It is important to assess your electrical panel before embarking on any renovation or additions to your home, whether it be a new family room, garage, or even shiny new appliances for the kitchen. You need to ask yourself if you have a big enough electrical service to run everything you need and if your electrical panel is adequate for the job.
First and foremost, if you still have a fuse panel, you need to replace it with a breaker panel before considering most other improvements to your home. Although not a glamorous upgrade to your home, having an adequate electrical service is essential to a well-maintained home. A fuse panel is a red flag to home inspectors and buyers. It says that the home is not equipped to provide the basic necessities of a modern home. As well, it often causes headaches when it comes time to sell as many insurance companies insist on this upgrade before issuing coverage.
New quality-built homes are regularly equipped with a 200 Amp 80-circuit breaker panel. While 100 amp panels are still acceptable, they are the minimum requirement and can often leave you unable to add additional electrical equipment like hot tubs and saunas. A 200 amp electrical service can adequately satisfy our hunger for computers, home entertainment, spa and health equipment and kitchen appliances.
If your breaker panel is full and all the spaces in the panel are already taken, you need to consider replacing your electrical panel before taking on any large projects that could add to the electrical load on your home. Each circuit requires it’s own breaker so you will be at a standstill if you do not have room in your existing panel. Amateurs will sometimes attempt to double up on the number of circuits controlled by each breaker by sliding two wires into a breaker. Not only is this dangerous, but it is an illegal practice. (ESA code defect)
If you are upgrading your electrical panel, take a lesson from the architects who routinely call for the specifications on a custom home to have the largest panel available. It will pay off in convenience, appraisal for refinance, or resale, and peace-of-mind.