The powerhouse of your home’s electrical system is the circuit breaker box, commonly known as the main service panel. This is the main feed where power enters the home from the utility company via the meter to be distributed to various branch circuits of the home. An electrical sub-panel, also known as a service panel, connects the main service panel with branch circuits further down the line.
Electrical subpanels play an essential role in distributing power to different areas of your home or property. It can be placed anywhere throughout the property as long as it’s one foot from the main circuit breaker. A single feed circuit connects the main circuit breaker box to the sub-panel, powering it with 240 volts/ 30 amps.
(Note that this double pole breaker only supplies electricity to the subpanel; the subpanel doesn’t add more power to the house. This important distinction helps clarify the role of an electrical panel within a home.)
In this guide, you’ll learn more about what an electrical subpanel does and why it might be a good idea to add to your home.
What’s a Main Panel?
Every property with utilities has a main panel previously set up by an electric company. The main panel acts as the primary source of electricity for your home. It provides, controls, and even regulates the power throughout your space. That’s why there are circuit breakers for different areas. If you’re looking to add a sub-panel, you’ll be connecting it to this main source.
A smaller service panel connects to the main source through circuits to help direct electricity to different parts of the property. This is often essential for larger properties or those seeking more convenience. There are many advantages to adding subpanels, including adding circuits to the main panel wiring.
How Is a Subpanel Connected?
In order to connect to the main panel, you’ll need two hot wires connected to a double-pole breaker. This will be 240 volts. There also needs to be neutral and ground wires. The two hot wires, called feeder wires, provide power to the sub-panel.
Now, the main cable, called a feeder cable, is used for this run to connect the 240-volt main breaker to the sub-panel. This then feeds the power down the two hot bars to evenly distribute power to the subsequent circuits branching from the sub-panel.
Top 3 Reasons to Install an Electrical Panel
One of the main reasons for installing a sub-panel is to help separate electrical functions in different areas of your property. For example, if you have a workshop in your garage or live in a duplex, you’ll want easier access to your circuit breaker instead of going to the main panel.
While a subpanel will not add amps to your home’s electrical system, it does relieve some pressure from the main circuit breaker. If you’re unsure of how much your subpanel can handle, it’s best to work with an electrician to calculate the accurate amount. The main reasons to add a subpanel are simple: they add space, convenience, and efficiency. Let’s explore how they do so below.
1) Add More Space
It can be frustrating when all your breaker slots in the main service panel are full. A subpanel opens up the opportunity for more circuits to be added. Plus, you can divert more energy to different areas of your property that may need it. The circuits that run from the sub-panel can power lights, outlets, or appliances–acting similarly to a main service panel.
Great Locations for Electrical Subpanels
Any spaces in your home that require extra energy are good places to consider adding an electrical subpanel. Some possible places include:
- Home Office
- Home Theater
- Room Addition
To get extra energy diverted to these areas, you’ll run a single set of feeder wires from the main service panel to a subpanel. The circuits that run from the sub-panel can power lights, outlets, or appliances–acting similarly to a main service panel.
2) Create Convenience
It’s much easier to control circuits when they are conveniently placed instead of having to return to the main panel. For example, working with power tools in a garage may trip your breakers If you have a sub-panel in there, it’s easier to reset them.
Another great reason for having an additional sub-panel is if you have tenants. If one tenant overloads a circuit, they are able to easily reset it. The last thing you want is to have a situation where they can’t get power because the main panel is locked away in the landlord’s area. These additional branch circuits will add peace of mind.
3) Improve Efficiency
If you only have one main panel, it takes longer for energy to travel from that source to other areas around your home. It can save time and money by dividing a single high-amperage circuit into smaller circuits from the panel.
Plus, adding electrical subpanels creates ease with wire routing. If you’re remodeling a home, you’ll only need one feeder cable to be routed from the main service panel. This can greatly help with updating sub-panel wiring or rewiring as needed.
Do You Really Need an Electrical Subpanel?
If you’re currently experiencing electrical issues throughout your home, an electrical subpanel may not be the right thing. Instead, an electrical service upgrade may be needed. The following are several ways to decide if you need an upgrade vs. an additional electrical panel:
- Lights dim in your home when you use an appliance
- The electrical panel on your main service panel feels warm
- Outlets feel warm or have a “burning” smell
- You haven’t upgraded your panel in decades
- You reset circuit breakers regularly
If you’re still unsure if you need a panel upgrade, it’s best to consult your trusted residential electric company.
Get Started Today
If you’re considering installing a sub-panel, it’s important to plan ahead thoroughly. One key thing to note is that this installation requires an electrical permit from your town. If you choose to work with skilled electricians, they can help with this process.
Contact Electric City today to install your new sub-panel.