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Questions about installing a new breaker panel and some outlets

Questions about installing a new breaker panel and some outlets

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  #1  
Old 01-06-15, 07:23 PM
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Questions about installing a new breaker panel and some outlets

Hi All. We own a small suburban home that was built in the 1950s, and I would like to upgrade & expand the old electrical panel as well as install a few new outlets. I do not have much experience with electrical work or wiring, but I feel like I have enough DIY in me to at least get the 5-6 new outlets + the new wiring for the outlets done. (I will let a licensed electrician deal with the hot / dangerous stuff.)

I basically just want to transfer the home's existing electrical circuits over, as is, to the new panel & breakers, and then add any new outlets on to the new panel as new circuits (2-3 new outlets per new circuit or per new breaker).

My electricity provider has informed me that the service coming to my home is a thick gauge aluminum capable of over 200A service, and so I figure why not 200A right? My plan is to find a good deal on a quality 200A panel + breakers, run the wiring for my new outlets and install those myself, and then have an electrician come install the panel and connect everything (new outlets / circuits will remain cold until new panel is installed). I have a friend or two who are licensed, so I could find someone willing to skirt around any minor red tape if I have to.

What I am needing help with is understanding how to wire a 3 or 4 branch cable from the single breaker connection at the panel to the 3 or 4 outlets that will be on that circuit. What sort of wire / gauge / etc will I be needing (does this depend on the circuit's capacity and length?)? And how do I branch the multiple outlet cables to the single breaker?

Any help or protips are appreciated... thanks!
 
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Old 01-06-15, 07:47 PM
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General purpose receptacles are either on a 15 or 20 amp circuit wired with #14 or #12 wire.

Wiring can be run ABCD or in a star pattern from a junction box. Picking up a copy of Wiring Simplified should give you an idea of basic wiring concepts.
 
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Old 01-06-15, 10:25 PM
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Thanks pcboss. I ordered a copy of that book, should be here in a few days.

In the meantime, any online resources for me to peruse regarding the ABCD vs Star vs Whatever wiring I might be doing? Google search doesn't turn up anything when I search those terms.

To elaborate, the new wiring for the new outlets will be run through the attic, tucked away or shielded so that it is never a danger. My plan is to install three new 20A circuits, with 2-3 outlets on each circuit, on the new breakers that will be available when the new panel is installed. Old circuits will just be transferred over to the new panel / breakers.

Thanks again.
 
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Old 01-07-15, 03:48 AM
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y plan is to install three new 20A circuits, with 2-3 outlets on each circuit
Do you have a reason for this few receptacles on the circuit? Are there unusually heavy loads associated with this installation? Unless you are dedicating these circuits for specific loads, you have a little overkill and may can save some time and money by using a single circuit for several receptacles. Remember in normal use, not all receptacles do not have loads on them, and those loads in, say, living areas are relatively low.
 
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Old 01-08-15, 06:18 PM
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Hi chandler, thanks for your input. Two out of three of these new circuits will each have a plug on them that will be designated for a window-mounted AC unit, and I would like the rest of the plugs on these two circuits to have plenty of capacity (as I would prefer to put any heavy load appliance I might use on those new plugs with the new wiring). As for the third circuit, that will go in the garage so I would like as much capacity as I can get.

All input is much appreciated, thanks and keep it coming still waiting on my copy of Wiring Simplified to arrive from Amazon...
 

Last edited by the_damn; 01-08-15 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 01-08-15, 08:45 PM
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Two out of three of these new circuits will each have a plug on them that will be designated for a window-mounted AC unit, and I would like the rest of the plugs on these two circuits to have plenty of capacity (as I would prefer to put any heavy load appliance I might use on those new plugs with the new wiring).
Plugs are a male device and have two or more brass blades or prongs and are inserted into a female receptacle. The term you are looking for is receptacle, not plug.
 
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Old 01-08-15, 09:58 PM
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Yea sorry for the improper nomenclature. As I mentioned I do not have much experience with electrical work or wiring; I am just trying to save some money by getting some work done myself on this electrical project. If I wanted to mince words with you, I would say most laymen refer to this 'receptacle' as an 'outlet' instead of a 'plug', and if you were to call it a 'receptacle' around my house you would get funny looks... but I do not want to do that

Thanks for the input, CasualJoe. I will hereon refer to this power cavity as a receptacle! All input is appreciated, thanks guys.
 
