Manufactured home circuit breaker panels go by numerous names:
- electrical panels
- breaker panels
- breaker boxes
- load centers
- service panels
Whichever name you choose to use, it’s more likely going to describe the familiar steel box often installed flush into the wall, tasked with housing all the circuit breakers required by your home.
At the right time, say, in the event of a major electrical malfunction, the circuit breakers will “trip” or turn off the circuits that distribute power throughout your house.
This guide serves to explain
- all the types of circuit breaker panels out there
- show you how to accurately determine the amperes and right amount of circuit breaker units you need for your home
- as well as the brand to choose
- and also the cost range of each type of electrical panel.
Tip: You must check with your utility company and local authorities to be certain that the panel of your choice is compliant with local codes.
There are two reasons you may need to replace the electrical panel or even add an extra sub-panel:
- in situations requiring you to add more circuit breakers but the panel has reached the maximum capacity or
- if you intend to upgrade from preexisting fuses to better circuit breakers.
Four Manufactured Home Circuit Breaker Panels Shopping Factors
Here is how to shop for an electrical panel:
1. Consider The Type of Electrical Panel
What type of electrical panel would be perfect for your needs?
There are four main types of circuit breaker panels:
- main breaker panel
- main lug panel
- sub panel
- transfer switches
This type of electrical panel comes with an inbuilt main breaker that shuts off all power supply to your house.
The main breaker is given complete control on the power supply and often comes as a large 2-pole circuit breaker capable of limiting electricity intake to cushion the circuits it manages.
It also serves to identify the amperage capacity of your panel, meaning the total amount of electricity your panel can comfortably carry.
Main breakers become a necessity when the feeder cable and the meter are within 10 ft. of the panel.
Consider consulting your local electricity codes to find out whether your panel meets this or any other other requirement for better installation.
This type of electrical panel does not feature the main breaker.
Rather, the wires pass through a special electrical connector referred to as a lug.
Main Lug Panels require a separate disconnect.
If an unexpected fire occurs, the separate disconnect near the meter lets the firefighting personnel cut the power supply without the need of entering the building.
As the name suggests, Sub-Panels are smaller electrical panels that service a particular area of the house.
It holds distinct circuit breakers that link from the main breaker panel. It is usually positioned near the location it powers.
Choose a sub-panel in situations that require multiple circuits in one area separate from the main home, such as a greenhouse or workshop.
It is worth noting that sub-panels draw electricity from one of the circuits in your main panel and don’t have to possess their own disconnect.
Also bear in mind that the ampere rating of the feeder circuit in your main breaker panel should be the same if not less than the ratings of the linked sub-panel.
Further note that, there can only be as many sub-panels as the total number of available circuits in the main breaker panel – basically, if you have 7 circuits in the main breaker panel, then you can install up to 7 sub-panels.
Sub-panels don’t increase the overall amount of power already available on the unit. If you need to increase the electricity, contact your electrician or local utility company for guidance.
A transfer switch is very much like a sub-panel except that it converts the power produced by a portable generator into stable electrical power via your breaker panel.
It is the perfect electrical panel if you live in a location with frequent storms and, for that reason, you should have a backup power generator powered by an alternative source of power like natural gas or propane.
You can wire the generator directly to the household electrical panel with a transfer switch. This provides a seamless switch from utility service to backup power when the power goes out.
2. The Amperage of the Unit
Amperage is measured in amperes and is used to describe the strength of the electrical current.
Electrical panels differ from each other by the total number of circuits they can support and also the overall amperage they provide.
Open your current electrical panel and read the amperage listed on the main breaker.
Remember that, when replacing your panel, you can either match the current model’s amperage or upgrade it with higher amperage if your household power needs have increased.
Amperage normally range between 60-amperes in older houses to as high as 200-amperes in newer homes.
Ensure that the wires, as well as all other devices included in the circuit, are appropriately rated for the right amperes for your new install
100-amperes is the lowest panel amperage permitted by the NEC (National Electrical Code), but 150-amperes is starting to be common.
While 100-amperes to 150-amperes is generally best for most households, electrical panels can also be purchased in 200- and 400-ampere units.
