How to Install a Main House Electrical Panel
A main house electrical panel installs on an interior wall, close to where the electrical meter installs on the exterior of the house. An electrical panel can be installed during the building of a home, or to increase the size of a current electrical panel.
Things You Will Need
- Phillips or slotted screwdriver
- Wood screws
- Clamp connectors
- Circuit breakers
The size of your panel box is determined by several factors, including square footage and whether or not your home is supplemented by gas service. Check with your city or municipality for the requirements you must meet to install a main house electrical panel.
Contact your electrical service provider to have your electrical service disconnected if you intend to install a replacement electrical panel. When installing a new main house electrical panel, make sure the electrical meter is not installed.
Remove the main buss bar from your new electrical panel. The buss bar attaches to a plastic insert and all the breakers connect to it. Depending on the manufacturer of the panel, it slides into slots cut into the back of the panel or attaches with screws.
Install the main house electrical panel in or on the wall directly opposite the meter box installation. Insert wood screws through the screw holes in the metal panel box and into the wall studs to secure the box into place. Extend the front of the box 1/2 inch past the studs to allow for drywall.
Position a slotted screwdriver against the knockouts on the top, side and bottom of the panel box. Strike the handle end of the screwdriver with a hammer to break the knockout loose from the metal.
Grab the metal knockout with pliers and twist it until it breaks away from the box. You do not have to remove all the knockouts, just the number necessary to pull your electrical wires into the box.
Unscrew the locknut from a clamp connector. Slip the threaded end through the knockout and into the interior of the panel. Twist the locknut onto the threads to secure the clamp connector to the electrical panel box. Clamp connectors vary in size and the size you use depends on the size or the amounts of wires you intend on pulling through the knockout. Continue to install clamp connectors into every knockout you removed.
Pull the wires from your different circuits though the clamp connectors. Tighten the two screws on the clamp connector located on the outside of the panel to secure the electrical wires to the box.
Reinstall the buss bar into the panel box. Snap your circuit breakers onto the buss bar by sliding the rear of the breaker under the slot along the edge of the plastic insert. Push the front of the breaker over the metal connections in the center of the buss bar.
Insert the wires from your house circuits into the circuit breakers if the codes in your city or municipality allow you to complete the electrical connections in your panel.
Pull the three wires connected to the meter base on the exterior of the house into the top of the main panel. Connect the wire labeled as the neutral with white tape or a neutral label to the lug at the top of the neutral bar.
Tighten the lug with a screwdriver to hold the wire to the bar. The neutral bar connects directly to the back of the panel and is separate from the buss bar insert. It is silver in color and has several screws down the length of the bar; the amount of screws vary from panel to panel.
Connect the remaining two wires from the meter base to the two lugs at the top of the buss bar insert. Tighten the lugs with a screwdriver to hold the two wires to the buss bar insert. Do not complete any electrical connections if your city or municipality requires a licensed electrician to make these connections.
Attach the cover to the new main house electrical panel with the screws provided with the new panel box.
- Don Vandervort’s Home Tips.com: The Main Electrical Panel, Circuit Breakers & Subpanels
- Wire It Yourself.com: Do It Yourself Information about the Main Electrical Service Panel in Your Home
- HammerZone.com; Installing a Circuit Breaker; Bruce W. Maki; March 2000
- The Electric Connection: When Should I Upgrade My Electrical Panel?
- WaterHeaterTimer: See Inside Main Breaker Box
Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in 2004. She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images