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Old 04-10-2009, 03:56 PM   #1
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


We are building our own house. We had the local coop install the new power service to the site. We have OH line to a pole, then UG line to another pole where there's a green box next to the pole and a meter.

We are going to go with electric heat for the basement using an electric boiler for radiant, and most likely an electric furnace for the upstairs. The coop will install a second meter to use exclusively for the heat, but I'm not sure how that is set up.

We're not electricians, but we will be running all of our electric wires ourselves, including the ones between the meter and the house. We can save the labor cost this way, and a qualified electrician will actually hook up the wires to the panel, and the panel to the meter, and do an inspection of our work.

I asked the coop but have no answer yet if we have 200 Amp or 400 Amp service, and I can't remember what they installed, and it just occurred to me that 200 Amp might not be enough if we're running electric heat. We do not know what our electrical loads will be, but being out in a farm there are welding and tool shop operations a lot, and I'd have to overload in winter when the heat is on. We also don't know the rating of the heating equipment since we're probably not buying that for a year or two.

These are probably dumb questions/statements but... how would we decide if 200 Amp is enough? Should we have two separate 200 Amp service panels running each from the separate meters? I think 400Amp equipment is more expensive too. If we have one 400 Amp service, can that be split between two 200 Amp panels? I guess that might depend on how the coop sets up the two meters no? Are meters rated for 200 or 400 Amp services?

Also, I'd like to have a kill switch before the electric panels. Our current (very old) house has a fuse box between the meter and the rest of the farm, and it's nice when working outside to cut the power off. Could a kill switch be run so that electricity from both meters is shut off?

Thanks for any input.

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Old 04-10-2009, 04:25 PM   #2
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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We're not electricians, but we will be running all of our electric wires ourselves
This is a bad idea. A homeowner is certainly capable of a lot of things but completely wiring his house is bad news.

The way you save money is by digging your own trenches, buying your own materials and doing tasks like drywall and painting that will not start fires or electrocute someone.

If you insist, start by googling "residential load calculations". You will need to know all of your equipment rating info before you begin.


You have your work cut out for you.

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Old 04-10-2009, 04:42 PM   #3
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


Ditto on 220/221

Can the Co-op help with the calcs? How about the architect?
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Old 04-10-2009, 06:19 PM   #4
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
This is a bad idea. A homeowner is certainly capable of a lot of things but completely wiring his house is bad news.

The way you save money is by digging your own trenches, buying your own materials and doing tasks like drywall and painting that will not start fires or electrocute someone.
I disagree completely
The only electrician I hired did a pathetc job
The Inspector even commented on the work (poor)
But since it was the SE they required a certified electrician to make the connections & runs.
I knew more then the electrician did & my work was better
He was in it for the $$. do the work & get out
I live here, it's my life & I triple check everything & build & wire above code
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Old 04-10-2009, 09:03 PM   #5
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


Are you required to get a permit in your location? If so, then it would be a 'homeowners' permit. Most jurisdictions allow homeowners to pull permits and do their own work. The homeowner just has to follow whatever code is in place and get the mandatory inspections (usually a rough-in and a final). If you can do the work, you can get the permit, for your own house.

Having said that, a major job like a new house wiring usually requires some pretty sophisticated skills. If you have them, more power to you!

In re: 200 amp v. 400 amp service, the utility in my area requires a certification from an electrical engineer to provide anything over 200 amps to a single family house. The wire sizes, possible inductive heating and line insulating characteristics of anything over 200 amp service makes the installation rise to a new level that usually isn't seen in a single family home. I could see two separate service drops of 200A each, but not a single 400A service. That's a huge wire for a 120/240 service drop! Amperage like that is usually reserved for three-phase systems.
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Old 04-10-2009, 10:12 PM   #6
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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Originally Posted by Bigplanz View Post
Are you required to get a permit in your location? If so, then it would be a 'homeowners' permit. Most jurisdictions allow homeowners to pull permits and do their own work. The homeowner just has to follow whatever code is in place and get the mandatory inspections (usually a rough-in and a final). If you can do the work, you can get the permit, for your own house.

Having said that, a major job like a new house wiring usually requires some pretty sophisticated skills. If you have them, more power to you!

