The Cost Of Upgrading Your Commercial Electrical Panel
February 5, 2021 | Cristina Dinulescu
The electrical system is the blood that flows through every building, whether residential or commercial. It is what keeps our devices and appliances functioning and what allows your business to continue operating. In this system, the electrical panel is the brain, controlling everything and sending power where it is needed. If the brain malfunctions, meaning your commercial electrical panel is not up to par, your business could be seriously affected.
If your business has grown over time, then your electrical needs have most likely changed as well. This means you also need to start making changes and upgrades if you want to keep it functioning properly. One of those changes is upgrading the commercial electrical panel so you can safely deliver power to your business.
You need to keep in mind that a properly functioning panel is essential to the safety of your business and that of your staff. According to the OSHA ( Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the NFPA ( National Fire Protection Association), all commercial electrical panels are required to have a dead front, which ensures that no one is exposed to live parts, thus preventing electric shock. Ensuring safety at the workplace is one of your most important obligations as a business owner.
Reasons To Upgrade Your Commercial Electrical Panel
Ensuring the safety of your employees is by far the most important reason of all. However, there may be other issues that signal you need an electrical panel upgrade and that it’s worth the investment:
- your business has grown and you have gradually installed new equipment like copiers, computers, projectors, servers, or printers;
- too many extension cords are being used to power all the devices;
- your business requires a 240-volt circuit;
- your business is still using a split bus panel or a fuse box (these are outdated and unsafe);
- the computers used in the office do not have a separate circuit;
- you are planning to renovate your business;
- you have noticed that the electrical service conductors are overheating;
- your insurance company has required that you make an electrical panel upgrade.
Cost Breakdown of a Commercial Panel Upgrade:
It’s difficult to say exactly how much a commercial electrical panel upgrade will end up costing you. The most common range of cost to upgrade electrical panels is between $2,650 and $3,000, but that’s for a 200-amp electrical panel. Your business may need more than that.
A 400-amp panel installation can go as high as $4,000. To determine what type of electrical panel your business requires, you need to call a commercial electrician to inspect your building. They will be able to calculate the size and help you make better sense of the expenses that lie ahead.
Of course, when attempting to determine the overall cost of this investment, there are other aspects you should consider besides the amperage requirement. Here are some of the factors that influence the cost of the upgrade.
1. Switching to a circuit box
One of the reasons for which most businesses or even homeowners decide to upgrade the electrical panel is because the building uses a fuse box. Buildings older than 25 years may have fuse boxes that do not comply with modern safety standards when increasing power usage. So, if this is the case, you will need to switch to a circuit panel. The installation costs for a circuit box are somewhere between $1,500 to $2,000. However, you need to add the cost of the actual panel to that as well.
2. The panel itself
When looking to determine the overall cost of an electrical panel upgrade you will of course need to consider the panel itself. The good news is that the actual panel is not expensive. The cost depends, however, on the amperage requirement. The bigger the size, the greater the cost. To give you an idea, the cost of a 100-amp panel is $50 to $100, whereas a 200-amp panel can go as high as $220. To calculate the price, you will first need to know what size your business needs. Different brands have different prices as well, but an experienced electrician will be able to guide you there as well.
3. The cost of labor
This is probably the biggest cost when upgrading a commercial electric panel. To make sure that the electric panel is correctly installed and that all safety requirements are up to code, you need to work with licensed electricians.
Not only that, but commercial needs are oftentimes different than residential electrical needs, so you should find electrical contractors with commercial experience. Some companies will quote you by the hour, while others may schedule a walkthrough and quote you a price per project. To give you a sense of what you are looking at in terms of installation costs, know that an electrical panel upgrade can take up to 10 hours.
4. The wiring cost
Additional costs may be incurred if during the upgrade process, the electricians will need to do any additional work. Most of the time, this is related to wiring. If you need to move the electric panel, you are looking at additional wiring jobs and that may end up costing you around $6 to $8 per foot. This is why arranging for a walkthrough and getting a per project quote might be a better option.
If the panel does not need relocating, then you do not need to consider this cost. However, remember the OSHA and NFPA codes, as these specify where the commercial electric panel should be located to prevent it from being blocked and to ensure safety.
5. The circuit breakers
You cannot discuss an electrical panel upgrade without taking into consideration the circuit breakers. A panel contains several breakers and, if you need to add more, they are not expensive. A regular one costs $10 max. However, if you need specialty breakers that provide extra protection, you could be looking at higher costs, 10 times as expensive as the regular ones. By specialty breakers, we mean AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) or GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) which protect against damaged wiring and water damage. For these specialty breakers, you could be looking at costs of $70 each.
At first glance, upgrading a commercial electrical panel does seem like a complicated and expensive endeavor. However, it can bring many benefits to your business. Your devices will be operating smoothly, your assets will be protected and your business safer. This is not something you should treat lightly. Always call professional, licensed commercial electricians to guide in the choice of panel, the installation process and the costs incurred.