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Old 01-08-15, 10:14 PM
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If I wanted to mince words with you, I would say most laymen refer to this 'receptacle' as an 'outlet'
Outlet in the National Electric Code is defined as anywhere power can be accessed so lights and receptacles are both outlets. Some would argue a switch box with a neutral is also an outlet (and I've been known to argue a junction box a fixed in place appliance is hard wired to is an outlet) so we don't use the term outlet for receptacle though it is commonly use by posters to refer to a receptacle.

But the important thing is a willingness to learn. You might want to look for the book Wiring Simplified available on line at places like Amazon and in the electrical aisle of some home stores.
 
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Old 01-09-15, 05:16 PM
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Well ray2047, thank you for the input. I definitely have a willingness to learn, and if you look below you will see that somebody beat you to the punch of recommending Wiring Simplified. And, in fact, it just arrived in the mail today! I am behind on my reading, but I will definitely be giving it a look soon...

Thanks again for all of the input, guys. I will read my book and check back soon. Any further help or advice with the project is always appreciated!
 
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Old 01-09-15, 05:49 PM
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The ABCD is simply where one receptacle feeds the next one down the line. The star pattern is where individual lines are run from a common junction box and are end of run.

A combination of both methods could also be used. Whatever makes the most sense for the situation at hand.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-09-15 at 07:17 PM. Reason: couldn't > could
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Old 01-10-15, 07:28 AM
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The existing wiring in this house is ABCD (single breaker panel controls all circuits in the home, and each circuit has several plugs and/or several light switches on it). My goal is to replace the old panel with a new one, transfer the existing ABCD circuits over as-is, and then add three additional ABCD circuits (each circuit carrying three new receptacles to a 20A breaker).

My current question is, how are these ABCD circuits 'daisy chained' so to speak? Is there a continuous wire beginning at the panel and ending at the last receptacle, with the receptacles in between branched off (spliced) using some sort of connector and a branch wire? I guess I think I understand the conceptual aspects of it, but require some searchable terms and maybe some visuals/images for what I am going for here.

I am also wondering about what sort of overcurrent protection (new vocab!) I should transfer the existing circuits over to (i.e. breaker rating). I am pretty sure all of the current breakers are 10A, and if so that is what I should transfer them over to yea?

Also, someone please tell me if I am understanding this whole ampacity, voltage drop, and distance thing correctly. Two out of three of my new 20A circuits will be within 35ft at their farthest point (receptacle) from the panel, so I should go with 12 AWG for those; And one of my new 20A circuits will be within 55ft at its farthest point from the panel, so I should go with 10 AWG for that one.... right? The latter circuit (10 AWG) would also be the one going to the garage, so if I understand the table on pg.185 of Wiring Simplified correctly I would be better off with the higher gauge there anyway.

As always, thanks a bunch!
 
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Old 01-10-15, 09:04 AM
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I am pretty sure all of the current breakers are 10A, and if so that is what I should transfer them over to yea?
No 10 amp breakers in the U.S. Was that a typo? Did you mean 15 amps?

Having a bit of trouble sorting your questions so some general answers.
  • Maximum size breaker for general purpose 120 volt receptacle is 20 amps.
  • A 15 amp breaker needs a minimum of #14 wire.
  • A 20 amp breaker needs a minimum of #12.
  • As rule of thumb wiring ran within a normal size house never requires up sizing due to distance.
  • Usually wire to detached buildings 100 feet or less from the house does not require up sizing due to distance.

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Last edited by ray2047; 01-10-15 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 01-10-15, 12:32 PM
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Thanks for the input ray2047, and especially the visual! I also found some youtube videos that are helping shine some light on this. And you say I should not need to worry about wire distance in my small home huh? Well that's a relief....

I guess I did mean 15A, but now that I look I see some say 20 and some say 30 on them. I've attached an image so you can see what I am talking about... but again I will be letting an electrician deal with all this crap.

I have mapped the circuits out in this place, and the two 30A on the left are both being used to protect a single circuit with two 240V receptacles on it. The remaining breakers, the three red 20s and the three blue 15s, are protecting various circuits around the house (e.g. bedroom1, bathroom1, etc.).

