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Main load center switchout question

3681 Views 15 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  dmxtothemax

I've been rewiring my entire house. All of the main living areas used K&T and when I examined it after opening walls much of it was damaged, so I'm glad I'm doing this. We also had some strange electrical anomalies before so a completely new service was inevitable.

I have run all the new wire and setup all the boxes and am ready to switch out my main panel.

The old panel is a 60 amp with main/range pullout fuses and four branch circuits. I've already selected a new load center with 20 knockouts for breakers and have picked up breakers and AFCIs and such for all of the planned circuits. Basically, it's ready to go.

I contacted the power company (Xcel Energy, Minnesota) and they told me that the power lines and transformers in my neighborhood are already able to provide 200A service per home. I told them I am doing this myself and they said that's fine and allowed here, all you need is an inspection to have power turned back on after they switch it off for the loadcenter switch.

My question is: I am not sure if the feed wires going from the meter into my current fusebox can actually handle 200A, or even 100A for that matter. The guy from Xcel said that the wires going "into my home" should be ready for 200A, but somehow I'm not sure if I believe him.

I don't know of a way to check the gauge of the existing wire going into the load center but it does look kind of old. I'm not going to touch it while its live but it *looks* like old cloth or loom covered wire.

I asked at a local electrician outfit and they told me that even though I've done basically all the work, to have an electrician over to look this over and switch it out could run me well over $1,000. His words are "electricians don't like to sign off on work they didn't do, so an electrician might make you pull some of your work and do it over for you too, which will add to the cost."

We do have a county inspector who was only going to charge me a modest amount to inspect my final work. I was going to schedule the power switchoff and the inspector on the same day and switch the loadcenter myself ( the inspector said I can do that even) but now I'm not sure because of that wiring.

If the gauge of wire is too small it'll involve new conduit and new wire at the meter box. Which actually my meter isn't even in a box, it's just stuck on the side of my house with conduit above and below it. I don't have any idea how to get in there without the power company coming to pull the meter off.

Obviously it's winter and I don't want to be without power for more than a few hours.

My alternate idea was to throw a 60A main breaker into my loadcenter and get it all approved that way then right away After call someone else to check the wire, but that won't be approved based on my load calculations.

Any electricians have any advice?


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The power lines between the meter and your panel will need to be upgraded. Overhead wires between the meter and connection point would also need to be upgraded. Underground wiring may not need an upgrade.
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I would imagine you would need to upgrade your meter base also, especially if it's one I'm thinking of.

I'm not sure how it's done in your area but, we install the new mater base, run new service cable from new meter base to panel, then put a temporary jumper between old and new bases. Then the POCO upgrades their end on their schedule.

Pictures would be great:thumbsup:
For a do it yourselfer:

1. Install a new meter base next to old. Install the new panel, service entrance cable or conduit with wires connecting the two, and (if your responsibility) service entrance cable and weatherhead overhead.

2. Install a (here, 60 amp) breaker pair in the new panel with a cable long enough to reach the old panel. Don't connect it to the old panel yet.

3. Power company comes, installs new service drop if needed, connects up new weatherhead and disconnects old weatherhead. New meter is installed or old meter switched over.

4. Disconnect now dead old service cable from old panel and connect up new cable from new panel.

5. Upgrade and add branch circuits on your schedule.

Most cities require a separate permit for step 1. Some cities require that a licensed electrician do step 1 while one permit usually covers steps 2, 4, and 5.

Depending on when appointments with inspector and power company can be scheduled, it may be necessary for some portions to be energized prior to inspection.
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A few pics:

Service entrance wires in existing fuse loadcenter (they're the large brown fuzzy-looking wires); the red wire on the right is part of the range circuit which in my house is currently feeding the clothes dryer)

The meter on the outside of my house (Note how it's not in any box or anything) That other black wire is the cable TV coax.

The service drop at the top of the house

AllanJ, are you basically saying to go ahead and install a new empty meter box, run new cable from it into the house, and THEN have the power company switch the service over to this new box, before pulling the old stuff?

The electrical boxes are mounted in a wall cavity which I will need to enlarge for my new load center, so mounting it alongside the existing one might be a challenge... (It's a finished basement; the loadcenter is mounted on a board fastened directly to the foundation concrete, so there's a cavity that was created in the finished wall to allow access to the loadcenter)

I do feel comfortable working inside but I'm not comfortable on tall ladders ( :) ) so I'm hoping that I can get the power company to help out with this... As I said in my last post all the interior work is pretty much done and ready for rough-in inspection save for actually feeding the wire drops into the loadcenter (they're hanging down in the right spot ready to be hooked up). I just don't want to end up paying thousands for some electrician to decide he won't approve anything I've done because he didn't do it himself...

As I said the guy from the power company did say I should have 200A capability being fed to my house. He wasn't really clear on which wires EXACTLY were ok for this though. I think I'll have to call again and see if I can get some clarification.


