Electrical services vary in different regions. For residential, 100 and 200 amps are the standard ones. But can you use a 200 amp breaker box if you receive 100 amp service? Let’s find out.
You can use a 200 amp breaker box for your 100 amp service. Since the service load is lower than the panel, that leaves you with the flexibility to add more circuits in the future. However, it is better not to use it because it can be costly upfront, and you may face issues in troubleshooting.
In this guide, we shall discuss the basics of electrical services and breaker boxes, the possibility of using a 200 amp breaker box with a 100 amp service, and the pros and cons of it.
Introduction of the breaker boxes and electrical services
The breaker boxes are the house’s main panel, also called the distribution load panel.
The panel brings in power from the power grid outside and distributes it throughout the house.
The small breakers inside the panel control the power of different areas and appliances in your house.
The electrical service is the power service the utility companies provide to your house.
It is the installation part from the utility to the main breaker box.
The electrical service is measured in amps or amperes.
The utility company sets a certain amount of current for your area.
Most houses receive electrical service between 100 and 200 amps, which is enough for residential services.
The service will reach your home through the overhead wires and enter a service mast, passing through your house’s meter.
Once the service enters your property, its first stop is the main breaker box, through which power is distributed throughout your house.
Understanding the difference between 100 amps and 200 amps breaker box
100 amps and 200 amps breaker boxes are the standard panels used in most houses.
More than 200 amps are used for houses where people use too many electrical devices with heavy-duty appliances, like heating and cooling systems, electric stoves, dryers, washing machines, etc.
According to the National Electric Code, or NEC, every house must have at least 100 amp breaker boxes as a standard amp.
It is good for small houses with a few electrical devices.
For houses with a few heavy-duty appliances like dryers or washers, 200 amp panels are sufficient.
Based on the increased technology usage, 200 amps is considered better than 100 amps.
The larger the panel size, the more you can add circuit breakers and appliances without upgrading them.
In the future, 300-amp and 400-amp panels will become the norm due to increased technology.
Can I use a 200 amp breaker box with a 100 amp service?
If the service reaching your house is 100 amps, there is no problem having a 200 amp breaker box in your house.
The electrical service will have a fixed amp service which will be enough for you and your surrounding area.
So, if you buy a 200 amp panel for your house but receive 100 amps, the breaker box will handle the service load.
But, most people do not recommend doing it because, generally, the breaker box must match the incoming service capacity of your house.
A 200 amp breaker box will be oversized for the incoming electrical load.
It can be problematic if the breaker box is not properly installed or protected.
Experts recommend using a breaker box with a maximum capacity of 100 amps if your incoming service is 100 amps.
However, you can use a slightly larger panel if you plan to add extra appliances to support future electrical needs.
You must confirm before starting the wire whether such a setting is allowed by the building code.
If you use a 200 amp breaker box for 100 amp service, ensure that the electrical panel is properly wired and protected before installing the outlets.
There are a few things to look out for:
The electrical service from the power grid is 100 amps.
But your electrical panel will have 200 amps.
A panel should be able to handle the load given by the electrical service.
Following the 80% rule, a 200 amp panel can handle a load of at least 160 amps.
As a result, your electrical breaker box can easily handle 100 amps without overloading.
But, using such a setting can be a safety hazard if there is any overload or fault.
If not installed and protected properly, there might be short circuits or overloading, leading to repeated trips.
So, using it can be risky. Consulting an electrician would be better.
Comparison of breaker box ampacity and service wire size
The electrical service measures 100 amps.
So, the expected wire size for the service is 4 AWG.
But your house’s panel size will be 200 amps, which will need a 2 AWG wire.
If the wire size is only compatible with 100 amps service, it won’t be enough for the 200 amps electrical panel.
It can be a safety hazard issue.
It would be best to use a thicker wire to handle the 100 amp service and the 200 amp breaker box.
Also read: Can I Use A 200 Amp Circuit Breaker With A 100 Amp Panel?
Factors affecting the compatibility of the 200 amp breaker box with the 100 amp service
You can use a 200 amp breaker box for a 100 amp service.
But, you will have to consider a few factors.
Several factors will affect the compatibility of the 200 amp breaker box with the 100 amp service. Below are a few of them:
The incoming service
The incoming service is one of the main factors.
If the service you receive is 100 amps, you should have a breaker box that matches the service.
You may benefit from using a larger breaker box.
Still, you will face issues later, especially during any fault or overload.
Wire size is the next vital factor.
