Electrical Panel Upgrade: All You Ever Wanted to Know About It

An electric panel upgrade being performed by a professional licensed electrician in San Antonio, TX. ©2024 All Star Electric San Antonio

When is it necessary to do an electrical panel upgrade? What does it cost? How long does it take? What are the benefits?

Having operating for almost 30 years as electricians in San Antonio, we have upgraded and replaced thousands of electrical panels in homes and businesses.

There are a few main reasons why you would want to replace your entire service panel: (a) Obvious signs of corrosion inside the panel; (b) Your home electrical installation dates back from the 70s, when builders used fuse boxes instead of circuit breakers; (c) You are preparing a major renovation project that will require more electricity than your current panel can handle.

But replacement is often not necessary when upgrading it will do the job. Electrical contractor All Star Electric San Antonio upgrades service panels on a routine basis. In many cases, the number of circuits and their amperage are simply inadequate for the power demand. Sometimes, renovations and additions make upgrading necessary.

In this page, we discuss why upgrading your electrical panel could be necessary, how much that could cost you, and how All Star Electric San Antonio would help you.

Click on any of the links below to jump directly to the section that matters to you, or just read through.

Cost of an Electrical Panel Upgrade

Three key factors determine the final price of an upgrade: amperage requirements of your home, quality of the electrical supplies, inflation in the cost of the supplies, and cost of labor.

The typical electrical panel of San Antonio homes ranges between 125 and 200 amps. The amperage measures the volume of electricity flowing through the electrical installation. If your home is old, you probably use power strips to offset the small number of wall outlets. You may have added more outlets to suit your needs, but your service panel probably wasn’t drawing much more than 30-40 amps.

In newer constructions, homebuilders install more outlets because a typical home today will easily draw 100-200 amps. In larger homes with many rooms and more appliances and power-hungry features, this load can ramp up to 400 amps.

The cost of upgrading varies based on amperage and various other factors, including as mentioned above the rapid rise in the cost of materials. At the time we publish this article, for an exterior 125-amp panel, expect the cost of replacement to be around $1,500-$1700. Replacing an exterior 200-amp panel would cost in the neighborhood of $1600-$1800. The cost of an interior sub-panel (with the code-required arc-fault breakers) currently hovers around $2600-$2800. Replacing a 400-amp panel would cost in the neighborhood of $5500-$5700.

These are ballpark figures just to replace the panel. If the entire service needs to be replaced (including replacing the electric meter), the cost would obviously be more expensive. Again, we just mention these figures to give you a rough idea of what you would be looking at. Our actual quote would depend on the exact situation of your electrical installation, and on supply conditions at the time of your request.  

To this cost, you need to add the permitting fees and cost of inspection.

If you think of an upgrade or a replacement, call us at (210) 391-0274.

Signs a Panel Upgrade is Needed

Circuit breakers tripping too often indicate a circuit overload

Several indicators suggest your electrical panel probably require an upgrade. You need to pay attention to these, if you want to maintain the safety of your home and the efficiency of your electrical system.

Frequent Breaker Trips

If your circuit breakers trip regularly, it is probably because of an overload on one or several circuits: the electrical demand is too heavy for your current panel. This is a safety issue, and over time, it creates unnecessary wear-and-tear on your breakers.

Outdated Panels

Electrical panels have a typical lifespan of 40 years. However, panels older than 25 years may become inefficient at handling your electrical demand, but they can also fail to meet code and safety requirements.


Let’s say, that one of your breakers has tripped once again. If you feel the electrical panel is bit hot when you reset the breaker, that’s an issue. The service panel should never feel hot to the touch. Overheating indicates your panel is overworking and this can point to a risk of electrical fire.

Rust or Damage

If you observe physical signs of rust or damage on your panel, you may face potential electrical problems. These are telltale signs that your electrical system is is not fully safe and functional.

Electrical Panel Upgrade: For What Benefits?

With IoT, smart apps can control service panels in a home to manage light fixtures and appliances

Upgrading your service panel brings at least 3 tangible improvements to your electrical installation.

Increased Safety

When we upgrade your service panel, we seek to manage the electrical load more safely by distributing it across a sufficient number of circuits with the correct amperage. This prevents circuit overloads and short circuits. Also, modern panels meet current safety standards. Regulators update standards to reduce the risk of electrical fires and shocks.

Improved Efficiency

Newer panels are more efficient in distributing electricity. They handle high-demand appliances better. What you want is a stable power supply and less voltage fluctuations.


When we upgrade your panel, the amperage capacity of your electrical installation enables your family to use more appliances and electronic devices for years to come, with no risk of overload. Let’s say a couple of years down the road, you decide to add a new room, or expand your garage, or set up a workshop with power-hungry tools: your service panel will be ready to handle the additional load. And if you need even more power, it will be easy to add more circuits.

