Troubleshooting Whole House Electrical Problems

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  #41  
Old 12-17-14, 06:31 AM
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I'll give the city a call today and see what my options are. I'm very good about following regulations. I think I'm the only guy on the block who got the required permit to build his fence and shed.

Frud, in my case I'd just as soon get rid of that 100 amp service disconnect and at this point I'm likely to go for 200A because I have the service panel already and I have to do the whole line anyway. Of course I will compare costs before deciding.

Frud, I don't understand your alternative method to bringing power to the service panel. I don't understand why it would be safer nor do I understand how the power could be kept on while I did this. I think I'm confused about how I would "install a 100 ampere circuit breaker in the panel" or maybe I'm confused about what you are calling the new CB. All in all, it seems simpler and cheaper and no less safe to just bring the new cable into the service panel bypassing the 100A SD that is now in place.

I believe I've owned "Wiring Simplified" at one time or another but I certainly did not read it cover to cover but only cherry picked what was relevant to whatever job I was doing. I'll pick up another copy soon.

I now know the kinds of materials I need, but not the specifics. Even if I don't do the work myself, I have a few questions that should give me some control over how well the project is done. I find the pros often use the cheapest materials and only do just enough to satisfy code. This is understandable because it saves the customer money and keeps the quote down, but often when I do things myself I have a different standard.

Why is aluminum okay to use for service line? Even with using no-ox grease to prevent against corrosion, isn't there some kind of long term shrinking and swelling effect than can loosen the connections of non-like metals like copper and aluminum?

Does code have anything to say about how far the service line can run between the point it enters the home and enters the service panel?

Is 2" PVC the appropriate size conduit to use with 2 gauge conductors? I was considering running SE cable INSIDE conduit for more weather protection so long as it wouldn't be too difficult to pull through the conduit.

Is one weather head as good as another?

Some have argued for installing a main shutoff somewhere outside to allow for making future changes to the service panel or other kinds of jobs. To me and my uses this seems excessive, but let me know if there's a stronger case to be made.

When bringing the conduit or SE cable through the wall of my house (brick), is Duct Seal Puddy acceptable to use? Currently around the SE cable it looks something like Duct Seal was used only it seems too hard to be that.

I'm still wondering what code has to say about bringing underrated gauge to a service panel that is rated higher. In other words, if I'm using a 200A service panel, am I compelled to use 2 gauge wire even if I never expect to ever use beyond 100 amps?
 
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  #42  
Old 12-17-14, 07:28 AM
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Perhaps I can offer a simpler suggestion and not hopefully confuse you more.

Install a combo meter main breaker panel near where your current electric drop is.

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Install a mast and weather head up to the roof rake.

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Run conduit from the new main breaker panel to the 200 amp panel.

Run individual conductors in the conduit to the 200 amp panel but do not connect.

At this point you still have electric to the whole house because you haven't yet done anything to the current electric supply.

Get your inspection.

Have the electric company move the drop to the new mast.

Disconnect the now dead old feed to the 200 amp box and connect the new feed already run.

Turn on the new main breaker.

I'm still wondering what code has to say about bringing underrated gauge to a service panel that is rated higher.
It is subpanel. 200 amp is simply the maximum current it can handle. The service panel that feeds it is the protection. The breaker feeding it now is its protection. It is very common to feed a subpanel with a feed protected for less then the maximum amps the subpanel is rated for.
 
  #43  
Old 12-17-14, 08:21 AM
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Lots of good information from everyone.

The unfused cable needs to be " as short as practical". This may not be possible given where the newest panel is, but an inspector should be able to give guidance.
 
  #44  
Old 12-17-14, 09:11 AM
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I spoke to the city building inspector. I don't need any kind of permit to do the work, but of course I do need to coordinate everything and then have everything inspected before the power can be turned back on. I was told that regarding the service line installation, there are no local codes beyond what the NEC has to say.

Ray. Thanks for the help. I'm really not as dense or confused as I may sound. I'm just very much a stickler for the tiny details and for making sure I understand.

I think my confusion is that my current meter socket has no shut off or breaker.

So when Frud said "install a 100 ampere circuit breaker in the panel" he meant the outside panel which would would be part of the new meter socket box. This would then be the breaker that's feeding the "subpanel" inside the home (200A service panel). I think I now understand.

The other option would be to not install a shut off breaker anywhere in the run and just bring it down from the weather head, into and out of the socket meter, through the wall and directly into the current 200a service panel. Therefore, the only breaker/service disconnect would be the one that's built into the 200A service panel. In this case, because the 200a service panel is no longer a "subpanel", would I be required to bring proper gauge to the service panel? (proper=2 gauge to handle 200amps).

I like the idea of having a main shut off outside but I'm not sure it's worth the extra cost and bother and it's just one more thing to be exposed to the elements.

