Replacing a the main panel

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  #1  
Old 12-06-05, 05:57 AM
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Replacing a the main panel

Next spring, I am replacing our old deck with a brand new deck and in the process will add an outlet and lights out by the new deck. In order to do this, I will have to run 2 new circuits. Unfortunately, the existing main panel only has 1 open breaker so I either need to add a sub panel or replace the main panel with a new one.

We currently have 100 A service, which is more than sufficient (I did all the load calculations last Summer, which was reviewed and approved by the inspector for my Garage Sub-panel project). Ideally, I'd like to replace the old Challenger main panel with a new 100 A Square D panel like the one used in the garage so I don't have to keep 2 styles of breakers around. In addition, it will give me a great opportunity to clean up the Rat's nest of wires in the main panel.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there is any service disconnect that I can access between the pole and our home so I assumme that if I take the approach described above, I will have to call Ameren and have them disconnect/reconnect the service, correct?

If that is truely the case, I may just go the sub-panel route because I don't want to be without power for any significant amount of time.

I need to make a decision before January as I will get the electrical permit for the main panel switch or sub-panel addition at the same time I go for the deck permit.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
 
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  #2  
Old 12-06-05, 06:42 AM
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The fact that main panel replacement puts you without power for the duration of the project is a major reason why main panel replacement is not usually a DIY job.
 
  #3  
Old 12-06-05, 07:07 AM
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Good enough answer for me. I'll go the sub-panel route.

Thanks.
 
  #4  
Old 12-06-05, 07:43 PM
Bob Haller
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You can always pull the meter, and run a extension to a neighbors for power to a light while you work. The power company wouldnt mind, just let them know why you removed the seal.

I HAD to replace my main breaker once, and thats the only way to do it. the power company said no problem as long as they were informed
 
  #5  
Old 12-06-05, 07:45 PM
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No Do It Yourselfer should ever pull the meter themselves, power compnay permission or not. It is far too dangerous.
 
  #6  
Old 12-08-05, 02:56 PM
jerry814
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i've always wondered: why is it so dangerous to detach the meter head? i mean, i know the obvious answer -- there's a whole lot of current back there, but so long as you're careful it shouldn't be any worse than opening a service panel and adding a new circuit after you've tripped the main, right? if the main is in the same panel as the circuits, then you're still going to have live wires with as much potential to knock you over as the ones inside the meter can, just only at the top of the box where you'd better stay clear of them.

all of that said, i had to pull the meter several times at my beach house recently, when corrosion of the lugs/wire was causing arcing and temporary power outages. someone from the power company actually came out first, pulled the meter, inspected it, and said that i needed to deal with the problem soon but that he wouldn't cut power right then so i wouldn't be in the dark. i got an electrician out two days later, who changed the meter box guts, and now i'm going to work on replacing the panel (i just posted on that in a different thread). before the electrician came out, i pulled the meter several times to check that the burning from the arcing wasn't getting worse.

i should mention that i have an older meter can, which holds the meter in with the faceplate, instead of having a seal and clamp. all you have to do is take off the face of the meter can, and yank out the meter head.

so, am i going to kill myself this weekend?

thanks for the advice.
 
  #7  
Old 12-08-05, 03:11 PM
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guys i have learned a lot of useful information and saved a ton of money using the advice from expierenced guys on this site(ra and john just to name a few )...if they say to never touch a meter ,they know what there talking about...please take there advie and becareful.like i said i am a homeowner and i try to save a buck where ever i can but if trusted people tell me not to attempt something i listen to them,cause again ,in many of my projects they gave me excellent advice and everything always worked out great.....
 
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Old 12-08-05, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by jerry814
i've always wondered: why is it so dangerous to detach the meter head? i mean, i know the obvious answer -- there's a whole lot of current back there, but so long as you're careful it shouldn't be any worse than opening a service panel and adding a new circuit after you've tripped the main, right? if the main is in the same panel as the circuits, then you're still going to have live wires with as much potential to knock you over as the ones inside the meter can, just only at the top of the box where you'd better stay clear of them.

#1 It's illegal in many (most) areas to do it.

#2 The feeders coming from the transformer are unfused. Short them out and then what are you going to do? Well, probably nothing...you'll likely be dead.


