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Old 01-19-2009, 12:32 PM   #1
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


I own a home that was originally a single family home when built ~1875 which was converted into a duplex around 1930. I'm now trying to undo all of their hard work by making it a single family home again and have to make a decision on what to do with the electrical system.
The east portion of the house has 200 amp service and the west half has 100 amp service. I am currently paying two electric bills for the two halves of the house. After examining the bills, it appears that beyond paying for the usage, I'm only paying about a $10 premium per month for having two services as opposed to just one.
HOWEVER
I'm considering getting an electric tankless hot water heater that has very high power requirements (120 amps). This makes me consider merging the electric system into one as opposed to having two.
Is it reasonable to simply have someone come out and upgrade the east half of the house (currently 200 amp) to 300 amp and then just use the west half service panel as a sub panel? I'd rather not have to re-route all of the connections from the existing west panel back into the east panel as it seems pointless.
The other consideration is just to keep the two services and move some things around to free up 120 amps in the east side panel. The only thing I don't like about this approach is if a potential future buyer might balk at the idea of having two electric bills and whether or not this would somehow prevent a normal sale of the house. Not sure if keeping both services is a little bit "hillbilly" or not.

One last question--the west side panel services 100 amps, but after counting up the breakers, I'm finding 130 amps worth! Wouldn't this trip the main?

Your advice is appreciated.

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Old 01-19-2009, 12:55 PM   #2
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


A) Leave it all as is. Add the tankless to the 200A panel.

B) Leave it as is, move most circuits from the 100 to the 200 and use the 100 as a dedicated service for the tankless so you can see just how much that thing is NOT saving you.

C) Get an electrician to remove the 100A service and wire the 100A panel as a sub-panel from the 200. Wire the tankless from the 200.

D) Leave it all as is and forget that stupid tankless water heater.


Counting up the sum of the breakers is a completely meaningless number.

IMO it is not nearly worth changing over to a "real" 320/400A service with two 200A panels. What you will pay for that will take you 25 years to recoup. By this I mean not paying the $10/mo for the added service that already exists.

My choice? D
You are lucky to have that extra capacity, keep it if you can.
If you decide to stay with the #@$%& heater DEFINITELY keep the services. You will NEED the extra capacity.

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Old 01-19-2009, 01:03 PM   #3
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Thats an old house. I bet it's real nice too.

It's really your call. I would do as you said. Use the 200 amp panel for the main and use the 100 amp panel as the sub panel. This way you will not have to move any branch circuits.
Before you do anything contact your local building dept and see what permits you will need. Then call the utility about removing the extra meter. Ask questions of both.
Do you plan to do this work yourself? If you are not familiar with electrical work please call a licensed electrician.
There are several requirements that must be met with both panels.
Let the forum members know what your intentions are and we can assist you. Be sure you are up to doing this job safely. That is why you must get a permit and have it inspected.

I pick (C) and let the OP decide on the WH.

Last edited by J. V.; 01-19-2009 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 01-19-2009, 01:28 PM   #4
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Petey,

It appears that you're not terribly fond of the electric tankless hot water heater. Do tell--if this thing is bunk, I don't want one.

The main reason I'm considering it is because as this was a duplex, I have two gas tank water heaters, with two gas services and two chimneys in the house. The chimneys are in poor shape, the gas lines are ancient and I'm not interested in updating gear if I don't have to.

The floor is yours...
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:25 PM   #5
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


IMO the cost of use and installation far outweigh the savings of those units. On top of that they tremendously tax the electrical system.

Do some Googling on them and you'll see even plumbers are not all in favor of them, and considering you already have gas, changing to electric is a big step backwards. This is unless you are in Canada where electric is dirt cheap.

If it were me I'd deal with cleaning up the gas units, or get one bigger gas unit and be done with it.
Even one gas fired tankless would be MUCH better than one big electric unit.
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Old 01-19-2009, 02:49 PM   #6
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Pete,

Interesting food for thought. I'd probably just install it myself once I get the capacity pushed aside in my service panel so that's not a big worry. As for taxing the electrical system, if I have the capacity, why would this be a problem? Would I see lights dimming every time this thing kicked on? Not sure about the neighborhood electrical system as when the neighbor across the street's AC comes on, MY lights dim!
The cost of use is a consideration as typically (from what I understand) it costs about 10-15% more to heat with electricity than with gas. However, the installation of the gas tankless would probably require significant gas line upgrades (to flow the additional gas) and repair/lining of the existing chimneys. I also understand most of the gas units require fresh air plumbing--all of these fixes are jobs that I'd rather not undertake if possible. Also, it's said that the electric units are 98+ efficient. The major question is which utility will remain more stable? It seems that natural gas prices are bouncing around all over the place, but electric is always on a steady rise.

Also, please educate me in the mystery of my 130 amps with of breakers to my 100 amp service. I can't seem to turn up any information as to why this would be the case and feeling a bit clueless!

Thanks
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Old 01-19-2009, 03:35 PM   #7
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Quote:
Originally Posted by zamoti View Post
Would I see lights dimming every time this thing kicked on?
Almost definitely!

Quote:
Originally Posted by zamoti View Post
Also, please educate me in the mystery of my 130 amps with of breakers to my 100 amp service. I can't seem to turn up any information as to why this would be the case and feeling a bit clueless!
No mystery really.
Remember that not nearly everything will EVER be on full blast at the same time. Also, circuits are designed to give some flexibility and "cushion".
A dedicated circuit for electric heat for instance can only be loaded to 80%. Even then, the heats goes on and off via the thermostat.

