Frequently asked questions

What is the main electrical panel and service?

An electrical main panel, also known as service panel, circuit breaker box or load center, is the main distribution point for electrical circuits in your house. Think of it as the heart of the electrical systems. This is where the power comes into your home. Electrical panels usually provide in between 100 and 400 amps of power to your house, depending on the rating. Power reaches the house through the utility company’s lines (service entrance).

What does electrical service upgrade mean?

Electrical service upgrade means allowing more electrical power to come to your house. Many older homes were built with 50, 60 or 100 amps which was at the time sufficient to support house’s electrical needs. They weren’t desinged to facilitate modern appliances like EV charing stations, dishwashers, AC’s etc that we have come to depend on. To accommodate today's typical electric demand with high power-consumption appliances, a 200 A panel is recommended. It is also important to note that larger panel itself won’t use more electricity. It just means you will have more space available for adding circuits and more electrical capacity to supply your household needs as they arise.

What are the benefits of conducting electrical panel upgrade?

The most important benefit of upgrading your electrical panel is safety. Knowing that your home is protected from fire hazards caused by overloaded circuits. You could have a peace of mind knowing your home and family are protected. You will be able to use your modern appliances safely and know that your new electronic equipment is protected. Opportunity to add more circuits to power you house. Updating your electrical system may increase your home’s resale value. Also, insurance companies are more likely to give you insurance under good terms.

How much does it cost to upgrade my electrical panel?

The price usually varies in between 1000-3500$, depending on the property and the type of an upgrade. The key factors which determine the price are:
1) If it is a main or a sub panel
2) If it includes service upgrade
3) If it is with a meter or without
4) The scale of the upgrade
5) The positioning of the panel

When do I need to consider electircal panel upgrade?

Following are some of the indicators that your electrical panels is in need of upgrade:

• Current panel is in poor condition
• Current panel is old and has only a few circuits, and your breakers do not trip (breakers are designed to trip and protect the wire from getting overloaded and heating up).
• Circuit breakers trip frequently
• Lights dim when turning on other appliances
• Adding high power-consumption appliances like EV chargin station or SPA

Standards generally recognize that the life expectancy of electric panels is about 25-40 years. With older panels, contact points become corroded, possibly causing arcing, brownouts, and, at worst, fires, personal injury, and property damage.

Do I need first contact PG&E before hiring an electrician for panel upgrade?

No, your electrical contractor will conduct the communication with PG&E.

How long am I going to be without power?

Usually the power is off for 4-8 hours.

Why do my circuit breakers keep tripping?

A circuit breaker trips to protect the circuit from overheating and causing fire. Three typical causes for tripping are:

• Overloaded Circuit
• Short Circuit
• Ground Fault

How do I know if my electrical panel is obsolete?

Electrical panels have a life span of 25-40 years, depending on the conditions the panel faced and maintenance provided. There are also many electrical panel brands, which are considered very unsafe:

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels along with other variations of this brand name can be very dangerous. The most problematic type of panel made by Federal Pacific Electric is the “Stab-Lock” panel. Federal Pacific Electric circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required, creating a fire hazard. Simply replacing the circuit breakers might not be a reliable repair. There appears to be no official recall on these panels, mainly because the company that made these panels is out of business.

Zinsco & Sylvania panels from 1970-1980 have an inconsistent history of various problems associated with them. They are outdated and by current standards considered dangerous. Zinsco circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not provide the protection required and creates a fire hazard. Simply replacing the circuit breakers might not be a reliable repair. There appears to be no official recall on these panels, mainly because the companies that made these panels are out of business.

Bulldog panels use a unique, proprietary type of circuit breaker called a “Pushmatic.” which is an older system that is no longer manufactured. The problem with Pushmatic breakers is that they are thermal with no magnetic trip. Secondly they are grease-fed breakers, meaning that if they’re not used and serviced regularly they become stiff and difficult to operate or reset. Since they are no longer manufactured the replacement parts for Pushmatic are also difficult and expensive to find.

Fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of circuit breakers to protect your wires from becoming overloaded. When a circuit draws too much electricity, the fuse burns out and must be replaced. Fuses aren’t inherently unsafe. They work just like circuit breakers (except they have to be replaced, not just reset) However, most fuse boxes in homes today are unsafe because they’ve been modified to try to accommodate today’s energy demands. What happens is that homeowners place too many things on a single circuit. That leads to fuses blowing out. This in turn can lead to homeowners replacinga 15 A fuse with 20 A, so it would stop blowing. By doing this homewner will create a huge fire hazard since the wires in the circuit are only rated for 15 A. If you have any of the forementioned panels we highly recommend to replace them. At the very least, have a licensed electrican inspect the panel.

Is upgrading electrical panel same as rewiring my house?

No. Electrical panel serves as a main distribution point for your circuits. This is where the power comes into your house. Upgrading the panel allows more power to be distributed.

What is the difference between main electrical panel and a sub panel?

Main panel is directly connected to utility service and has a service disconnect switch that covers the main panel and all of its sub panels. In most cases, this is where the meter is located. Main panel is also called the service panel. The main panel can have circuit breakers that control sub-panels an/or branch circuits. A sub-panel is connected to the main panel by a feeder circuit which usually has a breaker at both ends. Sub-panels can also have their own sub-panels, but generally, they only control branch circuits, which end in an appliance or load.

What can I do to maintain my electrical panel?

Like everything else in your home, a little maintenance goes a long way. When it comes to your electrical panel, always keep the cover on, and make sure it’s kept closed. This will prevent dust from entering, or other damage occurring. Consider getting regular maintenance done by an electrician about once every three years. They will take the cover completely off the panel, and will inspect the breakers. They’ll check all the connections, and do a thermal check to see if there’s an unusually high temperature anywhere. Generally speaking, high temperatures and electrical problems go together.

Do insurance companies make decisions based on my electrical panel?

Yes - they want to make sure it is up to date and sufficient for your house's electrical needs. Having an out-dated panel can lead to higher payment rates and even to denial.

Which electrical panel brands is Elex Solutions using?

We are using mainly Murray, Siemens, Square D, General Electric and Eaton panels.


Having further questions? Call us at 415.326.3259.