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Old 01-18-2008, 11:31 AM   #1
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upgrading a 110 victorian


hi to all, this is my first post!

my new condo (1st time buyer) is the upper unit in a 2 unit building dating from 1890 (in san francisco). what used to be the garage has been converted into a den deeded to my neighbor below and an inlaw unit behind that, deeded to me. the inlaw unit is about 600 square foot and i'm currently renting to a friend of ours.

there have been various upgrades over the years but i'm currently having an issue where my friend in the inlaw unit is tripping her circuit breaker (she only has one) when she runs her wall heater and her hair-dryer.

its clear i need to add another circuit to the inlaw unit but one electrician i've been talking to has said that i should consider upping the power that comes to the house from PGE. he says we only have 70A supply and thats not enough. i showed it to another electrician yesterday and he says we actually have more than 70A coming (this is for the whole building btw) and i don't need to upsize the supply to the house.

i've looked at the 2 fuse boxes for the my unit and my neighbor and it looks to me like i have only 70A coming in (i've included 2 pics). so i have 2 questions:

1) why does the 2nd electrician think i have more than 70A coming off the street? i can only see one main breaker on the 2 boxes (the "double-switch black one) and its labelled 70A. can there be other electricity coming to the house beyond this? perhaps i'm misreading the breaker switches..

2) if we are indeed getting 70A from the street is that enough for both units?

my neighbor is getting the plumbing fixed this week and they are digging up the drive-way. if its necessary now would be a good time to upsize the electrical supply from the street. the plumbing ditch is in the same area that the electrical supply is buried and we could just lay the new conduit before the hole is backfilled.

thx!!

PS: here's a link to photos of the 2 breaker boxes. you can click on them for more detail

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12775575@N06/

Last edited by smcbutler; 01-18-2008 at 01:32 PM. Reason: more explanation..
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Old 01-18-2008, 01:05 PM   #2
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upgrading a 110 victorian


Could you snap a few more picts, maybe of the meter(s) and maybe of the inside of the panel(s). [only if you are comfortable with it]

Then maybe we will have enough info to make an assumption...

Thanks

Last edited by junkcollector; 01-18-2008 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 01-19-2008, 12:21 AM   #3
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upgrading a 110 victorian


It's possible that the panel is rated for 70 A and the service drop is rated higher. If you have a large enough wire on the drop (or underground lateral) than you may be able to get away with a panel swap rather than a new service. After that, you'll still need to get new circuits to the places you need them in the unit. But that is another post....
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Old 01-19-2008, 11:49 AM   #4
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upgrading a 110 victorian


Did I see just one main double 70 amp. breaker;l when you turn that off, your neighbor;'s power goes off too?

Is electricity a common expense of your condo. complex (2 units?)

If you are considering upgrading the electric, you might want to consider separating the electricity to be individually metered and individually paid for by each unit. This requires a condo. bylaws change and is likely to be somewhat more lenthy than just putting in a new panel. Just to think about and perhaps defer putting in a new panel until you at least answer that question.

Check with the city to find out whether a permit is needed to add another circuit to the in -law portion of your unit. While it is easy to double up on breakers or add a double breaker that fits where one breaker used to be (panel brand specific), you may have to evaluate the overall electrical requirements of the building (load analysis) before you can make changes and still pass inspection, and this may require a new panel and service.
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Old 01-19-2008, 08:09 PM   #5
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upgrading a 110 victorian


Quote:
Did I see just one main double 70 amp. breaker;l when you turn that off, your neighbor;'s power goes off too?
Allan, I totally missed this. If this is the case, then yes, you will have to seperate the services. One clue will be how many meters you have outside. Each unit will have to be metered separately, with their own panel and means to disconnect that panel. It doesn't sound impossible, just a matter of reorganizing the circuits into the new panels. You will need an electrician to get the meter banks outside and the new panels inside. I would upgrade to 100 amp at least. I doubt the utility will need a new drop for an upgrade of that size, but they will tell you for sure.
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Old 01-21-2008, 03:00 PM   #6
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upgrading a 110 victorian


Correction, you don't need a condominium bylaws change to put in separate electrical services where a shared service used to be but you do need the bylaws change before the individual bills can be sent to unit owners where previously electricity was a common charge.

(In most cases) A main breaker for both units, even if physically located in your unit, is common property. It is still proper for all unit owners to share the cost of upgrading to separate panels even if it was just one extra circuit you want that triggers the need for a permit and building load analysis that in turn de-grandfathers the building and forces the major upgrade.
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