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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Current 100amp Panel: Zinsco
Main Breaker: 60amps

The main breaker in our home is at 60amps and should really be a 100amp breaker since it's a 100amp panel.

Home inspector recommended changing the breaker from 60amp breaker to 100amp breaker.

I have some concerns about the existing condition of the panel and wanted to ask if it would be a good idea to upgrade to 200amps. Based on these concerns, can any of you electricians out there weigh in on what needs to be done?


  • Because it's an old Zinsco panel, it might be hard to find a 100amp breaker for that model.
    Zinsco panels are considered to be faulty and hazardous according to our home inspector and he would not pass the panel for safety reasons and recommends replacement of panel.
    Lights in the house flicker when dishwasher changes cycles.
    The current panel is already at capacity, and we need to replace all appliances.
    We also need to add new can (recessed) lighting in the house.

Based on this information, can you answer a few questions for me:

Since we have a 60amp main breaker on a 100amp panel, is it worth replacing just the breaker, or upgrading to 200amps?

Since we are adding can lighting in the home, will we need a bigger panel to control lighting?

If we decide to upgrade to 200 amps, what would be the process of upgrading to 200amp panel (in terms of upgrading service line, upgrading wiring, upgrading panel etc)?

How long does a typical upgrade take and how much does it cost?

Is it alot more expensive if we decide to bury the utility wire coming from the backyard into the home?

Thanks!
 

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That looks like a split bus panel.
The 60 amp breaker feeds the lower half of the panel, so I bet it is a 100 amp panel.
Like TTW said, the only way to tell what size panel you need is to do a load calculation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
That's true. But, we are starting a kitchen remodeling project with new appliances, recessed lighting everywhere, and the panel is already at capacity with no room to add.

So if I had to replace the panel, does it make sense to then just upgrade to the 200amps instead?


That looks like a split bus panel.
The 60 amp breaker feeds the lower half of the panel, so I bet it is a 100 amp panel.
Like TTW said, the only way to tell what size panel you need is to do a load calculation.
 

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Only a load calculation and your wallet know for sure if it is worth upgrading to a 200 amp service from a 100 amp service.
 

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25-30 years is the dependable life of a panelbox.Zinsco panels had a bad rap since they were installed.A good upgrade would be to go to a 150 amp panel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
25-30 years is the dependable life of a panelbox.Zinsco panels had a bad rap since they were installed.A good upgrade would be to go to a 150 amp panel.
Yes, but there's not much difference in price to go to 200 amps. I got a quote for $3500 to upgrade to 200 amps (which includes burial of service line), versus replacing the Zinsco panel and getting a bigger 100amp panel for around $2500.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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If the 100 amp panel has enough amperacity for your needs, you could replace it with a new 100 amp panel with more breaker capacity (more slots). A load calc will answer the question bit a quick estimate can be made by the type of appliances you have.

Gas or electric?

Kitchen range?
Water heater?
Clothes dryer?
Furnace? (or oil)
Do you have central air?

Upgrading to 150 or 200 amps will most require all new wiring from the weather head to the meter to the panel. A replacement 100 amp panel can reuse all of these components except the panel itself.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If the 100 amp panel has enough amperacity for your needs, you could replace it with a new 100 amp panel with more breaker capacity (more slots). A load calc will answer the question bit a quick estimate can be made by the type of appliances you have.

Gas or electric?

Kitchen range?
Water heater?
Clothes dryer?
Furnace? (or oil)
Do you have central air?

Upgrading to 150 or 200 amps will most require all new wiring from the weather head to the meter to the panel. A replacement 100 amp panel can reuse all of these components except the panel itself.
Great question!

Cooktop range and Dryer are gas, everything else is electric.
We have central air.

Follow up question - if I do just a replacement of the panel, and don't have to replace any wiring or anything, in your humble opinion how much would it cost me roughly? If there's a huge difference, I would rather update the panel, get a bigger 100amp seimens panel and be done with it.

But I was told that there's not much difference in pricing of 100am and 200amp. Hence this posting.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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Cannot give you a price as it varies widely by locations. Call 3 electrical contractors and get bids.

There is a large difference in upgrading to 200 amps vs replacing a 100 amp panel.

Are you saying you have electric heat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Cannot give you a price as it varies widely by locations. Call 3 electrical contractors and get bids.

There is a large difference in upgrading to 200 amps vs replacing a 100 amp panel.

Are you saying you have electric heat?
No heat is gas.
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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IMO you are fine staying with a 100 amp service.
 

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What you could do, because it looks like you need to replace the panel, is put in a 200 amp panel with a 100 amp breaker. That way, if you do upgrade the service from the pole, the panel will already be in place.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
What you could do, because it looks like you need to replace the panel, is put in a 200 amp panel with a 100 amp breaker. That way, if you do upgrade the service from the pole, the panel will already be in place.
That sounds like a good idea. I guess I will go with the 200 amp panel with 100amp breaker for now. But I am starting a kitchen remodeling project and it's a complete gutting of the kitchen. Should I do the panel replacement before or after the kitchen is done? Or does it not matter?
 

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We just bought an older house with a 100 amp panel and service, and I had them upgrade the panel and service entrance to 200 amps. It cost me about $2000, although obviously what needs to be done on your house may be very different from mine. If you're going to redo a significant amount of the house, you should consider upgrading to 200 amps, as it may be cheaper than doing just a panel upgrade now and service upgrade later. If you're going to consider central air eventually, definitely get 200 amps. For us, the power company is responsible for upgrading the wire from the street to our service entrance, so that saved us some money, particularly because it's above ground.

I'd definitely do the panel upgrade before the kitchen, because you're likely to need new circuits, i.e. you need 2 circuits for just the counters, a seperate one for the refrigerator, one for lights. We have 5 planned for the kitchen, so if you don't have room now, you should plan for a new panel/service upgrade.
 

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I agree, get the panel before you do the kitchen.

Also, you really should do a load calc. you may not need 200 amps.
 

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I was told that for 100 amp service you could have no more than 20 breakers, 150 = 30 200 = 40. If that is true, then you also need to consider how many circuits you will have/add etc... we found we ended up using more circuits just to logically divide up the house, than we would really ever need load wise. i.e. we need 31 circuits by my current estimate, but realistically that's way over compensating, and we may not even use 60 amps. If that makes sense, all I wanted to point out that I believe that the number of breakers you can have is based on service size as well.

Is this correct?
 

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I was told that for 100 amp service you could have no more than 20 breakers, 150 = 30 200 = 40. If that is true, then you also need to consider how many circuits you will have/add etc... we found we ended up using more circuits just to logically divide up the house, than we would really ever need load wise. i.e. we need 31 circuits by my current estimate, but realistically that's way over compensating, and we may not even use 60 amps. If that makes sense, all I wanted to point out that I believe that the number of breakers you can have is based on service size as well.

Is this correct?
Not true at all.
The only limit tothe number of breakers is the size of the panel.
 

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There is no main breaker for the entire panel. It is a split buss panel and utilizes the "six motions of the hand" rule. The 60A breaker is the lighting main for the bottom section of ther panel. ZInsco breakers are notorious for failures. I once had a 15A breaker hold until the 200A main tripped. The panel meets code at the time it was installed. Barring any changes made after the initial installation.
 
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