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Old 08-27-2008, 02:02 PM   #1
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


Hi, I need to upgrade my 100A service to 200A. I have already a 4/0 aluminum line feeding my 20 circut main box.

I have been trying to get an estimate to have my line upgraded to 200A by simply having an electrician to come out and swap out the fuse box for a 40 slot 200A rated box and maybe also swap the meter if need be (maybe some additional grounding work is needed).

All in all I was hoping to save money since I already have 200A rated line in place, but I havenet been able to get an estimate for the work requested, I am getting a feeling that no one here in virginia is trying to bother unless its a $2500 brand new line drop 200A upgrade.

So, my question is, since I already have the permit for a new service install, can I have the POCO turn my power off for a day while I swap out the fuse box, and then have the POCO boost my output to 200A, then have the county inspector come and inspect the work....is this feasible?? I just cant get anyone to come do this for me...

Thanks for your time in advance.

Philip.

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Old 08-27-2008, 02:16 PM   #2
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


P_S, There are many things a homeowner/DIY'er can do. An electrical service upgrade is not one of them. You might have the right size wire to the panel, but there are so many other things that have to be considered. Grounding, panel location, which circuits to use GFIs for, are AFCIs required in your area, are these the right gauge wires to feed the loads they're supplying, etc.? Plus, the EC that you choose will have the job done in less than a day, a service upgrade is a big job. You may spend more money with an EC, but you won't lose sleep wondering if everything you did was safe. pete

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Old 08-27-2008, 02:21 PM   #3
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


Problem is that I am not able to even get an estimate for someone to come out and replace the fusebox; meter; inspect ground.

As far as the job I do not see anything besides the meter and the ground that I would need anyone to come and do it for me.

All my fuses and other wiring is up to code.
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Old 08-27-2008, 02:35 PM   #4
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


P_S, Ask them for an estimate for the complete upgrade (get a couple of estimates). There's a lot of liability in only doing part of the job and most ECs don't want to take that risk. Since I don't live in VA. I can't even say what the local rules and regs are. Here in Nassau County NY, only a licensed electrician can do a service upgrade. Pros make it look easy, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
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Old 08-27-2008, 03:00 PM   #5
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


Ok, complete upgrade range is between $2000 and $2700 from a couple of places... here in virginia I am allowed to do a service upgrade and I have already gotten a permit for the work.

I guess I will keep looking for someone to do the upgrade without dropping a new line, since I already have the correct size wire feeding my 100A service already.

Thanks for the input, maybe I need to try to find a desperate for work licensed small time electrician
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Old 08-27-2008, 03:22 PM   #6
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


I wouldn't have any idea what type of codes or regulations you might have to satisfy in your area, but I have a story similar to yours that will illustrate why I think you could accomplish the task yourself.

I needed to upgrade from overhead 100 amp service to 200 amp service, thought I could do so with just a change of transformer at the pole and a new set of heavier gauge wires from the pole to my current "gooseneck" on my house. Well, the new wires would have been too heavy for the existing structure, so I had to go underground.

The electrician took 5 weeks to get to my house, but really the only thing I needed him for was to operate his ditcher for the underground service wire, which has to be larger for 200 amp underground service than would be necessary for 200 amp overhead service.

So, it went this way--June 12 the REA set a new pole along my property line in the alley and provided me with 150' of 0000 (4/0) wire. The meter box on the pole had to be fitted with a meter capable of passing 200 amps (apparently the old one was not), so I now have a digital meter rather than one of the old type with the ring that turns as electricity goes through it. Below the meter on the box was a panel door and behind that door was a 200 amp main breaker and TWO 200-amp capacity taps.

The electrician really did very little other than operate that ditcher and backhoe. His helper did all the sheathing of the wire with "carlon", a grey tube that provides above ground protection to the wires, put the new LB fitting on the house, and laid the new 4/0 wires into the new ditch. While the electrician was on the phone, the helper got the 4/0 wires into the panel below the meter and into the house through the LB fitting. We strung that 4/0 wire to the new service panel, the electrician did absolutely nothing more than get the wires into the correct lugs and tighten them down with a large allen wrench device. Service to the house was complete to the 200 amp inlet breaker on the service panel, I did all the transfer of wires from the old 100 amp/10 circuit breaker box to the new 200 amp/40 circuit breaker box. It was not difficult and the electrician looked at everything I did and sprinkled it with holy water.

Really, with a bit of diswashing soap (needed that to get those 3 huge wires to go through the LB fitting) I could have done everything myself except for the 106' of ditch. The electrical requirements for the wiring to the house, which were somewhat dependent on the length of the run, were worked out before hand by the electrician and the representative of the REA.

I was well prepared for the electrician when he arrived, had the old panel unbolted from the wall and hanging by the wires, still attached, and the new panel bolted in place on the wall, ready for the new service line feed.

