Question on expected cost to replace sub panel

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  #1  
Old 07-06-11, 02:42 PM
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Question on expected cost to replace sub panel

My house has been thru multiple renovations since built in the 50's. The result is that I have 2 electric panels. The street service comes into a huge panel in the garage, and off that there is a 100 amp feed into the original panel which is in the basement. The garage panel feeds the A/C, the second floor (addition), the garage itself, and most of the kitchen. The original panel feeds the rest of the house. This panel is overloaded, and I want to replace it, and get rid of the "double" breakers, plus have at least 1 spare.

I was quoted almost $1200 to do the job. This sounds really high considering that I did not ask for any wiring to be replaced. Probably 1 or 2 lines should be replaced, but that can always be done later, since those circuits are in the basement itself and very easy to access. The $1200 included the materials (breakers and panel).

Does that sound fair for northern NJ. Also how long should this take ?

Thanks.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 02:55 PM
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If it's typical 1950 construction, your old panel is fed by three wires which are too small for a modern panel. The electrician might be required to replace them with four larger wires in order to do the job in accordance with modern code.

Your local code may require AFCI breakers for many of the circuits in the new panel which run $40/ea. (at cost) so that adds up quick in materials too.

Your city may have high permit and inspection fees.

Does the written quote state exactly what work will be done?
 
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Old 07-06-11, 02:57 PM
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Why do you think the panel is over loaded? Are breakers/mains tripping? If it is a "huge" panel as you describe I'm guessing it is 200 amp, is that so? What is your main breakers rating? IF you need more breakers spaces you can keep adding sub panel until the cows come home. Have you done a load calculation of your home (google load calculator)?

$1200 sounds about right for a panel change out but IMO this $1200 you do not need to spend.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
If it's typical 1950 construction, your old panel is fed by three wires which are too small for a modern panel. The electrician might be required to replace them with four larger wires in order to do the job in accordance with modern code.

Your local code may require AFCI breakers for many of the circuits in the new panel which run $40/ea. (at cost) so that adds up quick in materials too.

Your city may have high permit and inspection fees.

Does the written quote state exactly what work will be done?



Nothing has been written yet. This was a verbal estimate. I know, I know.
 
  #5  
Old 07-06-11, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
Why do you think the panel is over loaded? Are breakers/mains tripping? If it is a "huge" panel as you describe I'm guessing it is 200 amp, is that so? What is your main breakers rating? IF you need more breakers spaces you can keep adding sub panel until the cows come home. Have you done a load calculation of your home (google load calculator)?

$1200 sounds about right for a panel change out but IMO this $1200 you do not need to spend.
Nothing is tripping, but I am out of circuits, and 3 of the breakers are already doubled up. I am getting the house ready to sell, and don't want any crap from inspectors (which happened with the previous house ). The basement (where this panel is) has painted panel on the walls, and drop ceilings with really bad shop lighting. I mean to rip all that out, put up drywall, and a new drop ceiling, and improve the lighting (this last part I can do myself, so it has not been discussed at all).
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:29 PM
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Your local code may require AFCI breakers for many of the circuits in the new panel which run $40/ea. (at cost) so that adds up quick in materials too.



What would be an example of a circuit that requires AFCI ?.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:45 PM
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Based on 2011 code, any 120V circuit which powers an outlet (receptacle, light, or smoke detector) in a living space. This would include living rooms, bedrooms, den, rec room, etc. AFCI is not required in the garage, kitchen, bath, dedicated appliance circuits or unfinished utility and storage rooms. The previous code revisions had fewer requirements for AFCI breakers so it depends on exactly which one your city follows. For example back in 2002 only bedrooms required AFCI.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:47 PM
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Sorry, but is that a NEW circuit, or does it also apply to existing.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:49 PM
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It depends on your local code enforcement agency. Some require it on a panel change and some do not.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:54 PM
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Thanks Ben.

I think I found the NJ version. They adopted the 2005 NEC and amended the crap out of it, including making AFCI's optional. I will be reading more about this.

Here is the link for future reference in case another idiot like me from NJ asks.

NEMA - Code Alert: New Jersey, 05 May 2006
 
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Old 07-06-11, 03:58 PM
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When you write "double" circuit breaker do you mean the units that have two independent circuit breakers in a single panel space? As long as the circuit breakers and panel are "listed" for such circuit breakers there is no problem.

