Is an Electrical Upgrade Required?

Old 11-18-04, 02:21 PM
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Is an Electrical Upgrade Required?

I'm about 3/4 of the way through having an addition built. The electrical contractor is now telling me that I need to upgrade my service to handle the addition ($1770) and I need to install a new breaker box in the house because my current one is in a closet and it was made by Federal something or other and it is a fire hazard ($950). The house is 42 years old.

It will soon be obvious to you that I know nothing about electricity, but why do I need to upgrade the service when the same five people are living in the house and only the same five can plug in anything? What does it matter if there are more outlets in the house when there is the same number of people using them? Also, is there really a fire hazard with this Federal box when there hasn't been a fire in 42 years?

This project is so far over budget that the extra $2700 would be difficult. What must I do? Help!
Old 11-18-04, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: NE Ohio
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Your original service was sized using the old square footage of the house. You don't say how large the addition is or what special electrical loads were added (hot tub, kitchen appliances, air conditioning, etc.).

Do a search of Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) and you will be in for a lot of reading. These panels have a terrible record of offering the protection they're supposed to.

Electrical codes are designed for all persons safety, not just yours and your family. Another family will live in that house in the future and another family after them. Following codes and performing inspections protects the future occupants of the house.

You could ignore your electrician now, but maybe suffer when you ever decide to sell your house.
Old 11-18-04, 03:37 PM
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This may be a case of one thing leads to another. Ask the contractor why he says that the service needs to be upgraded..

The new circuits need to connect somewhere. There may be no place in the existing panel for these circuits, requiring a new panel. The new panel can't be installed in the closet, as this is against code. A new panel may be larger in capacity than the old panel, requiring the new service (for example the old panel may be 60 amps, and the new one 100).

If a new panel is necessary, then you have no choice. If it's not necessary, but desirable, then I would still do it.

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