Panel upgrade sanity check


Old 04-20-06, 08:29 AM
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Panel upgrade sanity check

We will be doing a kitchen upgrade soon and got a quote for the whole installation (cabs, appliances, electric, gas, etc.) from the neighborhood "kitchen lady's" installer.

In the quote, he wants $3,500 to take care of electric for the project. He's got $1K listed for labor, another $1K is for "Roughins" and $1,500 is for "Panel Utilities".

Although the quote does not go into specifics as to what each line item (i.e. "Panel Utilities") gets us, kitchen lady said the installer didn't like our present panel, so I assume he wants to upgrade it for the $1,500.

Although I'm not against spending a few bucks to make improvements, I would like to "sanity check" this thing if I could by posting some of the details here on this forum.

Here's what we have now:

Panel---Wadsworth 150A, vintage 1977 with:
Hot Water Heater--30A double pole breaker
Range---50A double pole
Dryer--30A double
AC--50A double
Microwave Oven (in kitchen)---dedicated 15A single pole
Appliance circuits--6 @ 20A all single pole, with two seperate servicing Kitchen and Dining Room
Lighting circuits---10 @ 15A
Open slots on panel = 3 (each open slot could support 2 single pole breakers or 1 double each)

Here's what's coming re appliances:

Gas cooktop--no electric
Double Oven--needs [email protected]
Range Hood--needs 15A dedicated (but we'll proabaly do a 20A)
Microwave---needs 15A dedicated
Refigerator--needs 20A receptacle

Here's what's planned for lighting:

Replace both existing ceiling lighting fixtures with new ones
Replace single recessed light over sink with 6 recessed around fridge / counter top area
Maybe go with some under cabinet lighting--gotta look into this a bit more however.

Here's what's planned for appliance outlets:

Add 1 over the counter (20A) to one of the existing circuits. Don't have anything specific appliance--wise planned for this, will be a "nice to have".

Couple things to note:

Panel maker, Wadsworth Electric, is out of business, but it does appear that I can get pretty much anything I need on the net--pricey yes (15A and 20A singles for $20 each with 50A doubles @ $45) but available.

I didn't see any GFI breakers in the panel, I can get clones on the net for these if necessary

We virtually never trip breakers--it only happens when too many hair dryers get fired up at the same time.

Family electrical demands are somewhat contained--two kids, wife, dog ---pooch hasn't figured out how to use the curling iron yet, so no worries there.

So....I would be greatly appreciative if some of the extremely knowledgeable folks monitoring this forum would be so kind as to offer an opinion or two on this project. Although I like to do things right, I also don't like to waste money and effort if it isn't necessary.

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Old 04-20-06, 09:05 AM
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He's probably upgrading your service to 200A. I know it's about $1000 - $1500 to do that around here. Includes the box & wiring it up from the meter with the correct service cable. You'll need all new breakers too that I'm sure he's including.
Old 04-20-06, 12:00 PM
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Your first step should be to make sure the electrical work will be done by a licenced electrician -- not a handyman or general contractor. Hire out the electrical yourself if your GC doesn't like that idea.

The $1,500 quote is almost certainly for a panel change or service upgrade, but he should specify EXACTLY what you're getting for your money. "Panel Utilities" is meaningless. His quote should say something like "Electrical service upgrade to 200A, 40 space panel, including PVC riser, meter base,..." His quote should also include the electrical demand calculation he did to prove that you need a service upgrade.

From what you described, I don't think you need to upgrade to a 200A service. How many square feet is your house?
Old 04-20-06, 01:43 PM
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RE: panel upgrade sanity check

Enclosed square footage is: 2,500 sq. ft.

I'm in agreement with you regarding the licensing and with putting all work down on paper at a high level of detail.

Re the demand calculation, I'm pretty sure he didn't do one. He wasn't here very long and didn't talk to anyone before or after he left.

I have a book on wiring that has a worksheet that will calculate electric usage for service ratings of 100 amps or more. I plan on breaking out my tester and mapping our circuits at a high level of detail then plugging the values into the worksheet to see where we stand.

If the GC is simply saying that he wants to install a new panel since the existing one is 30 years old--I will need some justification for this also.

At this point, I'm collecting facts so that when I do go to the GC, I'll be able to guage whether or not he's credible and has the right plan for our house.

I'll try to get the demand calc. done and posted here shortly.

Old 04-20-06, 01:55 PM
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You should already have your circuits mapped out. The information could save your life someday.

If your existing panel is truly no longer made, then the electrician may not want to find parts for it. His time to find and/or obtain parts may not be worth it for you to pay for.

Also make sure that you get in writing what circuits will be installed in the kitchen. Unless otherwise stated, the electrician may install to code only, which means minimum code. He or she may not run dedicated circuits for the refrigerator and/or range hood and/or microwave if not required or specified.

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