Repair or Replace a Circuit Breaker Panel: Which Is Best for You?

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Posted March 27, 2020

You can save time and money if you repair or replace a circuit breaker panel on your own, but is it worth the risk of not getting it right the first time?

Typically, you won’t need to replace your circuit breakers. Unlike a fuse, however, it is engineered so that you can reset a tripped circuit breaker.

Most residential homes have a main circuit breaker as well as separate branch circuit breakers that connect to different areas in your home. Sometimes, they may break or malfunction. Meaning, you’ll need to replace them with new ones.

How to Replace a Circuit Breaker

how to replace a circuit breaker

If you need to replace your circuit breaker, there’s a procedure you must follow. You need to get it right the first time.

If you’re replacing a household circuit breaker with a regular two-pull main breaker and branch circuit compartments, you need to turn off all the branch circuit breakers. Next, turn off the main circuit breaker.

Remember, safety first. Never assume that the breakers are off. You must check for voltage on adjacent breakers to make sure the breaker panel is not live.

Now, take off the panel cover. This will give you access to your branch circuit breakers, but not the main breaker compartment.

Never try to remove the cover to the main breaker. Only a certified electrician should access this section. When replacing the circuit breaker, remove the panel cover only.

After you remove the cover, you can disconnect the wire from the faulty breaker and pull it out. Carefully wrench the malfunctioning circuit breaker out of its slot. Notice how the breaker installs in the panel and locks in place. This way, you can reinstall the new circuit breaker correctly

Remember, you cannot install the new circuit breakers upside down or sideways. Now, insert the new circuit breaker.

While the circuit panels open, check the other branch circuits and make sure they are properly installed. While you’re in there, tighten any loose parts.

Replace the panel cover and make sure that all branch circuits are in the off position. Now, proceed to turn on the main circuit breaker and then flip each branch breaker on individually.

Should I Replace My Circuit Breaker or Hire a Pro?

hire a pro to replace your circuit breaker

The best way to ensure the safety of your circuit breaker is to hire a professional to install it. When it comes to circuit breakers— and electricity for that matter—safety is of the utmost importance.

Your city’s power supply runs straight to your electrical panel. If you make a mistake, you can get shocked or even electrocuted. Resultantly, you should leave circuit breaker replacement to a qualified and experienced electrician.

If a circuit breaker is installed improperly in your home, it can expose your residence to fire and put your family at risk. You could experience property loss due to fire or electrical surges from an improperly installed circuit breaker.

It’s essential that you hire a professional to install your circuit breaker to code for safety and insurance purposes.

Good electricians are prompt, friendly, and professional. What’s more, they do the job right the first time. Once a professional has installed a new circuit breaker, you’re free to run the appliances that you depend on every day.

A new circuit breaker enables you to enjoy a noticeable improvement in your home’s safety and performance.

It also protects your expensive electronics, appliances, and computers from electrical surges and risk of damage.

A new circuit breaker can even protect you from potential data loss when, for instance, a power surge or electrical supply disruption occurs. It will help you to avoid disruptions to your internet service and other important connections to the outside world.

Most importantly, a new circuit breaker will minimize the risk of fire if you’re breakers become overloaded. Now, you can enjoy the convenience of using more than one or two electrical appliances at a time to avoid tripping your circuits.

Thinking Things Through

failure leads to replace a circuit breaker

Whether a home is old or new, electrical system failure is not uncommon. Failure can occur due to wear and tear, improper installation, faulty wiring or inadequate components.

You should always hire a competent electrical specialist to prevent putting your household at risk. A subpar electrical job increases the risk of fire due to faulty electrical wiring. Resultantly, it pays to get quotes from top electricians in your area.

An electrical breaker panel contains important safety features—like circuit breakers—to stop damage to your home. Possible threats may include circuit overload, short-circuits, fires and power surges.

The breaker panel is a central point that filters power into your home. It then delivers the electrical supply to your entire household. Electrical wiring can prove dangerous—but not if it’s installed properly.

When you hire a professional electrician, make sure they possess bonding, insurance, and a license. Also, make sure that they have registered with the city and confirm their standing in your municipality.

Electrical jobs are complex.

Repairs can range from replacing a blown breaker panel fuse to a complete overhaul of your circuit breaker system. If a circuit trips repeatedly, it’s most likely because it can’t withstand the draw of your home’s appliances, HVAC system, lighting, and other equipment.

If too much current runs to your breakers, the circuit will “break” to prevent more serious issues. An electrician can fix this problem by adding more power. As an example, an amp breaker designed to handle more power can deliver an uninterrupted flow to your household.

Cost to Replace Circuit Breaker Panel


cost to replace a circuit breakerOn average, the costs from $1,500 to $3,500 to replace an electrical panel, depending on the needed amperage.

A service panel upgrade of up to 100-amps my cost $1,600-$4,000, while a 200-amp breaker box replacement may cost $3,000 to $5,000.

