How to Safely Replace Electrical Panels in Old Homes Without an Electrician

Why You May Need to Replace the Electrical Panel

As homes age, the electrical systems also age. One of the key components of a home's electrical system is the main electrical panel. There are several reasons why you may need to replace an old electrical panel:

Dangers of DIY Electrical Panel Replacement

Replacing an electrical panel is complicated and dangerous. Mistakes can damage your home's electrical system, cause fires, and electrocute you or your family. Dangers include:

Unless you are a licensed electrician, you should not attempt a DIY panel replacement. The risks are simply too high. Hire a licensed professional instead.

How an Electrician Would Replace an Electrical Panel

To give you an idea of what's involved, here are the typical steps an electrician would follow:

1. Turn Off Power

The first step is to shut off all power to the panel by switching the main breaker off. Then, each circuit breaker is turned off individually. Safety is critically important when working with electrical wiring.

2. Remove Old Panel

The outer panel cover is removed to access the internal wires. The wires are disconnected one at a time to avoid confusion. The panel is unbolted from the wall and removed.

3. Install New Panel

The new panel is securely bolted into place on the wall. Additional adjustments may be needed to fit it properly. The new panel must be perfectly level and plumb.

4. Connect Wires

The wires are connected to the new breakers one at a time. Great care is taken to ensure the correct gauge wire goes to each circuit breaker. The ground wires must be properly connected as well.

5. Connect Cover Plate

With all connections made securely, the new panel cover plate is installed. The main power can then be turned back on. Each circuit is tested to make sure it works properly.

6. Obtain Electrical Permit

Most areas require an electrical permit for replacing a panel. The licensed electrician will know the local permit requirements and obtain the permit before starting work.

Dangers of DIY Electrical Work

It's easy to look at the basic steps above and think a DIY panel replacement is possible. However, each step glosses over numerous details that only experienced electricians understand. Without proper electrical training and knowledge, it's incredibly easy to make dangerous mistakes.

Let's look at some of the most common DIY electrical dangers:

Without professional training in electrical systems, there are countless ways DIYers can make dangerous mistakes. Safety should always be the #1 priority when dealing with electricity.

Hiring a Licensed Electrician

The risks of a DIY electrical panel replacement are simply not worth it. Instead, you should always hire a licensed professional. Here's what a licensed electrician provides:

While hiring an electrician costs more than DIY, it gives you invaluable peace of mind knowing the work is done safely, legally, and correctly. The price is well worth it for this critical electrical upgrade.

Questions to Ask Potential Electricians

Once you decide to hire a professional, make sure you choose the right electrician for the job. Here are key questions to ask:


Replacing an obsolete or dangerous electrical panel is an essential upgrade for many older homes. But the risks of a DIY electrical panel replacement are simply too high for anyone without extensive electrical training and knowledge. Hiring a licensed local electrician ensures the job is done safely and correctly the first time. A professional electrician is well worth the price to protect your home, family, and possessions.