One thing I'm concerned about is having not much room to drill a new hole, especially if I use 2" conduit. In these images you'll see where the line comes in and how close it already is to the corner of the house. To the right, you'll see the fios/phone line coming in. Remember the service panel I want to get to is on the perpendicular wall. Outside of that wall is the gas meter.

http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter2.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...ix/meter25.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...x/meter1-1.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...icstrix/s3.jpg

And here's an image of Scarlett Johansson because, well, you know:
http://www.hdwallpaperscool.com/wp-c...es-desktop.jpg

And finally a few images of the meter socket. I guess the water droplets inside the glass should have been a warning sign:
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter5.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter4.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter3.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter6.jpg
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...rix/meter7.jpg
 
  #45  
Old 12-17-14, 10:05 AM
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I like to see services in conduit, but sometimes it just isn't practical. There would be nothing wrong with using some service cable. The cable you have now is at least 50 years old, do you plan on living in this house another 50 years? I would use the meter/main combo that Ray showed us provided that the utility will accept it. Then, use conduit as a riser to the weatherhead with THWN individual conductors, don't use SEU cable in conduit if you want a professional installation. In cases where space is tight like yours, SER cable can be a blessing to get to the main panel. I like attention to detail, but don't over-think it and make it a lot more difficult than it is.

Southwire 250 ft. 4/0-4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum SER-13107808 - The Home Depot
 
  #46  
Old 12-17-14, 10:28 AM
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In this case, because the 200a service panel is no longer a "subpanel", would I be required to bring proper gauge to the service panel? (proper=2 gauge to handle 200amps).
If you change the main breaker to 100 amps (and if a 100 amp main breaker is available fits your panel) you could use #2 copper but as Joe wrote you need 4/0 aluminum if you stay with the 200 amp breaker.
 
  #47  
Old 12-17-14, 11:56 AM
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Casual Joe/Ray,

Thanks for the reply. I don't really plan to be living at all in 50 years let along living in this house. By this reasoning, why even mess with conduit? I believe you're saying I should use service cable (no conduit) to get me from the meter inside the house. Thinking in terms of weakest link, why bother with the conduit going up if it isn't going down? I'd like to bring the line right into the house from behind the meter box, but this really isn't feasible the way things are laid out so I'm going to need a short outside run coming out of the meter and then into the house.

I'm getting a lot of good information here, but I feel I'm not getting quite what I need in terms of specifics.

Let's start with the conductors. The more I look at the cable coming into the SD and subpanel, it looks like they've been using aluminum all along which is surprising if the cable is really that old. Silver color must mean aluminum, right? Then again, maybe the line coming out of the meter isn't that old as it did look in better shape.

Inside my 200A "subpanel" (which I think is mounted upside down)
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...trix/xx006.jpg

(these images are higher quality so if you leave your curser over the image you'll see an icon option to zoom in)

Inside my Square D SD:
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...trix/xx007.jpg

Provided I use no-ox, the consensus is there's no problem using aluminum wire from weather head all the way to service panel? My concern about it shrinking and loosening against the copper is unfounded?

In this case 4 gauge aluminum would be the proper gauge for 200 amp?

I'm having trouble finding TWHN, but heavy gauge THHN is easy to find an in the small print it says it can be used as TWHN-2. (I know W=wet).

Currently, I have only 3 conductors coming down from the weather head and coming out of the meter socket and then going into the house. It's from inside that the grounding is taken care of as it comes off the 100a SD. For this reason it's unclear to me where the 4th conductor of the SE cable comes into play. It looks like sometimes this is handled by coming off the meter socket into ground rods, but I don't currently have it setup that way. Should I be looking to change things?

I still don't understand the need for a main-breaker/SD/shuff-off with the meter socket or anywhere else other than what's on the service panel. I understand it as a convenience.

Ray, you wrote "If you change the main breaker to 100 amps (and if a 100 amp main breaker is available fits your panel) you could use #2 copper but as Joe wrote you need 4/0 aluminum if you stay with the 200 amp breaker."

Sorry, still confused. Isn't my main breaker already 100 amps? (Square D). When you say "fits my panel" what are you referring to? The hypothetical panel I will be buying to replace the meter socket which currently has no breaker at all?

I apologize if this has been answered and I'm just not understanding. Maybe I'm asking the wrong way, but I'll try again. Say I get rid of the 100a square deal SD and I do NOT install an breaker along with the meter socket (there is not one now). Then, the only "main breaker" I would have is the one built into the 200A service panel. Nothing in between the weather head and this service panel which would now no longer be a subpanel and would serve as the only SD. In THAT case, would code require that the the gauge wire coming down from the weather head have to be heavy enough to support 200a?
 
  #48  
Old 12-17-14, 01:56 PM
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Silver color must mean aluminum, right?
Not always. Rubber used as insulation on older wires was slightly corrosive to copper the so the copper was tinned to protect it. You can usually tell by looking at a cross section. Refers to the main breaker in your 200 amp subpanel if it is reused as the main panel.
In THAT case, would code require that the the gauge wire coming down from the weather head have to be heavy enough to support 200a?
Yes, unless you change the main breaker to 100 amp.
 
  #49  
Old 12-17-14, 02:56 PM
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First electrician just came buy. Guy makes me wait all day to show up and couldn't take more than 5 minutes to talk to me. lol. I think I did impress him a little with my knowledge thanks to you guys.

