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Old 05-12-2009, 05:35 PM   #1
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Panel Swap


I'm considering swapping out my electrical panel as a DIY project and I'm looking for advice. I live in Michigan and currently have a 200 amp Pushmatic panel served by 4/0 AL cable. I've been told by electricians and others that I should have it swapped out in the near future. I'm tired of paying $50+ each time I need to replace a breaker and the panel is out of spaces. So, my major concerns are:

1) Do I have to bring up existing wiring outside of the panel to code in order to pass inspection. Obviously I don't plan on leaving anything in place if I discover it's unsafe.

2) What brand/type and size of panel would you suggest (GE, Square D, Siemens). My house is only around 1600 square feet. Major appliances are typical (A/C, Furnace etc.). There is also a 100amp breaker in my current panel that feeds a panel in the garage, and I plan on putting in a sauna (4.5kW). I am concerned about keeping cost down, so best quality for price.

3) Aside from having to know how to properly make connections to the new panel, what other things should I focus on researching? I know that it needs to be properly grounded and bonded, but I'm not yet sure of the requirements. There is currently 1 ground rod, and I think I may need to ad another. I will continue to research, but any help would be appreciated. I live in a small town so I don't think it has any specific requirements, but I will find out. Would I follow the NEC or is there a Michigan building/electric code that I should refer to?

Obviously I won't plan on starting this until I know exactly what I'm doing and I plan on talking to the inspector prior to beginning work.

Thanks in advance for your input.


Last edited by Old College Try; 05-12-2009 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:36 PM   #2
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1. You need to ask your inspector. They might want you to install AFCIs and GFCIs, or they might not care.

2. I like my square D QO. Only downside is that it seems to be hard to find certain things like 120/240 two pole GFCIs.

3. Watch the connector torque, especially on the svc condutors, keep the grounds and neutrals separate on the subpanel. Neutrals shouldn't be stacked under the same screw often. Talk to your inspector. Talk to your power company and see what they require. This is not a small project. Don't listen to anything anyone at a home improvement store tells you.

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Old 05-13-2009, 08:25 AM   #3
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I'm in the process of planning my pushmatic to squareD panel swap. I have to upgrade my service cable from 2/0 to 4/0 (AL). I believe that's a standard when running a 200A panel. Should be as simple as having the power co come out and yank the meter, do your panel swap, have it inspected, and have the meter reinstalled.
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Old 05-13-2009, 04:36 PM   #4
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Are you planning on going with the QO or the Homeline panel? I'm also trying to figure out what size panel to use. I've seen panels that have 30 spaces for 40 circuits. How does that work? Are there some sort of breakers that can be used for multiple circuits?
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Old 05-13-2009, 05:06 PM   #5
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I had done what you are intending last year. Changing a main service is NOT for the inexperienced, as a DIY project or just to learn about electricity. It is a complicated process that is very rewarding IF you are experienced, have worked with electrical installations before, and understand and respect electricity.

I won't go into the specifics of what I did just that it can be done with much experience and SAFETY. I replaced a 150a old Murray panel originally fed by 2/0 AL-SE from meter to panel and 4/0 AL fed underground to a 200a capacity meter with my new panel a 200a Siemens 40/40.

Regarding your question about spaces and circuits- in my opinion the larger number of full size spaces is what is better. Having 30 spaces for 40 circuits implies that you will have half height or tandem breakers in some of the lower slots. A 40/40 panel implies 40 breakers for 40 circuits. When you are done it is ok to have 4 or more slots empty- that will be for future growth.
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Last edited by handyman78; 05-13-2009 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 05-13-2009, 07:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handyman78 View Post
as a DIY project or just to learn about electricity.
I have inspections done when needed, and I research the heck out of something before I dive in. This is the research stage. Are you an electrician? If not, then your replacement was a DIY project. Do you really think that someone would go through the effort of spending money to replace a panel just to learn about electricity? That's what the internet is for.

Quote:
Originally Posted by handyman78 View Post
It is a complicated process that is very rewarding IF you are experienced, have worked with electrical installations before, and understand and respect electricity.
I work for an electrical engineering firm designing substations, so I fully understand the dangers of electricity. Growing up I watched my dad do all of his own work and I've been doing all of my own so far.

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Originally Posted by handyman78 View Post
a 200a Siemens 40/40..
Are you happy with the Siemens panel? My dad upgraded his service a few years back and ran a subpanel to the garage. He said it was cake, but he lives in Canada, so completely different codes.

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Originally Posted by handyman78 View Post
A 40/40 panel implies 40 breakers for 40 circuits. When you are done it is ok to have 4 or more slots empty- that will be for future growth.
Everything I've been reading seems to recommend a 40/40 panel, so that's what I'll do if I do it.

Thanks for your advice. I felt your response is a little condescending, but I understand that you're trying to stress the danger of what can happen if things go wrong.
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Old 05-13-2009, 08:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
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I felt your response is a little condescending, but I understand that you're trying to stress the danger of what can happen if things go wrong.
We get a lot of people in here who have no clue about the scope of what they are about to attempt, so it's a natural response when someone says they are about to do something major like this.

You seem like you want to do it right and will take the time to find out the right way, so you are ahead of the game. Keep us posted with your progress.
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Old 05-13-2009, 09:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old College Try View Post
I have inspections done when needed, and I research the heck out of something before I dive in. This is the research stage. Are you an electrician? If not, then your replacement was a DIY project. Do you really think that someone would go through the effort of spending money to replace a panel just to learn about electricity? That's what the internet is for.

I work for an electrical engineering firm designing substations, so I fully understand the dangers of electricity. Growing up I watched my dad do all of his own work and I've been doing all of my own so far.

