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Old 10-03-2012, 12:12 PM   #1
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


We are negotiating with seller on a property, and the biggest issue that came up during home inspection was the electrical panel. I need some advice on how to proceed with this issue, and how to get the seller to fix it for us.

Here are the home specs:
Style - single family home
Sqft. - 2500
Basement - 900 sqft. (partial)

Issue: 100 amp panel, with double tapped circuit breakers to bring 60 amps into the home.
The home has a Zinsco electrical panel. And the home inspector pointed out that it had reached it's capacity, and this was a safety issue concerning the double tapped circuit breakers and recommended a replacement of the panel. He quoted a low end estimate of around $4000.

So we had requested the seller to look into this issue, and upgrade to 200 amps while they are replacing the panel. Seller called their own electrician to review. And the electrician is saying that it is a 100 amp panel. And that he would "fix some of the breakers" to get it to par. And that 100 amp service is enough for a 2500 sqft. home. So now the seller is reluctant to replace the panel and upgrade to 200 amps.

Our real estate agent (who is a family friend) has used the same electrician in her home, so she recommends I should call and speak to the electrician myself to find out about the issue and his recommendations.

History about existing renters in the home: They use 10+yr old appliances in the home. And during home inspection, when the dish washer would change cycles the lights would flicker in the entire house. Clearly, 100 amp service is not enough. And when we move in we will have newer appliances (all electric powered, not gas) and plan to have larger TV's, and a home theater in the basement and possibly a back up generator.

Questions for all electricians and people with experience in this area:

Is 100 amp service really enough to power our stuff in this home?
What is ideal for this type of home?
Would "fixing the breakers" really resolve the problem? (see attachment for a picture of the panel and notes from the home inspector)
The seller has been very stubborn through out our negotiations in fixing any health and safety issues. Is there anything I can say to the seller that would change her mind about fixing the home?

If you guys have any info please let me know. I have until tomorrow to respond to respond to the seller.

Thanks!
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Last edited by asledge; 10-06-2012 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:52 PM   #2
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


If seller will only pay for 100A upgrade, why not make up the difference yourself and have the electrician do 200A??

If 100A upgrade is $4000 and 200A upgrade is $5200, why not put in the additional $1200 yourself? Is this an option

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Old 10-03-2012, 12:55 PM   #3
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


If the panel and feed line from the meter are 100A, couldn't the 60A main breaker simply be upgraded to 100A?

Two wires to a breaker screw are a no-no. However, if the load on the two branches (actually, as far as the breaker is concerned, it's a single branch) is below the breaker rating, couldn't one of the two branches be taken off the breaker, and then tap into the other branch in a junction box outside of the breaker panel?

Or, could a sub-panel of 6-8 breakers be added for the additional circuits, plus some room to grow on?

As to 100A being sufficient. If you don't have air conditioning, my gut says yes. But the only way to tell would be to add up all the loads you have (or intend to add). Hot water heater, dryer, resistance heaters, fridges and dishwashers are probably the biggest loads. Lights (especially if you use mostly CFLs) will be a good deal less. Flat panel TVs actually use only a few amps, much less than the old CRT type.

The best way to get the seller to pay for this may be to tell him you won't purchase the home unless he does.

I'm a newbie, still learning too, so don't take the above as gospel, I'm asking the questions as much to increase my own knowledge.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:56 PM   #4
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


where are you located?

i live in nj and my upgrade from a 60amp service to 200amp service was around $2300 so that $4000-4500 seems a bit high.

if you are planning to bring in all electric appliances, i would definitely upgrade the service, regardless of seller's action.

i guess you have to ask yourself if you are willing to walk for the price of that upgrade.

good luck and keep us informed.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:59 PM   #5
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerlane View Post
If seller will only pay for 100A upgrade, why not make up the difference yourself and have the electrician do 200A??