Here's his take:

Eliminate the old Square D 100a shut off.

Run 4 gauge, 3 conductor service cable down from the weather head and into the building.

No conduit anywhere. He says the service cable will last 50 years.

He might need to run a couple grounding rods into the earth, but he's not going to run a grounding wire directly off the meter and onto the grounding rods as I've seen done. He's going to take it back out again from the service panel, through the wall, and out to the grounding rods. I have a couple rods in place already, but I'm not sure they are far enough apart for code which is why he might need to add one.

It will be another couple days before I get a quote. This will give me 200a power. I called two other electricians on Monday, but I haven't hear back yet.

--

Ray,

You might be right about the copper. So if the service panel (200a) is using copper now, is it fair to say that it MUST use copper in the future? Does no-ox correct all this or is hooking up aluminum wire to copper connections just something you shouldn't do?

As for the shut off, thanks! I finally understand.
 
  #50  
Old 12-17-14, 02:57 PM
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If the 200 amp breaker stays in the panel the wire feeding the panel needs to be upgraded. If you change the main to a 100 the wires only need to be good for 100 amps.

When you install the wires in the lugs you torque them to spec so loosening is not an issue.
 
  #51  
Old 12-17-14, 03:48 PM
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pcboss,

Thanks for the help. I appreciate your earlier comment on cable length once it comes in the house. I think I'm good there.

"If the 200 amp breaker stays in the panel the wire feeding the panel needs to be upgraded. If you change the main to a 100 the wires only need to be good for 100 amps."

Because I'm a layman, the way you phrase it confuses me. First, I'm pretty sure you're not talking about changing the breaker that's built into the 200a service panel and there's already a 100a breaker so I wouldn't be adding one unless I first removed the one that's there. But I think I know just what you mean. If I remove the 100a breaker (square D) and I don't add one with the new meter socket, then all I will have left is the 200a breaker built into the 200a service panel. You're saying if I don't THEN add a 100a breaker (with the meter socket) then in that case, I'd have to use heavier gauge wire to supply the 200 amp service panel. There, I think I got it! lol.

you wrote:
"When you install the wires in the lugs you torque them to spec so loosening is not an issue."

I don't seem to be explaining myself very well about this whole copper & aluminum issue. Perhaps it's not well known to to forum, or more likely I'm just not expressing myself very well. I'll quote from an article which I will also link:

from article:
TWO PROBLEMS TO SOLVE

The two problems are that the aluminum wire expands and contracts with change in temperature, as does copper wire, but aluminum tends to lose its round shape and become oval, whereas copper maintains its original shape and size. So with many cycles of expansion and contraction, the aluminum wire flattens out and can become loose under ordinary screw heads, causing sparking. The second problem is that the skin of the wire can oxidize, reducing its electrical conductivity, particularly at a connection from an aluminum wire to a copper wire.


The second problem seems to be well addressed by the use of anti-oxidant creams. However, it's not clear to me the expand/contract nature of aluminum has been addressed very well. It seems inevitable to me that this will eventually make all aluminum-to-copper connections a problem. It's just a matter of time.

from article:
Officially, according to CSA in Canada and UL in the States, if you use an approved aluminum-to-copper twist connector that includes anti-oxidant creams, everything will be just fine. But one home inspection group (www. inspectapedia.com) has convinced the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (a US Federal government consumer watchdog agency) to state publicly that these connectors are at best a temporary solution.

from article
According to these safety advocates, there was only one way of having a fail-safe aluminum-to-copper connection for a pigtail, and that is with a special crimp connector that has a heavy ring that is squeezed onto the two wires with tons of force in a special heavy duty crimper -- the whole system is called CopAlum crimps

I don't know if this is what you meant by the right torque, but I doubt my service panel has anything but old fashioned connections.

Article I quoted from:
Aluminum to Copper electrical connectors

Here's another article:
Hazards of Aluminum Electrical Service Cables, Electrical Panel Components & Wiring in buildings - photographs and sketches of electrical equipment, panels, meters

My house uses all copper wire. I'm pretty sure copper service cable is what's coming into the 200a service panel and I'm pretty sure this panel was not designed to accept aluminum cable. Therefore, all in all I could avoid the whole issue if I just used copper from the weather head, although that might be expensive. Also, the old drop line (from the pole) is also likely to be copper, so those connections might also be at risk if I use aluminum service cable.
 
  #52  
Old 12-17-14, 04:40 PM
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I'm pretty sure you're not talking about changing the breaker that's built into the 200a service panel
Yes we are. It is the built in main breaker that would have to be changed if smaller wire is connected directly from the meter.
You're saying if I don't THEN add a 100a breaker (with the meter socket) then in that case, I'd have to use heavier gauge wire to supply the 200 amp service panel.
Yes, if it is a subpanel fed by a 100 amp breaker the existing breaker is fine because it is only used as the required disconnect switch but if 200 amp breaker is fed directly wire must be large enough for feed.
Condemnation of aluminum refers to low amp branch circuits such as receptacles. Switch gear and panels are built to use either aluminum or copper with no problem.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-17-14 at 07:41 PM.
  #53  
Old 12-17-14, 05:53 PM
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Ray,

Ah, sorry. I didn't realize you could change the breaker built-into the Service Panel. This has been part of my confusion all along with regards to what breaker you or pcboss was referring to.