Safety concerns

Partial view of the breakers of an electrical panel with a danger sticker on the inside of the door

Upgrading a panel tackles several potential safety issues.

Fire Hazards

Outdated electrical panels pose a significant fire risk. When a circuit overloads, it heats up. An older panel may not trip and overheat.

Electrical Shocks

When panels fail to regulate and distribute electricity properly, the risk of surges or shocks increases when you use your appliances or overloaded outlets.

Malfunctioning Breakers

We talked earlier about breakers that trip too often. Whether they trip too often or fail to trip when they should, they indicate issues within the panel. Malfunctions create unsafe usage conditions, with the electrical system either unprotected or inconsistently powered.

Electrical Panel Upgrade: A Job Reserved to Licensed Electricians?

A licensed electrician working on an electrical panel in a run-down home in San Antonio

The electrical codes make it mandatory to call a licensed electrician to replace or upgrade a service panel. There are multiple reasons for this situation, all related to the complexity of the job and the safety and insurance risks involved.

Task Complexity

Professional electricians have years of training and experience in handling high-voltage systems safely. They are fully cognizant of the intricacies of electrical codes and standards, and their job is to ensure your installation is both safe and code-compliant.

Upgrading an electrical panel is not a straightforward task. It involves

  • Knowing how to deal with complex wiring
  • Understanding how to manage electrical load efficiently, and
  • Having the experience necessary to install the panel so that it works safely from the get-go.

Training apprentice electricians both theoretically and in the field to the point they can pass the state exam and get their license takes a minimum of 4 years and thousands of hours of practical experience. This is way beyond the scope of knowledge of DIY enthusiasts, even experienced ones.

Safety Risks

Needless to say, electrical work is inherently dangerous. Every year, statistics show the number of deaths and injuries do to electrocution numbers in the hundreds. Why risk a permanent injury or even death when a pro can handle this job safely?

Insurance Issues

Lastly, insurance companies will refuse to underwrite a home policy if you upgrade your service panel yourself and you are not a licensed electrician. If you still do the job and there is a fire, claim adjusters will trace the fire back to the electrical panel and will want to ascertain who did the installation.

At that point, you are responsible for any damage because your policy will not cover it. If the fire damaged a neighboring property, you are also liable for the cost of your neighbor’s losses. If the fire involves human life, the situation will be even more devastating.

Primary Roles of Your Service Panel

If you read the previous sections, you already know what follows. But here is a recap if you jumped directly to this section.

Your service panel plays 2 major roles in your electrical installation.

It is the central hub for your electricity. It manages the flow of electricity from the utility line to the various rooms and appliances in your home. Each circuit within the panel corresponds to a specific area or appliance: this allows for a well-organized and well-controlled distribution of electrical power.

Your service panel is also your main protection against electrical hazards. Circuit breakers trip in the event of an overload or short circuit, preventing potential electrical fires or damage to appliances and electronic devices. Overloads can happen internally (e.g. too many appliances on a single circuit), but also externally (e.g. big spikes due to thunderstorms).

We discuss the benefits of whole-house surge protectors here; we encourage you to read about them, they are very useful safety devices.

Electrical Panel Upgrade & Home Renovations

Professional electricians redoing the electrical circuits in a home renovation project in San Antonio

If  you add a room to a home, or expand your garage, or build a workshop to use high-energy tools, you will almost always need to upgrade your service panel to meet the new power demand.

By way of example, you may need to add another HVAC unit to cool off or heat up a new room. HVAC is notoriously power-hungry, and when an air conditioning unit cycles it pulls a high demand on your panel.

The same goes for a hot tub, or a sauna.

As licensed electricians in San Antonio, our job starts with calculating the current and future electrical needs of your household. If you work with us to prepare your renovation project, we will recommend the appropriate panel upgrades. Don’t hesitate to call us at (210) 391-0274 for advice.

Whole-House Surge Protection

Electricians know that whole-house surge protectors have become a necessary upgrade in view of the increase in heavy thunderstorms in San Antonio

The power grid is relatively stable, but not perfectly so. The supply of electricity coming to your home is varying constantly. These variations are small and go unnoticed. Your electrical installation and your service panel can handle them without any issue.

This is not the case however of large electrical spikes due to lightning strikes and power outages. Even large appliances turning on and off can cause spikes in the electrical supply. These surges can damage sensitive electronics and appliances. This is what a surge protector does: it helps preventing these damages by blocking or redirecting excess electricity.

When we upgrade an electrical panel, we always recommend installing a whole-house surge protector. It shields the entire electrical system of the household against power spikes. Research has shown that a well regulated power supply also extends the life of your appliances and electronics.

