Upgrading electrical panels: A small change that can make a big difference

For years, clients have asked my designers, handymen, licensed contractors, and me what improvements they can make that would enhance the value of their home significantly more than the cost of the improvement.

Most of the time, these questions were asked just before the homeowner is about to sell their property; on the other hand, some savvy homeowners figure they should make these improvements now so they can enjoy them until they are ready to sell. Occasionally, people would ask me whether they would get their money back from upgrading their electric system or adding solar panels.

In the past, I generally cautioned against significant improvements to the major systems of the house because most buyers fail to appreciate the importance of those types of costly enhancements. However, as towns continue to enact ordinances banning gas appliances and we shift to electric cars, there will be intensifying scrutiny over the electric capacity of the home.

By way of example, many are finding that the 100-amp panel that used to be sufficient for a small home in Palo Alto or Menlo Park simply can’t handle the increased demands placed on it. Electric cars, water heaters, ovens, clothes dryers, and heating systems all use a lot of electricity. As a result, more and more buyers are asking if homes have electric vehicle chargers or, at a minimum, whether the home’s electric system could support them.

Last winter’s severe storms have also played a role in people’s thinking.

Strong winds and rains resulted in power outages that lasted for several days in some areas. This demonstrated another advantage to solar energy with high-capacity back-up batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall. These whole-home batteries are continuously charged by solar panels during the day when the sun is out. Additionally, they can draw power from the electric grid when rates are low, such as overnight. When the power goes out, these batteries prove to be incredibly useful.

Now, when people ask me about improvements that they can make to enhance the value of their home for a sale many years down the road, I go beyond merely suggesting adding square footage, increasing the bedroom and bathroom count, and upgrading the landscaping. I also suggest considering solar power, back-up batteries, and upgrading the overall capacity of the home’s electric system.

On the other hand, I have received feedback from clients that they have been less happy with their decision to put in large-capacity backup generators. Similarly, a cursory review of people’s opinions on Yelp tends to show a general lack of satisfaction with these backup systems. If you have any personal experience with either whole-home back-up batteries or generators, we would love to hear your opinions about their efficacy, especially during the power outages we experienced last year. Please email MichaelR@DeLeonRealty.com.

By Michael Repka


Michael Repka | michael@deleonrealty.com Tel: 650.405.4631