house with only 100 amp main breaker

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  #1  
Old 07-04-13, 11:34 PM
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house with only 100 amp main breaker

We’re looking at buying a house, and our home inspector noted one oddity about the house – the main breaker for the house is only 100 amps. I’ve never known a standard house (this one is 3/2 and about 1800’) to have anything less than 150 amps, with just about every house we’ve owned having a 200 amp breaker. I can’t but imagine that the house must get pretty close to tripping the breaker whenever there’s some decent cooking going on in the kitchen, the AC trying to keep the house cool during a typical Florida summer, and the typical array of other appliances and electronic devices pumping away as well. And then of course there’s the pool pump as well! If we buy the place and want to take the option of switching the circuit to at least 150 amp, what’s it going to cost us? I do a lot of electrical work myself, but I don’t think this is something a homeowner would typically handle – or even be allowed to do?

Any thoughts?
 
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Old 07-05-13, 02:41 AM
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Can you read the size of cable emerging from the bottom hole? It should be printed on the side in white lettering, usually too small to read. We can guess, but it would be better for you to tell us.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 03:46 AM
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"Only" 100 amps is the minimum service required by code nowadays. That said, hundreds of thousands of homes run just fine on 100 amps. I recall a situation of my bosses lake home:

It was a weekend and they were up there with friends and family. They were cooking a turkey dinner, running a load of laundry in the electric dryer, A/c running, and an electric water heater. This finally tripped the 60 amp breaker that was feeding the house from the garage temporally. He installed larger wire to the house but never bothered to change the breaker because it was never an issue.

Bottom line is, if the house has been standing for many years with the service at 100 amps, I doubt it will be an issue. You can upgrade a service your self, but even for a pro, it typically takes a full day.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 04:28 AM
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I went from a 200AMP service (previous home my dad and I upgraded from 60 to 200) to my current home which is only 100AMP.
Other then not having A/C, everything is electric (well pumps, hot water, stove,etc), except heating is oil). The house is ~2900sqft (~4200sqft with basement), with 3 kids, wife, and my power wasting cousin who's working as a live in nanny for us this summer.
This was a hair of a concern when I first moved in (power hungry tech family), but has never caused us an issue.
The previous owner (family of 4), ran a buisness in part of the house and never had power issues.

I would ask the seller or realtor if they have had any issues with power, etc, if you are really concerned. Personally, if all is good and indicated as good, I'd leave it 100AMP for the time being and look into upgrading when you can/want. This would allow you to pick the correct components and maybe save you a few dollars.

Also keep in mind, it may not just be what is in your house that needs upgrading. My old house, we had to upgrade the stack and lines from the pole to the house. This added huge $$ to the project as we required a master electrician (my dad is an industrial electrician and doesn't have or want his masters ticket), and the power company to complete the upgrade.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 06:36 AM
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Hi again,
Okay, I should also have added that the reason it even came up was because the home inspector thought it was an issue and noted that it looked to him as if it had been changed at some point.

As for asking the former owner/tenant, that isn't possible as it's bank-owned. It was rented out prior to that, and the tenant who was last there has totally trashed the house, stole most of the fixtures, etc, so even if I could track the moron down I doubt he'd be the most forthcoming of individuals - judging from all the flames of hell painted in one of the bedrooms he probably sacrificed his children and doesn't want to be found anyway!

I'll take a magnifying glass with me next time and see if I can spot that writing on the cable.

Thanks for the replies - I guess we'll just wing it and see how it goes.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 06:54 AM
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Hi again,
Okay, I should also have added that the reason it even came up was because the home inspector thought it was an issue and noted that it looked to him as if it had been changed at some point.

As for asking the former owner/tenant, that isn't possible as it's bank-owned. It was rented out prior to that, and the tenant who was last there has totally trashed the house, stole most of the fixtures, etc, so even if I could track the moron down I doubt he'd be the most forthcoming of individuals - judging from all the flames of hell painted in one of the bedrooms he probably sacrificed his children and doesn't want to be found anyway!

I'll take a magnifying glass with me next time and see if I can spot that writing on the cable.

Thanks for the replies - I guess we'll just wing it and see how it goes.
Oh....
100AMP service by the sounds of it will be the least of your problems.

On the fixture note.... Those things add up really, really quickly.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 08:28 AM
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I’ve never known a standard house (this one is 3/2 and about 1800’) to have anything less than 150 amps, with just about every house we’ve owned having a 200 amp breaker
Okay, I should also have added that the reason it even came up was because the home inspector thought it was an issue and noted that it looked to him as if it had been changed at some point.
While I would prefer to have a 200 amp service in a house of that size, you probably don't need it. If you do a load calculation, I can almost assure you that the house would be fine with 100 amp service. In my area, a 150 amp service is more rare than a 100 amp service; I can't even remember that last time I saw a 150 amp service. If it would make you feel any better, add about $2,000 to your budget and make an offer.
 
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Old 07-05-13, 02:52 PM
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I just got in from a service/advice call. Customer had an old FPE 100 amp panel in the kitchen...I mean really old. He complained of one of his 20 amp breakers tripping constantly. I asked which one. The one running the window air conditioner, dehumidifier, refrigerator and microwave. I had a DUH moment. I explained there were far worse things in life than that breaker panel, but I couldn't think of any at the moment.
 
  #9  
Old 07-05-13, 07:02 PM
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our home inspector noted one oddity about the house – the main breaker for the house is only 100 amps
I actually think you should call your home inspector back and ask him if there was anything unusual about the way the service is grounded. Code requires the neutral conductor to be grounded at the first disconnect and you have shown us a picture of that 100 amp breaker and enclosure, but I see no grounding conductors anywhere inside that enclosure. This IS something you should concern yourself with.
 
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