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Question DetailsAsked on 1/30/2017

I have a 3000 sq.ft home, what is the ideal size breaker panel for this home?

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Depends on the number of bedrooms, how spread out the home is (generally, more spread out homes get more circuits, hence higher potential demand), and primarily on the major electrical demands in the house and whether the house is highly electronicized with lots of electronic gadgets and such.

Typical major demand items (if electric) include, in rough order of typical demand from high to low:

- home heating furnace or boiler

- water heater

- electric/hybrid car plug-in for charging (this location or maybe one higher if quick-charge, roughly 2-3 positions further down list if slow-charge)

- stove/range

- clothes dryer

- large microwave or secondary cooking items like toaster oven or second electric oven

- car block heater use

- large area/high powered outdoor lighting - security or recreational use lighting or large decorative lighting, if high demand (meaning normally incandescent or halogen or such rather than LED)

- if you have a heat pump instead of A/C and maybe instead of furnace also and if it has electric supplemental heating elements

- A/C and how large

- other heating demands like pool or hot tub or sauna or supplemental area electric heaters

- electric-fired steam or self-generated hot water washer or dishwasher

- high-demand (large output or deep water level) water well pump

- large demand (like welder) or high horsepower (like floor-mount shop power tools or compressor)

- normal sized well pump or pressure booster pump or sump/sewage lift pumps, if any

- how many people in the house would be expected to use optional (as opposed to automatic on/off) high power items at one time - for instance, will major cooking with range and other high-power devices likely be used the same time as say major shop tools - or multiple people using high-demand shop tools at the same time

These days, 100A service is considered bare minimum for a small house or an apartment - many or most these days get 125 or 150A services if over about 1000SF or have electric heat/water heating. All-electric homes commonly 200A or even more is considered minimal if over about 1000SF. You should talk to your electrician (who can do a load tabulation) - or your architect if designing a new home - but for a 3000SF home (so assuming 4-5 bedrooms) I would not go with less than a 150A main breaker and service capacity with all gas-fired heating (furnace/boiler and water heater, range, maybe clothes dryer), and minimum 200A with gas heating but maybe electric kitchen/clothes dryer appliances. Over 200A would normally mean a totally electric house or one with a lot of added unusual loads like electric pool /large sauna or hot tub heating or large power tool or car charging demands, in which case more and more houses planned for that are putting in 200-300A services. Your house is right at the break point where one normally starts seeing over 200A services - so I would talk to the architect/general contractor (if new house) or electrician about what the cost for a larger service is.

Generally speaking, up grading from say 125A to 150 or 150 to 200A service is not real expensive - maybe a few hundred to $500 range additional for the larger wiring and higher capacity panels and such. Going over 200A might add $500-1000 typically UNLESS the main service from the utility cannot handle the upgrade - which is commonly the case if going over 200A (100-150 on older homes) so in that case may require a service drop (feed from utility) upgrade. Utility should be able to tell you the service drop (wiring) and meter capacity you have right now just over the phone.

This utility service drop upgrade can be free with some utilities (to the meter and the meter itself, you pay your electrician for everything from there into house)because they figure they will make it back in greater electric usage - with other companies (more so back east or in cities or in CA) up to a couple to maybe several thousand $, and of course into the several thousand to tens of thousands if you need a larger utility transformer or a very long (many hundreds to thousands of feet as opposed to 50-100 feet or so) service run upgrade to just your house from the utility lines, like out in rural areas or to some cabins / vacation homes.

You can google a search phrase like this - typical residential utility electrical service amperage - for a lot of articles on household service capacity and the normal ranges and reasons for going higher than normal.


One thing - we were talking SERVICE capacity. The actual amperage of the distribution panel breakers (in the breaker panel where all the individual circuit breakers are) will total way more than this - typically about 2-3 times as much, because in the calculations it makes assumptions about the probability of many circuits being loaded to capacity at one time. Some items like A/C and electric furnace are for instance assumed to never run at the same time, water heater and range for instance would be assumed to operate at the same time, most 120V circuits are assumed to only have a certain percentage of their load in use at any given time, not all lights are assumed to be on in the house at one tiume for instance, etc - so the sum of the actual circuit capacities will be far more than the utility service is designed for. The protection against too many individual circuits carrying too much load is the Main Breakers - the dual breakers (because protecting 220/240V in two wires) - which limit the total load that can go through the breaker panel (which is rated for that load or more, of course) to what the main breakers and service are rated for.

BTW - putting in a larger than necessary breaker panel (capable of holding more breakers, for future expansion) is VERY cheap (commonly around $100 or so) provided the total panel calculated load does not exeed the service capacity, so on new/remodel jobs where a new panel is being put in I recommend the panel be large enough that at LEAST 4 spare slots (including at least one 220/240V pair) be left in the panel for expansion - and 6 is better. A couple of spare 220/240 spots is better if you might add electric pool or hot tub/sauna heating, A/C, electric car charging, or conversion from gas to electric range or dryer in the future.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

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