100 AMP vs. 200 AMP: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated July 20, 2021
Technician turning power off
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The difference between 100 AMP and 200 AMP electrical panels is the amount of power they can handle

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If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between 100 AMP and 200 AMP electrical panels, the answer is pretty simple. These different ratings refer to the amount of power an electrical panel can handle. They’re both perfectly safe, and which one is right for you depends on your electrical usage and the size of your home.

What Does AMP Stand For?

AMP refers to amps, or amperes, which are a unit of measurement for electrical currents. Amperage measures the volume of electricity flowing through a home. How many amps a home can handle depends on how old it is and what electrical panels you have installed.

What’s the Difference Between 100 AMP and 200 AMP?

100 AMP panels are smaller than 200 AMP panels. Because 200 AMP panels are larger, they can fit more circuits and have more room to expand. 200 AMP panels are also slightly more expensive, costing an average of $100 to $200 more than a 100 AMP panel.

When Should You Use a 100 AMP Panel?

100 AMP panels are often used in older homes that don’t use as much electricity. While they’re sometimes considered outdated when compared to more modern homes with a higher capacity, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe—it just means they can fit fewer circuits.

A 100 AMP panel could still be a good fit for your home if you don’t have as many modern appliances, if you heat your home with gas instead of electricity, if you use gas appliances, and if you don’t use central air or heating.

When Should You Use a 200 AMP Panel?

Most modern homes use 200 AMP panels. The main difference between the two types of panels is that 200 AMP panels have a higher capacity and can fit more circuits. 200 AMP panels are a good fit if you heat and cool your home using electricity. They’re also a smart choice if you plan to expand your home in the future, or if you frequently use appliances and tools that require a lot of electricity.

Electrical panel close-up
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How Much Electricity Does Your Home Need?

Whether you need a 100 AMP panel or 200 AMP panel depends on the size of your home and your electrical use. In general, homes under 3,000 square feet can use a 100 AMP panel as long as they don’t use air conditioning or electric heat. Homes over 3,000 square feet and homes that rely on electric heat and air conditioning will typically be better served by a 200 AMP panel.

Should You Upgrade Your Electrical Panel?

While it’s not strictly necessary to upgrade your electrical panel if your home’s electricity needs are currently met, there are several reasons why it might be a good idea. Homes continue to use more appliances that require electricity, so increasing the amperage can provide more opportunity for expansion and growth and can help to prevent power outages. Upgrading from 100 AMP to 200 AMP service costs between $740 and $2,000.

Room for Growth

Even if a 100 AMP electrical panel is good for your home at present, it may not be sufficient for your home’s needs in the future.

This could be the case if you add more appliances that require a lot of electricity, like if you convert your garage into a woodshop filled with power tools. If you add an addition to your house, you may also need more power.

Prevent Power Outages

If you use more electricity than your electrical system can handle, you may cause a power outage. If you’re already close to your usage threshold with a 100 AMP panel, upgrading to a 200 AMP panel can help to ensure that you have enough electricity to power all of the appliances in your home without leaving you in the dark.

Can I Replace an Electrical Panel Myself?

It’s not a good idea to replace an electrical panel yourself. Dealing with your home’s electrical system requires skill and education that the average homeowner just doesn’t have. 

You should call a professional electrician near you if you’re thinking about upgrading your electrical panel. They can evaluate your home’s specific situation, walk you through your options, and safely and efficiently install a new electrical panel if needed.

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