What Is a Residential Electrical Subpanel?

September 4, 2021

Save Home Heat - Subpanel - BlogGetting to know your home’s electrical system is important. It can help you better communicate with your electrician and, in the case of emergencies, equip you with the knowledge to help get the problem solved quickly – even if that just means contacting your trusted electrical team! By understanding the different components of your electrical system and how they interact with each other, you can be sure you’re using it safely and wisely, all while becoming more familiar with the ins and outs of your home. In this post, we’re going to delve a bit deeper into the land of electrical service panels.

What Is an Electrical Subpanel?

An electrical subpanel (the spelling may vary) is also referred to by electricians as a load center, and is essentially a smaller electrical service panel that works in concert with your home’s main panel, helping to safely distribute electricity in your home. Subpanels are also known as ‘satellite’ service panels because these devices may be located in parts of the home other than where the main panel is installed.

Similar to the main service panel in many respects, subpanels typically contain a smaller number of circuit breaker switches, and normally direct electricity to a specific area or appliance in the home.

Electrical Subpanel Locations

Eaton Subpanel - Save Home HeatIn some cases, a subpanel may be located immediately adjacent to the main service panel. However, subpanels may also be located in closer proximity to where the power is being used. Additions, garages, and detached structures such as a cottage, studio, or workshop are all examples of applications where a licensed electrician may recommend the installation of a satellite subpanel. Basements, garages, mechanical areas, and even closets are common places where the panel may be installed. Depending on the circumstances, a home may even employ more than one electrical subpanel, or none at all in many cases.

Benefits of an Electrical Subpanel

Independent Electrical Contractors Rocky Mountain - IECRMElectrical subpanels are often installed when a home’s main service panel does not have enough space (unoccupied breaker slots in the panel) to accommodate all of the needed new circuit breakers, but otherwise is in good condition and has plenty of electrical load capacity. In other cases, providing quick, easier access to the new breaker switches may also play a role in the process. The decision of when, where, and why to install a subpanel is typically made on the recommendation of the experienced electrician the homeowner is working closely with. In the Denver-Boulder area, Save Home Heat’s electrical team can assist you!

Common Reasons An Electrical Subpanel May Be Installed in Your Home Include:
  • Increasing the branch circuit capacity of your electrical system, without having to replace a main service panel that’s in good shape
  • Adding new electrical circuits to a home addition
  • Adding convenient circuit breaker access – for safety! – for outbuildings such as cottages, studios, workshops, and certain major appliances

Distinguishing Your Subpanel from Disconnect Switches

Eaton Subpanel Load Centers - Save Home HeatIt’s not surprising to our team that homeowners may confuse an electrical subpanel with certain types of electrical disconnect switches (aka. cut-off switches). While electrical subpanels may be found in a home’s closet, garage, or mechanical area, disconnect switches are more often found close by to items such as a hot tub, an AC system outdoor unit, a permanently installed power tool, or a home lighting control or sprinkler system. Disconnects are normally installed for easy power shutoff access in the case of service, maintenance, or emergency situations. What you see inside a disconnect box is normally simpler than a subpanel, but it’s easy to understand the confusion.

Eaton Cutler Hammer LogoNext time you have an electrical service call, we recommend that you ask your trusted electrician if there are any electrical disconnect switches or subpanels employed in your home and if so, get a quick tutorial on them – that is, only if you feel comfortable ‘going there.’

In the Denver-Boulder metro area, homeowners can rely on our highly skilled and experienced electrical team at Save Home Heat to help you sort out those various gray metal electrical boxes you may have seen around your home, and that you may have wondered about. We’d be glad to help increase your home electrical knowledge and hopefully, enhance home safety factors and increase your peace of mind in the process.

Reliable Electrical Services for Denver-Boulder Residents

Licensed Master Electrician - Save Home HeatFor any of your home electrical needs, you can trust our team at Save Home Heat Company to have the experience, skill, and resources needed to provide you with professional, lasting results. Whether updating electrical service to your home, lighting or fan installation, EV chargers, or a wide range of home electrical repairs and upgrades, we are a trusted, go-to electrical team for Boulder-Denver area homeowners.

Please reach out to our friendly, helpful team today for dependable, professional, low-pressure electrical service that’s always focused on your input and your best interests.

Please contact me to schedule electrical service or to provide a free install quote!