Or do you mean there are two wires connected to several individual circuit breakers? This problem can be rectified by merely "pigtailing" the two existing wires with a third using an approved wire nut and connecting just the single third wire to the circuit breaker. Some circuit breakers are listed to have two wires although many home inspectors don't know that little fact.

As for needing more circuits...you may indeed need more circuits or you may be able to use the double circuit breakers. You may also be to simply add the new circuits to existing lightly-loaded circuits as long as you don't connect to any of the required dedicated circuits.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 04:05 PM
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It is 2 independent breakers in one space. My other house had a similar deal, and when I sold it, the home inspector gave me hell to the point that the sale almost fell through. Don't want to go through that again, over a few 100's dollars. This whole AFCI thing now has me thinking about how to proceed. Some of the wiring is original to the house, so the protection would be a nice thing to have.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 04:27 PM
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Many (not all) "home inspectors" are just short of clueless when it comes to electrical. If your previous house had the double circuit breakers in a panel NOT listed for the particular breakers then the inspector was correct in flagging them.

On the other hand, if you simply have a "short" panel then the double circuit breakers (of the listed manufacturer) are completely legitimate. If you could post the panel manufacturer and the panel model number along with the manufacturer of the suspect circuit breakers then someone here can verify if the panel and circuit breakers are acceptable.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 05:52 PM
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Just as a guide, I paid $1600 to upgrade my panel from 100 amp to 200 amps. That included a new panel, new conduit and weather head up the side of the house, new conductors up to the weather head. I reused my old breakers in the new panel. I can see the cost of all new breakers adding up pretty fast. It also takes a bit of time to undo all that wiring in the panel, label it all, then put them all back.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 06:39 PM
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What hasn't been asked yet are the existing receptacles grounded. Don't be fooled by 3 prong receptacles.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 08:17 PM
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If you could post the panel manufacturer and the panel model number along with the manufacturer of the suspect circuit breakers then someone here can verify if the panel and circuit breakers are acceptable.
The panel manufacturer and circuit breaker manufacturer could be some of the most important pieces of information you could furnish to help determine if you really need to change that panel or not. As I understand it, the panel you are considering changing is original to the house (1950s vintage) and at one time was the main service panel before being backfed from a newer large subpanel.
 
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Old 07-06-11, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
What hasn't been asked yet are the existing receptacles grounded. Don't be fooled by 3 prong receptacles.
Yes. Every outlet in my house is verified as being properly wired and grounded.
 
  #18  
Old 07-06-11, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
The panel manufacturer and circuit breaker manufacturer could be some of the most important pieces of information you could furnish to help determine if you really need to change that panel or not. As I understand it, the panel you are considering changing is original to the house (1950s vintage) and at one time was the main service panel before being backfed from a newer large subpanel.

This is exactly correct. I'll see if I can find a manufacturer. The inspection sticker on the original panel (now the subpanel) says September 1957 (coincidentally when I was born) maybe that is a sign.
 
  #19  
Old 07-08-11, 01:54 PM
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Update = electrician came by today and said the following:

in NJ, AFCI is not required unless it is new construction.

he counted 19 wires coming out of the box and only 15 breakers, so he said the box is overloaded.

he will replace (5) wires that look original to the house (I asked him to because I'm paranoid)

damage = $1400, with him providing all materials, and 2 days' worth of work.

does this sound in the ballpark ?
 
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Old 07-08-11, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by fxcarden View Post
he counted 19 wires coming out of the box and only 15 breakers, so he said the box is overloaded.
Not a guaranteed method to know it's overloaded, but a decent bet.

he will replace (5) wires that look original to the house...$1400, with him providing all materials, and 2 days' worth of work.
Honestly that sounds low for repulling 5 circuits throughout the house. Is it just for replacing specific pieces of cable or is he basically rewiring a good portion of the house?
 
  #21  
Old 07-08-11, 04:36 PM
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Ben, the 5 cables are all going to various places in the basement (laundry room, sump pump, etc).
 
  #22  
Old 07-08-11, 04:43 PM
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What company made the panel?
 
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Old 07-08-11, 07:16 PM
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looks like the panel is a Square D
 
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Old 07-08-11, 08:47 PM
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At last its not fpe, which was real common in the late 50s to 80s and manufactured in Newark, NJ.

Is your panel XO or QO?
 
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Old 07-09-11, 11:47 AM
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I have no idea what XO and QO means ?
 
