Another Electrical Load Center Thread

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Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Jan 12, 2010
We bought this house 3 years ago knowing that we would be doing quite a bit of remodeling at some point in the future. Well, the future is now.

I think the first thing I need to do is upgrade/upsize/update the main load center located in the basement. It is a 20 space box and completely maxed out. Much like everything else in this house, nothing is done the way I like it and/or is outdated and makes sense to replace while access is easy.

So, as we go through each room in the house (which will include going down to bare studs) I'm going to rewire and put every room on it's own circuit (or circuits depending on load). Right now I don't have room in the box to add any circuits.

I need some help:

What is my shopping list for a load center replacement? Load center, breakers, grounding bar, box nuts (wire strain thingys)? What else?

I don't think I have a sufficient grounding rod. What would the be the best way to do this for a basement panel?

Should I do anything extra? While I'm at it that I might regret not doing in the future? I don't even know what the extra may be, but seems typical of projects. "If I had only known, I would have done that back when..."

What should I expect from the PoCo for disconnnect, reconnect?
You want

120/240 volt 200 amp 40 circuit load center
breakers for said load center
4/0 aluminum SE cable
2 2" se connectors
1 2" weather proof se connector
straps for 4/0 cable
weather head for 4/0
2" hub for the top of your meter
200 amp meter socket. You will have to see if your utility company requires a by pass lever or not
2 8' ground rods
2 acorn clamps
#4 bare copper wire
2 water pipe grounding clamps
1 inter system bond terminal
box of romex connectors
Ball park cost $450-600

No idea about the power company disconnect but with WMECO and National Grid we are responsible for disconnect and re-connect while it's still on. May want to check with your local inspector around here homeowners cannot work inside the panel or on the service.
Does the service strike and meterbox need replacement or is it adequate and in good condition? If the current gnd rod is in good shape, but only one, a second rod can be added and daisy chained with the first.
I swapped the panel in my current home. It was a small Zinsco firetrap panel so it had to go. Glad I did since it was crap.

The actual panel is surprisingly cheap and complete.

On the panel, I really like Siemens panels and the breakers are very common and available. Buss bars are brass. I kicked it up a notch and bought a real generator transfer panel which is the same as a regular panel but with the little interlock tab built into the cover and the panel is pre-approved for this use. It only costs a tiny bit more to get the biggest panels they make. 40 slot or whatever, get the big one.

On a panel replacement you will find that your house wires are too short so you will need to extend them by splicing on. You can splice inside the panel but that is messy. What I did was buy a 12x12x4" gutter box to put above the new panel and that became a huge splice box. This way all the wire coming into the new panel is new and is also long enough to make it pretty. If you thought my subpanel was pretty you ought to see my main.

Beware that you will need a bunch of expensive arc-fault breakers for bedrooms.

My panel swap inspector required that I show him the ground rods. On my 50 year old house the groudn wire just disappeared under the porch slab so I have no idea how it was grounded. 2 new rods and the groudning wire were cheap enough. He also made me run another fat ground to my copper plumbing and copper drainage lines.

We reused the old meter base and aerial service connection. They were not the problem.
This will not be inspected. I don't have to pull a permit.

Spicing is a given. My plan is to splice everything in boxes just to the side of the panel. As I replace wiring I'll connect directly to the panel. I already have several of those, most likely from when they replaced the original fuse box.

Meter base is fine, for now. I might relocate it in the future for a possible addition to the house, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

The current grounding rod goes through the basement wall to who knows where. What would be the best way to ground this?
Is that 20 space box on 100amp service? I could be wrong but I think most are. Going to a 40 space box you will probably want to go for 200amp.

May want to check with your local inspector around here homeowners cannot work inside the panel or on the service.

I think it varies by town based on what the local inspector feels like doing. I've heard of homeowners in the area pulling permits to install subpanels and the like. What I understand is the only thing that is completely not allowed at the state level is DIY plumbing (silly).
Is that 20 space box on 100amp service? has a 200 amp main and wiring sized for 200 from the meter. Like I said, everything is this house is done and works, but not done the way it really should be.
Is it a nice 200a panel?

How about put in a 30 space 100a sub panel right next to it, move all the light load circuits over to it, and leave the 240v and heavy load circuits right where they are.

As far as grounding, around here it is #4 bare to the copper water pipe before the meter as long as there is 15' buried outside, ground rod is backup because from the code official "people screw with the plumbing and forget to hook it back up". Otherwise I have heard two 8' ground rods 6' apart with #4 wire for 200a service, dunno the diameter of rods though.
Not a bad idea, but the current panel isn't exactly nice. I would rather see it just go away.
Panels are so cheap and new ones are so nice. A fat siemens panel with all that nice copper. Fresh breakers that don't buzz or crackle. Fresh connections without stripped heads on the screws. You can make it up to look really nice instead of whatever the previous guy did. Add a few circuits for fun stuff like a beer fridge, welder, lathe, etc.
zinsco, they did have fire problems.
i agree with highbeam siemans or the same company murray is a great panel. i've been using murray for 25 years no problems. round here only license can do service work. actually most towns around here won't let a home owner pull a electrical permit. they need to have a license and general liability insurance. if that existing panel is 20 circuit 200 amp they paid at least double for it.the smallest 200 amp panel i've seen is 24 circuit and is a special order. no one buy's them because of the price. the norn is 20 circuit 100 amp. what size wire is on the main breaker and from the meter up? sometimes you can get the meter rating on a tag inside the meter box. if you could snap a picture or two we might be able to say for sure. if your water pipe is your main ground you'll need #4 to that and jump over the water meter with clamp on each side of meter. then your ground rods will be your supplimental ground and can be #6 all one piece.
oh yah sometimes the meter will look like a 200 amp but in fact be a 150 amp. companys do foolish thing like that.
Definitely 200AMP, definitely 20 spaces. Definitely. Jeopardy at 5:00. Definitely.
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post a picture. you said you didn't like the existing panel. why? it might need a bit of neatening up. if you want to save a few bucks and mostly time check the sticker on the inside cover. the back of the door look for a diagram of the buss bar. if it has 20 spots it's a 20 circuit panel. if those spots have a dotted or lighter colored line in the middle of the each spot then you legal to use those duplex breakers (or half breakers with 2 per spot)
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