New Electrical Panel Vs. New Circuit Installation

Breakers in Electrical Panel

Understanding The Difference Between Needing A New Electrical Panel And Needing A New Circuit

Replacing or upgrading your electrical panel will NOT solve any individual breaker tripping issues. I’ll be honest at the onset here, I’m not sure if the eyes that need to see this are going to find it but I sure hope they do. What I’m about to explain is probably one of the most likely ways a customer can be taken advantage of by an immoral contractor. One more time phrased differently to send it home in case you don’t read on; just because you have a tripping circuit breaker due to an overload almost NEVER has to do with needing a new electrical panel. 

Reasons For Needing A New Electrical Panel

The reasons one would need a new PANEL are short and sweet: 

  1. You need more space for new circuits
  2. You need a new service and panel to accommodate a spa, central AC, or pool
  3. The existing panel one of the unsafe panels from the 1970’s
  4. Corrosion from water damage is present
  5. It’s old and ugly and you just want a new one for peace of mind

That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate it. Please see Do I need a Panel or Service Change? for more information on panel changes and service upgrades, they often go hand in hand.

You Most Likely Need A Branch Circuit

The installation of a new BRANCH CIRCUIT is the most common remedy for a tripping breaker due to an overloaded circuit. The common phone call we get is a customer saying that the breaker controlling the receptacle for their toaster oven or portable heater keeps tripping and they think they need a bigger panel or service upgrade. A new CIRCUIT for that appliance or receptacle is needed. A high wattage appliance (anything making heat) will frequently trip a circuit that is not dedicated for that receptacle and appliance. A general use branch circuit (a breaker with multiple receptacles) is typically not rated for a high wattage appliance (anything making heat). The installation of a NEW CIRCUIT is the solution. This is the ONLY solution aside from not using that appliance on that circuit. In short, a new cable needs to be run from a breaker in your electrical panel to the location of the new receptacle. See New Circuit Installation for details. 

Here’s a quick picture of a simple circuit powering a receptacle directly below the electrical panel:


Here’s the part where I have to cover myself and explain the very oddball scenarios in which a tripping circuit breaker could lead to needing a new panel/service. The first reason is if there is corrosion in the panel, the breaker can get hot due to poor contact with the bus bar and lead to it tripping. This happens most commonly when there is water getting into the panel in which you may need a panel/service change anyway. The second reason is if the breaker tripping is the main breaker. There are a select few electrical panels with main breakers that are defective and can not be replaced. The whole panel need will need replacement in this scenario. See Unsafe Electrical Panels for more information.

There isn’t a whole lot more I can say on this topic. As simple as it is, there is a tremendous amount of unnecessary money spent by uninformed customers led on by unethical contractors. If you have questions always feel free to contact us for advice and search our National Electrical Registry for electricians that are up to par with our standards. Thanks for reading.