Meanwhile, a 400-amp upgrade may cost about $2,000 to $4,000.

The typical cost to replace a breaker box is $1,975. Most homeowners spend between $1,787 and $2,207 for this job. As you can see, it pays to get estimates from expert electricians.

A low-amp sub-panel typically calls from $1,000 to $2,000, while a 200-amp panel upgrade can cost you up to $5,000. In the end, the cost of your job will depend on your home, the number of circuits and the needed amperage.

Today, homes use more energy than ever before. An electrical system that was installed decades ago may not be able to handle your needs today.

You want your home to run smoothly. An adequate electrical panel can prevent tripped circuits and fires.

The typical cost to replace the electrical panel is $1,550 to $3,100 for 100-amps. If you need a service panel replacement, that cost may rise to $2,200 to $3,000.

A 200-amp upgrade may cost $1,900 to $3,500, while a 400-amp upgrade may cost $3,000 to $5,000. Meanwhile, a low-amp sub-panel may cost you $1,000-$2,000.

Timewise, a 200-amp upgrade may take 8 to 10 hours. This estimate includes a new panel with the main breaker, 10 circuit breakers, labor and all needed materials.

Reasons to Replace Circuit Breaker Panel

reasons to replace a circuit breaker

Your breaker box is the heart of your home’s electrical system. It connects municipal power lines to all the circuits that run throughout your home.

It is also the housing for your electrical systems primary safety devices. These safety devices include the circuit breakers that protect circuits from overload and other threats.

The electrical control panel is relatively simple. Still, a number of problems can cause it to fail. For instance, a faulty installation, inclement weather, sunlight or obsolescence can cause your electrical system to break down.

If this happens, you should have your electrical system serviced immediately by a qualified electrician. Still, there are other reasons why you may need to repair or replace parts for your electrical system.

As an example, the cables that run from the pole on the street to the structural mounts on your home are serviced by your local utility company. However, the cable group between the mount and the service-entrance cable (SEC) is your domain.

Here, you may find damaged insulation, loose cables or missing clamps. You may also see anchors missing where the SEC connects with the meter service or service panel. These problems require the immediate attention of a qualified electrical expert.

Also, water and electricity do not play well together. It’s as deadly a combination as fire and gas. If your home has a leak or drainage problem and moisture gets into your panel, stay away from it! Call an expert to deal with the problem immediately.

Things to Consider

A new breaker box can help to prevent fires in your household. Furthermore, when your appliances work at peak efficiency, it adds value to your home.

You may need to upgrade your electrical system for several reasons. For instance:

  • You may have just remodeled
  • The panel might feel warm
  • The breakers may trip when you plug-in appliances
  • You may still run an outdated fuse box
  • You might notice a smell coming from your electrical panel
  • Your lights may flicker
  • You might hear buzzing or crackling coming from outlets
  • You may notice burn marks around receptacles

Any of these issues warrant immediate attention.

If You Own an Older Home

old home

If you own an older home, you’ll need to replace the circuit breaker if it’s a Federal Pacific Electric panel.

Contractors installed these panels in the 1950s through the 1980s. While these are still in many older homes, they don’t stand up to the current safety and building codes. The same logic applies for Zinsco panels.

You don’t want either of these panels to malfunction in your home. They are a high-risk fire hazard and you should update them immediately. If this is your situation, you’ll need to replace the entire panel right away.

Contemporary homeowners run a growing number of appliances, high-definition televisions, computers and smart devices in addition to charging stations. Today’s homes are power-hungry.

If your electrical system isn’t adequate, it will overload and malfunction. That means it’s better to upgrade or replace your outdated electrical panel and install a new properly functioning electrical system. An updated electrical system and breaker box will prevent fires, make your appliances work better and add value to your property.

Working with electricity is dangerous.

If you do something wrong, it tends to catch fire. For this reason, it’s better to leave electrical work to professionals. They’ve done this kind of work repeatedly and have the experience to do the job right.

Also, a professional electrical contractor has access to discounts and parts that aren’t available to the public. They also have training that enables them to stay up-to-date on the latest electrical system best practices.

Most importantly, professional electrical contractors have insurance. If something goes wrong, you can count on their insurance to protect your home.

You Don’t Have to Go at It Alone 

technician meeting customer

In the end, you could save money by repair your electrical system or replace a circuit breaker on your own. However, you should ask yourself, “Is it really worth the risk?”

The most important thing that a professional electrician can provide you with is peace-of-mind. Installing a properly functioning electrical system in your home is one way to accomplish that.

Reach out to Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical for a free in-home inspection. Our expert technicians will inspect your home for free.

During the inspection, they will evaluate your electrical system and wiring. They’ll also teach you about energy-efficient lighting, surge protection, and other electrical safety issues.

Contact Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical today for an in-home electrical inspection.

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