Not my forte…
My wife and I are under agreemant on a 1888 post Greek revival type house in New England. She’s an architect and is pretty savvy with construction and I trust her judgement on things like that but, as a man, also feel somewhat embarrassed that I don’t understand almost anything about electricity, which has become the focal point of the home inspection we had performed yesterday.
The biggest issue with the house is that the electrical service is 100 amp, but has been “doubled” several times. There is insufficient service to run a dryer or electric stove. We are having an electrician come in and give us an estimate for updating the panel, but I feel like I’d do well to read a very basic primer on the subject of residential electrical service so I can understand the situation better. The search function on these forums seems to have yielded many articles, but not any as basic as I’d hoped. Any suggestions on either our specific situation or a good starting point for me?
By the way, I know that I sound like a yuppie who doesn’t know phillips from frearson, but I’ve actually been a professional wooden boatbuilder for a long time and have several large stationary 220v tools (including a 36″ ship’s saw) that will figure in the restoration of said property, so you can see where my interests lie…
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
First, the size of meter base and cable running to it from the power company transformer needs to be determined. If you are lucky, like I was, the power company put a 200 amp meter base and sized the conductors to support it even though the original homeowner connected a 100 amp panel. If not lucky, the power company will need to run another set of cables to the new meter base, probably with your money.
Next the main panel needs to be removed and replaced with a 200 amp panel or you can really do it up and have a pair of 200 amp panels. The old panel gets pulled out, new panel installed, all the hanging wires get reconnected into the new breakers. Possible that a new ground will be needed. Pretty simple to do, a fair amount of work.
Not much more to it than that. Some books on basic wiring in Home Depot, Lowes, etc.
If not lucky, the power company will need to run another set of cables to the new meter base, probably with your money.
USUALLY the power company is responsible to the weatherhead for overhead service. There could be exceptions, but it is that way in most areas where I have lived and worked. The HO owns the weatherhead down - including the meter base.
The catch is that they will charge you a service call to connect to the weatherhead, if they have to come out more than once. The workaround is to put the new service next to the old, so they can do it all in one trip.
Materials cost including wire, meter base, breaker panel, weatherhead, ground rods, and new breakers should be around $300 or so. The first time I did one, with no prior experience, it took me a whole day. The next one just a couple of hours.
Service cable is harder to work with than you might think. Consider using copper wire in conduit instead.
If it's underground service, though, the HO is usually responsible everything beyond the attachment point - which means the buried cable in the yard, etc.
I guess it depends on the service provider. When I checked on this with Duke Energy, their reasoning was that since they already ran a set of cables to the house once, if they needed to do it again it was going to be at my expense.Steve.
I guess it depends on the service provider.
It also depends on the crew. If the wiring is older, the crew usually has the discretion to determine if the wire needs to be replaced (at no cost to HO) or is OK as is (so replacement would be a charge for the HO).
If you are going from 100A to 200A service, though, they may well not change the wire. Seems weird, but recall that copper wire in open air for relatively short runs for power utilities is derated much less than NM-B in a house. Most wire that utilities have installed to houses in the last 100 years is OK for 200A, at least around here. For example, when I upgraded my 1936 colonial from 60A to 200A, they used the same feed from the pole - the only new wiring was on my side of the weatherhead.
Here is a link for computing the service needed for a house.
Note that it is based on size (sq ft) for general purpose lights and receptacles. Plus several required circuits (washer and kitchen small appliances). Include those even if you don't have them now so that you have room for when you remodel. Plus ACTUAL NAMPLATE DATA for many of the appliances. If you don't have those you can make guess from the stores. Also a few appliances have special calculations.
Then you are allowed certain demand factors in the calculations as they know that you are not doing to have every circuit loaded to the maximum amount all the time.
Ten Common Wiring Mistakes.
I thought taht this article was free. But It is now $3.50. Or it is in issue #136.
" but has been "doubled" several times."
I am not sure what that means. It could mean that some circuit breakers have been double tapped; ie, 2 wires on one breaker.
That is legal for a few brands of breakers, but not legal for many.
It in itself does not mean much (if it is a legal for that breaker), but is an indication that possibly there are not enough breakers and possible that the service needs upgrading.
More of an alert to possible problems than a problem in itself.
Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.
I don't know what "doubled" means either. It says it on the inspection report and my wife is throwing it around with the sparky like they're talking about the weather. Very emasculating.
Might want to hold back on calling electricians sparky , most of them don't like it.
Upgrading/updating electrical service (to include rewiring the whole house if the purchase price is right) wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. You're going to get a direct result in satisfactory service/usage.
I recently went from a 125 amp service to 200. New Square D "QO" panel, top of the line. Removed the breakers from the old panel and used it as a junction box. The old panel box has to be fitted with a different cover or the holes for the breakers welded closed according to my inspector. Cost was around $500 to do it myself.
I've actually been a professional wooden boatbuilder for a long time
Maybe you could post some pics of your boat builds. Cool beans.
Get three bids from three different electrical contractors, talk to each of them , select the middle bid. Ask them what they intend to do and why. also you can get a pretty good pimer at home depot or lowes. By the time your done you will probably have a pretty good understanding of this science and a lot of the mystery will go away.
That seems to be what the plan is. I know this is a very loaded question, but I kinda thought upgrading the box was like a $5,000 job. The posts above sound like it's a less expensive proposition than we originally thought. What conditions could exist in a best case/worst case scenario that could skew the price to either end of the spectrum?
And sorry if calling an electrician sparky is derogatory. I have heard it on many construction sites in my past life, but come to think of it, maybe never around an electrician.
One thing that will skew the price up is if the house has aluminum branch circuits. It's OK for dedicated circuits like the dryer but outlet / lighting circuits can be a problem.Steve.