San Francisco Department of the Environment

Home Electrification - Is an Electrical Service Upgrade Needed?

So you’re interested in electrifying your home. Wonderful!

You may be wondering whether you need to upgrade your electrical service to accommodate new electric appliances. The truth is, some homes do require a service upgrade. However, it's important to consider all your options before assuming that an upgrade is needed, especially since service upgrades can add significant time and cost to a project.

First, the basics: The electrical service delivered to your home from the utility has a maximum capacity, which is measured in amps, a unit of electrical current. Every electric appliance draws a certain number of amps, and the number of amps being drawn at any one time can't exceed your total service capacity.

So, how do you go about assessing whether your home's service capacity is sufficient for electrification? Check out the steps below to get started:
 

  1. Find your electrical service capacity

An electrician can check this for you, or you can do it yourself. Look for an amperage rating in three places: your electric meter, your main electrical panel, and your main service breaker (which may or may not be located on the electrical panel). The lowest of these three ratings is your home’s electrical service capacity. Many homes have service capacities of 100-200 amps, but older homes and homes in multifamily buildings often have less than 100 amps. If you’re lucky enough to have 200 amps, electrification should be straightforward. If not, don’t worry, just move on to step 2.

  1. Estimate whether your electrical service capacity is sufficient for new electric appliances

An electrician can do this for you, but if you want to get started yourself, there are user-friendly tools that can give you a good idea of where you stand. For example, zerocarbon-home.com is a free online calculator prepared by a local professional. Enter some information about your home, and the tool will calculate whether your electrical service can support electrification, and will even suggest specific electric appliances for you to consider.

  1. Consider lower power appliances and load management

For each type of electric appliance, there can be wide variation in the number of amps that one model will draw versus another (the same applies to appliances’ power ratings in watts). Choosing lower-watt appliances may allow you to electrify without exceeding your service capacity. In addition, lower-watt devices usually use less electricity overall, meaning lower electric bills.

Power-sharing plugs can be another useful tool. These devices limit the number of appliances that operate at once to ensure that your electrical service capacity isn’t exceeded. For example, you can split an outlet between an EV charger and clothes dryer so that EV charging will automatically pause when you turn on the dryer.

Using strategies like these, you may be able to electrify within your existing service capacity. If not, move on to the next step.

  1. If needed, upgrade your electrical service

If you’ve exhausted the other alternatives, or if your electrician identifies a pre-existing electrical safety issue, you may need to upgrade your electrical service. Service upgrades require permits from the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, as well as review and approval by PG&E (details here), which may take a few months. But once it’s done, you’re all set to electrify your home.
 

Important! For safety reasons, all electrical work should be done by a qualified electrician. For additional support and help finding local contractors, reach out to a free BayREN Home Energy Advisor. Call (866) 878-6008 or email [email protected]


Fact Sheet: Electrify Your Home: A Guide for San Francisco Homeowners

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