Replacing main panel


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Old 01-27-12, 12:44 PM
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Replacing main panel

I understand it's not the easiest task, but assuming the wiring is already present or can be accommodated, why replacing a main panel is considered very expensive? At this point I am not sure, a quick on-line search shows most 200A panels are less than 200$, each breaker is in the 20-30$ range for the small ones up to 70-90$ for 50A double pole ones. Isn't this something a person that understands electricity could do over a weekend? I must be overlooking something, but compared to removing and cutting drywall drilling joists and studs to run new wiring, replacing a panel does not seem too complicated to me. I would have dozens of questions but also a couple of books that I got describe replacing the main panel in a way that does not seem too difficult to me.

Thanks for the comments.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 01:22 PM
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Several factors you haven't landed on yet. First the POCO has to disconnect service at the pole or pad mount. It can't be reconnected until the building inspector signs off on your permit. Permit must be pulled and in some locations owners can't pull them. They must be pulled by a licensed electrician. Actual physical work isn't rocket science. It's all the niceties that go along with it that make it gel. It could take the POCO a week to return service, so you have to be prepared. First stop is building authority. Acquire permit. Stock up on necessary materials. Call POCO. Do your work. Call inspector. Wait. Call POCO. Wait. Good luck with it!
 
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Old 01-27-12, 02:41 PM
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The biggest cost is in the labor to label the circuits, remove all the cables from the panel and re-install all the cables.

You may need to lengthen wires that are too short and check the integrity of the insulation. Verifying the correct breaker size is advisable too.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 01-27-12 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 01-27-12, 03:04 PM
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Yep, also if there is conduit currently run, especially large stuff, that will complicate the install. Worse case, there are new holes to punch in the new panel to line up with existing pipe. Also, breakers like AFCI are closer to $40 for single pole.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 03:40 PM
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OK I see it's not going to be too easy and it involves quite some labor. In any case, chandler, in my house (I do not know if it's common) there is a 100A breaker outside close to the PG&E meter, that I can open and I do not need to call the utility company or similar. Is this not usually the case? Should I remove that if I re-do the main panel?
 
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Old 01-27-12, 04:34 PM
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there is a 100A breaker outside close to the PG&E meter, that I can open and I do not need to call the utility company or similar. Is this not usually the case?
It's not unusal but it is a regional thing. Some areas you will see it often some seldom. What you are doing is replacing a subpanel not a main panel and that can be a DIY project depending on knowledge ans skill level.

Should I remove that if I re-do the main panel?
That is the main panel and should remain. What you are redoing is a subpanel. If it was not originally supplied with a four wire feeder you will need to do so when you replace it.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 04:39 PM
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Thanks! I am not ruling out the help of a professional but knowing the stuff upfront can help me in making the correct decision.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 04:50 PM
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Remember to keep the neutrals and grounds isolated in the panel you are replacing. Do not install a bond screw or strap.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 05:12 PM
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Just wanted to expand on what ray2047 and pcboss said so you'd know why you have to follow their advise, and not gloss over it.

Since what you will be working on is a subpanel, pcboss is (of course) dead on that you have to keep the neutrals and grounds isolated in your subpanel. In a main panel, those are bonded together. You absolutely cannot do this in your situation, in your subpanel. You can either use something marketed as a subpanel, or you can use a traditional panel as long as you're able to have those isolated by not installing the bonding screw or strap.

The neutral and ground must only be connected at the main panel, which is the 100A breaker outside close to the PG&E meter. If you want to see why this is important, start by reading this article.

This is why ray2047 is (of course) correct in saying that the connection between your outside main panel and your subpanel has to be four wire feeder. This means two hots, a neutral, and a ground. Older wiring may only be three wires, two hots and a neutral. If this is the case, you can't use this feeder wire, you need to run new feeder wire for it to be safe!
 
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Old 01-27-12, 05:44 PM
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To add, in your panel, you will see there is no "main" breaker. It is what is referred to as a "lug" panel. Your main is at the panel near the PG&E meter. With that said, and what the others have brought out, it is more of a diy project than what you originally threw out there. Still, codes must be adhered to, and it will need permitting and inspection, so don't gloss over any of that. Good luck with it.
 
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Old 01-27-12, 08:27 PM
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Thanks to everybody. This thread gave me a lot of knowledge.
 
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Old 01-28-12, 04:43 AM
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there is a 100A breaker outside close to the PG&E meter, that I can open and I do not need to call the utility company or similar. Is this not usually the case? Should I remove that if I re-do the main panel?
Depending on a number of factors, the main breaker disconnect may also need to be replaced which makes the whole project more complicated. How old is it? What is it's condition? Any rust or corrosion in the enclosure or on lugs on the breaker? Has it been tested? Outdoor raintight equipment generally won't last as long as indoor equipment.
 
 

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