In re: 200 amp v. 400 amp service, the utility in my area requires a certification from an electrical engineer to provide anything over 200 amps to a single family house. The wire sizes, possible inductive heating and line insulating characteristics of anything over 200 amp service makes the installation rise to a new level that usually isn't seen in a single family home. I could see two separate service drops of 200A each, but not a single 400A service. That's a huge wire for a 120/240 service drop! Amperage like that is usually reserved for three-phase systems.
Actually it's not that unusual, although for residences what you see is a 320A meter base that feeds two 200A panels. This is less expensive than a true 400A service.
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Old 04-11-2009, 04:51 PM   #7
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
I disagree completely
The only electrician I hired did a pathetc job
The Inspector even commented on the work (poor)
But since it was the SE they required a certified electrician to make the connections & runs.
I knew more then the electrician did & my work was better
He was in it for the $$. do the work & get out
I live here, it's my life & I triple check everything & build & wire above code
scuba dave...you are an IDIOT
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Old 04-11-2009, 05:27 PM   #8
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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Originally Posted by Boontucky View Post
Thanks for any input.

Many people are capable of learning to do anything they want to do, and are capable of learning to do it properly. How much time and effort that takes is the question.

Are you really interested in spending 500 hours, 1,000 hours or more learning all the details of the code to be able to properly wire your house? (In the real world, Inspectors can't inspect everything and an inspection is by no means a guarantee against shock or fire.) A few people are, my experience is that most people that do it themselves just want to get it done and want to save money. Only a few take the time to learn the profession in the capacity necessary to wire an entire home. You need to think about why your doing this yourself and if it is really going to be safe or not.

That said, regardless of who is going to do this work, you need to figure out what your load is going to be.

What are the specs on the heater? What other high draw items do you have, Hot Tub, Pool, Steam Generator, Electric water heater, other electric heaters?

Jamie
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Old 04-11-2009, 06:23 PM   #9
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


Quote:
Originally Posted by Boontucky View Post
#1 We are going to go with electric heat for the basement using an electric boiler for radiant, and most likely an electric furnace for the upstairs. The coop will install a second meter to use exclusively for the heat, but I'm not sure how that is set up.

#2 We're not electricians, but we will be running all of our electric wires ourselves, including the ones between the meter and the house. We can save the labor cost this way, and a qualified electrician will actually hook up the wires to the panel, and the panel to the meter, and do an inspection of our work.

#3 I asked the coop but have no answer yet if we have 200 Amp or 400 Amp service, and I can't remember what they installed, and it just occurred to me that 200 Amp might not be enough if we're running electric heat. We do not know what our electrical loads will be, but being out in a farm there are welding and tool shop operations a lot, and I'd have to overload in winter when the heat is on. We also don't know the rating of the heating equipment since we're probably not buying that for a year or two.

These are probably dumb questions/statements but... how would we decide if 200 Amp is enough? Should we have two separate 200 Amp service panels running each from the separate meters? I think 400Amp equipment is more expensive too. If we have one 400 Amp service, can that be split between two 200 Amp panels? I guess that might depend on how the coop sets up the two meters no? Are meters rated for 200 or 400 Amp services?

#4 Also, I'd like to have a kill switch before the electric panels. Our current (very old) house has a fuse box between the meter and the rest of the farm, and it's nice when working outside to cut the power off. Could a kill switch be run so that electricity from both meters is shut off?

Thanks for any input.
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Originally Posted by NolaTigaBait View Post
scuba dave...you are an IDIOT
Yes, yes I am

#1 I'm not sure why you would want a boiler & a furnace?
Why not radiant heat everywhere?
I'm not sure where you are located - Kentucky?
2nd meter - do they charge lower for heat?
Why a 2nd meter?

#2 This is KEY. If you know what you are doing you are fine. If you do not then your work needs to be checked very carefully.
Have you done electric work like this in the past? I knew someone who decided to do the runs themselves & save $$. The work was sloppy - wires twisted as they were run. Inspector was not happy - they had to hire an electrician. It did not cost them more, they just wasted a lot of time.

