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Old 09-11-2011, 07:24 PM   #1
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Upgrading Service/Moving Panel


Currently my home has 100 amp service connected to a 125 amp lug load center (no disconnect besides the meter ), I assume 100 amp because it is connected with 3 #2 Aluminum RHW conductors from the meter base. I want to update the home to 200Amp service primarily to increase space and fix several wiring issues I have with the current setup. At this time I also want to move the panel from the basement bedroom it is in now to the adjacent utility room with the rest of the incoming utilities.

The previously mentioned faults I have with the setup are: The 125 Amp box has no main breaker, and is completely full with some breakers feeding multiple circuits without tandem/twin breakers. Some of the basement circuits also lack the ground conductor as it appears to have been cut off at the end of the romex insulation at some of the boxes.

I hope to do most of the work myself, provided the permit office will allow it, besides the obvious adventures with the meter box which will require consulting with the power company. I am posting here to make sure the plan is both practical and code-compliant before I take it to the permit office.

My plan is to install the new 200Amp breaker loadcenter in the utility room at one of two locations (I will provide pictures below). I have chosen two possible locations as I have not been able to dig up specifics on how close the service lines can enter the home in relation to natural gas service. The new panel locations are, horizontally, ~18' and 21' 6" from the current entrance. I estimate the service cable length to be maximum 29' in conduit.

I believe the meter itself is already capable of 200amp service based on its labeling. From what I have read I am assuming that the meter base is what controls the actual service amps and will need to be replaced. Will the power company generally require I have the replacement on hand to be installed the day of the switchover or do they provide it? I'm sure this varies across the country, but I figured I would ask anyway.

From the meter base I plan to use 2" PVC conduit for the total run of the service until it enters the panel. I plan to use PVC because I know how to work with it and it will reduce cost due to the length of the run. I have read that due to the length between the service drop and the new entrance I am planning that I will be required to add a disconnect box as I am not entering the house in the closest convenient location (I'm forgetting the exact quote). In either case I plan to use SE-U 4/0 Al from the meter to the first disconnect site and SE-R 4/0 Al if I need to go from there to the main panel.

For grounding concerns I intend to connect the ground bus bar in the main panel to the incoming water service before the water meter using #4, jumping it across the meter to ensure ground if the meter is replaced/removed. I will also install an 8' copper rod ~1' from the foundation and connect it to the ground bus bar in the main panel using #6 wire.

As I will not be able to move all the current circuits to new breakers in the old main panel at the time of installation I intend to install a 100 Amp breaker into the new panel and use #2 SE-R Al cable to re-energize the old panel. The old panel's ground and neutral bus bar will be separated and wires moved to the proper bar (they are currently mixed and matched in Frankenstein fashion).

This album contains the following pictures in order: Current main panel, Crude exterior project scope, Exterior view of utility room marked with possible entrances A and B, interior view of site A, interior view of site B.

I think that about covers it. I'm rather certain I've probably left out some details here or there, but that's hopefully what you guys can help with.

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Old 09-11-2011, 08:25 PM   #2
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Upgrading Service/Moving Panel


Unless you are running heavy electrical loads like On-Demand electric water heater, electric heating element furnace, electric water heater, I do not see any reason to upgrade to 200 amp. As for fixing problems, you do not have to update the amperage of the panel to a larger size to fix that.

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Old 09-11-2011, 10:06 PM   #3
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You are correct on both counts, of course. The upgrade to 200 amps was more along the lines of a "while I'm there..." update to service. I don't have any of the on-demand services you mentioned and I don't foresee adding them anytime soon.

If I forgo the upgrade to the 200 amp meter and keep my current 100 amp service, would it be ill-advised to keep the 200 amp sized conductors I have planned on as a way to future-proof the installation? I am still wondering about the exterior main disconnect also.
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:16 PM   #4
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It does not matter what the size of the lead in from the pole. The line can be any size, as long as it meets the min. for the panel. It could be 00 and still have a 100 amp panel in the structure. The only reason for the gauge that you have, could be due to the length of run from the service to the structure. I would not worry about it. If you went with 200 amp, it could in turn require you to upgrade the service drop, due to length of run.
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:44 PM   #5
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I believe there may be some confusion on this point. I do not know the gauge of the wire on the drop to the meter. the 3 #2 Al wires mentioned are the conductors from the meter socket to the current breaker panel. Doesn't change much in regards to your advice, just thought I'd mention it.
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:58 PM   #6
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The wires from the service connection to the meter must also be rated for 200 amps.
This part belongs to the homeowner.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:30 PM   #7
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Hm, the more you know I guess. The wire coming from the power pole to the weatherhead and from the connection there to the meter appears to be the same gauge, I just have never bothered to check the gauge while I was up on the roof. It does definitely look quite larger than the #2 I have in the panel. In any case it looks like I'm going to be sticking with the 100 amp service for now, but keeping everything from the meter to the panel up to code for 200 amp service in case I or any future homeowners want to update the service further.

