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What Is a Main Panel Upgrade?

Sometimes, your home's electrical equipment needs an update before solar can be installed.

A solar system connects directly to your main electrical panel so it can feed the electricity it produces into your home.

Sometimes, you will need to replace or "upgrade" your main electrical panel for your system to safely tie in and provide you with power. About 15% of our customers require this service.

This article will outline the following topics:

How Do I Know If I Need a Main Panel Upgrade?

Deciding if a main panel needs to be upgraded is a complex process, and we leave this to the experts.

While drawing up the plans for your system, our engineering team will examine your main panel breakers, wiring, and capacity to determine exactly how your solar system will be connected.

They will also ascertain whether or not your main panel needs to be upgraded during this process.


Reasons a Main Panel Upgrade May Be Required

There are a couple reasons your panel may require an upgrade--the most common reason is electrical load requirements.

Main electrical panels are sized in amps, and most homes have either a 100A, 150A, 200A, 225A, or 400A service. This amperage rating is an indicator of how many appliances or electrical units you can run in your home at one time.

A panel with a larger amperage rating will be able to hold more electrical current than a smaller service.

Adding solar to your home will increase the electrical current for your main panel, and sometimes the proposed system will add enough current to exceed your panel’s rating. This means your panel will need to be upgraded to handle the additional load.

Even if your main electrical panel can handle the additional solar current, it may need upgrading if it is not up to code. 

Older homes may have electrical panels that have been recalled for safety reasons, or they may be built to outdated code requirements.

To obtain permits and/or utility approval, jurisdictions and power companies require that your main panel is installed correctly and follows all current code qualifications. If your main electrical panel is not up to code, there could be possible fire hazards or a danger of electric shock.


Main Panel Upgrade Cost

Pricing for a main panel upgrade can vary quite a bit, as each project is different and may require different services. In some cases, for example, the conduit to the electrical panel will need to be upgraded as well, which may require trenching.

Utility companies also may require you to relocate your meter and/or main electrical panel, which would increase cost as well.

The estimated cost for a Main Panel Upgrade through Project Solar would be ~$3,000 for a 200/225A main panel upgrade, or $5,000~$15,000 for a 400A main panel upgrade.

After our engineers have established that you need a main panel upgrade and determined exactly what’s needed, exact pricing will be presented to you.

You are also welcome to use a third-party contractor, if you'd like--however, we don't usually recommend it: going directly through us will ensure permits are correctly pulled and the upgrade is done in a way that correctly readies your home for solar. A third-party contractor's work may not meet the requirements needed to install solar, requiring further service and cost.

This may also affect your ability to claim the main panel upgrade as part of the 30% Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. However, we always recommend contacting a tax professional for full information in this regard.