This is a LOT of work to wire a house. Best bet is to buy the NEC 2008 codebook & start reading. Layout room by room what electric will be in the room. Make notations on code for the room, IE GCI in bathrooms, AFCI in other areas
I go above code, code calls for an outlet every 12' on a straight wall & an outlet on every wall. I prefer an outlet every 8' or LESS. Cords on lamps & radios etc have become shorter & shorter

#3 Wiring a house without knowing the load(s) is like building a cart to be towed by an unknown animal. How big should it be? Dunno
Around here big houses have 400a by default, I looked into a 400a (320a) setup
Only the main feed had to be run by an electrician
The Inspector was fine with my running everything after that
I'm not sure what overload in the winter means?
Electric can use a lot of power
Add up all of the electric appliances you will have or may have
Heat, AC, Kitchen stove, microwave, dryer, hot tub, lighting load,
dishwasher, TV, stereos, welding setup

You then need to do a whole house electric Calc to determine your needs. Before building my additon I did a calc for the added space & included everything I wanted to add. I came up with 155a out of 200a. My Christmas display at the time was using over 80a - this why I looked into a 320a setup. Instead I bought LED lights. Expensive but a one time expense, I don't have to listen to the wife every year when the electric bill arives in Jan

I have easily spent over 500 hours reviewing my electric setup at my last house, then this house. Studying, reading the NEC handbook (1,299 pages), asking questions on other sites & now this site. Its a lot of work, don't underestimate the time needed.

Not 100% sure on meters as I never changed one
But a different meter was needed for 100a, 200a, 320a setup
So depending upon your setup that will determine what is needed

#4 a Kill switch before the panels
That is possible
But depending up on the setup, the equipment rating, it may make anything down stream considered a sub. So be careful & verify what is needed & specific setup 1st

That is one thing I wish I had
So I could shut off all power in the panel when I needed to make some connections.
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Old 04-11-2009, 06:28 PM   #10
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


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scuba dave...you are an IDIOT
No violent, discriminatory language or personal attacks are tolerated in
the forum.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
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Old 04-11-2009, 06:35 PM   #11
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Actually I was thinking it was a compliment due to the thumbs up
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Old 04-11-2009, 06:40 PM   #12
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Here is the 2008 NEC in draft. It is pretty much the same as the one you have to pay over $100 for.

http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/necdigest/NEC2008ROPDraft.pdf
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:19 PM   #13
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


Wow, thank you for all of the replies.

220/221 - We're doing all of that ourselves. Ours is not loan financed construction, so we're building it one thing at a time as $ comes available. So I have plenty of time to research and do a good job. I don't have experience with wires, but my BIL does.

PaliBob - We're our own designer/engineer/architect/builder/foreman whatever, you name it. The only thing we're not doing is pouring concrete and framing walls. Everything else we're doing it. Good idea to ask the coop if they do that type of stuff.

BigPlanz - the only permit required for building is the setbacks, and that's it. No inspections or anything else: nada, zero, zilch. No code either, which is scary, but I'm following the code of the closest city. I live out in the country. I'm trying to find out from the coop the difference between 200 Amp and 400 Amp setup and costs since we already have a meter installed and I don't know what it's for. We have an electrician that we're hiring to consult on big questions like gauge of wire, etc. etc. We're also quoting what it will be for him to do all of the work between the meter and panel, including wires, with the exception of digging the trench. If we can come up with the cash for him to do it all, we will. Saves me all the trouble.
Thanks for the link. I can't check out the library one and this I can print and read at home!

JamieDolan - I will do all the research necessary and they do have the NEC at the library. I don't mind reading it. The problem is understanding it all. I'm an engineer, so I like the challenge to understand it all. I like to know what I'm doing, not just blindily jumping into things and have no fear of appearing dumb if it will get me answers to my questions!
There are two main reasons that we're going DIY - one to save money, and to do this at our own pace. We didn't like the bank telling us to build this in 12 months since it would mean to finance the whole thing, which though we can pay the monthly bill, it would mean we'd have to build without all of the nice things we'd like to have, like lots of windows and building a superinsulated home.
Right now we have the shell built to the lock up stage, and I have no idea the boiler/heater/water heater/tv/hot tub/etc. etc. are going to be because it probably won't be until next year or the next before we start buying such things. I could take a guess I suppose to get a ball park.
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:57 PM   #14
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


Quote:
Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
Yes, yes I am

#1 I'm not sure why you would want a boiler & a furnace?
Why not radiant heat everywhere?
I'm not sure where you are located - Kentucky?
2nd meter - do they charge lower for heat?
Why a 2nd meter?

