Guide to Electrical Sub Panels

A grey 8 Circuit Electrical sub panel.In this post, our Abbotsford electricians discuss what an electrical sub panel is, how it works, and how to determine if adding a sub panel makes sense for your home.

Like most people, you probably haven’t even given your electrical panel a second thought lately. Most homeowners don’t consider the wiring in their house until there’s a problem or they decide to renovate.

If your electrician has mentioned that you should add an electrical sub panel to your home, you might wonder if it is really necessary.

Hopefully, this post will help to clear up some of the mystery so you can make an educated choice for your home and budget.

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What Is an Electrical Sub Panel?

In simple terms, an electrical sub panel is a separate circuit breaker panel. A sub panel is basically a smaller version of the main electrical panel.

Depending on the reason for its addition, it is often installed directly beside your main panel.

Sub panels come in various sizes, and the size you choose will depend on the amount of electricity you need to distribute.

Electrical sub panels are generally recommended for the following reasons:

  1. The main circuit breaker panel is already at capacity so adding a sub panel is more cost-effective than getting an electrical panel upgrade.
  2. Or the sub panel is installed for access in a secondary location.

The second option might be because you’ve added a workshop to your home or a secondary garage or added a guest house and want to control the power to it. Your electrician can help you choose the best location for your sub panel requirements. call us at 604-308-6195.

How Does an Electrical Sub Panel Work?

In larger homes with 400-amp service, it is not uncommon to find two main electrical panels that each draw its own power from the main utility hookup. These two are not sub panels since they are powered separately and have their own shutoff breaker.

Sub panels are smaller standalone circuit breakers that are connected to the main electrical panel.

The sub panel can hold as little as 4 breaker slots, which are fed power from the main electrical panel. Therefore, a sub panel does not increase the amp service to your home but simply helps distribute the load.

A sub panel generally has its own principal breaker shutoff. This will allow you to turn off the sub panel power without having to shut down the main electrical panel. However, when the main electrical panel is shut off, it also cuts the power to the sub panel.

Before installing sub panel wiring, an electrician must calculate whether your main service provides enough amperage for the number of loads it services.

If you don’t have enough power to accommodate the added demand from the sub panel loads, you may have to consider upgrading your main electrical panel.

Do You Need a Sub Panel?

200 amp 40 circuit main electrical panel.Whether you need a sub panel or not will depend on your electricity needs and the size of your main electrical panel. It is best to consult with a licensed electrician (604-308-6195).

If your main panel is not overcrowded, and you only need to install an extra breaker, then you might be able to get away without adding a new electrical sub panel.

However, if you are planning a major home renovation or addition such as a workshop with heavy power demands, a new living space, or a kitchen remodel requiring additional new circuits, adding an electrical sub panel will likely be the best and safest option.

In general, most homes that have a 200-amp service or more can accommodate adding a 30-amp sub panel, a 40-amp sub panel, or a 60-100-amp sub panel.

However, if your home currently has less than a 200-amp service, you may have to upgrade your main electrical panel to accommodate the extra power load. Talk to your electrician. He or she will be able to analyze your load limits and make recommendations accordingly.

What Are Sub Panels Used For?

Electrical sub panel for a hot tub or pool.Electrical sub panels come in various sizes, and the size you choose will depend on the amount of electricity you need to distribute and the size of the application.

Sub panels can be utilized for a variety of purposes including:

  • Garage Workshop with Power Tools
  • Portable Generators or Hot Tubs
  • Home Additions or Renovations
  • Detached Separate Building or Workshop on the Property
  • Basement Renovations

Does An Electrical Sub Panel Impact Your Energy Use?

Your electrical sub panel is an extension of your main panel. It cannot increase the power supply to your home or generate new power. Therefore, the power supply to your home remains the same.

Ultimately, your usage is what dictates your electricity bill.

If you’re installing sub panel wiring to power a new workshop or garage sub panel, your usage in that new space will likely increase your electricity consumption. If you spend two hours a day using power tools in a shop you didn’t have before, you will be using more power. It’s as simple as that.

The panel alone doesn’t consume power and therefore does not impose an additional load on the electrical system.

That being said, an old panel that in is in bad condition could be a safety issue, causing unnecessary resistance due to loose or corroded connections. This creates wasted power in the form of heat.

So, in that case, it may be safer and more cost-effective to replace the main electrical panel, which will also help you save on energy.

How To Save Electricity at Home

If you feel your electricity bill is too high, the easiest way to save electricity is by reducing your usage. You can do this without significantly altering your habits or disrupting your daily life.

Utility bill with a breakdown of the electrical charges.

Pay attention and reduce needless power drains with these energy-saving tips:

  1. Turn Off Your Computer
    Ditch the screensaver and turn off your computer at night. Computers can be some of the biggest energy users. Turning off your computer will not impact its lifespan, so save some energy and power it down when you’re not using it.
  2. Unplug Idle Electronics
    Televisions, counter appliances, printers, and chargers all use standby power, even when turned off. These devices continue to pull small amounts of energy when plugged in – check if your charger feels warm to the touch! Try to unplug idle electronics when you don’t need them.
  3. Use A Power Bar
    An easy way to manage the power drain from idle electronics is to use a power bar or strip. This way, you can turn everything off at once to prevent needless energy loss.
  4. Switch Your Lightbulbs to LED
    LED bulbs use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times as long. LED light bulbs are also unaffected by how often you turn them on and off. The initial sticker price may be higher but making the switch will save you money and energy in the long run.
  5. Turn Off the Lights
    Flip the switch whenever you leave a room – the energy savings add up! This will not impact the lifespan of your bulbs if you’ve already transitioned to LEDs throughout your home.

About Premium Electric

Our fully certified and bonded electricians here at Premium Electric are committed to the safety of your family and your home or business.

Whether you need a commercial electrical contractor or a residential electrician anywhere in the Fraser Valley or the Greater Vancouver Regional District, we have the experience and expertise needed to get the job done.

Available in different sizes, electrical sub panels provide a secondary distribution center allowing you to distribute electrical power more efficiently and effectively. Talk to our experts and let us assess your situation and recommend an electrical sub panel best suited for your needs.

To learn more, please call us at 604-308-6195 or send an email.

You can also contact us online.

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