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advise for upgrading my electrical panel.

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  • advise for upgrading my electrical panel.

    Well it's time.
    I'm out of room in my old, 1970's electrical panel next to the meter.
    I have no more room to add circuits, and I need to get my next machine. (Looking at the Tormach Slant pro, or a better small cnc lathe.)
    So I called a local big-name electrical company for an estimate.
    The quote to replace my old small panel with a new big one, get everything up to modern code, and have the local utility company bump me up to 200 Amp service is.....(drumroll).... $7650 !
    Holy smokes!!!
    Looks like that won't be happening anytime soon.
    Any other ideas? I need a new, larger panel installed and everything brought up to code.
    But I'm not exactly Rich Uncle Pennybags.

  • #2
    That is insane. Get more estimates. My electrician does 200A upgrades all the time and charges a bit under $2000.


    • #3
      If you are just replacing the panel and not rewiring the entire house, then $2000 to $4000 depending on your local sounds closer to reality. Up here, there is such a thing as a home owner's permit - You can do the work yourself for the home you live in. By the time you pay for materials and the permit it still is not cheap, but you at least not paying rates for a licensed professional. You might get away with $1200 to $1500, but I really have no idea what materials or permit costs are down there, so that's a WAG.
      "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979


      • #4
        What is your current service? 100a or less?

        Is your current panel recessed into the wall or is everything exposed, but just full?

        Are you comfortable adding a sub-panel yourself? If you can install a sub-panel breaker into your current panel and move a few circuits from your old panel into the new panel (To make room for the sub-panel breaker) then you can add another 50-100a sub-panel right next to your current panel and it won't cost more than $50-$100 for the new panel, some breakers, and the panel feed.


        • #5
          Ditto on the subpanel.

          Also, consider converting your dryer and/or stove to gas. This will give you an additional 30-70amps


          • #6
            Do you need 200 amp or just more breaker circuits. If 200 you might need a new meter base, feeders etc... What did the "quote" detail?


            • #7
              I agree with the above suggestions but the first question is, are you comfortable working with electricity? If you are I suggest that you find out if Texas and your local municipality will allow you to do the work if you are a home owner. Well assume your not a renter. Next is to figure out the size of the existing service via the existing equipment rating.

              If it is a small 60amp or maybe even a 100amp service that as Lakeside says a lot more will be involved. You can still do it some help can be had here but the best would be find another contractor or a electrician that is willing to do it under your home owner permit and then it is safe and he makes a little cash!

              Then the least expensive is to add a sub panel next to or in close vicinity to the original panel. The general plan has been lined out above. To make ready for the sub you will need to consider which 2 single circuits or 1 2pole circuit can be relocated into the sub panel. then you will use that space to start the addition. add the sub panel and the relocated circuit then add the new and your good to go

              Let us know if we can help and what you end up doing.

              Mr fixit for the family


              • #8
                It does seem rather high but its hard to tell what all the quote included. Bring everything up to code is really open ended.

                That said you can add a subpanel now and still keep it once you upgrade your main panel. My house had sub in the garage from the start when the house was built in 1973.
                Central Ohio, USA


                • #9
                  Texas law allows a homeowner to do his own electrical work if it is his legal residence. County and municipal laws may be more restrictive, however. And your power company may or may not be easy to work with.

                  I upgraded our service to all new 200 amp panel and breakers a few years ago (from a 125 amp panel full of Federal Pacific Stablok breakers) and had no problems. The power company came and pulled the shutoff at the pole and pulled the meter. I rewired everything from the meter base into the new breaker panel, they came back and inspected my work, replaced the meter and turned the power on at the transformer, and that was that. No permits were required in this unincorporated part of the county.

                  On the other hand, if you are not comfortable with and knowledgeable about this sort of thing, then leave it alone!

                  But $7650 is a rip. $2000.00 to maybe $3000.00 I can understand, depending on the scope of the work.


                  • #10
                    If you just need more space for circuits, you can get half-width or tandem breakers.
                    Location: North Central Texas


                    • #11
                      You might see if duplex, triplex, or quadruplex circuit breakers might be available for your existing panel:



                      Also consider if you really need 200 amp service. If you have (or can install) gas or oil fired appliances and heating, and you have efficient electrical appliances and LED/CFL lighting, it's doubtful that you would approach 220V * 100A = 22 kVA available with existing service.
                      Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                      USA Maryland 21030


                      • #12
                        I have to agree with the subpanel and questioning if you really need 200A. I just put a 100A subpanel in my shop and frankly, that is overkill. I can't use more than 1 machine at a time. Even if the bandsaw is cutting, the air compressor kicks on and I'm running the mill (or lathe) I'm under 40A. Multiple machines can be on the same circuit if they all plugin and the total useable (can you use three machines at once) load doesn't exceed the breaker.



                        • #13
                          Those dual breakers generally suck. Even the square D Q0 ones are kinda crummy by comparison to the real ones.

                          As for the $7650, odds are that included the new panel at manufacturer list price. The list price is often 10x what the contractor actually pays for it. Most panel makers put out list prices that are so far out of all reason that they would make your head spin. A panel that the contractor buys for $400 may list at $5500 with a basic set of breakers.

                          Try another contractor. Residential around here is a couple grand at most. And some of that is because the city requires 200A panels..... which really means not the current (they will never see that) but the number of slots. Putting a 200A panel in the house is not going to change the 25 kVA transformer that you share with 4 other neighbors.... and which could not put out 200A without serious voltage sag.
                          Last edited by J Tiers; 10-20-2017, 11:57 PM.
                          CNC machines only go through the motions


                          • #14
                            Here homeowners can do their own & if needed hire someone on the side for cash that does it for a living to help you as it will be inspected anyway. I use one size larger wire than called for & can run anything in the big shop & never dim a light. I have a 200 amp service in the house & a 100 amp with a main in the shop.


                            • #15
                              Paul's suggestion of using the double breakers has merit.

                              If your panel currently has 10 breakers you can usually increase it to 16, 18 or even 20 circuits, depending on what mix you have. There are limitations; The NEC specifies how crowded the panel can be. You are only allowed a certain percentage of wire to free space inside the box so the wires and breakers can cool down.

                              Keep in mind that your 100 amp panel may be less loaded than you think. Our home uses 5 amps in the middle of the night (my private server farm), an we use around 10 amps in a normal daytime (lights and TV). We use up to 50 amps when we are cooking on the electric range.

                              You'd think the garage shop would be a power hog, but it's not. My modern inverter based welder takes around 25 amps at 220v when it's blasting out 200 amps of power, but only a few amps when it's idle. My knee mill has a 2HP motor, so that's around 7 amps on 220 and the VFD uses almost nothing when idle. The only high draw machine that runs unattended is the compressor. It might kick on when I'm milling or using the lathe, and when it does it has an impressive start up current.

                              At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and left over parts.

                              Location: SF East Bay.