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Upgrading to 200 Amp Service....basic questions.

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by daveswoodhauler, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Ok, finally getting down to start to tackling our basement playroom build for my 3 loud kids, lol.

    My issue is that when the house was built, they only installed a 100 amp panel, and it looks like its only 23 circuits. (Odd number I know) I don't have any free breakers (panel is full) so the electrician gave me a few options:

    Option A: Full panel install for 200 amp service and 40 circuits, along with an interlock kit for the generator set up.

    Option B: Install a 200 Amp panel, but keep the 100 amp feed.....also adding the interlock kit. (This would cost less, but not sure how much less)

    I was originally thinking of a subpanel for the additional circuits needed for the basement, but then run into the issue of not having any free breakers on the existing main for the interlock kit.

    Basically, I'm trying to determine the drawback of going with option B. For the basement renovation, we will be putting in lights, outlets, and (2) 8' electric baseboards...so I don't need a ton of circuits, just a lot more than I have now.

    Don't have the quotes back, but I am thinking the upgrade to 200 amp is going to be around $2,000??/seem about right?

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  2. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    200 amp panel at HD is around $160. 100 amps were around $70.
    Find a guy who just got outta Electrical Tech to do the installation. These guys are up on the most recent codes and work cheap for cash. The kid I hired charged me $50 from weatherhead into the building and new service panel and wired a couple outlets and lights close to the panel.
    I just bought a combination commercial residential building 6 months ago and have been going through the whole upgrade process myself.
  3. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I had a 200 amp upgrade done when we bought the house 2 years ago. Cost was $1800. This is in MA, my service is aerial with Wire to the masthead, not conduit. Your price obviously would vary absed on the local going hourly rates and your setup.

    Since then I've done enough DIY electrical and read enough books that I'd be comfortable doing every part of the job except tying into the utility co wires at the masthead. That one piece is dangerous enough for me to feel good hiring it out.


    On to your question. Option B is basically taking a 40 slot breaker box and installing it with a 100 main. You could also install a second 20 slot box as a sub panel fed from a 50amp double pole on your current box, and move over enough circuits to free the space you need for the interlock. Either option will get you the number of circuits you need. Whether or not its the best option depends on if the 100 amp feed is enough capacity to supply those circuits. Electricians do a whole house load calculation to figure this out. You can find the formulas in a good electrical DIY book. Or google for an online version. The calculations basically add up the wattages of fixed appliances, the capacity ot outlet and lighting circuits x some utilization factor to come up with an estimated average max load.

    I'll give an example, I did the load calculation on my house and it came up to something like 96 amps, and we are on the low side for usage - no central AC, heat and hw are gas, only thing on 240 is the range and dryer. This is close enough to 100 that it made sense to go up a size to future proof (200... there is no cost savings really for a 150). Reality and the figures don't always match though - I have that Black and Decker whole house meter and the most Ive ever seen at once is about 10kw -or about 40 amps at the main.... But I still wouldn't go back to the 60 amp fuse box the house had 40 years ago!


    Bottom line, if in doubt go with the 200. Its the practical minimum these days, will future proof you, and may subtly enhance the house value.


    BTW those electrical DIY books....
    Wiring for Pros by Pros - Rex Cauldwell (good overview that covers the basics of working with electric and a lot of the reasons for the codes. HIs above code ideas though are a bit excessive)
    Black and Decker Complete Guide to Wiring.(Good practical book showing specific circuit examples)
  4. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Ok, I think I got it....basically, the option B would give me plenty of circuits to work with, but the panel would still have a max output of 100 amps at any one time? (Probably not the correct terms, but I think I get it)

    House was built in 1998 (spec house) and the electrican was surprised as he initially thought we had 30 circuits, but then counted and we only had 23. I'm thinking that if we had the full 30 I might be ok, and not need to upgrade.

    Our electric use is pretty low...runs about 400-500 kwh's a month, but we might put in a 2 car garage in the future and possible hot tub in the future.

    Thanks for the explanation...helps a lot.
  5. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    if you are putting in a panel 200 amps is clearly the choice....

    I have 100 amps here with electric hot water and stove and assumed i was going to be close to the limit. I have since installed a TED 5000 and see that I am no where near the limit. My peak has been 38 amps at 240 volts.

    BUT if you want to have electric on demand hot water you will need 200 amps... but if you are going for efficiency you would want a hybrid hot water heater, which is closer to 120v 6 amps.

    all depends on your needs... but this is an upgrade... so thats different yet again. If i was going to pay someone to either put in a sub panel or upgrade the existing... i would probably upgrade the existing... depending on the cost difference.
  6. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    I had mine upgraded 2 years ago, cost was around $1500 but it was a side job for the guy, he ran 200 amp wire from my masthead to the same location as the old box, put in a new huge breaker box and a meter box, used my old breakers where he could. Also had 100 amp run to the attic with a full size breaker box put up there for the HVAC and future upgrades to the upstairs electrical.

    My old 100 amp box was really going south so I had to do something so I went ahead for the full monty.
  7. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    Around here the utility runs the overhead wires and ties you in, so don't be afraid to do the work yourself if you're so inclined.

    It seems kind of a shame to swap out such a new breaker box. I'd definitely add a sub panel, but that's me.
  8. thinkxingu

    thinkxingu Minister of Fire

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    If you're thinking about adding a hot tub and garage, you'd be out of your mind not to install a 200 amp panel now.

    S
  9. Gary_602z

    Gary_602z Minister of Fire

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    Around here you can pull an electrical permit as a homeowner or have a licensed electrician do it, but you will need a permit and be inspected before the power co. will hook you back up!

