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Old 09-30-2008, 11:14 AM   #1
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


My house was built in 1974 with an addition put on in the mid 90's. As a result, I have a mix of copper and aluminum wire in the house. I am aware that local code mandates that I upgrade any aluminum wire circuit I alter with copper wire, but what happens if I want to upgrade my 100 amp main panel? Would all aluminum wire circuits be required to be updated to copper then? I've checked through the many panel/sunpanel threads here, but did not see an answer.

If a panel upgrade would require all new wiring, would adding a subpanel instead be a better idea? I'd like to gradually replace the aluminum wiring, but I'm not ready to do it all at once. The new panel would be installed by a contractor.

Thanks.
John

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Old 09-30-2008, 11:48 AM   #2
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


If the panel is going to be upgraded by an electrician let them figure it out.

My guess is that you don't have to replace the aluminum wire since requiring that would mean ripping out the walls and a very expensive bill.

As for the sub panel that is not an option since it would have to go through the 100 amp main panel.

Keep in mind that you can use panels up to 300% of their rated capacity not to say that is something you should shoot for.

I have a 100 amp panel have added on 30% to my house. I rewired the whole house as I remodeled and just added half height breakers to the panel. The reason that I haven't upgraded the panel is that it is built into the house and I just haven't gotten around to remodeling that part yet.

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Old 09-30-2008, 12:15 PM   #3
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


It's beacuse the main panel can supply more than 100 amps of power that I thought a subpanel would work, as long as no invidual circuits/breakers were overloaded or all turned on at the same time. I could be turned around on this, I'll have to do more homework.

If the wiring needs to be upgraded with a main panel upgrade, the project will have to be put on hold. That's why I was asking before I called anyone. My walls are textured, so patching drywall will be a bigger challenge than I have the heart for night now. It's an odd texture, too, not so easy to match. I've only been in the house 6 months, so I have no idea how it was done originally. I can do basic wiring, but I'm not prepared to take on a panel. I was thinking of rewiring and replacing the drywall for smooth walls room by room, but this plan has met major opposition on the homefront.


The main panel itself is an GE model as old as I am and it's missing its info label. I don't know know how many of what varitey of breakers it can support, which made me think upgrading it was a good idea, but paying to have the house rewired at the same time is not feasable.
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:17 PM   #4
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


Check this website out


http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/aluminum.htm

And ask the electricians about "COPALUM"

You don't necessarily need to update from aluminum, you just need to fix it.
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:19 PM   #5
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


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Originally Posted by Fearless Freep View Post
My house was built in 1974 with an addition put on in the mid 90's. As a result, I have a mix of copper and aluminum wire in the house. I am aware that local code mandates that I upgrade any aluminum wire circuit I alter with copper wire, but what happens if I want to upgrade my 100 amp main panel? Would all aluminum wire circuits be required to be updated to copper then? I've checked through the many panel/sunpanel threads here, but did not see an answer.

If a panel upgrade would require all new wiring, would adding a subpanel instead be a better idea? I'd like to gradually replace the aluminum wiring, but I'm not ready to do it all at once. The new panel would be installed by a contractor.

Thanks.
John
These are questions best answered by your local authority since it is a local code that requires the upgrade.

If you have the space in your 100A panel for a double pole breaker, you can add a subpanel.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:11 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Marvin Gardens View Post

Keep in mind that you can use panels up to 300% of their rated capacity not to say that is something you should shoot for.
Are you saying a panel rated for 100A can be used up to 300A? If so you are very wrong.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:08 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by darren View Post
Are you saying a panel rated for 100A can be used up to 300A? If so you are very wrong.
To clear this up there can be excess breakers in the box that allow more than the rating since it would be very rare to have the total amperage used at once.

I see 200 amp panels with 300 amps worth of breakers all the time in new homes. Many are just circuits that have receptacles that may never ever come close to being used to capacity.