Type and Number of Circuit Breakers the Panel Will Support
Not just any circuit breaker panel will hold any type and number of circuit breakers.
So, start by determining the type and number of circuit breakers required by your household.
A circuit breaker runs at 80% of its indicated/rated capacity.
Therefore, you can calculate the number of circuit breaker units you need simply by finding out the number of amperes covered.
Start by adding up all the loads (appliances and devices) that will operate on the circuit. Normally, you can see all these details listed on a label or sticker attached to the appliances.
If the load is listed in watts, use the formula: watts / volts = amps. Example: 1,400W / 120V = 12 amperes.
A circuit breaker is essentially a switch installed in a breaker box installed to protect your household’s electrical components from catching fire or overheating.
When an electrical overload or short occurs, the circuit breaker intervenes by interrupting the smooth flow of electricity.
All circuit breakers fall into three basic varieties:
- standard breakers (they include both double-pole and single-pole circuit breakers)
- AFCIs (arc fault circuit interrupter circuit breakers)
- GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupter circuit breakers).
Here are the commonly used types of circuit breakers:
Single-Pole Circuit Breaker
A single-pole circuit breaker is the most commonly used type of circuit breaker in most homes today.
They are referred to as “single-pole” because they are designed to safeguard the current of one wire.
The single-pole breaker is normally intended for monitoring between 15 and 30 amperes and delivers 120 V to the circuit.
Those with a rating between 15 and 20-amperes are often used for lighting and receptacles.
They are often sold in three different types:
- full size (1″ wide)
- half-size (1/2″ wide)
- and tandem (1” wide with 2 switches that control 2 circuits).
Double-Pole Circuit Breaker
If you need to monitor electricity flow in two wires at the same time, it only makes sense that you buy an electrical panel that can work with a double-pole circuit breaker.
As the sane suggests, the double-pole circuit breaker safeguards the current of two wires at the same time.
- A double-pole circuit breaker is very much a single-pole circuit breaker except that it comes with two interlinked switches laid side-by-side.
- The breaker will trip in the event of overloading or shorting in one or both two wires.
- This type of circuit breaker delivers either 240 V or 120/240 V to the electrical circuit.
- They are designed to accommodate anything between 15 amperes to 200 amperes.
- Circuits that feed power to heavy appliances that demand substantial energy, such as dryers, washing machines, and water heaters demand a double-pole breaker.
GFCI Circuit Breaker
GFCI (Ground fault circuit interrupter) is designed to safeguard against a fault emerging from the home’s line-to-ground supply channel.
This’s when a risky electrical path occurs somewhere between an electrical current and a grounded element.
GFCI breakers also provide protection against an overload current or an electrical short.
These breakers are a must-have by electrical codes for some areas and properties that can become moist or wet such as outdoor areas, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.
AFCI Circuit Breaker
An AFCI circuit breaker is designed to stop the flow of current in the event of arcing within the electrical wiring.
This can occur when the coating on an electrical cord gets damaged or becomes too thin to a point of posing a fire risk.
But, why just not buy a standard double-pole or single-pole circuit breaker electrical panel for detection of arcing?
The reason lies in how double-pole and single-pole circuit breakers are triggered – they won’t easily detect an electrical arc because they are only tripped by excess heat.
AFCI breakers are recommended for newer homes as part of many electrical codes.
CAFCI (Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter)
This class of circuit breakers is designed to safeguard against arcing (just like AFCI options) as well as arcing caused by low energy series.
Their main job is to protect the downstream branch circuit wirings and power cords.
Dual function (GFCI and C/AFCI) breaker
This type of circuit breaker combines the elements and benefits that come with a GFCI breaker and an AFCI breaker into one.
Dual function breakers protect against both ground faults and arc faults.
It is way easier to install and maintain.
This type of breaker is also more convenient if you compare it with most other options.
3. Cost v/s Budget
Whether you are buying it for a new home or you are replacing an old unit, a decent circuit breaker of any kind doesn’t come cheap.
The cost of replacing a circuit breaker panel averages $1,120, with a normal range of $490 and $1,700 (some units can be as high as $4,000).