You misunderstood my other comment here, but it's fine. I really do understand the concept here and I appreciate your patience in explaining it.

you wrote "#4 copper is too small for 100 amps. It needs to be #3 minimum."

Sorry, I was referring to aluminum wire. I thought for 200A you needed 4 for aluminum and 2 for copper?

"Condemnation of aluminum refers to low amp branch circuits such as receptacles. Switch gear and panels are built to use either aluminum or copper with no problem."

Okay so my service panel is rated for either aluminum or copper. Thanks for clearing that up. However, with regard to the long term safety of copper on aluminum there does seem to be a debate about that.

Thanks for your patience as well as your help. I'll see what the electrician quotes be before making a decision.
 

Last edited by petethebuilder; 12-17-14 at 06:15 PM.
  #54  
Old 12-17-14, 06:07 PM
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The issues you are concerned about deal with the older aluminum wiring from 15 and 20 amp circuits and connections to devices. The lugs in the panel are listed for use with aluminum. The alloys are also different.

Ray covered it about removing the 200 amp main and installing a 100 in the same place.
 
  #55  
Old 12-17-14, 06:15 PM
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.
 
  #56  
Old 12-17-14, 07:04 PM
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ray/pcboss,

Okay, I'm sold on aluminum then. Thanks for the feedback on that issue.

Thanks ray
Any predictions on the quote I'll be getting? He said he'd have it done in 2 hours. If I hire him, any bets on that? lol
 
  #57  
Old 12-17-14, 07:09 PM
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Sounds like they are hanging a new SE cable only. You need to read the scope of work on the estimate. I see you have not said anything about grounding.
 
  #58  
Old 12-17-14, 07:33 PM
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I'm getting a lot of good information here, but I feel I'm not getting quite what I need in terms of specifics.
There haven't been specifics because you have too many possible options, variables and alternatives. When you start making decisions specifics can follow.

Inside my 200A "subpanel" (which I think is mounted upside down)
http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/a...trix/xx006.jpg
Yes, to complicate issues further the panel is mounted upside down and needs to be inverted with the vertical operating main breaker at the top. Todays single phase panels have a horizontal operating main breaker and can be inverted for a bottom feed application, but your panel is an older one that cannot be inverted. As it is now your main breaker handle is down when in the "ON" position and up when in the "OFF" position. It is old enough it is doubtful you'll find a 100 amp breaker to replace it with.

For residential service entrance wiring you can use #4 copper or #2 aluminum for 100 amps and #2/0 copper or #4/0 aluminum for 200 amps.

When you make the descision of 100 or 200 amps more specifics can be given. Till then, suggestions and opinions will be all over the board.
 
  #59  
Old 12-17-14, 10:35 PM
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My name is Furd, not Frud. The first usage I saw as a simple typo but when it continued I had to correct you.

My idea of adding a 100 ampere circuit breaker to the GE panel was to have a place to move the existing type SE cable (coming from the Square D 100 ampere circuit breaker) to allow keeping power on the panel and in the house while you connected the new service conductors to the existing main circuit breaker. The only reasons are to minimize time without power and to allow an inspection of the new service conductor connections to the main circuit breaker. After the new service is energized the addition GE circuit breaker becomes a spare or can be entirely removed.

Expanding on my original reply, I was advocating drilling through the wall above the GE panel and using a pair of LB conduit fittings (PVC is fine) along with a threaded adapter in the panel bringing the conduit up the wall around the corner from the existing meter, the same wall where the gas meter is located. Mount the meter box and then continue the conduit up to the required height and add the weatherhead. You would have to provide an attachment point for the service drop cable in a manner approved by the utility adjacent to the weatherhead, generally a little below the weatherhead to prevent rain from entering the weatherhead. The three individual conductors would hang out of the weatherhead about 12 to 18 inches for the utility connection and would continue through the conduit to the meter box where they would be connected to the upper jaws. Additional wire would then be run from the lower jaws through the conduit and LB fittings into the panel where they would be routed to the main circuit breaker and terminated. The neutral conductor would go to the neutral bus which would also have an grounding electrode conductor running to your grounding electrodes, a metallic cold water pipe and the eight-foot long ground rod.

While under construction the power would come in the existing service to the Square D circuit breaker, to the new GE circuit breaker to be distributed through the panel. When the utility cuts the existing service the Square D circuit breaker is turned off as well as the new GE circuit breaker and the GE circuit breaker removed. The panel cover is re-installed and when the utility is finished turn on the main circuit breaker and you are back in business. The new GE circuit breaker can then be sold, kept or trashed as you prefer and the Square D circuit breaker along with all the old type SE cable and the meter box can be dealt with in a similar manner.

Remember, there are MANY different ways to deal with this, mine is only one way although it is how I would do it.
 
