Not necessarily. The electrics might work fine and there is no rule that says a house from the 1970s requires rewiring. But before any conclusions can be made it is always a good idea to conduct an Electrical Installation Condition Report.

Can you rewire a house without removing drywall? ›

As most homeowners are concerned with the disruptiveness of the process, a question electricians get a lot is “can a house be rewired without removing drywall?”. The answer is usually yes, and even a whole house rewiring can in some cases be done with minimum disruption.

How much does it cost to rewire a 1500 sq ft house? ›

Cost to Rewire a House Per Square Foot
Square FeetAverage Cost
1,000$1,650 - $3,800
1,200$2,000 - $4,500
1,500$2,350 - $5,700
2,000$3,200 - $7,700
3 more rows
Jul 25, 2022

What home upgrades are not worth it? ›

Expensive sound systems, high-end pool lights, or showy DIY home upgrades like LED shower heads and toilets aren't likely to add any real value to your home. “They are fun upgrades, but they are so costly to install and won't add a significant resale value,” says Krzyston.

What upgrades do not increase home value? ›

However, not all of these home improvements will add financial value back to the home.
  • 6 House Improvements To Avoid. ...
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Sep 12, 2022

How much does it cost to upgrade electrical wiring on an old house? ›

When including both labor and materials, it can cost from $2 to $4 per square foot for a rewiring project. For a 2,000-sq. -ft. home, that can run $4,000 to $8,000.

Will a 1960s house need rewiring? ›

Unless the wiring is the modern PVCu coated type, then a rewire is likely to be necessary. If you see any old rubber insulated cabling, fabric insulated cabling (used until the 1960s), or lead insulated cabling (1950's) then it needs replacing as the insulation just crumble.

Does homeowners insurance cover rewiring a house? ›

Residential electrical wiring is usually covered under homeowners insurance policies for included electrical repairs and related damage. However, older homes with outdated types of wiring like knob and tube or aluminum wiring are likely to be more difficult to get coverage and cost more to insure.

How messy is a full house rewire? ›

Each property is different and some may not require the electricians to make as much mess, but the majority of electrical rewires require the walls to be cut, chased and chiselled. This can result in a lot of dust, mess and re-plastering works.

How many amps does a refrigerator use? ›

Amperage for most household refrigerators, is anywhere from 3 to 5 if the voltage is 120. A 15 to 20 amp dedicated circuit is required because the in-rush amperage is much higher. The average amperage is lower because the compressor isn't running all the time, this is often measured in kilowatt hours KWH.

How many amps does a 3000 square foot house use? ›

You should consider a 150 to 200-amp panel if…

This guideline applies even if you have a smaller home (2500/3000) sq/ft.

What is considered outdated wiring? ›

Old House Wiring Types

Homes more than 30 years old can have obsolete wiring systems or deteriorated wires that need to be replaced.

Does a 1980 house need rewiring? ›

It depends on its condition rather than its age, if it has been tested and is in good condition and everything is working effectively there is no requirement to rewire. However, you may wish to consider adding RCDs to enhance the safety of the installation.

Is it worth rewiring a house? ›

Does rewiring a house add value? Updated electrical wiring improves the value of your property, as functional modern wiring is essential for any new homeowner. By having your property properly rewired, the value will increase.

How often should a home electrical panel be replaced? ›

The average panel can last anywhere from 20 to 30 years, depending on multiple factors. If your home experiences frequent power surges or if your panel has been subjected to wear and tear, a replacement may be needed sooner rather than later.

How much does it cost to redo all electrical in a house? ›

When including both labor and materials, it can cost from $2 to $4 per square foot for a rewiring project. For a 2,000-sq. -ft. home, that can run $4,000 to $8,000.

Should I replace my old electrical panel? ›

Electrical panels are the main distribution for the power in your home. Every home has one which has either fuses or different breakers to control all the different circuits in your home. If yours is older than 30 years, it's likely you should replace your electrical panel.

What brand of electrical panel is best? ›

Siemens is one of the top electrical panel brands and many professional electricians will recommend it. The quality of the materials used, the durability and strength of the panels, but also their flexibility make them a top choice for many households.

How much does it cost to upgrade to a 400 amp service? ›

Cost to Upgrade to 400 Amp Service

The cost is on average between $3,500 and $4,500. While these numbers may seem high or make most homeowners think twice before deciding to replace or upgrade their electrical panel, it is important to do so and there are several reasons why.

Do I need more than 200 amp service? ›

200-amp service is the current standard for new homes and updated service panels. It can supply all standard electrical needs in a typical family home but may not support a large electric heating system. In large homes, 300-amp or larger service capacity may be needed, particularly if the home has electric heating.

Should I upgrade to 200 amp or 400 amp service? ›

“200-amp service will handle the same load as 100-amp service, plus electric appliances and electric heating/cooling equipment” (in a small to medium-sized home). “400-amp service is recommended for large homes with all-electric appliances and electric heating/cooling equipment.


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