#2 This is KEY. If you know what you are doing you are fine. If you do not then your work needs to be checked very carefully.
Have you done electric work like this in the past? I knew someone who decided to do the runs themselves & save $$. The work was sloppy - wires twisted as they were run. Inspector was not happy - they had to hire an electrician. It did not cost them more, they just wasted a lot of time.

This is a LOT of work to wire a house. Best bet is to buy the NEC 2008 codebook & start reading. Layout room by room what electric will be in the room. Make notations on code for the room, IE GCI in bathrooms, AFCI in other areas
I go above code, code calls for an outlet every 12' on a straight wall & an outlet on every wall. I prefer an outlet every 8' or LESS. Cords on lamps & radios etc have become shorter & shorter

#3 Wiring a house without knowing the load(s) is like building a cart to be towed by an unknown animal. How big should it be? Dunno
Around here big houses have 400a by default, I looked into a 400a (320a) setup
Only the main feed had to be run by an electrician
The Inspector was fine with my running everything after that
I'm not sure what overload in the winter means?
Electric can use a lot of power
Add up all of the electric appliances you will have or may have
Heat, AC, Kitchen stove, microwave, dryer, hot tub, lighting load,
dishwasher, TV, stereos, welding setup

You then need to do a whole house electric Calc to determine your needs. Before building my additon I did a calc for the added space & included everything I wanted to add. I came up with 155a out of 200a. My Christmas display at the time was using over 80a - this why I looked into a 320a setup. Instead I bought LED lights. Expensive but a one time expense, I don't have to listen to the wife every year when the electric bill arives in Jan

I have easily spent over 500 hours reviewing my electric setup at my last house, then this house. Studying, reading the NEC handbook (1,299 pages), asking questions on other sites & now this site. Its a lot of work, don't underestimate the time needed.

Not 100% sure on meters as I never changed one
But a different meter was needed for 100a, 200a, 320a setup
So depending upon your setup that will determine what is needed

#4 a Kill switch before the panels
That is possible
But depending up on the setup, the equipment rating, it may make anything down stream considered a sub. So be careful & verify what is needed & specific setup 1st

That is one thing I wish I had
So I could shut off all power in the panel when I needed to make some connections.
#1 - The coop has a special rate of 4c/KWH plus $5 monthly fee for electric heat, but that electricity has to be dedicated to heat only, hence the second meter. I'd love radiant in the whole house, but my DH is not buying into that one. He's not sure the radiant in the basement is worth the setup. I'm still holding out that I can convince him to do radiant upstairs!
We're going with electric because out other option is propane, and last year prices doubled and we almost went broke, and electricity is cheap for heating, for now at least. Maybe solar and wind power can be added in the future.

#2 No experience other than an electrical engineering course in college. My BIL has wired several of his houses and he will help us. As I mentioned before, there are no inspections in the county where I live. Not even the insurance company require an inspection, which is scary for me. I would not mind an inspector telling me to redo something. I know there is a bit of a learning curve, but I don't mind taking the time to study.

#3 What I mean by not wanting to overload in the winter means that if the heat is running, and we have the hot tub running and my DH is off in the shop welding, while the fridge is running with a load of laundry washing and someone runs the dishwasher we're not going to blow up the breakers. LoL.
I will start making my list of appliances even if I have to guess (but i'll err on the safe side and plan for the biggest realistic possibility for a worst case scenario) If it takes 500, 1000 hours of reading, and asking questions so be it! I want the piece of mind that I won't kill my children with a house fire for not doing my homework.

#4 I definitely want a kill switch right before the panels. Someday, I'd love to have a bypass so that we can run a generator during power outages, especially in winter if my main heat will be electric (though we have a wood burning fireplace that will be a back up). I'm in Iowa, not Kentucky. LoL.

Thank you so much for your time and your considerate answer. It's always nice to find some encouragement. I know I can do this, and I can only imagine the work it will take to know how to do it properly, after all the pros are pros because they've years of experience. I've got the time and determination to do it, but I know I will need help getting my questions answered! Again, thanks.
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:12 PM   #15
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200 Amp or 400 Amp service


If you are thinking of a generator look into a meter base with a plug built in. They are not approved for use in MA, but they do make them
I'm not 100% sure how they work
But basically you switch over & plug the gen in
Then you only turn on the breakers for what you want to power

But in some cases (all?) you know need to be able to supply 100% power to your house ?? That's a big Gen for me, I only have a 6,000w model

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