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Old 07-09-11, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by fxcarden View Post
I have no idea what XO and QO means ?
Types of breakers. Probably not really a relevant question from Jason in this case.
 
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Old 07-09-11, 01:20 PM
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XO was the older panel while QO is the newer. If it's QO it's probably not original as it first came out in 1959.
 
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Old 07-09-11, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
XO was the older panel while QO is the newer. If it's QO it's probably not original as it first came out in 1959.
I thought it was 1955, but it really makes no difference. XO breakers are still available "Used", but I have not seen any new ones except for old stock. I believe if the panel uses XO breakers, that would be a good enough reason in my book to replace it.
 
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Old 07-11-11, 07:52 PM
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The panel was original to the house (1957). If I understand you guys, XO is no longer available, so it must be QO because about 5 years ago I was able to put in a double breaker ?.
 
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Old 07-12-11, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fxcarden View Post
The panel was original to the house (1957). If I understand you guys, XO is no longer available, so it must be QO because about 5 years ago I was able to put in a double breaker ?.
If it was new I am sure it had to be a QO series breaker. Here are some pictures of some available XO breakers, but they are all used.

Circuit Breaker Service : Home > Products > Square D SQD Circuit Breakers > XO
 
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Old 07-12-11, 08:13 PM
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Here is what the panel looks like - sorry for the poor quality.

 
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Old 07-12-11, 08:24 PM
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That is a pretty small panel. I would do the change out.
 
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Old 07-13-11, 10:48 AM
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It's QO -- check the fourth line of the panel label.

I would lean toward a change out. It's obviously full and 50 years is a good run for electrical equipment.

Glad to see the breakers are well labeled. Also looks like whoever did remodeling over the years did a decent job of it -- cables stapled, box clamps. Usually a panel that age is a hacked up mess.
 
  #34  
Old 07-13-11, 03:50 PM
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I'll take credit for the labeling. There was none except for the Smoke Det with magic marker when we moved in.

Also, "duh" for me on missing the QO thing on the door label.

I guess this is why people get paid lots of money to do this stuff.

So, in summary.....the quote the guy gave me is good ?.
 
  #35  
Old 07-13-11, 05:03 PM
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IMO, The quote sounds reasonable for a panel replacement requiring a new (upgraded) service drop.

Make sure you and the electrician agree on the following:
- Amperage of new panel/service (150A/200A)
- Is the service entry going to be upgraded? (the wire or conduit that goes from the panel, through the meter, to the main wires from the POCO. In NJ, this will include a new meter pan. The meter itself is owned by JCP&L and will remain as-is.
- Number of spaces in your new panel. You probably want at least an extra 5 or 6 spaces for future use.
- New ground rods? Two 8' ground rods are required. Your current installation probably doesn't have them, or might have one.
- New (or at least check) grounding to water main & jumper across the water heater. (It looks insufficient from your pic, but it's hard to tell)

Make sure he will pull a permit for the work. He will probably do all the work in one day, then he or you will schedule a time for the inspector to come look at it. He likely won't be at the inspection (which should take less than 5 minutes).

It's also NJ law that at least 10% of the payment is withheld by the homeowner until the work passes inspection.


This is all standard for a service/panel upgrade. You just want to ensure you're both on the same page.
 
  #36  
Old 07-13-11, 05:21 PM
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Zorfdt, it is a SUB-panel so most of what you wrote doesn't apply. If it is in the same structure as the service panel then it doesn't need any ground rods.
 
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Old 07-13-11, 06:29 PM
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I also see some QO tandem breakers in the old panel. I am not sure if Square D even had tandems in the '50s and would question whether they should be in there. I'd also replace the subpanel.
 
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Old 07-13-11, 08:07 PM
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The older QO tandems had two handles one on top of another.
 
  #39  
Old 07-13-11, 08:31 PM
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Yeah, so this is a subpanel being fed from the main in the garage. The current service is 120 amps, which appears to be plenty for half the house. The electrician I spoke with will only work with a permit, which is fine by me since I am looking to prep the house for sale and would want the records to be in order. As far as spaces, I think he mentioned a 20 space panel. He did have some questions about the clearance between the bottom of the stairs and the panel. He said it needed to be 3 feet, and it was just shy. He said adding the longer panel might be a code violation, and he recommended moving the panel a few feet away. We never talked about if that would cost more. I told him I would go and ask the building code people about the clearance requirements.
 
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