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We also had some strange electrical anomalies
Do tell !
We electricains like to hear about strange abnomilies !
I do feel comfortable working inside but I'm not comfortable on tall ladders ( :) ) so I'm hoping that I can get the power company to help out with this...
Good luck with that:whistling2:
I do feel comfortable working inside but I'm not comfortable on tall ladders ( :) ) so I'm hoping that I can get the power company to help out with this...
The whole service will have to be installed before it is inspected and it will have to be inspected before the POCO comes out so I don't know how they will be able to help you. Maybe hire someone that don't mind heights to help you.
Obviously it's winter and I don't want to be without power for more than a few hours.
Install new service next to the old service get it inspected when power company comes to disconnect old service and connect the new service. You can switch all the circuits to the new panel. Hint leave yourself enough service entrance and ground cable so you can move your new panel close enough to the old panels spot where you can fit all the circuits into the new panel easily.
Note that there is a maximum distance for going between the meter box and the panel. This is because that run of wires goes indoors and there is no overcurrent protection other than (probably) the pole transformer primary fuse. (I don't have that number handy now)

So you need to select the locations for the new meter box and panel carefully.
I contacted a few local electricians and nobody really seems interested in doing just the service drop replacement. Since I've already done the interior rewiring, they don't seem interested at all in helping with the one portion that I am not comfortable doing. :p So I'm stuck doing basically the entire job alone, somehow.

So were you guys recommending that I should go ahead and mount the new loadcenter and feed all my existing new circuit wires into it, feed service wires to the outside, and see if I can have someone prepare it to be switched over from the old drop? And at that point, if it's inspected, the power company should be able to just decommission the old wiring, energize the new, which will then get the loadcenter up and running?

On my own, I could probably get a meter box installed, and get wires fed from it into my house. I'm not sure though if I'm also responsible for the wires going up to the top of the house to connect to the service drop. I'm not even sure if those wires might actually already be ready for 200A, because I know they had done some work at some point when they upgraded to a digital meter. Guess that's a question for the power company?

Someone mentioned something about feeding service from the old loadcenter to the new one and tossing a 60A breaker into the new loadcenter to support this?... I wonder if I could wire up the new loadcenter, get everything inspected and approved, then just do that to get power turned on? That way I can get power on, even if at a lower maximum amperage, and then at that point see if anyone will help with just pulling the old loadcenter and replacing the service drop?

Whoever asked about the "Anomalies" - we've had serious arcing, which in one instance blew an outlet literally into pieces and charred the wall and baseboard. I've also found loose K&T splices, which explains why some lights on the second floor would flicker, work intermittently, and sometimes not work at all. Must say, the more of the old system I exposed, the more horrified I became. The system was a fire waiting to happen...

There were also a couple of outlets that simply didn't work, even though the wiring at both the outlet and the fuse panel seemed OK. The wire runs turned out to have breaks in the wire, maybe caused by animals or something. (We've already replaced the roof, which turned out to have a few holes large enough for animals to get into...)

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Just talked to the power company. Good news. Told me that they're responsible for the drop from the pole to my meter box, and I'm only responsible for the meter box, the drop into the house, and the interior.

So sounds like what I'll need to do is this:

1. Get a new meter box for the outside of the house. Mount it next to the old meter.
2. Install conduit and feed 200A rated wires from meter box into the house
3. Call POCO and have power disconnected
4. Remove old loadcenter and old service entrance wires
5. Mount new loadcenter and hook up the 200A wires from the new meter box
6. Call inspector, get new circuits and outside meter box inspected and approved
7. POCO should then come out and move the service drop over to the new meter box and energize service.

I do have a generator I can use for power if needed while the utility power is off. I didn't plan to hook up an actual socket on the house, but just to run extension cords from the generator. All I could perceive needing power for during the switch is work lights and maybe some tools and a small electric heater, which the generator can more than handle.

Sounds like it'll end up being less of a hassle than I originally expected. Always a good thing. (No ladders!)

So now, I'd like to ask for a little advice on the outside meter boxes. I haven't done one of these before, but I feel confident enough to be able to do it. I'm assuming that I'll simply find terminals for the two hots, neutral and ground, and I can just get enough 2/0 cable for the two hots and neutral to reach into the inside loadcenter. Also, I believe they have the meter boxes with master circuit breakers? To give a little extra protection to the service entrance wires that lead into the house (someone did just mention something about that a bit ago)

The POCO did say that my installation will absolutely require a new meter box - the old setups with the bare meter just tacked to the house and connected to conduit are not allowed by code anymore.

Any further comments welcome! Thanks!

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You will have to make sure you get the proper meter socket that is approved by utility. You will need to install ground rods. If you install a meter socket with a disconnect outside you will have to run four wires inside.

Also you will need to bond and ground to metal water pipes if you have them.
If you are going to all that trouble,
why dont you include a genny change over switch
whilst you have main panel de energised.
It would be easy to do !
And will save you much work in the future.?
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