So I guess I should just have them port these over to similar breakers? The two 30s should go to a 30A 240V double-breaker (or whatever it is called), and the 20s to new 20A breakers and the 15s to new 15A breakers. And then my new 20A circuits will be added to new 20A breakers as well.

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Last edited by the_damn; 01-10-15 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 01-10-15, 02:07 PM
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Crap, a Zinsco. Your getting rid of the Zinsco panel, correct? That's only a 60 amp panel so not only the panel but the wire feeding it will have to be replaced and maybe the meter socket. Or do you have another panel somewhere.

http://inspectapedia.com/electric/Zinsco.htm
 
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Old 01-10-15, 04:08 PM
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Nope, no other panels. Yes, the plan is to get rid of this old thing. Thanks for the link... a bit hard to follow, but I gather that my long-held suspicions are correct and that this thing is a potential fire hazard.

So yes, this is a project that is up there on my list of priorities. I am hoping to run the new wiring for the new sockets myself (I often run data cable at work, and I figure it can't be much harder) and I will leave everything at the panel for the electrician to take care of. I am hoping this will not cost an arm and a leg, as I don't have many to spare!

I believe I have one of those newer 'smart meters' if that makes any difference...

EDIT: Is this project going to involve a lot of red tape? This panel box is located in the closet of a bedroom so I am wondering if, at the very least, any electrician is going to tell me he would have to move it to the garage. I have some friends / acquaintances who are electricians, so I could probably find someone to skirt some red tape on the panel if I need to.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 04:31 PM
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It will require permitting, for sure. It involves the government, so yes, red tape is standard. Unless the closet has 3' of clearance on both sides of the panel and 3' in front of the panel without obstruction, get ready for a relocation or remodel of the closet to a utility room. If your friends are true friends and good electricians, they won't let you avoid code worthiness, but they may help with the inspector.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 04:45 PM
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If the panel is on an outside wall the simplest is to put the new one outside on the other side of the wall and gut the Zinsco to use as a junction box for extending the old cables to the new panel.
I believe I have one of those newer 'smart meters' if that makes any difference.
It doesn't. It is the meter socket not the meter that may need to be replaced.
I am hoping this will not cost an arm and a leg,
Rough guess 1500+ if he can just put the new panel on the outside wall as I suggested otherwise too many factors to really even guess if it must go somewhere else.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 06:57 PM
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If the panel is on an outside wall the simplest is to put the new one outside on the other side of the wall
Wait, do you mean put the breaker panel on the outside of the house? Its current location is an 'outside wall', in that on the other side is the great outdoors, if that is what you mean. I did not know that you could put a breaker panel on the outside of a house though...

Damn, $1500 huh? More than I wanted to spend for sure. It needs to be done though, but that would take me longer to get together obviously!
 
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Old 01-10-15, 07:21 PM
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Wait, do you mean put the breaker panel on the outside of the house?
Yes, but that will require a NEMA 3R raintight panel. If you have a good close by location indoors a NEMA 1 panel can be used. I doubt you would want the main panel on a bedroom wall, but that would be acceptable. With proper clearances the panel could remain in the closet, but you'd have to give up on using the closet for storage.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 07:44 PM
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You are in Texas and I am in Texas and I can say without a doubt that outside boxes are more common than inside boxes (at least in my area of Texas).Maybe the box would cost a bit more but the reduced labor cost for doing it that way would more then makeup for the slightly extra cost.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 08:19 PM
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Does this vary by region? Up here in the north our inspectors won't let us wire outlets like this:



They insist that we 'pigtail' the outlets... not sure why, but they do, like the two I've modified...:

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Don't want to hijack, just curious if this is not 'universal'.
 
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Old 01-10-15, 09:13 PM
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Your way Trooper is best practice for non multiwire circuits and required for multiwire circuits. Mine is minimum permitted by NEC and is the most common method AFAIK. Requiring pigtails must be a local thing. Wait for the pros though.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-11-15 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 01-11-15, 04:51 AM
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Back, last century, when I was taking my Residential and Commercial courses, our instructor insisted we pigtail all neutrals in a circuit. He said there was no NEC regulation covering it, but it was best practice. Many of the problems we solve here on the forums with dropped neutrals mid stream could be eliminated if the original wiring included pigtailed neutrals. If one comes loose from a particular receptacle, it won't affect any others up or down stream, only that one receptacle, eliminating the hunt and seek options.
 
