Learning, Concepts of Electricity,

Do I Need to Upgrade My Electrical Panel for Solar?

An electrical panel upgrade means replacing the old electrical service panel with a new one with new circuit breakers. This service is known as Main Panel Upgrade (MPU). As a professional electrician, I will explain whether or not MPU is viable. Understanding the viability is key to having a secure electrical environment and optimal energy utilization.

In general, you might need to upgrade your main panel if:

  • An old electrical panel design that hasn’t been certified by the authority with the jurisdiction (AHJ)
  • There is not enough room to put in another electrical breaker.
  • If the breakers in your electrical box cannot manage the additional electrical demand generated by the solar power system, an MPU may be essential.
  • Won’t be able to manage the larger DC input voltage needed for the size of the solar system.

Check my in-depth analysis below.

Do I Need to Upgrade My Main Panel?

Yes, if they are old or not unable to manage.

For all of the electricity in the house or structure, the electrical service panel functions as a switchboard. It collects power from your utility provider or solar energy system and distributes it to the circuits that power your internet, lights, and appliances.

It is the most important component of the electricity in your house or structure.

If the breakers in your electrical breaker box are unable to accommodate the additional electrical demand generated by a solar power system, an MPU may be essential. If the electrical breakers in your house are old, that is another indication that you could require an MPU. To lower your home’s risk of an electrical fire, you should replace some older breaker boxes.


How Can I Know Whether or Not I Need to Upgrade Main Panel (MPU)?

You might need to upgrade your main panel if:

  • An old electrical panel design that hasn’t been certified by the authority with the jurisdiction (AHJ)
  • There is not enough room to put in another electrical breaker.
  • If the breakers in your electrical box are unable to manage the additional electrical demand generated by the solar power system, an MPU may be essential.
  • Won’t be able to manage the larger DC input voltage needed for the size of the solar system.


There is No Better Time to Upgrade Your Main Panel

The main panel upgrade can be required if you want to purchase an electric car or add electrical circuit breakers to your electrical panel.

If you live in California or are considering purchasing an EV soon, you may eventually need to modify your main electrical panel. Another advantage of finishing an MPU in advance of your solar installation is that it can qualify for the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).


What Makes Your Electrical Panel Solar Ready?

In addition to having a breaker for each circuit, the electrical panel as a whole also has a main breaker that is rated by the total amperage of your home.

Your Main Breaker Must Typically Be Rated for At Least 200 Amps for Your System to Be Solar-Ready.

The power demand coming from solar panels will probably be too much for electrical panels designed for less than 200 amps, which could result in an electrical fire or other problems.


Is It Worth Upgrading Your Domestic Electrical Panel for Solar?

Yes, below are some plausible reasons you should:

  • Code requirement: Your home’s overall electrical consumption must not be greater than the panel’s capability. Therefore, it’s crucial to upgrade your electrical panel to one that can adequately handle the demand for electricity in your home.
  • Peace of mind: You’ll feel more at ease knowing that the new panel can withstand the power load you place on it if you upgrade it.

(A link to the national electric code document, warnings it’s a dry read)


How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for 200-Amp Service?

To charge a 12-volt 200Ah lithium battery from 100% depth of discharge in peak sun hours with an MPPT charge controller, around 610 watts of solar panels are required.

Not the Amperage is drawn like in the part before, but the normal energy consumption of your home is what you want to understand.

You need to determine how many kWh you use per month by looking at your most recent power bill. Depending on the size of your house and whether you have air conditioning, this figure may change.


How Much Storage Capacity Do I Need?

Amp Hours, or the number of hours a battery can operate at a specific Amperage, are used to rate batteries. A battery with 400 amp-hours can therefore operate at 4 amps for 100 hours.

By dividing by 1,000 and multiplying by the voltage, you may convert this to kWh.

A 400 amp-hour battery operating at 6 volts would therefore produce 2.4 kWh of energy (400 x 6 1,000). Thirteen batteries would be needed if your residence used 30 kWh per day.


I Want to Go Solar; What Size Electrical Panel Do I Need?

Depending on the homeowner, the exact size will vary, but I suggest sticking with electrical panels that have 200 amps or more. For the majority of household solar setups, this is more than adequate. Additionally, 200 amps provide you enough room for future appliance additions.


Can I Upgrade My Own Electrical Panel?

The National Fire Protection Association claims:

Municipal fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 45,210 house structure fires between 2010 and 2014 that involved electrical failure or malfunction.

420 civilian deaths, 1,370 civilian injuries, and $1.4 billion in direct property damage were caused by these fires annually on average.

For tasks of this nature, it is recommended to engage a licensed electrician.



Video Reference

El Electrician

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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