Good advice so far, I thought my plan was going to elicit feedback that I was further gone than Doc Brown. I'm still looking for clarification on whether I need a main disconnect due to the distance between the meter and panel, and whether the panel should be at site A or B as per my pictures due to the gas service entrance at that location. Thanks everyone :]
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Old 09-12-2011, 09:22 AM   #8
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The main disconnect requirement is a local code.
Every place I work requires one.
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Old 09-12-2011, 09:58 AM   #9
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You current panel does not a main breaker because it is a split buss panel. The upper 6 breakers combined are the main disconnect.

Utilities generally require a 3 foot separation between their supply equipment. A cable/conduit can usually be closer but not a meter, disconnect or panel.
That condenser disconnect is a bit sketcthy IMO.

Code says unfused service conductors must be terminated inside at the first readily accessible point where they enter a house. The outside run does not matter for this. Certain areas allow a specific length for inside.

If you do put a fused disconnect outside the interior run of 4 wire SER can be of any length. The water and rod grounds would be connected here.

Putting a SER cable in PVC is a PITA and pipe fill a hassle.

Just wire nut and pigtail the double tapped breakers.

Put some black tape or use a sharpie on the white wires connected to the 2 pole breakers.

Neutral boss should have only 1 wire per terminal. You will probably need to add another buss.

I did not see a bonding strap/screw in current panel. Is it there?

Does the current panel have water and rod grounds? You will most likely need 2 rods.
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Old 09-12-2011, 02:38 PM   #10
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I'll have to check with the building office about the disconnect then, so thanks for the heads up jbfan. I'd rather not add one due to cost but code is code :]

Thanks for answering some of my questions Code05.
  • I understand your concern about the AC disconnect now that I look at it, would you recommend moving that to the opposite side of the condenser lines?
  • From your answer about how close conduit can be to other services, are you implying that either site for the service to enter the home would be generally acceptable?
  • Thanks for the advice on dealing with the existing panel issues, I will try to clean things up. There is also a bonding strap between the bars, its difficult to see behind the mess, but I made sure of this when I checked.
  • The current panel is grounded to the water pipe coming into the house with #6 before the meter but is not jumped across it. My first post has a paragraph on my grounding updates, though I am considering adding a second ground rod to that plan.
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Old 09-12-2011, 03:17 PM   #11
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gotta run to bank, will reply later if no one addresses this
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Old 09-13-2011, 02:44 PM   #12
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Think I may just go with site B to be on the safe side in regards to the gas meter and the fact that it's a lot less twists and turns for the conduit. It's a little more cramped in the corner, but I figure I'll just have to drop the panel down a foot below the window for wire running clearance.

The only other question I'd like answered before I write up my plan for the building office is whether or not I need conduit to run the #2 SE-R Al cable from the new main panel back to the old one through the house. It will be running through joists above a finished drywall ceiling for about 15 feet between the panels.
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Old 09-13-2011, 03:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAcademician View Post
Think I may just go with site B to be on the safe side in regards to the gas meter and the fact that it's a lot less twists and turns for the conduit. It's a little more cramped in the corner, but I figure I'll just have to drop the panel down a foot below the window for wire running clearance.

The only other question I'd like answered before I write up my plan for the building office is whether or not I need conduit to run the #2 SE-R Al cable from the new main panel back to the old one through the house. It will be running through joists above a finished drywall ceiling for about 15 feet between the panels.
#2 SER is too small for a sub panel. What code cycle are you on.

Quit trying to put SE or SER in conduit, you are killing yourself for no reason.
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Old 09-13-2011, 06:51 PM   #14
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I am in North Dakota and it seems we've just adopted NEC2011, city defers to state code w/ no local amendments. After doing some checking it seems you are correct on the #2 Al for a 100Amp circuit. It's apparently still commonly used, and is what currently powers my main panel from the meter, but probably wouldn't pass an inspection now under NEC. I'm now considering using a 90 or 80 amp breaker at the new main to feed the #2 Al SER for the old panel in a code-compliant manner. Sadly the only other SER available at Menards is 4/0 Al and that's a tad pricy to be running a mostly-temporary feeder line when I don't need the full 100 amps there anyway. Would this change be acceptable?

Just being a worrywart about the conduit for the interior run, sorry to worry you, lol.
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Old 09-13-2011, 07:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAcademician View Post
I am in North Dakota and it seems we've just adopted NEC2011, city defers to state code w/ no local amendments. After doing some checking it seems you are correct on the #2 Al for a 100Amp circuit. It's apparently still commonly used, and is what currently powers my main panel from the meter, but probably wouldn't pass an inspection now under NEC. I'm now considering using a 90 or 80 amp breaker at the new main to feed the #2 Al SER for the old panel in a code-compliant manner. Sadly the only other SER available at Menards is 4/0 Al and that's a tad pricy to be running a mostly-temporary feeder line when I don't need the full 100 amps there anyway. Would this change be acceptable?

Just being a worrywart about the conduit for the interior run, sorry to worry you, lol.
Under 2011, a 90 amp breaker is acceptable, unless the cable is run in insulation.

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