Using a full 200 amps all at once would of course blow the fuses.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:24 AM   #8
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I have tripped the main breaker in my panel at home a few times, its only a 100 amp panel (and way too small circuit wise). 2 years ago at Christmas I had around 120 amps worth of holiday lighting, not to mention the rest of the household load. Needless to say I was in the process of balancing out the loads between the two legs of power and it tripped. Had to use the air compressor nozzle to cool down the main breaker to reset it.

Yes all the breakers added up in my main panel and the sub panel right next to it add up to well over 100 amps. Constant load for the house is around 2.5kW and standard load (when people are home/lights on etc) is around 5kw. Ive seen it peak to as high as 7.3kw in the last couple days.
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Old 10-01-2008, 03:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by theatretch85 View Post
I have tripped the main breaker in my panel at home a few times, its only a 100 amp panel (and way too small circuit wise). 2 years ago at Christmas I had around 120 amps worth of holiday lighting, not to mention the rest of the household load. Needless to say I was in the process of balancing out the loads between the two legs of power and it tripped. Had to use the air compressor nozzle to cool down the main breaker to reset it.

Yes all the breakers added up in my main panel and the sub panel right next to it add up to well over 100 amps. Constant load for the house is around 2.5kW and standard load (when people are home/lights on etc) is around 5kw. Ive seen it peak to as high as 7.3kw in the last couple days.
120 Amps of Xmas lights? You sound like my old boss. He told me he his display cost him $400 over the holiday period. I don't think his sucked 120A though.

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Old 10-01-2008, 03:40 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Marvin Gardens View Post
To clear this up there can be excess breakers in the box that allow more than the rating since it would be very rare to have the total amperage used at once.

I see 200 amp panels with 300 amps worth of breakers all the time in new homes. Many are just circuits that have receptacles that may never ever come close to being used to capacity.

Using a full 200 amps all at once would of course blow the fuses.
Your statement was confusing. You cannot overload your panel as long as your main breaker is not rated higher than the rating of the panel, so it has nothing to do with how many, or what size breakers you install. You aren't really running your panel at 300% of it's rating.

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Old 10-01-2008, 03:58 PM   #11
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Panel Upgrades and Aluminum Wire


120 amps Christmas lights?

I bet your main cries for mercy around the holiday season...
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Old 10-01-2008, 08:08 PM   #12
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120 amps Christmas lights?

I bet your main cries for mercy around the holiday season...
Yeah, tripped it a few times too! lol Let me tell you, a clamp meter has become my best friend around the holiday season, balancing out not only the multiple circuits, but the 100 amp mains. Its fun to watch the second meter I installed for the holiday lights sub panel (its a mechanical meter).
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Old 10-01-2008, 10:12 PM   #13
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Yeah, tripped it a few times too! lol Let me tell you, a clamp meter has become my best friend around the holiday season, balancing out not only the multiple circuits, but the 100 amp mains. Its fun to watch the second meter I installed for the holiday lights sub panel (its a mechanical meter).
Sounds like you need a service upgrade. As an alternative, but probably not much less expensive, you could buy a generator to power some of the lights. Then, with the price of gasoline, the upgraded panel will pay for itself very quickly<g>

Where do you live? Maybe I'll come by to see your display

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Old 10-01-2008, 11:46 PM   #14
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Im not worried about the service upgrade right now, its only when I go nuts on the lights display, lol. Cold weather really helps me out A LOT! One thing that I have going for me here is that the major appliances use gas (stove, water heater, dryer, furnace, etc). Only 220 load is the A/C and of course that doesn't run in the winter, haha.

I actually considered the route of a generator, but the expense of purchasing a generator, the noise, and the size of the generator (both physical and electrical) would be pretty big for a residential light display.

Btw, I am currently in Apple Valley, MN.
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Old 10-02-2008, 12:32 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by theatretch85 View Post
...2 years ago at Christmas I had around 120 amps worth of holiday lighting...
So THAT's why all the lights in my town would dim a bit just after dark!

It was you turning on your light display!

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