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Old 01-11-15, 08:46 AM
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Thanks All, for your contributions to the thread.

Ray, I am in a suburb of Dallas County, are you in a more rural area perhaps? Panels are on the inside of houses around these parts, IME, but then again I do not have a whole lot of experience. Honestly, I do not care where the damn panel ends up... just whatever gets this project done for as little cost as possible. I know we aren't talking chump change here, but less than a grand would be ideal (I realize that may not be possible, though).

Thanks to all of you & your input here, I think I am capable of getting my part of this job done here (wiring the new outlets). I believe I have reached the point where I just need to get started, and any further questions I have regarding that process will come from obstacles I encounter during the install. However, the other stuff we have discussed here has made me question the feasibility of this whole project, given the uncertain costs. I have an electrician coming by tomorrow morning, ostensibly to look at installing a ceiling fan but I have been planning on chewing his ear off about this more importantly. I will see what he has to say about all of the things we have discussed here.

Again, I appreciate all of your inputs, as they have all helped me get a better understanding of my planned project. I will be looking into all of this, perusing my new wiring book, and will report back when I have an update or some more questions for you fine folks. Thanks!
 
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Old 01-11-15, 09:30 AM
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No, not rural. In Houston where only master electricians are allowed to touch the panel. In Houston where the city actually checks the Greensheet for persons advertising who are not masters and sends letters to them. Of course county is pretty much still the old west.
 
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Old 01-12-15, 07:59 PM
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Just an update, here is the $5,000 estimate I got from the electrician today. He said he did me a favor and left off the $1,000 panel 'relocation fee' since putting it right out side is not much of a relocation. Still... yikes. He did not itemize the bill, but my guess is that this is a fairly accurate estimate for a professional job given my situation / circumstance / location?

I guess my hope at this point is that I can find some way to cut costs on this project... Not about to put $5k into this place. This project is also not super high on my list of priorities, although it is pretty up there given that it is a potential fire hazard at my place of residence.

Overall the electrician seemed like a decent and competent person... actually a fairly cool guy. He diagnosed my ceiling fan problem quickly (loose, non-structural beam holding the outlet box needs support) and even offered to come help me out with it if I called his cell#.

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Old 01-12-15, 08:17 PM
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Do they issue homeowner permits where you are (they don't here)? If so this is a doable DIY project. We can help walk you through it. If your interested first question: Do you have an overhead drop from the power company (that's easier)? Can you post a picture of the outside wall around the meter, move back far enough to show the roof.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 07:20 AM
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Get some other estimates. Unless there is something crazy going on with the exterior of this home that estimate is far too high for the work listed.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 08:52 AM
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He said he did me a favor and left off the $1,000 panel 'relocation fee' since putting it right out side is not much of a relocation.
Sounds as if the guy uses unit pricing which isn't a very competitive way of pricing any job, but it assures the contractor that he will make a profit, many times more profit than what is competitive. It's a take it or leave it way of pricing a job quickly.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 08:56 AM
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Here for a simple change out of panel here with no movement of the panel its $1500 to $2500 for a journeyman and helper working under a master's license.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-13-15 at 09:59 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 01-13-15, 09:08 AM
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I will have to look into the homeowner permits this week; I will check with the City. I will also look into getting another estimate, but that one cost me $60 so maybe not heh...

Ray, oh boy, sounds like quite the project. I have an 'electrician' friend who would come in handy for it big time (not licensed, probably wouldn't trust him to do the job on his own... but with pro guidance yes). (EDIT: I have actually had him look at it for me recently, but I am holding off on asking for further favors or work, or even just his opinions, until I figure everything out.)

Hopefully the images below are adequate, if not let me know. Thanks!

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Old 01-13-15, 09:13 AM
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I will also look into getting another estimate, but that one cost me $60 so maybe not heh...
Whoaaaa! Big mistake! There is no reason whatsoever to have to pay for a residential estimate! I'll bet he said he would deduct the $60 if he did the job too, right?
 
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Old 01-13-15, 09:21 AM
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Sorry but you got screwed on that one. It's a guy who makes a living writing absurd estimates at $60 a pop, knowing they won't be accepted and he won't have to do any real work. You definitely need some additional free estimates to get a realistic feel for the price of this job.

