Main Panel upgrade / questions

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  #1  
Old 04-07-05, 12:52 PM
Phil21
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Main Panel upgrade / questions

Hey all,

I've read through most of the threads that appear to mention main panel upgrades, and definitely have gotten a somewhat better idea of what is entirely involved.

Here is my problem...

I recently purchased a house w/ 60A service, which runs into a fuse box w/ 60A fuses. From here, some branch circuits go out (fused), and there is also a 30A drop to a breaker sub panel right next to it, which is best described as "old as heck", and has no "main breaker" in it at all. This breaker panel also appears to be completely non-standard (i.e. I can't go to home depot and buy breakers for it - they won't snap in to this thing).

Now.. my question is this..

I currently do not have the ability to dry clothes, due to my dryer being 220. I have had plenty of experience running additional circuits at previous homes, helping friends out, etc. However, due to the breaker panel being something I've never seen before, this simply is not feasible for me to do.

I called an electrictian to get a quote on upgrading the house to 100 or 200A service, and they wanted around $2500 (site unseen). This simply is not feasible for me to do for quite some time, as I'm fairly financially strapped at the moment.

Is it kosher to simply replace the fuse/sub panel box myself, with a 200A 40 slot panel (for future upgrades), and re-breaker the main breaker in the box with a 60A breaker? It appears (since the seals were broken) that I can fairly easily disconnect main power coming out of the meter box - so I can work on this stuff non-live. My concern of course, is that dropping a 200A main panel in, will then be far oversized for the actual eletrical service coming into the house. There is no concievable way I'd actually use above 60A, simply due to what the electrical load in the house is - however things like shorts or branch circuit breakers failing definitely concern me.

My idea was to do the above immediately so I am able to get said drier (dryer?) working, and as soon as financially feasible calling an eletrictian to perform the actual service upgrade to 200A. This will involve the power company moving the meter outside, and of course pulling new wires from the pole.

What are your thoughts on this? I respect the costs involved, as I'm in a technical industry and make money based on service fees - but I simply cannot justify at this time spending $2-3k on something I can largely do myself (the time consuming part of re-wiring all the branch circuits into a new panel). I plan to call the city to get a proper permit and inspection aftwards - which is why I am wondering if I can simply replace the 200A main breaker w/ a 60A breaker in the main panel.

When I perform my own electrical work I definitely do a nice neat job, and follow all codes I'm aware of. This project would definitely be stretching my limits though, but also has the benefit of being a potentially great learning experience.

Also as an aside - The current power lines coming into the house from the pole appear to be almost entirely bare (likely they are original drops from around 1949 or so..), and the previous home owner said that they spark in high wind if they touch. Is this something the electric company would typically charge to replace? Or is this my financial responsibility? Xcel Energy was semi-unhelpful when I called to ask what was involved w/ upgrading eletrical service (more or less "call an electrician who will call us"), so it left me somewhat wanting.

I'm in Minneapolis, MN if that helps. I'm not sure on the exact rules here, but if possible I'd love some recommendations on a local electrician who is reasonably priced and flexible - down the road I have many home improvement plans, so I'd like to start a long term relationship with someone I can trust - as I'm out of town more than I'm in.

Sorry if I was rambling.

Thanks!

-Phil
 
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  #2  
Old 04-07-05, 01:26 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: SC
Posts: 171
Get you a main lug panel, around 125Amps, Get a 60A DP breaker put in it in a regular location (slots1 & 3) and backfeed the power from the meter through it. You will need a mounting kit to hold the breaker in since you are using it as a main breaker. Now, when you upgrade your service to 200a in the future get you a mobile home type combo panel that has the meter base built in it. You can then feed your new sub panel with a 90 or 100a breaker located at the new main panel. It will have to be a 4 wire feed and you will have to disconnect the bond to the neutral bar in the subpanel. This time you will feed the subpanel into the top lugs, you will have no main breaker but will be protected by the breaker in the main panel that now feeds the sub. And you will have additional breaker capacity in the new main panel that you can feed other subpanels from, or your new HVAC system, or whatever you like.
 
  #3  
Old 04-07-05, 01:58 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Dry Side of Washington State
Posts: 738
Originally Posted by Phil21

Is it kosher to simply replace the fuse/sub panel box myself, with a 200A 40 slot panel (for future upgrades), and re-breaker the main breaker in the box with a 60A breaker? It appears (since the seals were broken) that I can fairly easily disconnect main power coming out of the meter box - so I can work on this stuff non-live. My concern of course, is that dropping a 200A main panel in, will then be far oversized for the actual eletrical service coming into the house. There is no concievable way I'd actually use above 60A, simply due to what the electrical load in the house is - however things like shorts or branch circuit breakers failing definitely concern me.

My idea was to do the above immediately so I am able to get said drier (dryer?) working, and as soon as financially feasible calling an eletrictian to perform the actual service upgrade to 200A. This will involve the power company moving the meter outside, and of course pulling new wires from the pole.

Also as an aside - The current power lines coming into the house from the pole appear to be almost entirely bare (likely they are original drops from around 1949 or so..), and the previous home owner said that they spark in high wind if they touch. Is this something the electric company would typically charge to replace? Or is this my financial responsibility? Xcel Energy was semi-unhelpful when I called to ask what was involved w/ upgrading eletrical service (more or less "call an electrician who will call us"), so it left me somewhat wanting.
-Phil
You will have to upgrade the new main panel (if you do Jedi9's suggestion) to meet NEC requirements. Drive ground rods. Bond the hot and cold water pipes. Run a grounding electrode conductor from the new panel to within 5 feet, or less, of where the main water line enters your house.

If, someday, you install the 200 amp service. You'll have to run new feeders to the sub panel, if you increase the breaker size supplying it. And you'll have to disconnect the wires, except the wire bonding the hot and cold pipes, that I wrote about in the above mentioned paragraph. Those wires will be connected to the 200 amp service panel.

Does Minnesota allow for a homeowner to do electrical work?

As for the power lines, I'd let the utility knew that your attorney is ready to discuss the issue of bare power lines with them.
 
  #4  
Old 04-07-05, 03:58 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,530
The electric company should replace the service entrance wires up to the weatherhead at your house without charge to you. When you call them, be sure to mention the sparking in the wind. If they won't, call the public service commission and find out what you can do.
 
  #5  
Old 04-07-05, 05:04 PM
jbminyard
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two words

gas dryer
 
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