All in all, though, even though I really did do a bunch of work on my own, the cost of the electrical upgrade (NOT counting the cost of the 52' of 6 gauge wires needed for the electrical HWOD unit or the cost of the HWOD, itself) was in the $2,000 range, and the REA only charged me $75 for the 150' of 4/0 wiring ( the difference between the cost of 150' of the smaller wire that would have been adequate had I been able to use overhead service compared to the cost of 150' of the larger wire necessary for the underground service). Had I had to pay for that 135 feet of 4/0 wire (we had 15 feet left over), who knows how much that would have run????? Expensive? I suspect so.

In the end, I felt that with the considerable research and knowledge I had pursued before I started this project, I was capable of doing all the work I did, and the electrician was quite complimentary as to the quality of my work.

I must admit, though, that at times I really was a bit skeptical, mainly over safety issues, but the electrician was absolutely thrilled when he got there to find the two 6-gauge (6/3 w/ground) circuits for the HWOD unit already pulled and the HWOD unit plumbed in and connected to the new breaker box. Apparently they don't like to do the dirty work, I didn't care, I had 5 damned weeks to get ready for them when they told me they would be there in 2 weeks !!

I know that after watching him and what he did, I think that next time I upgrade service I will rent a ditcher (I bet I wouldn't have had to wait 5 weeks to get the ditcher delivered!!) and have a go at it myself. Our REA is quite helpful and had I been willing to tackle this by myself this first time the REA was willing to get the correct size wire to me, no need for me to hire an electrician according to them!

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Old 08-27-2008, 03:34 PM   #7
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Thank you! I think I will do more research, because I feel like this is actually simple work, I wil just have to coordinate with the POCO for the power switch, County for inspections and then make sure the ground is good and meter is running, thats all. Thanks again.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:14 PM   #8
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


Quote:
Originally Posted by petey_c View Post
P_S, There are many things a homeowner/DIY'er can do. An electrical service upgrade is not one of them.
That is not true in many areas. I did my own. You will obviously want to be completely sure of what you are doing before trying.

When I did mine I mounted the new panel next to the old one in the basement. Ran the conduit through the wall up to a new meter box and on up to a new weather head. Wired that up with the correct gauge wire. The POCO and Building Department were both more than happy to tell me what I needed to use and how to wire it. Of course I had already research how to do it correctly so this was more of a confirmation step.
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Old 08-27-2008, 06:35 PM   #9
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


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Originally Posted by Philip_Soldat View Post
Thank you! I think I will do more research, because I feel like this is actually simple work, I wil just have to coordinate with the POCO for the power switch, County for inspections and then make sure the ground is good and meter is running, thats all. Thanks again.
I respect your interest and ability to want to do this as I have a similar situation myself. Some on this board jump right to "call an electrician", others whom I respect will walk you thru what is necessary as this is a DIY site. In HS many, many years ago I learned in electric shop what was required of a service entrance panel and wired a demo house myself as part of the class project. I have been handling my own and immediate families electrical needs for over 30 years.

Can you do it? Sure if you respect electricity, research and understand all of what you are doing, know what tools to use and how to use them and are allowed in your jurisdiction.

My situation is a 4/0 AL underground feeder piped to an exterior 200a meterbox. My incoming SE cable is 2/0 aluminum to a 150A 1969 20 circuit Murray panel in my basement. So, I already have the 4/0 feed to the meter, the meterbox is stamped 200A on the outside so I would only need to replace the cable from meter to panel (about 2~3 feet) with 4/0 AL or change to copper or conduit and individual conductors.

Soon I will be purchasing a new panel (Siemens 200A-40 looks good to me) and I am currently planning a good time to make the change and arrange the elec. inspection. In my county it is done by independent inspection agencies.

Knowledge is power- you will be amazed at how much you can save by DIY with the proper knowledge!
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Last edited by handyman78; 08-27-2008 at 06:37 PM.
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Old 08-27-2008, 07:50 PM   #10
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


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Originally Posted by handyman78 View Post
Can you do it? Sure if you respect electricity...Knowledge is power- you will be amazed at how much you can save by DIY with the proper knowledge!
I've sort of piddled with electricity since I was a teenager, too, and I think that healthy respect is an absolute must. I've had very few mishaps with electricity b/c of an early childhood experience and the respect that created.

When I was in kindergarten my mom and I were driving along the road and I asked her "Mommy, why is that man dancing with that wire?".

Apparently I was watching a person get electrocuted, it's been one of my most vivid early childhood memories.

I've been hit by 120, find it quite a jolt , and once by 240, but it was quite minor, sort of like a bad sunburn. It's been decades since I was bitten, though, and as I type this I have a new flourescent light fixture prepared and sitting on the cabinet, ready to attach to the kitchen ceiling. It will require connection to the house wiring, obviously, but I'm confident I can get that right .

I'm interested in learning more, though. With any luck, there is a moderate sized A-Frame over basement project in my near future, and I'd like to DIY the wiring. The nearest junior college is 90 miles away, but for a semester it would be worth it......safety first, I learned that watching that man dance with the wire .

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Old 08-27-2008, 08:01 PM   #11
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I'm an electrician pls don't do a service upgrade if your looking for info on a website An electrician when changing a panel and putting his name on permit is responsible for the whole thing. and if you ran the wire wrong hes going to have to redo it anyway. ie how far did you space the straps?,is the weather head above or below the stick pin ,what are you using for bugs? and when changing a service Electricians do it live the power company does not shut down and I doubt they will for you. pls pls pls don't do it yourself I wouldn't let most 4th yr apprentices do it let alone home owner.

