Electrical Panel: What you need to know before a renovation

electrical panel

Electrical Panel: What you need to know before a renovation


I have invited an electrician that we use on our projects to discuss a topic that’s not very pretty or sexy, but SUPER important during a renovation. Your electrical panel is something that is always looked at when we take on a renovation project.

I’d like you to meet Robb Lacey who is the owner of Jewel Electric Ltd.

Robb started his apprenticeship 20 years ago in high school, as a first-generation RAP student. He completed his education in BC, then completed a master’s certificate in Alberta. He is trained in solar, electric vehicle charging stations and a very experienced troubleshooting technician. You might say he likes to solve puzzles, but he really loves to learn and continue to grow as a professional and a person.

Robb has been generous to provide us his take on the electrical panel and your options. I hope you enjoy his information.

Your Electric Panel – Robb Lacey

It’s full, it’s old, it’s ugly; whatever the reason, you kinda want it gone, and something new in its place. What does that entail, though? Would it be a better idea to add a subpanel?

Let me be clear, neither code, nor my own opinion, have any concerns that a sub panel is an unsafe option. I personally think that, as you are adding two new connection points to your existing electrical system, there are more components involved that could fail over time – electronic components.

Why Replace an Existing Electrical Panel?

Let’s begin by looking at the different reasons you might choose to replace your existing electrical panel:

  1. It is old.
  2. The panel is ugly and will be seen.
  3. More amps are needed for the new renovation.
  4. The panel is in the way for the new design plan.
  5. The electrical panel is full.

It’s Old

electrical panel

Well, be that as it may, there are no movable parts inside so if it’s working now, why replace it? One option is just to replace the individual breakers as they fail. This is an option that will not break the bank. Eventually the main buss or main breaker will fail, and at that time, you will probably need to replace the entire panel.

The panel is ugly

So long as you don’t paint over the manufacturer’s labelling that highlights any safety or license information, you are allowed to paint the panel. Please note, do not paint with spray paint please. That would be a safety no-no!

More amps are needed

Scenario A: Your home only has a 60amp service and your new renovation requires 100amps.

Scenario B: There are 100amps however I need more. For example, if you are putting in a legal secondary suite, a bunch of equipment, or some solar solutions.

For any of these scenarios we would need to replace your panel AND your service. Replacing overhead service is a piece of cake however replacing an underground service can be a lot of work and money.

This will always add to the renovation budget if you are in this situation.

The panel is in the way of the new design

If your panel is in a position where you need to move it, this would be a good time to simply replace the electrical panel. With this option, you will still need to junction and extend every existing circuit to the new panel location.

One thing to remember is that you are not allowed to have an electrical panel in a bathroom (moisture vapour due to showers, 1 metre of clearance in front of the panel, slippery floors, electric shock hazards.) If you have a panel that will be in a washroom after your renovation, it will need to be moved. Ensure you discuss this with your designer.

Sub Panel

electrical panel

While there are reasons to change out the entire panel, you may be able to add a sub panel. You will see below the price difference.

This is a scenario where you keep the old (if the old is not broke, there may not be a need to replace it).

Replacing the electrical panel: Costs

About 3 years ago, we could replace your electrical panel for about $800 with the benchmark was typically about $1400. Some changes have occurred since then.

  1. The  US trade tariffs came in to play which dramatically raised the costs of consumer-level steel and copper. Around this same time, Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) requirements were tightened up and those devices needed to be installed on more and more circuits. This adds to the cost and adds to the spaces on the electrical panel.
  2. Grounding and bonding requirements of the dwelling, especially if the plumbing was being upgraded from metal to pex., also needed to be up to code. Again, this adds to the cost.
  3. The electrical company needs to be hired to come out to pull the meter or cut the connections at the transformer, disconnecting power to the panel so we can safely make our connections. This cost can be between $500 and $700.

With all of the changes listed above, you can see that prices have gone up. Without knowing your entire home situation or renovation plan, here is what you can expect (as an average). And please note, these are ballpark figures.

  • Adding a sub panel $600.00 CDN
  • Replacing a panel $1600.00 CDN
  • To replace the panel and service $2300.00 CDN
  • Relocating the panel and service $3400.00 CDN

These are all important items to look at while you are developing your design plan with Sheri (or another designer).

Electrical

I wish to thank Robb for sharing his knowledge with all of you. Although an electrical panel is not sexy, it is always part of a renovation that we need to consider.

There has to be some pretty

You know I can’t write a blog without adding in a bit of pretty. Since we’re talking about electrical panels, I have gathered up some of my favourite lights that Robb could be installing in your home or some lamps you can add on your own. As a BONUS, a lot of them are on sale!

Shop the Look

The items below contain affiliate links. Any purchases, at no additional charge to you, are most appreciated and make this blog possible.

Looking to renovate or in need of updating your lighting in your home? Contact Sheri today to discuss your home.

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