  #60  
Old 12-18-14, 12:39 AM
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Here is a diagram of what Furd is writing about.

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A breaker hold down clip must be used on the 100 amp breaker..


A lock out device should be installed on the main breaker till work is completed.

One type:
Name:  277v-mcb-lockout-locked.jpg
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Image source: totallockout.com
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-18-14 at 06:41 AM.
  #61  
Old 12-18-14, 08:16 AM
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Good Morning! (from this time zone)

There are a few tangents left to address, but I'm really going to try to bring things to a head. Of course I will still be long winded and persnickety (<-- go ahead, look it up, it probably applies to you as well).

Thank you again for the help. Please do not take my many questions as a lack of gratitude or a challenge to your knowledge.

I might still hire a pro if the price is reasonable. However, if I do it myself, I'm still debating how much I can do ahead of time verses waiting to work until the power is actually off. I have decided to go ahead and upgrade to 200A service. I understand this will mean upgrading the wire and possibly the grounding.

Time is working against me. Christmas is coming. My appliances are failing. Where I'm at the weather can be bad this time on short notice. What I know about myself is that I'm thorough, but slow. Also, I will be working by myself except for maybe Mr. Murphy and he usually brings his brothers.

For these reasons, I will do things safe and to code, but I will not do them as recommend here even though I agree your ideas are superior. So, no conduit. No shut off. No need to replace breakers in the 200a service panel. Also, because I have a brick house and I don't have a hammer drill, I plan to secure the cable right back into the wooden rake rail where it is now. (I will of course still drill into the mortar to secure clamps around the vertical run of the service cable and to secure the meter socket.) This is my plan even if I can work out how to do the work ahead of time as Furd and others have suggested.

Rather than start the work only after the power is off, I'd like to work ahead of time, but I do have some concerns.

1) I don't really know the condition of that service line especially higher up. I'll be working by myself with an aluminum ladder. I don't really want to get near it.

2) The only practical place to drill a new hole is in a 7" gap between the existing service cable and inside corner of the house. That should be plenty of room so long as the guy before more drilled level through the brick as opposed to at an angle.

What I think I can do ahead is:

1) Drill the new hole, feed the service cable through for the meter and service panel inside. Seal hole.
2) Buy and mount a new meter socket. Make lower connections. Clamp cable beneath meter socket.
3) Determine the correct length of the service line going from the meter socket up to the weather head. Strip and attached one end of cable to a new weather head. Strip and attach the other end to the top of the service meter. Secure cable to the house just above the service meter and once more as high as I can comfortably reach without a ladder.
4) Address any grounding concerns I may have which may include grounding rods. (I'll discuss this issue separately, a little later).
5) Wrap the meter socket to protect it from the weather and coordinate the Power Co and inspector to come on a future day.

After the power is shut of and the drop line disconnected...

1) I remove the old service cable from the old meter socket and then remove the cable and weather head. I don't worry about the socket meter or other cable for now.

2) I get my ladder out and attach the service cable to the house and along the rake rail essentially locating the weather head in the same location it was before. The insulator (part that attaches to the house for the drop line) seemed to be in good shape and can be reused so there's no work to be done there.

3) I go to the basement, disconnect the cable from the GE 200a service panel and then connect the new service line.

4) I let the Power Co and Inspector know I'm ready to have the power turned back on. Of course I will have already made an appointment for the inspector on this day and the Power Co will know what I'm doing.

In a different situation where I was more confident in my ability to work quickly, I'd do things differently and up to the higher DIY forum standard, but I do feel this is a safe and good solution.

I welcome your comments and do have a couple questions....


1) The Power Co will disconnect the drop line from the weather head when they turn off power, right? Because the power is disconnected at the post, the drop line will not be live until they return to restore power, right?

2) Is there anything tricky about attaching the wires to the service panel or meter socket? What I mean is, I don't own a torque wrench and I will be using aluminum service cable so I want to have it right. I am willing to buy a torque wrench solely for this purpose.

3) Inspector. Here's the thing. I feel I do good work to code and I'm not afraid to have it inspected. The only possible problem I can think of is the upside down service panel. When I bought the house it passed electrical inspection and I didn't even realize it was upside down until a year later. I have absolutely no intention of flipping that around as it would require removing and reattaching all the circuit wires. I don't know for sure what's to be inspected. It may be the case that the inspector doesn't even need to come into the basement. My worst nightmare is having him see it an not allow me to have power turned on until it's righted. The electrician doesn't think it will be a problem, but I if this is a concern I'd reconsider my own plan, maybe even to the point of only replacing the service wire from the old meter socket up. Thoughts?

I'll have some more questions about the specs of the actual parts I'll need, I want to talk more about grounding, and I may follow up to specific previous comments, but let me leave it here for now....

Thanks.
 
  #62  
Old 12-18-14, 08:27 AM
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I have decided to go ahead and upgrade to 200A service. I understand this will mean upgrading the wire and possibly the grounding.
Upgrading to much larger wires should be considered carefully. They will be a lot more difficult for someone who has never worked with that size wire. Grounding is the same regardless of the size of the feed.