Technological advancements

In the past few years, we have seen the introduction of innovative features in service panels that enhance their functionality and the user experience.

Digital and Smart Panels

Smart panels offer advanced capabilities such as remote monitoring and control. You can now manage your electrical system remotely with smart phone apps that enable you to make real-time adjustments and monitor your electrical usage from anywhere in the world.

These apps are practical when, for instance, you are vacationing away from home and you hear on the news there is a heat wave in your region. The app enables you to monitor the temperature inside your home and adjust your HVAC accordingly. Likewise if you find your power usage is too high and need to reduce it.

Wi-Fi Connectivity

The integration of Wi-Fi in electrical panels allows for seamless connectivity with and between smart home devices. This feature enables automated home energy management, optimizing electricity usage and improving overall energy efficiency.

We integrate these technological advancements into your electrical system, providing a more responsive, more efficient, and more user-friendly experience. Home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) will inevitably find their way in our homes; these upgrades prepare your electrical installation for tomorrow.

Note: We added two links to interesting resources about Wi-Fi connectivity and smart panels in the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page.

Circuit Breakers vs. Fuse Boxes: What’s the Difference?

Mid-century home retrofitted with an electrical panel with circuit breakers vs the previous old fuse box

Electrical panels, as called service panels or breaker boxes, are the current standard for home electrical systems. They use circuit breakers, switches that automatically shut off (or “trip”) when they detect an overload or short circuit in the circuit they control. Breakers prevent overheating and reduce the risk of electrical fires. They are resettable, which makes them convenient to manage for anybody.

Fuse boxes are an older technology. They contain fuses designed to melt and disconnect power when overloaded. While relatively effective in preventing circuit overloads, the fuse requires replacement once it blows: this is obviously much less convenient than simply resetting a breaker. Typically found in older homes, fuse boxes are usually not suitable for the higher electrical demands of modern appliances and devices.

The electrical code transitioned from fuse boxes to circuit breakers in the 1960s. However, homeowners only slowly upgraded their old installations, over the span of a couple of decades. Today, this is a real surprise when our electricians come to do an electrical repair in a home… and find it still operates with an old fuse box.

How All Star Electric San Antonio Will Assist You

All Star Electric San Antonio pulling up to a customer's home with one of the company electrical service vans

When you call us to get a quote on an electrical panel upgrade or replacement, we first come to your home to listen to the issues you are facing or the project you have in mind. We inspect your current service panel, and perform load calculations. We want to understand what the situation is that would require a breaker box upgrade.

Once done with this first inspection, we have a precise idea of what your electrical installation needs. We can create a quote based on the amperage you need for the foreseeable future, the electrical supplies your project requires, and the labor the job will take.

As we give you a quote, we also discuss a timetable based in part on your availability and ours. If you are not at home during the project, we will have to arrange access to your property. Once you and All Star Electrical have agreed on everything, we will source out the electrical supplies and start on the job. When we need an inspection upfront and/or after, we arrange appointments with the inspector.

After completing the installation work, we perform a series of tests under various electrical load conditions. When the tests conclude successfully, and any required inspection certifies the system, we deliver it to you. We will show you all the components and the labels, so you are fully in control of your new or upgraded service panel.

A Trustworthy San Antonio Electrician

With some 30 years of experience operating as licensed electricians in San Antonio, All Star Electric has see all the possible challenges that an electrical panel upgrade or replacement can throw at an electrical contractor. There is no challenge we can’t overcome, no task we can’t successfully complete.

More importantly, with an A+ rating at the San Antonio Better Business Bureau, and a strong rating of 4.5 in Google reviews, we have a reputation of doing our job fast and right the first time.

We guarantee our work for 2 years after completion. It takes no time for an electrical malfunction to come obvious on a job just completed, so you have peace of mind with a 2-year warranty.

We hope this page is informational. Contact us for your project, you can expect excellent and fast service. Call us at (210) 391-0274 or use the form on the right.

Additional Resources

ENERGY STAR – Electric Panel Upgrade Tax Credit: This resource provides information on tax credits available for electric panel upgrades as part of energy efficiency improvements. It details the eligibility criteria for the tax credit and how it applies to electric panel upgrades.

Leviton Smart Load Center: This is a good example of how innovation in remote control allows homeowners to control the load center activities and home lighting seamlessly from a smartphone or tablet. This page describes how Wi-Fi-enabled electrical panels interact with smart home devices to enhance home energy management and efficiency.

Understanding Smart Electrical Panels: This resource explains how smart electrical panels manage load. These panels use technology to monitor and manage home energy usage. They utilize relays to control circuits and report back to a smartphone app, allowing users to see how much energy each circuit is using and manage it accordingly.

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