Are you happy with the Siemens panel? My dad upgraded his service a few years back and ran a subpanel to the garage. He said it was cake, but he lives in Canada, so completely different codes.

Everything I've been reading seems to recommend a 40/40 panel, so that's what I'll do if I do it.

Thanks for your advice. I felt your response is a little condescending, but I understand that you're trying to stress the danger of what can happen if things go wrong.
No problem at all-but realize you are new on this site- after reading a few hundred posts as I have, you see many who think you can easily do electrical whereas I wouldn't trust them to replace a plug I give you all the credit you deserve and would answer any questions you have for me privately if needed. I have been flamed in the past for giving advice that is fine for me to do but not for another. I have been handling my own (and family's) electrical work for over 30 years although am not an electrician. I am well aware my panel replacement was a DIY but if I posted what specifically I had done I'm sure there would be many who felt it was very inappropriate for a DIY site. There are some who come on a site like this and say "I can use tools, I was just quoted $2000. for a job where I can find the parts I need (in HD, Lowes etc) for $150. so I am doing it myself"- then have no clue as where to start, what gauge wire to use, never replaced a receptacle much less a main panel. In my 50+ years I have never needed to hire an electrician- not that I don't respect them, just never felt I needed something that I couldn't also research, practice and experiment with on my own. I also had electrical shop in hs many years ago!

To answer your queries- my Siemens worked quite well although many on this site go for the QO panel- there is a significant price difference at the home stores for both that box and the breakers. Pro electricians often go for the products carried by their regular supply houses CH, SquareD. 40/40 is not a requirement but for me it was the way to go to have one full size breaker per circuit rather than some half size or slim types. The panel is also nice and big to work in, great for a DIYer.
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Last edited by handyman78; 05-13-2009 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 05-13-2009, 09:26 PM   #9
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Understood. Thanks for your advice so far. I look forward to bouncing ideas off of you in the future. Can anyone tell me the downside of tandem breakers?

Last edited by Old College Try; 05-13-2009 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 05-13-2009, 10:56 PM   #10
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Understood. Thanks for your advice so far. I look forward to bouncing ideas off of you in the future. Can anyone tell me the downside of tandem breakers?
They cost more. Often they are 120v only so if you need a new 240v circuit you are boned. Under 2005/2008 NEC you may need several AFCI or GFCI breakers, which take up full slots, which may limit the number of tandem breakers possible. Tandem breakers only work in special tandem breaker slots in modern panels.

This is just off the top of my head. There's a lot of advantages and very few disadvantages for getting a full 40/40 panel instead of one that can use tandems.

One disadvantage of a full panel is that your existing wires may not be long enough to reach. This actually might be a problem anyway, so you might look for a special "remodel panel" that can more easily accomidate shorter wire lengths.

If you need to, though, you are allowed to extend the wires with wire nuts, so long as you watch the physical fill limits in terms of packing junk into the panel.
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Old 05-13-2009, 11:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old College Try View Post
Understood. Thanks for your advice so far. I look forward to bouncing ideas off of you in the future. Can anyone tell me the downside of tandem breakers?
The biggest quirk with tandem breakers espcally with GE breakers that if you need 240 volt circuit you have to be extra carefull when you land them due the GE's bussbar format it too easy to get just get two 120 volt circuit and 0 240 volt circuit .,, yeah that is not a misprint a 0 240 volt circuit for other brand it kinda mixed bag.

Normally for 200 amp service size it is my SOP to use 40 space panel I don't useally bother 30/40 boxes { 30 full size / 40 space or 30 full 10 tandem breakers } due the costwise it is not a huge margin on pricewise.


Yeah the tandem breaker useally cost more than single pole some case more expensive than just a plain jane two pole breakers as well.

For conductor size 4/0 {120mm≤} AL or 2/0 { 70mm≤} CU is the most common size., However just becarefull some local codes may need larger conductor size.

If you need more question we will answer your question due some of our members here are electrician.

Merci,Marc
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Old 05-13-2009, 11:14 PM   #12
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He said it was cake, but he lives in Canada, so completely different codes.
Surprisingly, not really. There are some differences, but from what I can tell, by and large, the NEC and CEC are very much hand-in-hand.
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Old 05-13-2009, 11:21 PM   #13
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There is currently 1 ground rod, and I think I may need to ad another. I will continue to research, but any help would be appreciated. I live in a small town so I don't think it has any specific requirements, but I will find out. Would I follow the NEC or is there a Michigan building/electric code that I should refer to?

Obviously I won't plan on starting this until I know exactly what I'm doing and I plan on talking to the inspector prior to beginning work.
Don't get me wrong but IIRC the Michigan do use 2008 NEC code plus some local additional codes as well.

I think one of our reader here do live in Michigan so he should be reply in here pretty soon so he will give you correct info.

Yeah you will need two ground rods plus #6[16mm≤] bare or green conductor and nice gotcha it must be contiouns and the rods have to be min of 6 feet { 1.9 M} apart unless stated otherwise in local code.

Merci,Marc
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Old 05-14-2009, 12:43 AM   #14
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I have a map that says Michigan is 2005. It might be out of date though.
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Old 05-14-2009, 06:11 PM   #15
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I was checking out panels at the big box today and noticed that the QO breakers tend to run about double the cost of the Homeline. As a result I may opt to go for the less costly option. Having said that, I noticed that the Homeline bus is aluminum while that of Siemens and GE are copper at a comparable cost. Any thoughts? Also, I've been reading a little about arc fault breakers. When, if at all, are these breakers required?


Last edited by Old College Try; 05-14-2009 at 10:44 PM.
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