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pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 11:36 AM

Electrical Panel question
 
Hello all.

I'm hoping to finish my basement, and part of this is going to include adding lights and receptacles (it alredy has a couple pull-string lights). I have a brother who is pretty handy, and he says that he can run the wire and install the other hardware, but he needs somewhere to connect the electricty to.

So, I called an electrican to give me a quote on installing a junction box from my main panel to the basement, and he said that I would have to upgrade my house's electrical service in order to make room for the additional load from the basement.

This seems rather odd to me. I'm looking to make the baseement into a bedroom, so I won't need anything large (washer / dryer, refrigerator, hot tub, etc). So, I'm not expecting to need very much in the way of amerage. The electrican seemed pretty on-the-level, and he did point out that I might be able to squeeze by on what I've got, but if I ever wanted more service I'd be stuck without redoing the wires (and walls).

However, the skeptical side of me wonders if this guy wants to charge me several thousands of dollars of electrical work that I don't need.

So, my questions are these:

How many breakers do I need for a ~700 sqft bedroom and a bathroom? Again, I just want the basics - tv, xbox, computer, lights, etc.

how can I determine how much total electrical service I have available? The electrican said I had 125 amps, but I didn't see that listed anywhere. Is this just a standard?

If I can know how much I have available, and estimate how much the basement needs, I should be able to subtract the existing breakers and know how much I've got to work with.

I just find it hard to believe that I'd have to completely change out my electrical service to add a couple electrical sockets and a bathroom. The basement already has a lighting circut for pull-string lights.

oleguy74 09-13-2012 11:54 AM

first,the main thing is how big is the main breaker?that dictates every thing.now,how many vacant spaces do you have in the main panel?two ckts for the room.one plug and one for lights.bath needs it's own outlet ckt.so three ckts would be nice.to free up space in panel,tandem breaker could get some free space if panel will take tandems.light and outlet ckts for room will need to be arc-fault ckts bath outlet will be gfci.

kevinp22 09-13-2012 12:02 PM

1. The amount of your service should be stamped on the main breaker in your current panel

2. Do a demand load calculation as to whether your service is adequate. 125A is large enough for a small/medium house with some gas appliances. An all electric larger house probably needs more.

3. Recommending this work before a basement area is finished makes some sense, especially if the new panel would be in the soon to be finished area.

4. The alternatives if you dont want to change service and dont have at least 3 available slots are:
A. Put in a new, larger 125 A panel (not a DIY project)
B. Add a subpanel right next to the current panel and move some circuits to that sub panel (not a DIY project for most people, not a legal DIY project in my area)
C. Use tandem breakers

By the time you pay someone to do A or B considering an upgrade to 200A isnt really a stretch. I was faced with this same choice 90 days ago and went ahead and had a licensed electrician (with a permit) upgrade my service from 100A to 200A and replace the 24 space panel with a 42 space panel - NO regrets here

I personally hate tandem breakers but if your service is adequate, your panel is rated for them maybe this is an application for their use.

Billy_Bob 09-13-2012 12:11 PM

Is the bathroom already there? Or are you adding a bathroom?

In either case, take plenty of pictures of the basement and your main electrical panel with the cover removed (turn off main power first). And take pictures of the area around your main electric panel, service, roof area from far back if overhead lines, grounding for that panel, etc. (Near and far away views.)

Then take those pictures to where you will be getting your electrical permit for this work. Ask to speak to an inspector. Ask him what all you will be required to do.

You may be required to bring certain things "up to code" to pass inspection.

pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 12:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by oleguy74 (Post 1009073)
first,the main thing is how big is the main breaker?that dictates every thing.now,how many vacant spaces do you have in the main panel?two ckts for the room.one plug and one for lights.bath needs it's own outlet ckt.so three ckts would be nice.to free up space in panel,tandem breaker could get some free space if panel will take tandems.light and outlet ckts for room will need to be arc-fault ckts bath outlet will be gfci.

How can I determine the size of my main breaker? I would expect that it is listed somewhere, but I can't find where.

pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 12:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Billy_Bob (Post 1009091)
Is the bathroom already there? Or are you adding a bathroom?

