How to Upgrade an Electrical Panel to 200-Amp Service: A Step-by-Step Guide

Luke Begley

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 Our Key Takeaways

  • Methodically cutting and organizing wires is necessary for a clean installation.
  • Correctly installing and labeling circuit breakers is essential for electrical safety.
  • Restoring power and finalizing the setup marks the completion of a successful electrical upgrade.

Step-by-Step Guide to Dismantling and Electrical Setup

When beginning the process of electrical overhaul, it's critical to remove existing components with clarity and purpose. Disregarding the mismatched wire labels, I'll eliminate all wires as they're extraneous at this moment. Removal is straightforward: simply cut the wires and unscrew the final attachment to free up space for the scrap.

The newly exposed larger piece of wood provides an ideal mounting location for the incoming panel. Ensure a clean cable entry from the outside and secure it firmly, this will prevent any unwanted movement. Leveling and anchoring to the board is your next move.

Addressing wire management, the bare aluminum wires should be intertwined to create a singular neutral conductor, linked to the neutral bus bar. To defend against oxidation, a specialized gel is recommended for wire protection.

Shaping the wire into a curl facilitates re-installation; allowing for seamless bending and reconnection to the panel's lug. Introduce the cable through a knockout on the electrical panel, securing it in place with lock nut taps.

Each circuit is then routed into the panel systematically, with bare ground wires and white neutral wires connecting to the respective bus bars on either side.

Ready for the circuit breakers, their chief role is to protect against wire overheating. Different wire sizes align with corresponding breakers to ensure correct amperage alignment:

  • The smallest wire size requires a 15 amp breaker.
  • Medium wires should employ a 20 amp breaker.
  • The largest calls for a 30 amp breaker.

Installation commences with a 15 amp circuit breaker, supplied with 120 volts from the bus bar's left side, thus energizing the affixed circuit.

For devices demanding more power, like an electric clothes dryer, a two-pole, 30 amp circuit breaker suffices, delivering a combined 240 volts by drawing 120 volts from both sides of the panel.

A two-wire system, featuring black and red wires, represents these high-capacity circuits.

Grounding extends beyond internal wirings. The main ground wire traverses out and clasps onto the copper water main, bridging over the water meter. This ensures a steadfast grounding pathway even in the meter's absence.

Post installation, calling the power company to restore service is in order. Once reconnected, you should engage the main breaker, reviving your home's electrical circuitry.

The completed setup boasts a 200 amp main circuit breaker, and the infrastructure permits future enlargements. Label the breakers distinctly to conclude your installation comprehensively.

Component Removal

To begin, cut out all the wires, as their labels aren't matching their actual connections, which seems tricky at first. Don’t worry about identification at this stage; sorting comes later. Once you've removed them, you can dispose of the unnecessary clutter to scrap. Remove the final screw and you're able to clear space for the new panel.

Installation Preparations:

  • Secure the cable from outside to prevent slipping, tightening adequately to hold it in place.
  • Ensure the board is level before fastening the panel onto this sturdy wood base.

Wire Preparation:

  • Twist the bare aluminum wires together to form a combined neutral wire, then connect to the neutral bus bar.
  • For protection from oxidation, coat the wire with a special gel.
  • The two power wires will connect to your electrical panel.

Techniques for Efficiency:

  • Curl the wire to bend it easily for reinsertion.
  • Pass the cable through a knockout into the electrical panel.
  • Lock the cable in place by tightening the lock nut firmly.

Now ready for new circuits, begin the wiring process. Separate the bare ground and white neutral wires, attaching them to their respective neutral and ground bars affixed to the sides of the panel.

Circuit Breaker Installation

Install circuit breakers to regulate current flow and prevent wire overheating. Select the correct amp breaker based on wire size: small wires to 15 amp, medium to 20 amp, and largest to 30 amp breakers.

Setting Up Circuit Breakers:

  • Start with a 15 amp breaker, connecting it for a 120-volt supply from the left bus bar.
  • Proceed with a 30 amp two-pole breaker for 240 volts essential for appliances like your clothes dryer.
  • This breaker will utilize both sides of the panel, connecting via a black and a red wire.

Finalizing the Installation:

  • Attach the main ground wire running outside to the copper water main.
  • Secure with a clamp, ensuring it spans across the water meter for an uninterrupted ground connection.

Once the power company has reestablished service, activate the main breaker to revive power. Your panel now has a 200 amp main circuit breaker and ample room for future circuit additions. The last step is labeling the breakers for easy identification.

Organizing Electrical Components

When managing cables and wires, it's crucial to first identify and sort them accurately. In cases where the labeling is unreliable or wires are bundled incorrectly, every wire will need to be disconnected and later identified anew.

