How to Replace Electrical Panels in Old Homes

How to Replace Electrical Panels in Old Homes

Replacing an electrical panel in an old home can seem daunting, but with proper planning and safety precautions, it is very much a doable project for a homeowner. Here is a step-by-step guide on how I replaced the electrical panel in my 1950s house.

When to Replace the Electrical Panel

Knowing when it's time to replace an old electrical panel is the first step. Here are some signs that your electrical panel needs replacing:

If any of those conditions exist, it's best to replace the electrical panel.

Choosing a New Panel

When selecting a new panel, consider the following:

Also check with your local permitting office for any special requirements.

Electrical Panel Replacement Process

Here are the key steps I followed to replace my electrical panel:

1. Get the Proper Permits

Most areas require permits for panel replacements. Check with your local building department.

2. Turn Off Power at the Main Breaker

Switch off the main breaker to cut power to the entire home. If unsure, you can also have the utility company disconnect power at the weatherhead outside.

3. Remove the Old Panel's Cover

Unscrew the cover plate and set it aside. This exposes the guts of the old panel.

4. Take Photos of the Wiring

Carefully take photos of the existing wiring setup so you can replicate it in the new panel.

5. Disconnect All Wires and Remove Breakers

Disconnect the neutral and ground wires first, then all the hot wires. Remove breakers next.

6. Unmount the Old Panel

Unscrew the panel from the wall and detach any conduit connections. Carefully extract it from the wall.

7. Mount and Level the New Panel

Securely mount the new panel in the same spot. Use shims to level it if needed.

8. Connect the Ground and Neutral Wires

Connect the ground wire to the ground bus bar first. Then connect the neutral wires.

9. Connect the Hot Wires to Breakers

Following your photos, connect each hot wire to its corresponding breaker in the new panel.

10. Attach the Cover and Turn Power Back On

With all wiring complete, attach the new cover plate and turn the main breaker back on to restore power.

11. Obtain Final Inspection

Call the building department to have your completed panel replacement inspected and approved.

With good planning and attention to safety, replacing an outdated electrical panel is a very doable DIY project. The peace of mind from having a modern, safe electrical system is well worth the effort. Let me know if you have any other questions!