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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Everyone,

I'm thinking about having my electrical panel upgraded and would appreciate some advise.
I live in CO and my house was built in 1968. I think the panel is the original as it has a 50amp main breaker with aluminum supply lines from the meter, and it looks old :).

I want to upgrade for a few reasons.

1) It is only 50amp
2) All cables inside the house are copper (upgraded a few years ago when I bought the house) as there was a mix of copper and aluminum, so I want to complete the job with a new panel as well.
3) We have added a few more circuits since moving in, so the 50amp box is at capacity (maximum number of breakers installed and being used).

My first question is that if the main breaker is 50amp, I'm assuming that if I upgrade to 200amp (what most people advise me to do) I'm guessing the service cables from the transformer will need to be replaced? If so, will Xcel Energy cover this cost as it's about 100+ feet away from my panel and I don't want to pay for that.

The panel is currently outside. Can I replace this with a panel inside? Same location, but inside the house (I would prefer it inside).

Do you need to install AFCI's now? If so, do I need to rewire the rooms that need AFCI's? (I'm not exactly sure how AFCI circuit work, or if they are different to regular circuits?)

I really appreciate anyone's suggestions.
 

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Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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You will probably need a new service drop from the utility. The utility will do the work, but they may bill you for it or they may not. You'd have to ask them. It is possible that the utility will decline to change the service drop because your home's actual load hasn't increased much, just the capacity. This is there prerogative, but you may have to make them change it later if your lights are dimming from excessive voltage drop. You could put the new panel inside, but the more "different" your new installation is from the existing one, the more it will cost since there's more work involved. Moving the panel inside could cost almost the same or far more, depending on the specifics of the installation. Your new panel will require AFCI's and whatever other changes are needed due to the evolution of the code over the decades. AFCI's do not require any changes to the existing wiring, unless you have cross-connections between different circuits or neutral-ground faults in the existing wiring (which was never code compliant). If you have any multi-wire branch circuits that require AFCI protection, you'll have to use 2-pole AFCI's which are very expensive. You may also need additional grounding or bonding for the new panel, depending on what's already there.

I noticed that you seem not to like the aluminum service conductors. This is not an issue, and you can expect your new service to be aluminum also. Only 12 and 14 gauge aluminum branch circuit conductors are considered a safety issue. Aluminum is still widely used for larger conductors and is much cheaper than copper, so it's still more common for anything over about 4-gauge.
 

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Hi Everyone,

I'm thinking about having my electrical panel upgraded and would appreciate some advise.
I live in CO and my house was built in 1968. I think the panel is the original as it has a 50amp main breaker with aluminum supply lines from the meter, and it looks old :).

I want to upgrade for a few reasons.

1) It is only 50amp
2) All cables inside the house are copper (upgraded a few years ago when I bought the house) as there was a mix of copper and aluminum, so I want to complete the job with a new panel as well.
3) We have added a few more circuits since moving in, so the 50amp box is at capacity (maximum number of breakers installed and being used).

My first question is that if the main breaker is 50amp, I'm assuming that if I upgrade to 200amp (what most people advise me to do) I'm guessing the service cables from the transformer will need to be replaced? If so, will Xcel Energy cover this cost as it's about 100+ feet away from my panel and I don't want to pay for that.

The panel is currently outside. Can I replace this with a panel inside? Same location, but inside the house (I would prefer it inside).

Do you need to install AFCI's now? If so, do I need to rewire the rooms that need AFCI's? (I'm not exactly sure how AFCI circuit work, or if they are different to regular circuits?)

I really appreciate anyone's suggestions.
Yes you most likly will need to have the power company change the incoming line.
Going to have to call them and ask them about a price. In my area there is no charge.
You will need a permit to do this work!!
I'd strongly suggest you hire a real electrition to do this job for you!
The size of the panel is determinded by the loads, not just a guess.
Depends on what your local codes call for on AFCI. In my area only bedrooms at this time needs it. It has nothing to do with the wiring or the outlets, just the breaker is differant.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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Not all areas require AFCI's or GFCIs with a panel replacement, your electrician should know. I recommend you add GFCI regardless (AFCI not so much). If you only have a 50 amp service today(are you sure of that because it is an usual number?), even houses built in 1968 typically had 100 amp services. You electricain should do a load calculation to determine the size of the service.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me.

rjniles - I took a closer look today and it is a 125amp panel. I thought it was 50amp as the main breaker is 50amp - my bad. I do have GFCI's in my kitchen, bathrooms, garage and one outside. Would you suggest them anywhere else?

joecaption - I agree. I will get get a few quotes and go from there. I'll look into the AFCI's. If I decide not to replace the panel in the near future (depends on the cost for replacement) I will add the AFCI's for the bedrooms.

mpoulton - Good information about the service cable. If my panel is 125amp, do you think that it can handle more (i.e. 200amp, so I don't have to change it?) - not sure if there was a standard sized cable used in 1968 when installed? Thanks for letting me know about the aluminum service conductors. I did not know this. I hear most people (not electrician's of course :) talking about aluminum and freaking out about it, so it made me a little nervous.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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A 50 amp main in 125 amp planel sounds strange, sure you are not interepting something? Show us a pix of the panel. What is the make and model?
 