After removing the last securing component, you can then recycle the excess materials. The wooden foundation you'll use offers ample space to attach a new electrical board, with the incoming cable fixed firmly in place. Once secured, ensure the assembly is horizontally aligned and then firmly attached to the base.

For the neutral connection, intertwine the bare aluminum conductors, which you will then link to the main neutral terminal, applying a special substance to prevent oxidation. Next, the power cables are connected to the electric panel. Curling these wires simplifies their installation, as it allows you to easily reposition them if needed.

By feeding the cable through the panel's knockout holes and securing the connection, you enable the organization of each circuit. The next step involves fastening the bare (earth) and white (neutral) wires to their respective terminal blocks located on the panel's sides.

Once the groundwork is set, it's time to fit the circuit interrupters whose role is to safeguard the circuits from excessive heat. Different sizes of wire match specific circuit protectors: the smallest conductor pairs with a 15-amp breaker, intermediate with a 20-amp, and the largest with a 30-amp breaker. A 15-amp circuit protector, for instance, interfaces with the panel's left side to obtain 120 volts, energizing its corresponding circuit.

For a 240-volt requirement, such as an electric clothes dryer, a dual-pole 30-amp breaker connects to both sides of the panel to provide sufficient current. This arrangement comprises both a black and a red wire.

Earthing incorporates a main ground conductor leading outside to a copper water main, assuring continuous grounding even if the water meter is serviced or replaced.

Once the setup is complete, you're ready to reconnect with the power supply. Initiating the master switch activates your power. At this juncture, the primary circuit breaker carries a 200-amp capacity with potential for further circuit expansion. The last task involves marking each circuit protector to reflect the specific paths they energize.

Installing Your Electrical Panel

When preparing to connect the new electrical panel, first deal with the existing wiring situation. If the wires have unclear labels and seem paired incorrectly, remove them and sort them out later. Remove the final screw from the old panel and recycle it.

The next step involves securing a sizable wooden board to support the panel. Ensure that the incoming cable from outside is tightly clamped to prevent movement. Use a level to ensure the panel is perfectly horizontal before securing it to the wood.

Wiring Connections:

  • Combine the bare aluminum wires into one cluster to create a neutral connection, attaching it to the neutral bus bar.
  • Apply a specialized gel to the neutral wires to prevent oxidation.
  • Curl the power wires before connecting them to the panel, allowing for easy adjustment and reinsertion into the lugs.

Feed circuit wires into the panel through the knockouts, securing them with lock nuts. Connect the bare ground wires as well as the white neutral wires to their respective bars on the side of the panel.

Circuit Breaker Installation:

  • 15 Amp Breakers: Use for the smallest wires, ensuring to attach the wire to a breaker on the left side of the bus bar for 120 volts supply.
  • 20 Amp Breakers: Medium-sized wires get connected here, following the same process.
  • 30 Amp Breakers: The thickest wires are for high-powered appliances like an electric clothes dryer. Use a two-pole breaker to supply 240 volts by drawing 120 volts from each side of the panel. Connect both black and red wires to this breaker.

Grounding is critical; run the main ground wire from the bottom of the panel and attach it to the copper water main. In case the water meter is removed, ensure the ground wire connects across the meter for continuity.

Once all connections are secure, invite the utility company to re-establish power to your home, and take the honor of switching on the main breaker. With a 200-amp main circuit breaker in place, your panel is ready for use. The only task left is labeling the breakers for easy identification in the future.

Electrical Connection Details

When setting up the wiring, after removing the unnecessary elements, it is essential to secure the incoming cable first. This cable needs to be tightly clamped to ensure it remains stationary. For a clear and stable mounting surface, a larger wooden platform is beneficial. Once this is prepared, the process of attaching and leveling the new panel begins.

Next, take the bare aluminum conductors, intertwine them into a single unified strand, which acts as the neutral, then connect this combined strand to the neutral bus bar. Use a specialized gel to combat any oxidation on the wire. To optimize wire management inside the panel, it's advised to create a curve at the end of each wire. This curvature enables easier bending and fitting back into the respective lug.

After feeding each circuit into the electrical panel through knockout holes, proceed to systematically connect the bare ground wires and white neutral wires to their appropriate terminals on the sides of the panel.

Circuit Breaker Installation:

  • 15 Amp Breaker: Assign the smallest wire size to this breaker, which will draw 120 volts from the left side of the bus bar to the corresponding circuit once connected and tightened.
  • 20 Amp Breaker: Associate this with medium-sized wires for accurate load matching.
  • 30 Amp Breaker: This two-pole breaker is distinct, designed to deliver 240 volts to high-demand appliances such as an electric clothes dryer. It snaps into the panel, drawing power from both sides and requires both a black and red wire for proper connection.