You will pay slightly more for a 400-ampere unit, or if you plan to install several units.
Upgrades that retain the same wiring and amperage run the least. Note that the cost depends on the amperage of the panel.
|100-Amp||$500 – $1,500|
|150-Amp||$500 – $1,750|
|200-Amp||$750 – $2,000|
|400-Amp||$1,500 – $4,000|
The Cost of Upgrading to a 200-Amp Panel
The 200-Amp option is one of the most used panels in homes.
A homeowner should be prepared to pay something between $750 – $2,000 to upgrade their existing panel to a 200-ampere unit, including professional installation.
Alone, a 200-amp service box ranges from $100 to $350. A comparable unit, the 150-ampere version, comes with a price tag in the range of $50 and $200.
Upgrading to a 150-ampere or 200-amp service panel gives you more room to grow. Houses with additions or huge garages and heavy electrical equipment may require extra amperage to cater to the increased power demands
The Cost of Upgrading a 400-Amp Panel
The cost of upgrading to 400-amp service panels falls anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000. This will include the panel unit at about $500, and 8 to 20 hrs. in labor.
The overall cost of installation will depend mostly on how you choose to set up the boxes.
In some cases, the electrician may install two 200-ampere panels, using one as a subpanel.
While these models cost approximately half the price tag of a 400-ampere option, labor for the two units will be more intense and take a little longer to complete.
However, most manufactured homes don’t require this much power.
However, if your home is large enough and situated in a hot climate/hot summers, or you installed jetted tubs that you intend to use regularly, a 400-ampere panel can be an excellent choice.
The Cost of Updating an Electrical Panel to 100-Amperes
The cost of updating a circuit breaker panel to a 100-amp service panel ranges between $500 and $1,500. The panel alone costs between $50 and $200, so labor takes the biggest share.
Older homes often operate with low-amperage panels because their designers didn’t factor in central air, today’s electronics, and most other modern appliances.
If your home operates with a 60-ampere unit, upgrading could make it much easier to think of improvements like a hot tub or a workshop.
Expect to pay something in the region of $2,000 for more supplies and labor. It may end up costing more, depending on the findings made by the electrician when they get to work.
Previously unknown issues might be unearthed as the electrician works on your old unit. For example, they might discover a few ungrounded electrical outlets that need to be relocated or an array of other problems.
Remember, there is a lot of things going on inside the walls that cannot be seen at the moment of the estimate. Therefore, once the upgrade work starts, it is quite possible that a few changes will be made.
But anything that brings such a major difference in the safety of your house is worth some extra money.
Also, this kind of work can take a great deal of time and materials – sometimes days, especially when just one electrician takes over the whole project.
Get Your Budget Right
It is important that you prepare a budget and make up your mind about the maximum amount of money you are willing to spend on a circuit breaker panel.
While it is perfectly normal for a shopper to prepare a budget based on their needs and the amount of money they have, it would be great if you don’t compromise with the minimum options available.
A budget helps you avoid overspending, impulse buying, and at times, going for a wrong product that doesn’t even meet your requirements leave alone your financial abilities.
However, there’s nothing wrong with going for a cheaper model as long as you understand what it’s able to provide.
Just so you understand why the brand behind your electrical panel is important, Federal Pacific and Zinsco were some of the most panel makers until their products became notorious for starting fires.
Federal Pacific’s were causing over 2,800 fires annually before the company went under.
For that reason, it is recommended that you evaluate several brands and only choose those known for offering safe products.
Some of the trusted brands in this industry are:
When replacing a circuit breaker panel, consider the amperage, type of unit, and type of circuit breaker that that can perfectly safeguard your household based on your unique circumstance.
The cost of the panel is probably the most important part because
- you need to factor in the amperage of the panel you need
- whether you are simply installing on a new home or replacing an old unit
- and whether you are going the DIY route or would prefer a professional to work on it (it would be great to leave this kind of work to a certified electrician).
Once you have made up your mind about the type of and the number of circuit breakers and the amount of money you are willing to spend on the unit, choose a reputable brand known for producing reliable and safe electrical panels.