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Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me.

rjniles - I took a closer look today and it is a 125amp panel. I thought it was 50amp as the main breaker is 50amp - my bad. I do have GFCI's in my kitchen, bathrooms, garage and one outside. Would you suggest them anywhere else?

joecaption - I agree. I will get get a few quotes and go from there. I'll look into the AFCI's. If I decide not to replace the panel in the near future (depends on the cost for replacement) I will add the AFCI's for the bedrooms.

mpoulton - Good information about the service cable. If my panel is 125amp, do you think that it can handle more (i.e. 200amp, so I don't have to change it?) - not sure if there was a standard sized cable used in 1968 when installed? Thanks for letting me know about the aluminum service conductors. I did not know this. I hear most people (not electrician's of course :) talking about aluminum and freaking out about it, so it made me a little nervous.
Are you sure your main is 50A on a 125A panel? 1968 is a bit late for a 50A service, and it would be odd to have a 50A main in a 125A panel without a very good reason. Can you post pics of the inside of the panel and the service drop connection? There's no way to guess at what the capacity of your service drop conductors are without seeing them.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi Everyone,

I have attached some photos - thanks for helping me so much with this...

151219 - shows the 50amp main breaker (all other breakers are 30amp for dryer, 20 and 15 amp - I have a gas cooker) I tested turning this off and it disconnects power to everything in the house.

150939 - Says 'Main rating = 110 - 240V AC 3 wire 125 amps (this is why I assumed it was 125amp)

151036 - In Typical diagram, it says 70amp max branch breakers. I'm assuming that this means that a 70amp breaker is the largest you can install in this panel?

151102 - Not sure if any of this information helps? It was the only other part that I didn't cover in the other photos, so thought I would include.

151418 - Shows the service cables from the meter. I think, looking from the neutral wire it is THW AWG 2 cable? Not sure how many amps this is as it is 60C? Thoughts? It has 7 twisted aluminum stands (not sure if that helps?)

I would really appreciate any help in figuring out what I have and your suggestions...
 

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Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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Need pics that show the whole panel, not just closeups of some parts. Something's not quite right. Unless this is a split bus panel, that 50A breaker is not your main.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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You have a GE TX1612 panel. It is a 125 amp split buss panel. The top 6 positions are fed directly from the meter and the 50 amp breaker feeds the rest pf the slots below
 
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edit...
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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You already have a number of violations:

The top of the panel is limited to 6 handle throws, you have 7.

Multiple neutrals under one screw.
 

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No, I edited my post. I was confused.

You do have a split buss panel. The top 4(8) spaces are supposed to be used for your 240V loads, including the main for the lower portion of the panel.

As it stands, I think the panel is in pretty good shape, but you do not have any more room in this panel to add circuits even tho it looks like you do.
 

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It looks like the way that is set up violates the 6-disconnect rule. The panel is designed to have no more than 6 breakers on the upper bus, with one of those breakers feeding the lower bus. You have 7 on the upper bus.

This thing needs to be reconfigured, and maybe replaced depending on what your needs are. Put all your heavy loads (240V) on the upper bus, and everything else down below. You can't exceed 6 breakers on the upper bus, including the 50A that serves the rest of the panel. You could keep the 30A dryer breaker up there and move up to 4 heavily loaded 120V circuits to the upper bus also.

However: The sum of the breaker ratings on the upper bus cannot exceed your service ampacity. If your service conductors are #2 Al THW then you are good for 100A per Table 310.15(B)(7). You may need a service upgrade. You may be able to get by with just installing larger conductors from the meter to the panel, though. Changing to 1/0 Al or #1 Cu would get you the full panel rating of 125A, assuming the meter base is rated for it.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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I would replace everything from the weather head down. Install a new meter socket and a 200 amp disconnect outside. Run a new 4 wire feed to the inside new main panel. I would go with a 30/40 space panel. The grounding needs to be reworked. Hopefully you will hire a pro."
 

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One of the upper breakers is not being used.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
K_Buz is correct. One of the top breakers is not being used - Ill remove this, so there are only 6 active circuits, one of them being the 50amp breaker. Do I need to worry about the 6-disconnect rule?

The Neutrals are mostly in single connectors on the bar. There are a few that have 2 in the large holes. I can move them to the right hand side of the bar as there are two rows (if you look closely, you will see another row slightly behind it) - it's the same for the left and right. The ground had a new bar installed (behind the neutrals) as they were connected to to the neutral bar. The green wire in the bottom left is attached to a stake in the ground.

I didn't want to upgrade immediately unless necessary. If you guys suggest that this is a hazard and/or is against code, I will take your advice and have a pro work on this replacement asap. If possible, I would like to keep this for another 2-3 months as I have a few other things that need my money at the moment :)

My house is 5 bed, 3 bath, 3 living room ~2800sf, including the basement. There is only me and the wife that live here, and most rooms are empty, so I'm guessing our current usage is well under 125amp.

I can move circuits around if you think this will be safer until I get the panel replaced (moving above or below the 50amp breaker). If so, at the moment I have the garage, evap cooler (not being used until May) main floor lights and a bathroom (not used at all) above the 50amp. I can list everything below if that helps, but everything is on a 15amp circuit, other than the kitchen which is 20amp.

Thanks everyone :) I appreciate and value your thoughts.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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If you are upgrading in a few months, I would not do anything. While you have code violations nothing is terribly unsafe.
 
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