If 100A upgrade is $4000 and 200A upgrade is $5200, why not put in the additional $1200 yourself? Is this an option
Hamerlane - Thanks for your response. The electrician confirmed that it's a 100amp panel. I guess what they're saying is they can "fix the breakers" without having to replace the panel. I don't see how that is possible since the panel is already at capacity. If they were to replace the existing 100 amp panel with a larger 100 amp panel, I told my attorney that we don't mind paying the difference for upgrading to 200 amp. There's only about $500 difference between 100 and 200 amp panel. But we have not gotten to that point yet.

I am still trying to get in touch with the electrician and ask him the following questions. Let me know if this sounds fair to you?

Can you confirm this is a 100 amp panel?

If they had space in the panel, why didn't they use that space instead of double tapping?

How much would it cost to keep it at 100 amp and "fix" or replace the 100 amp panel and breakers? How would you "fix" the breakers when the panel is already at capacity?

And how much would it cost to upgrade to a 200 amp service from where we are now? So replacing the electrical panel entirely and upgrading to 200 amp.

The home is over 2500 sq ft. with finished basement. The lights were flickering in the house when our home inspector ran the dish washer. We plan to add recessed lighting, newer appliances, larger TV's, home theater in basement, and possibly a back up generator. And all our appliances will be electric not gas so we will need that power. Is a 100 amp service really enough to power all our stuff?

Our inspector said that Zinsco panels are known to have issues and are not safe. Why do you recommend "fixing" the panel instead of replacing it?

Thanks!
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Old 10-03-2012, 01:49 PM   #6
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


It sounds like the electrician is working for the seller and giving you biased information. On these panels the power busses pit and corrode even when the rest of the panel looks fine. This causes a poor connection and overheating. "cleaning" the busses is not a legal fix. Have the breakers been removed and the busses inspected? The only way to know a house's amperage needs is with a Residential Load Calculation. Most electricians can't do one right. Did this electrician do one at all? Can you read the AWG number on the feed wires? The wires to the 60A breaker look like #6. No way that's 100A. You need #4 copper minimum, probably larger. Two wires in a breaker is a minor problem and an easy fix; the least of these issues.
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Old 10-03-2012, 01:58 PM   #7
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


All the mentioned estimates seem quite high. I had the service upgraded to 200 amps in a home I owned in MD in 2006. It cost only $1600.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:04 PM   #8
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


Personally I would replace the panel and upgrade to 200 amps. As far as the seller paying for an upgrade from 100 to 200 amps, that might be difficult if their electrician does a load calculation based on the existing appliances/hvac system and feels a 100 amps is sufficient, the upgrade to 200 amps is not warranted. If they will not pay for 200 amp service and you really want the house (which it sounds like you do), I would offer to cover the difference between 100 and 200 amp services, which shouldn't be that much.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:07 PM   #9
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


And $4,000+ seems awfully high for a 200 amp service. They run between $1500 - $2000 here in Western PA.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:35 PM   #10
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


Zinsco panels have issues like arcing the buss bar and breakers failing to clear. Calling them unsafe can start an argument/debate. It appears that you may have the debate brewing.

I would simply take the position that the panel will be replaced before my family moves in. I would rather contract the replacement myself, and I am looking for a price reduction of $4,000 to do it. I would then have a figure of X dollars which would be my bottom line. If the negotiation doesn't get to my bottom line, I walk. Period, end of story.

I would also bear in mind that you will probably find more issues once the work is in progress. I don't think adding a whole house surge protector is going to fix the dishwasher/light problem. It may be a desirable feature, but it doesn't fix this issue.


When I went to contract the work, I'm not sure I would ask the homeowners electrician to bid. I want one that will look for the issues, not gloss over them.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:40 PM   #11
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Why not negotiate a lower price and fix it yourself after purchase? Then you can get what you want exactly.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:56 PM   #12
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IMO this is NOT a defect. It is an old panel in an old home. The dreaded double taps are a MINOR issue as has been stated, and are NOT a "safety" issue.
Zinsco panels are a known problem, but you cannot fault the current owner for having one.
For the HI to say it is a defect that no more breaker can be added is sketchy at best. This is his OPINION, not a fact. Again, an old panel in an old home.