As mentioned earlier, 100 amps and 200 amps use different wire sizes.
If the wire size is not large enough to carry the load of both the service and breaker box, it will melt and start a fire.
As a result, it will be a serious safety hazard and damage the electrical system.
The service coming to your house is 100 amps, but you use a 200 amp breaker box.
It may allow you to assume that you can increase the load.
But, if you do it just because your breaker box is larger, it can create a problem in the electrical system.
So, due to these factors, electricians always recommend using an electrical panel that matches your house’s incoming service.
But, if you still want a larger breaker box, you should consult your local electrician to determine the right panel size.
Before you add a 200 amp breaker box for a 100 amp service, consult your local building codes.
If it does not allow using an oversized breaker, you cannot use it.
Advantages and disadvantages of using a 200 amp breaker box with 100 amp service
Using a 200 amp breaker panel for a 100 amp service has advantages and disadvantages.
- Since you will use a breaker larger than the provided service, the panel will easily handle the service without any issues.
- With a 200 amp breaker box, you can add more electrical devices in the future without upgrading it.
- A 200 amp breaker box gives you enough space for additional circuit breakers.
- Since the use of electrical devices has increased, the demand for 200 amp breaker panels has also increased. As a result, the service panel is easier to find.
- Due to the increased demand, you can easily find the replacement parts and the box for 200 amps.
- The safety concern is the first disadvantage of using a 200 amp breaker box for a 100 amp service. While installing the breaker, it may not be properly protected from overloads and short circuits.
- Next is Building Code Regulations. The local building codes of some regions do not permit the use of a breaker box larger than the incoming service. So it will lead to fines or penalties.
- Using a larger breaker box will be costly. So, if you can already use a 100 amp breaker box for the same amp service, do not hurt your pocket for an oversized panel, especially if you do not plan to add extra circuits.
- You will face issues in identifying electrical problems, as multiple empty slots can create confusion in troubleshooting.
Alternative options for upgrading electrical service
If you want to use a 100 amp breaker box, you should upgrade your service to 100 amps.
It is the safest choice to prevent the safety hazards discussed above.
Instead of that, there are other alternatives:
Upgrading the service wire
If the incoming service is 100 amps, but you use a 200 amp breaker panel, protect the panel by changing the wire size.
If the wire size is 4 AWG for 100 amp service, upgrade it to 2 AWG wire.
A 2 AWG wire will be thicker than 4 AWG and allow enough current flow without melting or overheating.
Upgrading the main service pane
Instead of upgrading the electrical service, you can use a 100-amp breaker box.
It would always be best to use a breaker box that matches the electrical loads of the incoming power.
It will provide safe and protective installation without overloading or short circuit risks.
Safety considerations for upgrading electrical service
While upgrading the electrical service, you should consider a few safety measures:
- Always consult an electrician to determine whether you need a 200 amps breaker box for a 100-amp service.
- Check with the local building codes of your region before you decide to use a 200 amp breaker box. If the code does not allow it, you should install only a 100 amp breaker box for the same amp service.
- Hire a licensed electrician to wire the breaker box properly and protect it against overload and short circuits.
- Always consider the electrical requirements of your house to determine the right breaker box.
- Even if you can use a 200 amp breaker box with a 100 amp service, it is recommended to match the breaker box capacity with the incoming service’s capacity. That way, your breaker box remains safe from potential safety hazards.
You can use a 200 amp breaker box for a 100 amp service. Since the load from the incoming service is low, the breaker box will easily handle it. But, it comes with both merits and demerits.
With a larger breaker box, you can have extra space to handle the incoming load, you can add extra circuits and appliances in the future without any upgradation, and it is easily available due to the high demand.
At the same time, it comes with cons like high cost, dangers of insecure installation and protection, wire size incompatibility for both the breakers, and problems in troubleshooting issues due to various empty slots.
So, you can receive good benefits from a larger breaker box, but there is no guarantee that it is completely safe. There is a 50-50 chance of good and bad results. Always consult your local building codes and the electrician before installing the breaker box. If you are permitted for such a size, you can do it.
How many circuit breakers can you use in a 200 amp breaker box?
A standard 200 amp breaker box can handle around 40-42 slots for single-pole and 20 for double-pole breakers.
How much load can a 200 amp breaker box handle?
Following the 80% rule, a 200 amp breaker box will handle around 160 amps load. So, it can easily handle the load of 100 amp service.
Reference: Breaker box and services Wikipedia