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Should I Install a Sub-Panel?

This is a question we get asked often.

The question arises when circuits are being added to an existing electrical system. Often we can replace existing circuit breakers with space-saver breakers or reconfigure existing wiring so that a sub-panel is not required. This is always the first option before installing an electrical sub panel.

What is a Sub Panel?

Electrical Sub Panel
Sub Panel to the left of the Main Panel

An electrical sub panel, also known as a subpanel or sub-distribution panel, is a smaller electrical panel that is connected to the main panel and is used to distribute electricity to different areas or circuits within a building.

Subpanels are often used in large homes, commercial buildings, or industrial settings where there are multiple circuits, and the main electrical panel cannot handle the full load. By installing a sub-panel, the load can be distributed more evenly, and there is less risk of overloading the main panel.

The sub-panel is typically located near the main electrical panel and is connected to it through a feeder circuit.

Top Reasons for Installing a Sub-Panel

There are several reasons why someone might choose to install an electrical sub panel in their home or building. Here are some of the top reasons:

1. Adding a Suite, Outbuilding, or Addition

When adding a suite, outbuilding, or addition, we will usually recommend installing a sub-panel to serve the new location. This way the new electrical system can be kept separate. By code, the electrical circuits for power in a suite must be accessible from within the suite or in a common area accessible to all who live in the building. Basically, you don’t want your tenant, or yourself, to have to go into someone else’s space to reset a circuit breaker. Or to turn off a circuit to safely work on it.

2. Additional electrical circuits. Car Chargers, Hot Tubs, AC Units, Welders, Kilns

Adding electrical circuits for EV Chargers, Hot tubs, or AC units are all large electrical loads and may require a sub-panel. Electrical panels in older houses sometimes only have space for 12-16 circuits. If a new kitchen, bathroom, or heating system is being installed and the original panel is full a sub-panel is needed. Sometimes, instead of installing a sub-panel, it makes more sense to replace or upgrade the main electrical panel with a larger one. For example, we would replace the original 12-circuit panel with a new 30-80 circuit panel.

3. Illegal/unsafe wiring

Sometimes new wiring will be installed back into the electrical panel by a homeowner or handyman, and they do not know what to do when there are no spaces left in the electrical panel. To replace the panel, install space-saver circuit breakers, or install a sub-panel is too daunting of a task. Hey! … two wires fit on this circuit breaker! The circuit works and the home handyman feels proud of his accomplishment. 

Circuit breakers are not designed to have two wires installed under the single lug that connects the wire to the circuit breaker. When two wires are connected to the same breaker there’s a much higher chance of arcing, fire, and breaker damage because of the poor connection. A sub-panel, space-saver breakers or a new panel can be installed to connect the new circuit safely.

installing a sub panel

Factors to Consider Before Installing a Sub-Panel

There are a few important factors that you should consider when installing an electrical sub panel in your residential. This is to ensure that the installation is done safely, effectively, and, of course, within your budget. Aside from hiring a licensed residential electrician in BC, Canada, here are some important factors that should be taken into account:

Electrical Load – The first thing that should be taken into account when installing an electrical sub panel is the total electrical load that will be connected to the sub-panel. It is vital that you make sure that the sub-panel has the capability to handle the load for the safety of your family.

Location – The location of the sub-panel is also an important factor to consider. It should be positioned in a place that is easy to access and maintain, and it should be protected from the elements and from damage.

Budget and cost of installation – The cost of installing a sub panel can vary depending on multiple factors such as the size of the sub-panel, the location of the installation, and more. Typically, the cost of installing a sub-panel can range from a hundred to a thousand dollars.

Permits and Codes – It is important to check local building codes and regulations before installing sub-panels. Permits may be required for the electrical sub panel installation, and the work must be done in compliance with all applicable codes and regulations.

Hire an Electrician in BC, Canada Today!

An electrical sub panel can be installed for various reasons including increased capacity, separation of electrical circuits, and improved safety. It is essential to consult with a licensed electrician to determine if a sub-panel is the right solution for your specific electrical needs. 

Contact Pacific Star Electric – located in Maple Ridge for your free quote today.

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