While that unfused power is coming into the main panel and connecting to the main breaker, there is only a VERY small area in the main panel where one could potentially come in contact with it. The lugs on the main breaker are about it (and probably recessed into the breakers plastic casing), unless the wires are poorly stripped, have damaged insulation, or you manage to stab one of them.
 

Last edited by chirkware; 12-08-05 at 04:18 PM.
  #9  
Old 12-09-05, 08:04 AM
jerry814
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good points all around. i didn't mean to sound like some impudent little punk before, but think i might have. sounds like it's a very good idea to stay away from the meter head. and i guess i was pretty lucky i didn't hurt myself before.

i've also wondered ... it doesn't seem like there's much room between the lugs where the power comes into the meter and where it leaves. it almost seemed small enough to arc if the meter head wasn't on there. but you'd have to have much higher voltage for that to happen, right? how large of space will 120/220 arc across?
 
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Old 12-09-05, 11:49 AM
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Another very good reason not to pull the meter with protective gear is that many old meter cans have worked loose from the wall of the house over the years. When you pull the meter, you may pull the whole box and the conduit with it, especially if the stabs on the meter have corroded to the can at all. It can take some force to get the thing loose; and when you're yanking on unfused feeders, it is not unreasonable that something may come loose and short out, or your grip might slip and accidentally cause a short, etc.
 
  #11  
Old 12-09-05, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by jerry814
how large of space will 120/220 arc across?
240V can jump roughly 1/8" depending on the humidity.
 
  #12  
Old 12-09-05, 05:16 PM
cptkinguru
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We do repairs for the local power company in the Portland Oregon area when they have problems with customer equipment. Most of the problems happen when they go to replace a meter for any reason. Usually what I see is that the meter will stick in the jaws of the meter base and when it is pulled out the plastic or phenolic material the jaw is attached to breaks, and the jaw (with the live conductor still connected) flies against the meter can. This results in a face full of metal and sparks, and won't quit until everything burns clear. This happens to people that pull meters daily, it can surely happen to you. Pulling meters is not for amateurs.
 
  #13  
Old 12-10-05, 08:46 AM
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Thanks for the information cptkinguru. It helps to interject some sobering thoughts into the stories from luckier people who say that they did it with no problems.
 
  #14  
Old 12-11-05, 07:22 AM
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I appreciate what everyone has said here regarding the danger of a DIYer pulling the meter themselves. However, I have 8 rental properties, and have had new panels in 5 of them. In each case, I watched the electrician pull the meters, and in all 5 cases (2 different electricians), they never seemed to be doing anything different than I would do, and never seemed to be dressed in any protective gear. Am I simply dealing with risk takers? Thanks.
 
  #15  
Old 12-11-05, 10:43 AM
Bob Haller
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Sorry to have started a problem Never want to make a bad suggestion.

Over the years I have pulled 5 or 6 meters without a problem. but do have great respect for safety. I ONLY do that when theres no other choice. stand on piece of dry wood. NOT on wet ground! Then again I rewired a house once, everything but replacing the main panel which was nearly new. It passed 2 home inspections. and a look by middle group inspection service. the one home inspector complained the main inspection sticker ink was faded


for ME, its safer to pull a meter than try to work in a main panel energized when you shouldnt, lile replacing the main breaker...
 
  #16  
Old 12-12-05, 05:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Haller
You can always pull the meter, and run a extension to a neighbors for power to a light while you work. The power company wouldnt mind, just let them know why you removed the seal.

I HAD to replace my main breaker once, and thats the only way to do it. the power company said no problem as long as they were informed
Bob:
In each of the cases where I had electricians replace the panel, they both had a "six-pack" power strip, with the original plug cut off and replaced by alligator connectors. They then connected these alligator connectors to the lugs on the meter socket, and plugged a worklight into their six-pack power strip. Again, I don't know if this is safe or not, it is just what I learned by looking over their shoulders (which is how I learn most of what I do). THanks.
 
  #17  
Old 12-12-05, 07:06 AM
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Batter be safe than dead or fined

Run all your wiring to the old panel so that the last thing you have to do is pull your panel. Make sure you have every wire clearly labled and a map of your new panel. Schedule your hydro company to come and pull the meter and when to put the meter back. Run a power cord from your neighbour to operate your fridge/freezer. Replace the panel and let hydro put the meter back in. If you are not adept at wiring, don't replace your own panel as mistakes will cost you time. Saving money by DIY is great but not at the expense of safety.
 
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