When it comes to taking care of projects around the home, the DIY approach can be significantly rewarding. One, particular area of the DIY reward comes with the replacement of that old electrical panel. For those with some basic electrical and DIY knowledge, this project is actually not terribly difficult to carry out. Want the scoop on how it’s done? Here are the steps to changing out that old panel and replacing it with a new one.
1. Schedule Outage
“The first part of your panel’s replacement entails the scheduling of outage time,” said 123 Electric Service. Contact your electrical provider and explain that you need outage time for an electrical project. Choose the time that best works for your project. The time needed here varies, but typically, six hours of outage is plenty for this task.
2. Plan Personally
At this point, it’s a good idea to make sure the family and all affected occupants are aware of the coming outage and work. Perishable, refrigerated food may require temporary arrangements. If you own any pets that require lighting, plan for an alternate arrangement. Heating, hot water, and a number of other elements may also be affected. Plan accordingly.
3. Gather Materials
Another important step is that of gathering the right materials for this job. Along with the correct panel box itself, you will also need several tools on hand. Wire strippers, voltage testers, a basic screwdriver set, and a label system will all be needed here. The label system may consist of stickers or tie-on labels. As long as the labels can be affixed to the house wires and written on, they’ll work.
4. Outage, Test
Now, it’s time for the outage and testing. At this point, the electrical company may or may not have a representative on-site to coordinate with you. Ultimately, you just need to verify that the electricity to the home is off. You should be able to tell this simply by attempting to power on various items in the home. For additional safety, it is always recommended that you apply an electrical tester to the line coming into the panel to assure it is not energized. There is enough electricity here, when energized, to cause severe electrical shock or even death.
5. Remove Wires, Label
With the electricity verified off, you can now begin to dismantle the current setup. It is strongly encouraged that you take several pictures first here if possible. Beyond photos, you will want to label each circuit, or set of wires as to its purpose, or area served. If you wish to duplicate the positions of these circuits in the new panel, note their positions as well when labeling. Take your time, being sure to accurately group and label each wire set as it is removed.
6. Remove Old Box, Install New
Once all of the wires have been removed from the old panel box, simply dismount it and remove it from the wall. The new box should now fit fairly easily in place but may need some minor work to fit into the wall perfectly. Once fitted, screw the panel in as indicated in its accompanying directions. Your new panel is now mounted and ready for wire connections.
7. Reconnect all Circuits
If you are satisfied that the box is securely mounted and its access door full usable, you may now begin to reconnect all circuits. If labeling was done correctly, this should be fairly simple. Sometimes however, the panel box may need to be moved around in order to feed all wires into it and make all necessary connections. If this is the case in your setup, feel free to dismount and shift the box around as needed in order to secure all connection points before the final mount.
8. Power Reinstatement, Test
Once all connections have been made, the power may be reinstated. Be sure all breakers and the main feed switch are off though so that testing may be done in an organized manner. With the power now on from the power company, start testing by turning on the main feed switch. Now, the entire box is energized and each circuit can be turned on and tested individually. If there is any problem, immediately turn off the main feed switch and reassess the connection point for that particular circuit.
The do-it-yourself approach can certainly be the best and most rewarding one in many cases. Replacing your panel box is definitely one of those great, DIY projects that even the novice can manage with a little direction. With all projects though, always heed safety first, and when in doubt, consult with a professional.