Solar project runs into obsolete electrical panel snag


Old 07-13-11, 04:35 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: usa
Posts: 19
Solar project runs into obsolete electrical panel snag

Hi all!
We live in a small 1958 era 1300 sq. ft. house in San Diego. We recently decided to have 7 solar panels installed and all seemed fine; however, I just got a call from the project manager who said we would have to replace our original 125 kw Zinsco panel as they are considered unsafe and a fire hazard. There are only two spaces left on the panel. He would upgrade the panel to 200 kw for the 'reduced' price of $1800.
Am I getting a snow job done on me, and what relevant questions should I ask him relating to this? Is this a fair price?
I am not electrically savvy, so thanks in advance for your advice!
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Old 07-13-11, 05:37 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
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Am I getting a snow job done on me, and what relevant questions should I ask him relating to this?
The first question I'd ask is, "Why are you telling me now when you obviously knew the panel needed to be replaced when you bid the job?" Why isn't the price of the service upgrade included in the price you have already been quoted? Yes, Zinsco panels are bad news and need to be replaced immediately. If you are worried about getting a fair price, get another bid from a qualified and licensed electrical contractor.
Old 07-13-11, 06:04 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
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To add what Joe wrote, the panels are not rated in kw but in amperes. You currently have a 125 ampere panel and the proposal is for a 200 ampere panel.

Unless you have a huge amount of electrical appliances the 200 ampere panel is most likely overkill. You could likely replace the Zinsco panel with another 125 ampere panel for around $500 to $700 unless your local codes require any modifications to existing service to be a minimum of 200 amperes.

That stated, an upgrade to 200 amperes does require far more than a simple panel replacement and the charge of $1800 in your area is probably a fair price but not by any means a significantly reduced price.
Old 07-14-11, 09:01 AM
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The larger panel may be to accommodate the load of the solar equipment (calculated load + solar generation), however that should have been decided before the work was done.

Zinsco panels are obsolete and known to be more hazardous than other models of the same age. In that respect the contractor is right that it should be replaced, and the price he quoted is reasonable. However this should have been discussed as part of the original job upfront. There's no way the contractor didn't see that coming, and if he didn't then you need to reconsider your choice in contractors because Zinsco panels are an obvious red flag to anyone in the industry.

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