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Old 08-27-2008, 10:15 PM   #12
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


I will say that as a building codes inspector, I see a lot of really scary DIY service upgrades. That being said, there is NO REASON that a competent person cannot do their research and produce a top notch job.

Where it gets scary is things like landing both phase conductors of a multiwire branch circuit under the same phase in the panel. I don't care how many books you read and research you do...Something like that has to be explained to most people while they're standing in front of a panel. The bad thing is that it won't jump out to you until the neutral is burning up in the middle of the night.

The good thing is that you'll have to pull a permit. Be honest with the inspector and let him know that you're not a pro, and you'd appreciate a really thorough check of your work.
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Old 08-28-2008, 09:19 AM   #13
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


While I didn't do an upgrade, I did install a 200A new construction. KC is right, talk to your inspector. I did the same, not that I hadn't done my research, but I wanted to know what he was looking for. Assuming you have an inspector that cares about your project and safety, they should be able to answer all your questions. If you don't understand ask more questions and/or start reading. It's not rocket science....but it is a deadly task...and not done correctly it can cost you your life.

When you get ready to start, and you get that "funny little feeling" like you shouldn't do this...step away and reassess things before proceeding. Other than that...knock your self out, take your time...and for god's sake do it right the first time.

Folks here like pictures, lots of pictures. Take and post some before starting, and I'm certain you'll get all sorts of suggestions before you start. Good luck and stay safe!
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Old 08-28-2008, 10:02 AM   #14
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DIY 200A main service upgrade?


If you want to swap out the panel yourself, start by getting the power company out to take a look. Tell them what you want to do. Let us know what they say. Ask them to double check your wire size.

Is your service overhead or underground? Is your existing grounding wire attached to ground rods or water pipe or both? Are the existing 4/0 wires in the panel long enough to reach the lugs in the new 200A panel? Do the 4/0 wires actually fit in the lugs in the existing panel?

I have never seen a existing 100A service with 4/0 wires in the panel. But that's just me.
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Old 08-28-2008, 01:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mightyidi View Post
I'm an electrician pls don't do a service upgrade if your looking for info on a website An electrician when changing a panel and putting his name on permit is responsible for the whole thing. and if you ran the wire wrong hes going to have to redo it anyway. ie how far did you space the straps?,is the weather head above or below the stick pin ,what are you using for bugs? and when changing a service Electricians do it live the power company does not shut down and I doubt they will for you. pls pls pls don't do it yourself I wouldn't let most 4th yr apprentices do it let alone home owner.
Hi, sorry if I sounded a bit confused at first, it is only because you ussually get a lot of different opinions on these threads and I wanted to be as polite as possible to people who took the time to respond.

I would just like to mention that I am a skilled mechanic and a craftsman. Really *not* worried about turning out grade A work for myself, I do not spare time or money (on parts that is. As long as I can work out all the variables in this install and get everything inspected, I see no reason why I should pay anyone to do the work that I can do myself. Here in virginia I can do this job with a permit. Work has to be inspected by a master electrician.

Here is my deal, I am doing a tankless waterheater installation for the new spa I am putting in the basement, I need more spaces in the fuse box and naturally a higher output to my house, because the whirlpool and the steam generator require 30A and 70A breakers respectively.

What rating service I have now is still a mistery to me, I called the POCO and they said they need to send a tech ($200) to see what kind of service I am pulling (they are not sure), they said, look at the fusebox. House is late 70's. I have an underground service line which attaches to the meter (reads 300A on the face, not sure yet about how to determine if it will handle 200A or not). Then from the meter, I have a 4/0 18 strand AL wire going to the lugs in the box. The box is stamped that its rated from 100 to 200A (havent looked at the fuses yet to see if they have a rating on them).

I think I am determined now to do this on my own, because I work fulltime and have zero ability to take off from work for people to come here or cancel on me or have to come back and redo it. Also, from the estimates that I have received I think I would be throwing my money away. I mean if I had an overhead connection and all other kinds of complications, then I would pay someone, but in my situation I think I have a way out.
In any case.

I think this job is very manageable and doable. The box is inside my house with vey easy access and enough slack for all the wires. I have the correct size feed wire 4/0 AL. I see two separate grounds leading to the two poles outside in the ground(not sure about the waterpipe connection but I will find out). My meter may be rated for 200A service (I will find out). Essentially if I can reuse the meter and there is proper grounding for the line, all I am doing is turning the power off and swapping the box, inspection and then telling the POCO to increase the output. As far as I can tell so far in my pre-plan is that all I have to do is:

*check if the meter is 200A rated;
*check the two ground rod connections and the waterpipe ground;
*disconnect the power (I read that this can be done from the meter box);
*swap the box and replace connections/fuses;
*inspection;
*increase thruput to 200A.

Thank you for all the input! Any thoughts? I will take pics and post once I begin and get some of these questions sorted out, maybe this will help someone down the line.
Philip.

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