wanting to replace service panel

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  #1  
Old 01-27-14, 10:37 AM
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wanting to replace service panel

I have a service panel that I want to upgrade. I have a quote for a 200 amp panel for $2700 and I'm expecting a second quote by the end of the week. I've been told by the first electrician that my mast is too far from the end of the house and will probably need to be moved. The quote is a flat rate whether it needs to be moved or not. To save money, I'm thinking I can recess a new panel myself, add the new mast and insert the grounding rods, with a permit of course. I may also run new lines myself to replace the cloth or 2 wire runs. I will eventually have the following connected to the panel: three bedrooms, two baths, living room, kitchen, large capacity washer and dryer, large refrigerator, microwave, two ovens and pool pumps. The panel is on the outside of the house and will probably stay there. I have attached a picture of my existing panel, which the previous owner had enclosed, including the meter. I understand that I'll need to expose the meter.

My question is, should I get the 200 amp panel or something smaller and what am I looking for in a panel to choose from? Are the box stores a good place to purchase this equipment? My other question is, do I buy the meter for the new panel or is that something the electric company provides and will install?

I think I could do this job in less than 5 days, but I'm not sure how much money it would save me. When looking at 200a panels online they range from $250 to $1500. I'm not living in the house yet, so 5 days of no power shouldn't be an issue, except for the pool not circulating. I'm concerned about spending my money wisely.

Also, can anyone tell from this picture where the main breaker is? I think I see the two lines coming from the meter into those lugs near the top. I think I also see a white wire, possibly the main neutral, going to the left but have not investigated on where it is connected to. It looks scary in there. I'm wise not to touch this until the electric company has disconnected it, if I do this myself.

Thank you for your help with this.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-27-14, 12:11 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

You should be able to buy a good 200A main breaker panel with the main and a few additional breakers for roughly $100 at a big box store. You'll need to spend more to get all the breakers you'll need, including combination AFCI breakers for most of the circuits.

Your existing panel doesn't appear to have a main breaker. IOW, it's a main lug panel.

Both the meter and the panel must be fully accessible when the work is finished.

Were you planning to do this work yourself? Almost all jurisdictions require a permit and inspections for replacing a service, or a main distribution panel, and most of those require that the permit be taken out by a licensed master electrician.
 
  #3  
Old 01-27-14, 03:18 PM
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I did a search on Home Depot's site for outdoor main breaker load centers with 30 slots. I see that they range from $100 to $300, depending if I want copper or aluminum. I don't know if I should care which metal I use. I also see that they sell outdoor load centers with the meter socket, which I should probably get.

I don't know if I'm going to do it myself or not. i guess it depends on pricing differences and if I can make sure I don't kill myself or burn the house down. I live in unincorporated Los Angeles County, which does allow for the homeowner to do the work with a permit.

I've been searching the posts here all morning for various keywords, including AFCI, and it has been very helpful.

Even with a lug main, I thought there should be a main cutoff somewhere.

Any ideas on whether 200 amp is overkill for my usage? Also, any opinions on getting a load center combined with a meter socket? I'm assuming all meter sockets have to be the same sizes.

Thanks
 
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Old 01-27-14, 05:25 PM
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depending if I want copper or aluminum. I don't know if I should care which metal I use.
The metal probably refers to the busbar material, I'd definitely go with a copper bus 200 amp main breaker panel, NEMA 3R (raintight). If your power company will allow a combination panel/meter socket, I'd go that way too. Good decision to get rid of the old Zinsco panel, they are a known hazard.
 
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Old 01-27-14, 06:00 PM
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I did a search on Home Depot's site for outdoor main breaker load centers with 30 slots. I see that they range from $100 to $300, depending if I want copper or aluminum. I don't know if I should care which metal I use.
I would only use a panel with copper bus bars, especially for an outdoor installation. Copper is a better conductor than aluminum but, more importantly, it is much more resistant to corrosion.

I don't know if I'm going to do it myself or not. i guess it depends on pricing differences and if I can make sure I don't kill myself or burn the house down. I live in unincorporated Los Angeles County, which does allow for the homeowner to do the work with a permit.
That doesn't mean they'll give you a permit just because you asked nicely. I had to take a test before I could get one for the renovation of an older house for my family (I wasn't working in the trade at the time). I don't remember if that permit would have let me do the service upgrade that was part of the renovation, but I chose to have a friend replace the old meter base and service drop with a weather head and riser, and feed the main panel I had installed. It was up to me to fire up the main panel, subpanels and branch circuits when I got home, and test everything, but that was it.

Even with a lug main, I thought there should be a main cutoff somewhere.
Nope.

Any ideas on whether 200 amp is overkill for my usage?
No. You need to do a residential load calculation to determine that. If you have Excel, you can use the template at Mike Holt Enterprises.

Also, any opinions on getting a load center combined with a meter socket? I'm assuming all meter sockets have to be the same sizes.
I'll differ with Joe on this point. I prefer installing a separate meter socket and panel because that way you can update or replace either one independently of the other. With the changes in metering that are happening now, it makes more sense to me to do it that way.

Regarding the size, you must install a meter socket that's approved by your POCO. Just because you can buy it at your neighborhood HD doesn't mean that it is. Check with the utility first. You can also ask them about the combo units v. the separate ones while you're there.
 
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Old 01-27-14, 06:06 PM
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I don't think a meter recessed like that would pass inspection or be allowed by a power company. Also the workspace clearances around the panel cannot be met with that recess.
 
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