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Can You Replace a Breaker Box By Yourself? (Here’s How To Do It)

how to replace breaker box yourself

DISCLAIMER: It is YOUR responsibility to know the laws and regulations for doing your own electrical work. It is also your responsibility to make sure that the work is done safely and correctly. This article is not an all encompassing tutorial and is intended for informational purposes only

Yes. It is possible to replace the breaker box in your home on your own. When all the steps are broken down, the process can be more simple than you might think. However, replacing the breaker box in your home can be a very dangerous job if not done correctly, which is why many homeowners choose to have a professional electrician do the work. And ultimately, is what I recommend.

By far the biggest benefit to paying a little more to have a professional come in and do the work for you is making sure that its done correctly.

Your home is where all your loved ones are gathered together…and there’s no sense in risking their safety just to save a little money.

On the other hand, if you’re confident in your electrical skills and are willing to learn, you can definitely replace your breaker box yourself.

Replacing your breaker box is a pretty big job, but if you’re willing to learn about the electricity in your home and how to match up the circuits to the breaker box, you can easily do the work on your own.

Let’s take a look at some of the simple steps you need to follow to replace your own breaker box. 

Related: How to Find The Breaker Box In Your House

Materials Needed

There are a few materials that you will need. You will need a new breaker panel box that is rated at least, if not greater as your current one. A new breaker box that can handle more power is often times recommend You can choose to use the same circuits again or upgrade that part as well.

A volt meter is going to be required for this project.

How to Replace Your Own Breaker Box

Replacing your breaker box may be easier than you would originally think. Some of the steps you should follow include:

Step 1: Find The Correct Panel Replacement

First, you need to pick out the right breaker box for your home. You can start by making a list of all the appliances in your home, how many amps each of them draw. That way you can calculate out how much power you need when you choose another breaker box later.

Having these totals will give you the best idea of the size of the electric panel that you want to upgrade to. It can also help you find a panel that will balance the circuits around your home better than before. 

If you’re uncertain about what type of breaker box you should get, you can take the information that you have compiles and ask a professional electrician.

These guys are almost always more than willing to help you out. They’ll give you advice about what size electrical panel to buy.

Step 2: Turn Off Power To The Electrical Panel

You MUST turn off all electricity to the breaker box. Make sure the power is turned off at the meter on the outside of the house. You do not want any electricity coming to the panel at all, as you will be touching and working with the service wires that run from the meter to the panel.

After you’ve checked and rechecked and then verified with a voltmeter that the power has been disconnected, it’s time to remove the panel cover.

This is easily done by removing the screws from the cover panel of your breaker box and then simply removing the cover.

Step 3: Disconnect The Wires From The Breakers

After you have the electricity off and the panel front off, it is time to disconnect the wires from each of the breakers.

Before disconnecting wires from the breakers, it’s a good idea to make sure you have each of the breakers labeled. This will make your job much easier later on in the process.

With each wire that you disconnect, be sure to label it with white electrical tape. For example, if you’re disconnecting the wire that feeds the dishwasher, write “dishwasher” on a piece of tape and attach it to the wire. This way there will be no guesswork as to which wire goes where.

Step 4: Install The New Panel Box

Put the new panel box up where you would like it. Having it in the exact same place as the original one can make your life significantly easier. By doing so, you know that each of the wires will reach.

If you position the new breaker box in a different location, there’s a chance that some of the wires won’t reach.

Step 5: Connect The Main Wires and Main Ground Wire

With the electricity still off at the meter, carefully re-connect the 2 main wires that come from the meter to the panel. These will each feed a “hot bus bar” with each of them being 120v.

It’s also time to connect the main ground wire. This will be the thick copper wire.

Step 5: Re-Connect The Breakers

You can then reinstall the old breakers if you plan to re-use them, or put in the new ones if you decided to upgrade those as well. Place the breakers into the correct slot inside the new panel box.

While you’re at it, you can go ahead and reinsert the wires into the new breakers, as long as they are long enough to reach, reconnecting all of them with the right breaker wire terminal. Make sure to switch them off as you connect each of them.

Note: Many 120 Volt circuits need to have their distribution kept as balanced as you possibly can between the two bus bars.

Step 5: Splice Wires That Are Too Short

One of the main problems that come with this is the cables can be too short during the transfer. If you have a few cables on the opposite side of the panel being too short, there are a few steps you can take to help fix this problem. They include:

  • As organized as possible, you can install a terminal box on the wall for each of the cables that can’t make it. Have some way to identify each one properly. 
  • Add the extension cables of the same gauge, doing all of the splicing as necessary inside those boxes. 
  • You can then use the other side of the extensions and insert inside the panel and connected to the right wire terminal in the breaker. 
  • You will need to repeat the same steps to finish this all up and get all the circuits attached to the right parts. 

Step 6: Turn Power Back On

When you get to this point, it is time to turn the power to the circuits back on. It should all be ready to go from here.

With the main switch on the panel in the off position and all the breakers in the off position, turn power back on at the service meter. Then go ahead and turn on the main switch on the panel.

Then it is time to do each of the individual circuits, one at a time, to check whether they are working. This also introduces power back into the system without creating a big power surge into the system all at one time. 

Final Thoughts

While it is possible to do your own breaker box replacement, you do need to be extremely careful. Check that the electricity is turned off ahead of time to avoid any issues with electrocution, which can lead to serious injury or even death.

Depending on the area you live, you may also need to consider whether you need to get a permit to make these electrical changes as well. Some localities will require this and you must have all the right paperwork before you even get started. 

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