A demand load calculation is the only way to tell what capacity is needed for a service.
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Old 01-19-2009, 03:50 PM   #8
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Thanks for your advice on this issue. I have to think about if I can live with dimming lights and do some looking around to see if there are truly financial benefits to using electric tankless.
At least I have a good idea what to do with my electric system which is what I was after.

Your help is appreciated.
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Old 01-19-2009, 04:32 PM   #9
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Seems like according to code you can't have two service entrances on a single family residence. Since this was a duplex it was ok then I guess and maybe still ok since it is existing and met code when installed?? (I wouldn't ask if it's ok unless you are ready to change it!)

It may end up worthwhile anyway to have an electrician change the 100 amp panel to a subpanel and drop down to just the one 200 amp service entrance panel. Your cost for the extra service is probably more than just $10/mo as usually the first kw useage costs more and cost per kwh decreases at a certain point so you're paying the higher rate on more kwh each month than you would with one service.
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Old 01-20-2009, 12:34 AM   #10
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


I allready have few experence with whole house electric tankless heater IMO some are not worth a crap and some are ok depending on set up and unit size.

Those sistuation useally result have to upgrading the service but if you leave the 200 amp alone you may risk running to trip the main breaker and see the meter go in overdrive mode when the tankless kick in .


For the European verison they are not any better than North America verison is

But for point of use electric tankless heater yeah they work not too shabby.

Also Many POCO is getting strict with electric wholehouse tankless heater due they have some issue with transfomer { it allready happend in few spots so far }

A wise choice is gas fired whole house tankless heater they can able modaite { adjust } much better than the electric can due they only come on or off either half or full power rate depending on water flow and unforetally there is a minuim water flowage to order them to kick on.

The only downsize with gas fired whole house tankless heater is gas pipeing size and meter { both may end up changing it } cost wise it may be cheaper than go with 320/400 amp service in some area.

{ Disclaimer :: the price will really not be the same all over the USA at all }

My choice ?? just get a super insluated electric waterheater tank type and insluated the pipes well.

Merci,Marc
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Old 01-20-2009, 12:43 AM   #11
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Quote:
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Seems like according to code you can't have two service entrances on a single family residence.
Where do you find this?
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Old 01-20-2009, 12:50 AM   #12
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jogr View Post
Seems like according to code you can't have two service entrances on a single family residence. Since this was a duplex it was ok then I guess and maybe still ok since it is existing and met code when installed?? (I wouldn't ask if it's ok unless you are ready to change it!)

Now you got me thinking for a minute.,,

Thanks SpeedyPete for this one


Dangbat I am not going to swear in here either Engish or French.,,


Anyway do you have some sort of fact or statement that back ya up ??

I did see quite few single family home do have two meters .,,

One for main lighting and genral useage and second meter for off peak useage like tank type electric waterheater or electric storage heater so it hold a bit of heat so they can use it off peak rates.

It is simuair arrangement in European no diffrent than North American system at all

Merci,Marc
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Old 01-20-2009, 06:00 AM   #13
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


I would just keep the 200 and sub feed the 100 from that, forget the electric demand and get a gas demand if you wish to go the "on demand route, they have their advantages and disadvantages, minimum flow is the main disadvantage, if you find thats a major inconveinience that you can't live with, I have been told you can ad a small 5 or 6 liter electric say under a bathroom sink (if thats where trickle is usedmost) and run the demand into it.
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Old 01-20-2009, 10:13 AM   #14
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


Perhaps I should really get at what the true issue is for me in asking about this setup. My main concern is to save a few bucks (long term, not so much short) on owning, maintaining, and "feeding" a water heater.
Some of my decisions are based on what is worthwhile to maintain and upgrade in a very old (and in some ways, poorly maintained) house. What comes to mind is that my two chimneys are in pretty sad shape and I would like to eventually have them removed to gain back a decent amount of floor space and to prevent them from becoming a structural burden as they decay. An electric water heater allows me this as since I've replaced the furnace with a high-efficiency I have no need for the chimneys beyond the current twin gas hot water tanks.
As I have 300 amps of electrical service available, I thought that it might be a good idea to put some of it to use if it affords me the ability to simplify the chimney/hot water tank/gas line situation. Also, beyond having the service panels changed over at the meters, I can do the plumbing and electrical work myself (with all of your advice, of course).
In the end, if I can install a high-efficiency hot water system, get some state and federal tax credits out of the deal, free myself of ancient gas lines and rotting chimneys and MAYBE save a few bucks on the TCO of a newer hot water system then I'd be pleased.

As for any inspection/code issues, the inspector has been through a few times now (she's the nosy sort) and the only thing she cared about was the new furnace and that I bought a permit to have it upgraded (even though I don't think one was required). Whatever, just so long as she stays out of my hair!
Also, called the electric company, they don't care that I have two services in a single family home.

Last edited by zamoti; 01-20-2009 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 01-20-2009, 11:15 AM   #15
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Converting duplex to single family--what to do with electric services?


I personally would leave both services intact.

This way the house could remain zoned as a duplex in case the next owner wants to convert it (back) to a duplex. Whereas a subdivision permit might be needed and might not even be available if you officially converted it to a single family and someone wanted to convert it back later.

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