Installing an Electrical Subpanel

Intro

If the service panel does not have room for new circuit breakers and you cannot use tandem breakers, a subpanel may be the answer. Before installing one consult, with an inspector to make sure you do not overload your overall system.

A subpanel has separate bus bars for neutral and ground wires and typically has no main breaker. It may not be labeled "subpanel" but instead be labeled "lugs only." It may be a different brand than the main panel.

Have the inspector approve the subpanel, the feeder cable, and the feeder breaker.

Shut off the main breaker in the service panel before you begin.

Checklist

Time
About 4 hours to install a subpanel with several new circuits, not including running cable for the new circuits

Tools
Screwdriver, hammer, voltage tester, flashlight, strippers, lineman's pliers, long-nose pliers

Skills
Stripping sheathing and wires, connecting wires to terminals

Prep
Run cables for the new circuits to the subpanel location. In the main service panel, make room for the double-pole feeder breaker.

Materials
Subpanel, mounting screws, approved feeder cable, staples or cable clamps, approved feeder breaker, breakers for the new circuits

Step 1

Mount the subpanel about a foot away from the main service panel. Determine how far the wires will have to travel in the subpanel and pull wires (shown) or add cable and strip sheathing accordingly. Remove a knockout slug, slide the wires through, and clamp the cable.

Step 2

At the main service panel, plan the routes for the four wires: ground, neutral, and two hot wires (black and red). Strip the sheathing, remove a knockout slug, and clamp the cable. Route the neutral and ground wires carefully and connect them to their bus bar(s).

Step 3

Route, cut, and strip the red and black wires. Connect them to the feeder breaker. Snap the breaker into place.

Step 4

In the subpanel, route the feeder wires, cut and strip them, and connect to terminals. Connect the black and red wires to the hot bus bars, the neutral wire to the main neutral terminal, and the ground wire to the ground bus bar.

Step 5

Run cable for new circuits into the subpanel and clamp the cable. For each circuit, route wires around the perimeter, connect the ground wire to the ground bus bar, the white wire to the neutral bus bar, and the hot wire to a circuit breaker.


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