Also, IMO it is EXTREMELY unprofessional for him to quote prices like he did. That PROVES that the sole job of a H-I in today's world is to get a lower price for the buyer, or to get free UPGRADES out of the seller for the buyer.
You can quote me to your H-I on that.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:57 PM   #13
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
Why not negotiate a lower price and fix it yourself after purchase? Then you can get what you want exactly.
This would be my suggestion. That way you'll get exactly what you want.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave632 View Post
If the panel and feed line from the meter are 100A, couldn't the 60A main breaker simply be upgraded to 100A?

Two wires to a breaker screw are a no-no. However, if the load on the two branches (actually, as far as the breaker is concerned, it's a single branch) is below the breaker rating, couldn't one of the two branches be taken off the breaker, and then tap into the other branch in a junction box outside of the breaker panel?

Or, could a sub-panel of 6-8 breakers be added for the additional circuits, plus some room to grow on?

As to 100A being sufficient. If you don't have air conditioning, my gut says yes. But the only way to tell would be to add up all the loads you have (or intend to add). Hot water heater, dryer, resistance heaters, fridges and dishwashers are probably the biggest loads. Lights (especially if you use mostly CFLs) will be a good deal less. Flat panel TVs actually use only a few amps, much less than the old CRT type.

The best way to get the seller to pay for this may be to tell him you won't purchase the home unless he does.

I'm a newbie, still learning too, so don't take the above as gospel, I'm asking the questions as much to increase my own knowledge.
Dave632 - Thanks for your reply. To answer your questions - yes there is HVAC in the home along with 50gal hot water heater, dryer, fridge and dishwasher. The electrician is saying that it's not a 60amp it's a 100 amp. I am not an electrician so I can't confirm by looking at the pics whether it's 60 or 100.

The seller is not agreeing to pay for fixing the electric panel. And both our attorneys have already gone back and forth on this issue several times, but the seller won't budge. We want to avoid walking away if we are talking about a couple grand worth of work. But I feel like without talking to their electrician, and getting estimates from other electricians in the area we are stuck with this negotiation. And even if we find out that 100 amp service is not enough, I don't think the seller is going to pay to upgrade, let alone fix the existing service.

I was leaning towards towards asking for a $4000 price reduction on the house and getting the panel upgraded myself if I can get a proper quote for upgrading to the 200amp service. Our closing date is December 3rd, and so my main concern is that we will have to wait 2 months before we get the electrical fixed, which we don't want to do. So I had asked my attorney if it is possible to ask the seller to upgrade to 200 amps, and we cover the difference between 100 and 200amps AFTER closing (given that it's done correctly and they provide receipts)? But I was told not to do that because the seller will not be convinced to drop $4000 credit since they've been reluctant to fix any of the major issues in the home.
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:32 PM   #15
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Need URGENT help with question regarding fixing electrical panel in home


Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
IMO this is NOT a defect. It is an old panel in an old home. The dreaded double taps are a MINOR issue as has been stated, and are NOT a "safety" issue.
Zinsco panels are a known problem, but you cannot fault the current owner for having one.
For the HI to say it is a defect that no more breaker can be added is sketchy at best. This is his OPINION, not a fact. Again, an old panel in an old home.

Also, IMO it is EXTREMELY unprofessional for him to quote prices like he did. That PROVES that the sole job of a H-I in today's world is to get a lower price for the buyer, or to get free UPGRADES out of the seller for the buyer.
You can quote me to your H-I on that.
Speedy Petey - thanks for your response. What do you recommend I do in this situation? Seller is willing to have their electrician "fix the breakers". I am not sure how they would fix because the panel is already at capacity.

Since you are a licensed electrician would it be fair to ask you for a quote on how much it would cost to upgrade to 200amps after they "fix" the breakers on the 100 amp panel?

Do you at least agree that a home that size will need 200 amp service?

Thanks!

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