The main ground wire extends from the base of the electrical panel and attaches to the external copper water main using a clamp. This setup includes a mechanism to bypass the water meter, ensuring a continuous and reliable ground connection, which is critical for safety.

After the setup is finalized, and the power company reinstates your service, you'll be in charge of initiating the system by switching on the main breaker. A successful power-up is signaled by the restoration of electricity, along with a 200 amp main circuit breaker that allows for future expansion. The final step involves simply labeling the breakers to complete the installation process.

Preparing the Electrical Bus Bar

Initial Preparation:

  • Discard current wiring if labels are unclear. Determine wire functions post removal.
  • Remove final screw for access to the bus bar.

Mounting the New Panel:

  • Select a large wooden board for adequate mounting space.
  • Secure incoming exterior cable.
  • Ensure the panel is level before attachment.

Neutral and Power Connection:

  • Combine bare aluminum wires into a single neutral bundle.
  • Apply anti-oxidation gel to the neutral wire.
  • Link the neutral wire to the neutral bus bar.
  • Connect two power wires to the panel using a coiled shape for reinsertion ease.

Panel Knockouts and Circuit Feeding:

  • Insert cable via knockouts into the panel.
  • Tighten the lock nut to secure the cable.
  • Route each circuit into the panel.

Neutral and Ground Bar Connection:

  • Connect bare (ground) and white (neutral) wires to their respective bars on the sides.

Circuit Breaker Installation:

  • Align breakers with wire size: 15 amp for small, 20 amp for medium, 30 amp for large.
  • Install a 15 amp circuit breaker to receive 120 volts from the bus bar's left side.
  • Fit a 30 amp two-pole breaker for 240-volt service to larger appliances like a clothes dryer, ensuring connection to both sides of the panel.

Grounding the System:

  • Extend the main ground wire from the panel bottom to the copper water main.
  • Utilize clamps to bridge any bypassed systems such as water meters to maintain grounding continuity.

Final Steps:

  • Collaborate with the power company to restore power.
  • Activate the main breaker to energize the circuit.
  • With a 200 amp main breaker in place, label circuits for future reference.

Essential Electrical Connections

The process begins by discarding the old wiring due to mismatches in the descriptions. Once removed, the focus shifts to firmly securing a new cable from the exterior. This involves anchoring it tightly, ensuring it stays in place. Next, the panel is meticulously leveled and affixed to a generously-sized mounting board.

For the neutral connection, aluminum wires are intertwined into a single strand and connected to the neutral bus bar. A unique gel application on these wires hinders any oxidation. Power wires, on the other hand, are coiled for flexibility, making it simpler to maneuver and attach them to the electrical panel.

The electrical panel is then prepared to accept individual circuits. Bare ground wires and white neutral wires are systematically linked to their respective bars located on the panel's sides.

When introducing circuit breakers, their function is primarily to safeguard against wire overheating. Breakers are designated based on wire size: 15 amps for the smallest, 20 amps for medium, and 30 amps for the largest. Each circuit breaker is installed to channel the correct voltage to their respective circuits.

For appliances like an electric clothes dryer, a two-pole, 30-amp circuit breaker is utilized, straddling both sides of the bus bar to supply 240 volts. This setup involves connecting both a black and a red wire to the panel.

Grounding is achieved with a main ground wire extending outside the panel to a copper water main, ensuring continuity even if the water meter is removed.

Upon completion of these steps, the power company is requested to reconnect and restore power. You're then invited to activate the main breaker, illuminating the success of your electrical setup, now featuring a 200-amp main circuit breaker with ample space for future adjustments. Breakers are labeled for easy identification, completing the setup.

Installing Your Circuit Breaker

Initially, disconnection and removal of old wiring is necessary due to mismatches in wire identification. Once taken out, the scrap can be disposed of. Ensure a large plank is prepared to support the new circuit panel, with an inlet for an external cable which needs to be firmly secured.

Level the panel precisely before affixing it to the wood. Next, intertwine the bare aluminum strands to create a single, neutral conductor and connect it to the corresponding bus bar. To protect the wire against corrosion, apply an anti-oxidation gel.

For the ease of manipulation, curl the ends of the wire before connecting the power cables to the electrical board. The curled ends assist in routing the wire back into the terminal with ease. After knocking out an entry point on the panel, pass the cable through it, securing it with a tap-tightened lock nut.

Feeding each circuit through the panel, your next task is to marry the bare (ground) and white (neutral) wires to their respective bars. With the groundwork laid, it’s time to install the breakers. Their purpose is singular: stopping wire overheating by regulating the current.