Based on your picture this is a really straightforward service job that would be well under $2k in my area.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 09:23 AM
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Hmm, well this business was found on Angie's List and had decent reviews. I inquired about a ceiling fan I am having trouble installing, and I said I had some other questions for an electrician as well (i.e. the stuff we are discussing here). I do not know if I made a mistake in making the appointment or what, but there was an agreed-upon fee for basically a tech visit.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 09:41 AM
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I do not know if I made a mistake in making the appointment or what, but there was an agreed-upon fee for basically a tech visit.
Ohhhh....you called for a service call? You never mentioned that before. If you called for a service call then, by all means, be prepared to pay for that call. What did the guy do on the service call, did he fix anything? An estimate is something you ask for when you call the contractor's office. You don't ask for a service truck (billable) to be sent out just because you want an estimate. BTW, few real contractors of any size allow their service electricians to do estimates, that is why they employ estimator/project managers. When you called their office, someone should have quizzed you enough to know that what you wanted was an estimate.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 10:32 AM
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Comments on your pictures. The SE cable coming in to your meter is beyond its life span and probably too small for a modern 100a-200a panel.

Here is how I would do it as a non pro DIYer. About one foot to the left of the existing meter socket I would install a new meter socket and mast (conduit running up the gable almost to the roof over hang). Below the meter socket I would surface mount a new breaker box. (Pros: Combo meter mains aren't usually used on single family residential in my area and I'm assuming same for his area.)

In the closet I'd open up about a one foot area of wall directly behind the new panel. (Assuming still within the closet a ready made access panel can be installed.)

All of this work is done with you Zinsco panel still live so you can take your time and do it right. Install breakers for your existing circuits into the new panel. Have a preliminary inspection if required by your AHJ. Next connect three or four foot pieces of Romex through the wall opening and let hang.

Time to transfer power. Call the power company and have them transfer power to the new meter. That done gut the Zinsco box and start connecting the existing wiring to the new panel by splicing the Romex you ran to the old Romex in the Zinsco box. Prioritize with things like lighting and refrigerator first so you can have them working while you do the rest.
 
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Old 01-13-15, 03:20 PM
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As far as the SE cable needing to be replaced, is that something the power company would handle perhaps when they come to transfer power, or would I need to do that part as well?

The box on the left of the meter goes to old Charter Cable stuff that is no longer in use here, so I would probably be removing that and putting the new meter socket there if possible. Also, the closet where the Zinsco is located is barely any deeper than the Zinsco itself, so if I go too far in any direction besides down I am going to be in a room somewhere (gf would not like that).

This is actually sounding very doable, especially given the fact that the job will be basically finished before I even have to touch my existing stuff. It would take me some time no doubt, as I am pretty busy with work and just life in general, but this is doable. I am wondering where I might encounter red tape or blockers here, besides your mention of a preliminary inspection...?

Thanks for all of the help and input, Ray and everyone!
 
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Old 01-13-15, 04:36 PM
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Not stealing Ray's thunder, but the meter base (s type, I believe) will need to be modernized and no, the POCO only connects at the weatherhead, so all the wiring from the weatherhead to the meterbase and beyond is yours. You will probably have two or three inspections at different stages. The inspector's office can clue you in on those. Have you given up on the exterior breaker panel as someone mentioned earlier?
 
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Old 01-13-15, 05:31 PM
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The SE cable as Larry wrote is yours not the power company's. I don't like SE and As I wrote would go back with a mast and weather head containing individual wires. As I wrote:
and mast (conduit running up the gable almost to the roof over hang)
Larry asked:
Have you given up on the exterior breaker panel as someone mentioned earlier?
I read it as that is what he wants to do.
Also, the closet where the Zinsco is located is barely any deeper than the Zinsco itself,
Step back and give us a whole picture of the closet. I don't understand what you mean by depth.

Here is how I imagined the Zinsco panel in your closet.

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Last edited by ray2047; 01-13-15 at 05:47 PM.
  #40  
Old 01-13-15, 07:16 PM
T
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All input is welcome and appreciated -- thanks chandler!

Ray we are on the same page here. Below is an image of the closet... and on second thought there is probably enough room there to the right. The actual problem is that closet shelf is in the way, but that can be moved temporarily (or removed if absolutely necessary).

And I guess I should start looking into purchasing some of the things I will need for this project?

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