In either case, take plenty of pictures of the basement and your main electrical panel with the cover removed (turn off main power first). And take pictures of the area around your main electric panel, service, roof area from far back if overhead lines, grounding for that panel, etc. (Near and far away views.)

Then take those pictures to where you will be getting your electrical permit for this work. Ask to speak to an inspector. Ask him what all you will be required to do.

You may be required to bring certain things "up to code" to pass inspection.

No, the basement is entirely unfinished, so no bathroom. I'll try asking my permit office though, that's a good idea.

Gac66610 09-13-2012 12:29 PM

Not trying to be nosy, but with a few answers I can give you a quick rough calculation of the service size needed.
Square feet .. include basement
Electric dryer?
Electric range .... cook top and/or oven
Gas furnace? if electric KW rating
Air conditioning? ... what size
Microwave .. thats on its own circuit?
Swimming pool?
Runway lights for air strip? ... lol j/k

pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 12:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gac66610 (Post 1009115)
Not trying to be nosy, but with a few answers I can give you a quick rough calculation of the service size needed.
Square feet .. include basement
Electric dryer?
Electric range .... cook top and/or oven
Gas furnace? if electric KW rating
Air conditioning? ... what size
Microwave .. thats on its own circuit?
Swimming pool?
Runway lights for air strip? ... lol j/k

~2800 sqft, with basement
Electric dryer and range
Gas Furnace
A/C.....not sure on size, but the electrican said it's on a 50-amp breaker.
Yes to microwave, no idea if it's on its own circut. Can check.
No pool or hot tub.

Gac66610 09-13-2012 12:58 PM

I come up with approx. 117a, so if your Main breaker is in fact 125a you should be fine, but if anything is added later ....
Check the Main Breaker it should have the rating on it (the handle)
Might be time for the upgrade
Prices vary from place to place, and where the old service is located, many variables to consider

Gac66610 09-13-2012 01:06 PM

With the A/C kind of unknown ... (I just figured 4ton)50a might be the minimum or the maximum.
I would probably recommend the upgrade.
The NEC is a minimalist document, for residential service sizing

pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 02:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gac66610 (Post 1009134)
With the A/C kind of unknown ... (I just figured 4ton)50a might be the minimum or the maximum.
I would probably recommend the upgrade.
The NEC is a minimalist document, for residential service sizing

that sounds right on the money, as I recall the electrican said that I had 125 available, and I was using 115 or so.

10 amps doesn't sounds like a lot, though I don't really need a lot, either.

But, the estimate for upgrading the service wasn't out of this world ($1,700), and it might be nice to be able to run a refrigerator / microwave down there as well.

Gac66610 09-13-2012 03:08 PM

$1700 - sounds reasonable to me, could even run a small 50a sub panel to the basement, then run the basement circuits to it.
Just an idea.

pattyobrien3 09-13-2012 04:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gac66610 (Post 1009214)
$1700 - sounds reasonable to me, could even run a small 50a sub panel to the basement, then run the basement circuits to it.
Just an idea.

Right, that's the idea, upgrade the service and run a sub panel to the basement and run all my circuts from there. I wasn't expecting to pay that much, but that's construction work for you. And it's not that terrible, all in all, and will give me more capacity in the future.

Gac66610 09-13-2012 09:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pattyobrien3 (Post 1009249)
Right, that's the idea, upgrade the service and run a sub panel to the basement and run all my circuts from there. I wasn't expecting to pay that much, but that's construction work for you. And it's not that terrible, all in all, and will give me more capacity in the future.

runway lights for airstrip? :thumbup::whistling2:

or a pool/hottub:thumbsup:

andrew79 09-13-2012 10:26 PM

Your nowhere near 117a, you'd never afford the bills for that. I'm not well versed enough with the nec to give you the exact numbers for load calcs but keep in mind a lot of loads are taken at percentages due to the the fact they cycle on and off. The ac may be on a 50a breaker but its doubtfull it draws anywhere near that other than at startup.

If you have a clamp on ampmeter get your handy brother to check the draw on the main feeders and I think you'll be pleasantly suprised with how much headroom you have.


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