    Gary
  10. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    One of the forum electricians here.

    Go for the 200 amp. It's a couple hundred bucks more and will give you all the capability you will need in the future.

    Going rate in my area (greater springfield mass) is $1500-$2000 for a 200 amp service change/upgrade. Since you have a full panel now expect prices towards the top of the scale.

    Regarding the other comments, yes homeowners are allowed to pull their own permits and electrical work, but technically they are not allowed to tie it into the panel, and are not supposed to do the service outside the house. Some localities and inspectors will differ and you mileage will vary.
  11. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Thanks folks for the help and feedback. I'm going to have another electrician come out as I would like to have a few estimates. Seems like the ones that I have spoke with aren't crazy about the subpanel idea, not sure if thats because they would need to move a bunch of circuits from the main to the sub and it might get messy. (Might be less in parts cost but more in labor?)
    Anyway, I'll check back here once I get some numbers in.
    Thanks
  12. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I did my own 200 amp upgrade. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it for me to save the money. Any electrician has to:

    Do a site walk
    Pull a permit.
    Kill breaker, pull meter, disconnect the service from the old panel, mark all branch circuits and disconnect lines from old panel, remove old panel, move over the old service and let the meter hang (unless you just mount the new stuff over a bit), run the new Service from the weather-head down to the new meter socket and into the new panel (some utilities will run down to the meter for you but I installed conduit), hook up all branch circuits, label the panel and then call for inspection at which point you will be able to give the work# to the utility company so they can cut over to the new meter. All this time you're working in a dark basement trying to get the lights back on for someone without killing yourself or burning the house down. I was able to feed the new meter socket wit the old SE cable till the inspector came the next day, then PSNH came and were done in about an hour. I got compliments from both. I'd probably do it again, and I'm actually thinking about re-doing a sub panel for the in-law so I can have some extra breakers for the garage.

    As far as the price its a lot of work and you're almost always not in/out in a day. $1000 + equipment is a good deal, and between arc fault breakers and any upgrades (expansion joints for conduit aren't cheap) required for the new service its easy to get to 2 grand. I liked the Siemens panel I used because (it was recommended by the self-help book I read before the project!) they come with full neutral+ground bars on both sides of the bus so you don't have to cut your grounds/neutrals short. $400-$600/day is not piracy for a self-employed contractor.
  13. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Interesting. When my electrician did my upgrade the utility didn't even cut the power. I asked him and he says they wont bother anymore unless you really pester them as they know most of the contractors will just work on the lines live anyway + having the line live lets him connect a temp service to run his tools while he works. I was shocked he would work on the masthead live but he said you just use a nonconductive fiberglass ladder, gloves, insulated tools and be VERY careful to not touch the neutral and one of the hots at the same time.

    Scary, but apparently thats how all the Pro's do it here.

    The whole operation only took 4 hours from power off to power back on again- rip out existing panel, meter box and service lines, put in the new lines, meter base and panel, new ground rods, and reconnect everything. My meter was already rated for 300 amps so they just had to snap it back in to new base.

    We also have all Siemens equipment here and I can +1 on the quality, its good stuff. I stick to their breakers and mostly P&S spec grade stuff for the outlets and switches whenever I have added circuits.
  14. Hass

    Hass Minister of Fire

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    Man, I feel pretty lame now!
    I'm done gutting my house and wiring it, and I only have a 100 amp breaker with 16 slots! All of which are now in use. :|
    Upgrade is coming later for when the workshop and garage go up... But what I've got is fine for now.
    ITE panel, Siemens breakers.
  15. burnham

    burnham Member

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  16. burnham

    burnham Member

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  17. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I had a 100 to 200 A upgrade, up to the weatherhead, in 2008. Two young guys and about 4 hours of work, senior elec inspected after the work was done. Charged me $1500 for their bit + $150 to pull a permit. Worked on it hot (at the top), said the utility didn't cut power.
  18. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Piece of cake to do it, but if the utility want to do it why not let them? It really depends on where the "service stops. Either the first splice or the meter is usually where they draw the line.
  19. woodmeister

    woodmeister New Member

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    Go with the 200 amp and don't look back you won't be sorry down the road, those genelinks are sweet saves a lot of hardwiring.
  20. jeffoc

    jeffoc Member

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    We have a house that was built in 1900 and had it all rewired a couple of years ago. The electrician did option B for us. 200 amp box and 100 amp service. We still haven't upgraded. The only thing I notice is that when a high load appliance kicks on the lights will dim for a second.
  21. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Next question...if I go to 200 amp, do they also have to change the meter? i.e. if I go with 200 amp, but keep the 100 amp tie in, can I still use my current meter?
  22. jeffoc

    jeffoc Member

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    We kept our meter the same if I remember right. This year they changed it out for a remote read one. But up until then it was the same.
  23. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    I kept my same meter, they put it in a new box to match.
  24. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    I went for 200amp shortly after I bought this house. The old panel was maxed with years of one-at-a-time wiring upgrades. The price difference wasn't huge, and I think the total was around $1800. A larger 100amp panel would more than cover us at this point, but if I ever do build the shop I'm dreaming of, I expect to put some woodworking and welding equipment in it. If and when that happens, I can pull a permit and do it myself.

    Incidentally, the guy's apprentice hit my old, crusty water main while driving the ground rod, so i got a brand new, 1" PEX water main for free. 2 for 1 special! :cheese:
  25. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I rewired my house with a 60 amp feed, pulled the permit, had it inspected, etc. The interesting part was live-wiring the feed to the meter. The power company ran the new cable from the pole to the house and left the hot wire leads available for hookup. Not really a big deal. Heck, it's only 120V per line!

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