What you need to ask before choosing a new breaker panel
- How much power? A panel is sized by the amperage it can handle, so make sure you pick a panel that can handle the daily amperage usage in your home.
- How many circuits? The size, layout and types of major appliances determine how many different circuits are required.
A home with 200-amp (ampere) capacity can run multiple large appliances at the same time with no problem; whereas 100 amps or less would just barely enable you to run a water heater, a stove, and a hair dryer at once. Most homes these days are built with a 125-amp minimum, depending on square footage and other factors.
New homes are almost always get built with 200 amps, and 200 amps are the normal request for upgrades. Smaller amperage is only recommended for small single-family homes. In such cases, a load calculation will determine if 100, 125, or 150 amps is enough.
Load capacity: Determine the amp size of the circuit breaker you need to install based on the total circuit load.
Calculate the total load for the circuit when choosing a breaker panel. Keep in mind that the circuit breaker operates at 80% of its capacity. For example, if your circuit breaker is rated at 20 amps, it should only use 16 amps. Locate loads of each device, which is usually indicated on a sticker on each appliance. Add all the loads using this formula.