It is always best to choose a way you are most comfortable with. Turning the breaker box right side up would be a daunting task. Even a pro would require some extra time. Wires may need to be spliced or breakers moved to reach them without splicing. A job that would surely attract Murphy.
 
  #63  
Old 12-18-14, 09:11 AM
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Ray, I've got a lot to talk about grounding, but I need to check a few things out first. Are you sure that grounding for 100A is the same requirement as for 200A? I got the feeling it might be different from the fast-talking-in-a-hurry electrician when he was here.

I'm pretty sure I'll be going with a 3 conductor service cable, maybe with the neutral serving as the casing as is often done. I'm not clear if I'll be grounding right off the new meter socket or if I'll do everything from the basement as the electrician plans to do by sending the ground back out from the panel. Right now my inclination is to keep it three conductor all the way and do as the electrician suggested. This will make the cable thinner and cheaper and easier to work with and will require a smaller hole in the wall (smaller than a 4 wire cable). I think this is the right stuff:
Southwire 4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum SEU Wire (By-the-Foot)-13097199 - The Home Depot

The specs say it's about 1 1/2" wide. I could make a crude reference to that diameter and how I've had a lot of practice working with it, but I'm above that. I don't think it will be a problem especially because I've decided to forgo the conduit.

So strictly speaking, an upside down mounted service panel is against code, right? Redoing it would be insane. There's no slack to work with either so inevitably some circuits just wouldn't reach without being junctioned. Bottom line is I have absolutely no concern about the safety of how it's installed and it passed inspection when I bought the home. In fact, I don't even want to think about it. I wonder what Scarlett's doing right now?
 
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Old 12-18-14, 09:34 AM
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Joe,
Thanks for your concerns. Hope I didn't come off as complaining. Thanks for the cable size info.

pcboss,
As I said, the electrician was in and out in a hurry, but when I get the final quote I will make certain I know exactly what's being done and what's not.

Furd,
First, I apologize on the name. Thank you for your detailed suggestions. Your approach was excellent but I will, in the interest of time, be lowering my standards a bit. Part of my confusion with your idea and others was that I didn't understand it was even possible or allowable to change the breaker built into the service panel itself. Drilling above the service panel isn't impossible, but it would be tricky. There's a lot of armored cable coming in along with octopus of romex. There's also a natural gas line and another old unused natural gas line pipe. Outside that wall are my gas meters and I would have to wrap the service cable around the corner of my house from the outside to get in. I have links to pictures of all this on an earlier post if you're curious (next to Scarlett). In my previous post I've explained what I'm going to do which means I'll skip the conduit. Even though I could do the conduit through the wall with power off ahead of time, I'm trying to keep it simple and I've already lost a lot time over this issue. For what it's worth, your way is better, but I believe what I'm doing is still safe and will be better than how I found it.
 
  #65  
Old 12-18-14, 09:40 AM
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There is EGC (Equipment Grounding Conductor) and GEC (Ground Electrode Conductor). In my reply I was writing about the GEC. The requirements are the same but wire size does vary depending on the feeder size. Number of ground rods or either one or two. That number is determined by earth resistance and the AHJ. Many just use two ground rods. If the water pipes are metal they must be bonded to the panel within five feet of where the pipe enters the house and a jumper wire installed around the water meter. In most areas no GEC at the meter socket.

2008 NEC:

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  #66  
Old 12-18-14, 10:33 AM
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So strictly speaking, an upside down mounted service panel is against code, right? Redoing it would be insane. There's no slack to work with either so inevitably some circuits just wouldn't reach without being junctioned. Bottom line is I have absolutely no concern about the safety of how it's installed and it passed inspection when I bought the home.
You have said several times that you will do everything to code and the position of the existing service panel is not to code. I think it would be wise to check with the inspector on this one. It may have passed inspection when you moved in because it wasn't caught, but it'll surely be caught this time. If you leave the panel as it is, it'll take a mighty loop of service cable to enter the panel from the bottom, maybe too much unfused cable, which may mean you need a service disconnect outside at the meter. I certainly would check out both these things with the inspector so you don't get a big surprise when the inspector arrives. Living just one night without power is difficult in December.
 
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Old 12-18-14, 02:16 PM
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Here's my grounding situation.

A few years back I installed a TV antenna and realized I wanted ground rods to ground it properly. Looking into things more deeply, I realized my house wasn't well grounded. Long story short, I ran what I believe is a 1/4 solid bare copper line from the point at which my water line came in the house. I ran this across my joists clamped onto both my in and out water tank supplies then continued onto the Square D main breaker. From there I took it back outside the house and onto two 6' copper grounding rods, copper, 5/8" if I recall. Ground rods were 6' apart and I got them in the ground with little more than a sledge hammer and a bad attitude. After that I brought down a wire from my TV antenna and connected that to the ground rod as well.

Looking at Ray's chart, if I used 4/0 aluminum service cable that would put me at 4 awg copper. A google says that's 0.2" with 5/8" I think I'm covered.