Wire size dictates breaker capacity—the smallest wire pairs with a 15 amp breaker, medium with 20 amp, and the largest with a 30 amp. For instance, plug in a 15 amp breaker to receive 120 volts from one side of the bus bar. After connection and tightening, power is sent up the circuit.

Contrarily, a two-pole, 30 amp breaker is suited for heavier duties like an electric clothes dryer, drawing 240 volts from both sides of the panel. This breaker necessitates both a black and red wire for operation.

A crucial step includes attaching the main ground wire to your household's copper water main, ensuring a continuous ground should the water meter be removed.

With the physical install complete, prompt the power company to restore service. Then, engaging the main breaker will reactivate your around-the-clock electrical access. Finish by documenting each breaker's function for future reference.

Electrical System Testing and Power Reconnection

Before starting any alterations, typically I confirm all wire connections. However, due to mismatches in wire labeling and redundant wires, the decision was made to remove them all. We'll address the wiring post-removal. Now, with the final screw detached, the removed equipment can be repurposed as scrap.

The installation of the new panel begins with a large wooden base, offering ample mounting space. Ensuring cable security from external sources, it is firmly clamped down. After aligning the panel, it's secured onto the wood.

The bare aluminum conductors are combined into a single neutral bundle and connected to the neutral bus bar, safeguarded with anti-oxidation gel. This ensures a stable and clean connection. Bringing power into the equation involves shaping the wires into a curl for ease of installation into the lugs.

Introducing the cabling into the panel involves threading it through a knockout punch-out. A few firm taps snugly secure the lock nut in place. Then, circuit wires are individually guided into the panel.

Ground and neutral wires, identifiable by their bare and white insulation, are then connected to their respective bus bars. This completes the foundation for installing the circuit breakers, which serve the essential function of protecting against wire overheating.

Circuit breakers are assigned based on wire size: 15 amps for the smallest gauge, 20 amps for the medium, and 30 amps for the heftiest gauge. Commencing with the 15-amp breaker, it's plugged in to draw 120 volts from the bus bar, connecting to a corresponding 15-amp wire. After securing, this enables electrical flow to the designated circuit.

The 30-amp breaker differs by servicing a 240-volt requirement, simultaneously drawing 120 volts from both sides of the panel. It is designed to power hefty appliances, evident by its dual red and black wires.

A crucial grounding wire is incorporated, extending from the panel's base and connecting to the external copper water main. A clamp traverses the water meter, which maintains an uninterrupted ground link even if the meter is displaced.

With the electrical setup complete, communication with the utility provider facilitates the reconnection of your service. Now, with the external link established, you're invited to activate the main breaker. Its successful engagement lights up the environment— a testament to a sound electrical system. The robust 200-amp main breaker boasts room for future circuit additions. Labeling the breakers is my final touch to streamline your electrical management.

Final Steps in Setting Up and Identification

After preparing the wire connections, it's time to secure the incoming cable. Tighten the clamp to ensure the cable does not move. Next, you'll want to make sure everything is level before fastening the new panel to the mounting board.

Wiring Preparations:

  • Combine the aluminum wires into a single braid representing the neutral connection.
  • Apply a non-oxidizing gel to prevent corrosion.
  • Curl the wires for ease of insertion into the panel lugs.

Panel Connections:

  • Insert the cable through a knockout on the electrical panel and tighten the locknut to secure it.
  • Feed the circuits into the panel sequentially.
  • Connect bare ground wires and white neutral wires to their respective bars on the sides of the panel.

Circuit Breaker Installation:

  • The smallest wires connect to a 15 amp breaker, medium to a 20 amp breaker, and the largest to a 30 amp breaker.
  • First, install a 15 amp breaker, which gets 120 volts from the bus bar.
  • Next, install the 30 amp two-pole breaker, supplying 240 volts for high-powered appliances like an electric clothes dryer.


  • Ensure the main ground wire is connected from the electrical panel to the copper water main using a clamp, bypassing the water meter for a continuous ground connection.

After the electrical setup is complete, contact the power company to restore service. Once they've reconnected power, flip the main breaker and test circuit functionality.

Labeling Breakers:

  • Finally, it is essential to label each breaker according to the circuit it controls. This step ensures safety and ease of maintenance in the future. Here’s how to properly label your breakers:

    Breaker Size Appliance/Circuit
    15 A Designated 15 amp circuits
    20 A Designated 20 amp circuits
    30 A Electric clothes dryer (240V)

With the main circuit breaker providing 200 amps and additional space for future expansion, your electrical setup is now complete.

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