Electrical Panel Replacement: The Real Cost

Posted on: December 12, 2016
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Houston TX, Local News, TX

Do I really NEED to replace the electrical panel?

Replacing an old or damaged circuit breaker box merits the expense. We depend on our electrical system to work properly to protect us by tripping off when a circuit overload occurs. But, homes built between the 1950s and 1990 may have circuit breakers which may not trip. This poses a serious fire hazard. Or, you have discovered a faulty circuit breaker or an outdated fuse box. So, you need to have a certified, licensed electrician inspect your breaker box.

Electrical panelHow much can you expect to pay to hire a qualified electrician in Houston replace it?

According to an article from Inspectapedia, the cost of replacing an electrical panel or breaker box may vary, depending on your area.

Electrical Panel Replacement Cost – Typical cost of the traditional FPE Electrical Panel Replacement

Quotes From Electrical Contractors on Electric Panel Replacement

Quotes from electrical contractors on panel replacement by installing a complete, new, electrical panel, can be expected to vary by area of the country, hardware needed, replacement panel size in ampacity and number of circuits, accessibility to perform the work, and other factors that affect labor or materials. That said, we’ve heard panel replacement costs ranging from $1,200. to $4,000 (April 2007, Northwestern United States). If you are surprised by the quotation you receive from your electrician, ask for the supporting details of the bid or ask for a bid from a competitor too. Shop expertise and workmanship not just price.

Northeastern U.S.: Typically the installation of a new 100-Amp electrical pane in the Northeastern U.S. is around $1,200 to $1,500. (June 2006, Northeastern U.S.). This figure does not include the additional cost for a service panel (150A or 200A), extra labor, or materials for demolition and repair of a wall needed to address an electric panel which is already installed.

Southwestern U.S.: (Such as Dallas Fort Worth) Typically the installation of a new 100-Amp electrical pane in the Southwestern U.S. is around $1,200 to $2,100. (February 2008 Dallas Electrical Costs). A 150A or 200A electrical panel may cost up to $2400. from some installers.

Additional costs for replacement electrical panel installations: may be expected where there is difficulty of access, where demolition and wall repair are needed, where the electrical service is being upgraded to a larger ampacity than that of the panel being replaced, or where there are other special requirements. Typical factors affecting the cost of electrical repair and retrofit work are discussed in more detail just below.

The “Short Wire” problem and the Eaton Renovation Load Center

Electrical panel, FPE, Zinsco, or any other brand can be extra difficult when replacing the entire panel if only short lengths of wire are available in the old electrical box. Especially if the new electric panel is physically larger than the one being replaced, the original wires may not reach the circuit breakers in the new panel.

A product which might help when the entire load center (what normal people call the “electric panel”) is going to be replaced. is E-CH’s “Renovation Loadcenters”. The unique feature is that UL listed terminal blocks are provided in the enclosure as a means to terminate existing wires too short to reach the new panel’s branch circuit breakers or neutral bus. A new wire can then be wired from the terminal block to the breaker or neutral.

This is a safer method than the twist-on connectors commonly used, or a separate terminal box, which takes up extra space. I do not discuss this approach further here but more information is available from Eaton Corp., Cutler Hammer Products or through your electrician and electrical supplier.

“RETROFIT COST – Cost of Replacing an FPE Panel using the E-CH Adjustable Retrofit Kit” discusses the costs of FPE panel replacement using Cutler Hammer’s retrofit electrical panel kit. This money-saving option is sometimes suitable, depending on the physical dimensions of the original electrical panel and the ampacity of the new service to be installed.

Factors Affecting the Cost of an Electrical Panel Replacement

  • Area of the country: prevailing wages and other costs for electricians vary by area of the country as well as city, town, or rural rates.
  • Electrical Work Permits and Electrician Licensing Fees required vary by municipality as do the fees that must be paid for those permissions to install an new electrical panel.
  • Amount of labor required to remove the old panel: this may vary widely depending on where and how the old electrical panel was installed, the amount of demolition, the necessity to perform cosmetic repairs to a surrounding wall or other surface, and even the working space to access the old panel.
  • Condition of the existing electrical wiring or its insulation: may affect panel replacement cost. Copper in electrical wiring does not deteriorate with mere age (contrary to what a New Paltz NY contractor told one of our clients). But the wire insulation may be damaged and unsafe from age, or from overheating. (Overheating a wire, unlike mere age, can also damage the copper wire itself.) Damaged electrical wires may have to be replaced. Replacement does not necessarily mean that the entire circuit needs to be replaced. Often overheating occurs locally, such as close to a connection or in a light fixture. The electrician may be able to cut back the damaged wiring, install a junction box, and extend the old circuit to the new electrical panel.
  • Obsolete electrical wiring such as knob and tube wiring does not necessarily have to be replaced (by code) but may be damaged, modified, or otherwise unsafe. Since a traditional knob and tube electrical circuit lacks a ground wire, these circuits should be upgraded to new wire whenever possible.
  • Physical size of the old electrical panel may be too small to preclude its re-use with a panel retrofit kit, so the entire box needs to be replaced.
  • Short electrical wires in the old panel may make it difficult or impossible to connect the existing wires to breakers in a new, physically larger electrical panel. Extensions, junction boxes, or a retrofit panel kit may be needed. We discussed this concern just above
  • Other new electrical work: may end up being part of your project. Since it’s going to cost just to have your electrician walk in the door to do any job, it is often more economical to batch together multiple electrical tasks into one larger project. Discuss with your electrician other electrical improvements such as adding circuits, installing grounded electrical receptacles, adding a switch you’ve always wanted, and other improvements that may be less costly when added to the electrical panel replacement project.

The cost of not replacing your electrical panel may be much higher if your panel starts a fire. Especially since we are using more and more electrical devices – from cellphones to entertainment systems. Many people in older homes are choosing to upgrade their panels to meet the demand. When your circuit breaker trips frequently, your house doesn’t have enough power to handle multiple appliances that are running simultaneously. Overloading your circuit breaker can create a fire hazard. Using frayed or old plugs and cheap extension cords that can heat them up to very high temperatures. Having a certified, licensed electrical contractor can determine if you need to upgrade.

Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical is a full service residential contractor that has been serving the greater Houston area for over 50 years. Abacus is a member of the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce and has an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau of Houston. Abacus is licensed and insured and offers 24/7 emergency service. To learn more about Abacus Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, visit www.abacusplumbing.net or call 713-766-3605. License Numbers: ALAN O'NEILL M-20628 | TACLB82488E | TECL 30557

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