This is all fresh in my memory because I just went outside and dug around for them. Last year my friends at the gas company upgrade the gas line and changed my meter starting with a back hoe. I caught them trying to bury what was left of my french drain without telling me. I just realized yesterday that they also dug up part of my ground line. I just finished checking it for damage but it's okay. I think they are supposed to ground the gas meter aren't they? If so, it didn't look like they did. I'll check on that tomorrow.

I guess for me there's an option to run a ground wire straight off the new socket meter and to one of the ground rods. I could do this, but I'd rather bring it all inside first then bring it back out from the service panel which is how it is right now. I forget if there was an electrical reason to have everything going out at once. Comments appreciated.
 
  #68  
Old 12-18-14, 02:31 PM
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CasualJoe
You have said several times that you will do everything to code
And I meant it. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to go around opening every junction box looking for loose wire nuts. I respect what you're saying Joe and there's good reason to express that view on a forum such as this. However, I've had three different electricians comment on it but express no concern. When I discovered my home wasn't grounding correctly that did concern me and I addressed it. Last year when I installed a floating floor, I made the decision to leave the asbestos tile in place. You do have to use some discernment.

That said, if you can explain to me why this is legitimately dangerous I will do the work. Heck maybe there's some electrical properties or perspective I hadn't considered.
 
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Old 12-18-14, 02:34 PM
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Ground rods for your panel must be 8' long driven flush with the ground or a little below. The rods need to be a minimum of ". IIRC aluminum can't touch earth so you need to use copper. All grounding including phone needs to go back to the main panel. Best practice use a grounding block at the panel for all auxiliary grounds like phone and cable. This keeps everything that is conductive at the same potential so you don't touch for example a metal appliance and a cable box at the time time and get a nasty surprise because one is 0 volts relative to ground and the other 10 volts relative to ground.
 
  #70  
Old 12-18-14, 02:58 PM
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Ray,
Thanks for keeping me on my toes. I just called a couple guys I used to work with down at the hardware store to jog my memory. It was actually 8' long rods I pounded in, not 6'. (5/8" copper) If I understand what you're saying it sounds like it will be proper for me not to ground the meter socket outside, but to bring it inside first as I previously described. I'll look into a grounding block. I wonder if there's a way to bring it right to the ground bar inside the service panel as I did previously with the Square D breaker. Or is this unsafe for some reason?

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Edit: Phone lines, internet, cable, also grounded.
 
  #71  
Old 12-18-14, 03:37 PM
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Your main GEC always goes to the ground or ground/neutral bar. The ground block is just for other things and goes outside of the panel. If your panel is the first panel (what the sparkies call first OCPD - Over Current Protection Device) You have a ground/neutral bar which is bonded to the panel (in subpanels, current code, it's isolated).
 
  #72  
Old 12-19-14, 07:58 AM
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It's starting to feel like a poltergeist lives here and I still haven't gotten a call back or a quote. I am revising my plans as new problems arise.

Because the service panel is upside down and I might get sited for that, I have now decided that I will get a shutoff on the outside as a built in feature to the service meter.

Here's my power co's requirements:

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From my local Lowes store this really seems to be the only one that fits the bill:
Shop GE 200-Amp Ringless Single Phase (120/240) Meter Socket at Lowes.com

I'm not sure I understand all the technical language, so if anyone sees anything wrong with this choice, please let me know. I could also shop at a Home Depot store near me but they tend not to have as good of a selection. In particular, I couldn't match up the specs for 5).

Edit: Would having a shut off outside change my grounding requirements as well or can I still bring everything inside first then send it out from the grounding block?
 

Last edited by petethebuilder; 12-19-14 at 08:16 AM.
  #73  
Old 12-19-14, 09:09 AM
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I know I'll be using 3 conductors rated for 200A. From what I can tell, SER is 4 conductors. SEU is 3 conductors, with the neutral forming the casing as well. Because I don't need four conductors, I guess this means my choice is SEU, correct? I plan to use aluminum which would be:

4/0-4/0-4/0 Aluminum SEU
Shop 4/0-4/0-4/0 Aluminum SEU Service Entrance Cable (By-the-Foot) at Lowes.com

My local Home Depot has this:
4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum SEU Wire
Southwire 4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum SEU Wire (By-the-Foot)-13097199 - The Home Depot

If I understand, the 2/0 (neutral) is a lighter gauge but still acceptable for 200A. I don't care about the cost difference, but this might make the cable smaller and easier to work with. On the other hand would a heavier gauge neutral be cheap insurance for (distant) future "loose neutral" problems? 2/0 or 4/0 for neutral?

Conduit

I've really gone back n forth on this, and have spent a couple hours re-reading the thread, looking up and learning the terms, checking awg charts, shopping online, etc. In the end I simply do not think I am going to be able to find THHN in 4/0, let alone TWHN in a timely fashion. Of course I want to buy by the foot. What I do find is likely to come only in black which (I guess) means I'll have to mark it like you'd do for a switched hot. Also, because my service panel is an open question, running conduit inside would require a lot of turns no matter where I came through the wall and if I do have to change things on the fly SEU will be much more forgiving. Likewise, I'm still nervous about that exposed service line so I'd probably want to do all my mast conduit work after the power was off for fear of being short or long somewhere.

This is about all I could find at home depot:
Southwire 4/0 Aluminum USE Wire (By-the-Foot)-27287290 - The Home Depot

I don't know what "USE" means or if it's up to code or if it's a problem fitting it in conduit, etc. This stuff is all second nature to you guys but I have to look up the terms, learn new acronyms, make sure it's okay for the conduit, the NEC, the power co, etc. With SEU, I'm pretty much good to go. I haven't even gotten to what size conduit to use, how I'll make last minute cuts with no power, making sure I have the right glue, primer, making sure it's not too cold outside when I apply it, etc. I know it's not rocket science, but getting my ducks in a row and then trying to do everything in a window of time where inspectors and the Power Co are expecting me to be done by a certain time... it's all a bit overwhelming. Even if you guys were patient enough to walk me through all my pesky questions, it would probably take another two days on this thread. I think it's probably best for me to stay with SEU.
 

Last edited by petethebuilder; 12-19-14 at 09:27 AM.
  #74  
Old 12-19-14, 09:34 AM
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Yes, finding TWHN will be a problem since the proper designation is THWN. That stands for Thermoplastic-High temperature-Waterproof-Nylon overjacket insulation.

That meter/main should be fine. You will need to use the accessory waterproof hub on top and perhaps Meyers watertight glands if you use cable.

Individual wire larger than #6 is rarely available in any color but black. Code approves using colored plastic tape to differentiate conductors.
 
  #75  
Old 12-19-14, 09:39 AM
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Yes, finding TWHN will be a problem since the proper designation is THWN
First "frud", now "TWHN". I must be a little dyslexic. However, I actually have searched for "THWN" and am having the same trouble.

I'm searching for the meter socket fittings now as well as weather head that will fit SEU, which might actually be called a cap or clamp.. still working that out...
 
  #76  
Old 12-19-14, 10:04 AM
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Most THHN is dual rated as THHN/THWN so it really shouldn't be a problem finding it. You MIGHT have trouble finding it listed as such on an Internet search engine.

I know almost nothing about Service Entrance cable in any of its variations so I can't offer any help in that area.
 
  #77  
Old 12-19-14, 10:10 AM
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Furd,

I certainly appreciate the help you were able to give. I'll hit you with these follow up questions anyway. Maybe someone else can take a stab and of course I'll see what lines up when I'm actually in the store.

I think this is the "hub" you referred to.
GE 2 in. Rain-tight Hub-TC200P - The Home Depot

Maybe pair it with something like:
Halex 2 in. Service Entrance (SE) Water-Tight Connector-10520 - The Home Depot

I'll need to check what fits the SEU cable for a tight seal. Should I do this for the bottom of the Meter Socket as well?
 
  #78  
Old 12-19-14, 10:27 AM
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I know I'll be using 3 conductors rated for 200A. From what I can tell, SER is 4 conductors. SEU is 3 conductors, with the neutral forming the casing as well. Because I don't need four conductors, I guess this means my choice is SEU, correct?
Using a meter socket with 200 amp main breaker incorporated in it is fine. The SEU cable is fine too between the weatherhead and the meter socket, but you must use 4 conductors between the 200 amp breaker and the subpanel, that would be SER cable.

I'm searching for the meter socket fittings now as well as weather head that will fit SEU
Shop Gampak NM/SE Connector at Lowes.com

Wherever you buy the metermain, they will have the appropriate brand specific 2" hub for the top of the meter socket. They will also have the proper weatherproof connector for the SEU cable to enter that hub at the top of the socket.

And I meant it. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to go around opening every junction box looking for loose wire nuts. I respect what you're saying Joe and there's good reason to express that view on a forum such as this. However, I've had three different electricians comment on it but express no concern. When I discovered my home wasn't grounding correctly that did concern me and I addressed it. Last year when I installed a floating floor, I made the decision to leave the asbestos tile in place. You do have to use some discernment.

That said, if you can explain to me why this is legitimately dangerous I will do the work. Heck maybe there's some electrical properties or perspective I hadn't considered.
I never suggested you search your home for looking for loose wirenuts. You are upgrading your service, the existing upside down panel is part of the service and should be installed correctly. Being upside down is a code violation, I don't have to explain the code. If you will go back and read what I suggested you'll see that I merely suggested having a discussion with the inspector. I could care less if the inspector allows the panel to remain upside down. I was looking out for your welfare in suggesting you have the discussion because if it does not pass inspection being upside down, you will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle when your power isn't reconnected.
 
  #79  
Old 12-19-14, 10:33 AM
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I'm also looking for some confirmation on my "weather head". I'm not sure if I should go 4/0-4/0-4/0 Alum or 4/0-4/0-2/0 Alum, but I think this is the right "weather head". Neutral must come out the bottom...

Halex 3#3/0-4/0 Service Entrance (SE) Cap-77803 - The Home Depot
 
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Old 12-19-14, 10:36 AM
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Joe... I need you! It's gonna take me prob 15 mins to type a proper reply... working on it now.. please check back.
 
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