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Old 10-30-2013, 08:41 AM   #21
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I think my problem with the existing wire may be that it is in the crawlspace under the house, and perhaps no one wants to go under there? I am afraid each person I get will charge me. As this guy said, well I don't have to have anything done and he will just charge me 90 mins of lab. If I get 3 people at 90 mins for estimates, I am almost at 600 bucks
I don't know what area you are in, but most estimates are free in this game. Ask around of folks you know and get some reccs. of decent, not scared of crawlspace electricians.

Fwiw, panel replacement costs can vary depending on existing conditions, but some people are better thinkers than others and can innovate and save money for you.
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Old 10-30-2013, 09:05 AM   #22
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A few thoughts prefaced by the fact that I am not an electrician, but have done many construction projects.

First, wires don't just disappear so it makes me wonder if your electrician is trying to pull wool over your eyes. I wonder if the existing line can be extended or a new line run in conduit on the outside of the house or even underground to where it needs to be. You may need to talk with a couple other electricians who may have better ideas as to how to solve the problem. While working in crawlspaces is not fun, many are willing to do it, so shop around. In our area, such discussions and estimates are free as they are interested in getting the business.

Second, even if you need a new panel, they should be able to locate it where the old panel is to avoid having to rewire the entire house which would be hugely expensive and disruptive.

I'd leave the meter where it is unless the power company is willing to share in the cost of moving it. Around here, they don't even read meters anymore, all the meters are smart meters and report usage to the electric company electronically eliminating the need for meter readers. So what if you pay for the cost of moving the meter and a couple years from now they go to smart meters? Money down the drain.

But even if they do relocate the meter why do they need to relocate the panel? My service comes from the power company to the meter and then from the meter to the panel. In my case the panel is on the adjacent inside wall so the run from the meter to the panel is short and IIRC they prefer to have it as short as possible but I don't see why it couldn't be longer if need be though I'm sure there is some maximum length.
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Old 10-30-2013, 09:14 AM   #23
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A few thoughts prefaced by the fact that I am not an electrician, but have done many construction projects.

First, wires don't just disappear so it makes me wonder if your electrician is trying to pull wool over your eyes. I wonder if the existing line can be extended or a new line run in conduit on the outside of the house or even underground to where it needs to be. You may need to talk with a couple other electricians who may have better ideas as to how to solve the problem. While working in crawlspaces is not fun, many are willing to do it, so shop around. In our area, such discussions and estimates are free as they are interested in getting the business.
Yes. The question is why did it not work to start with. The wires "disappeared"... I don't think so. More likely one one broke or shorted. Should be a 30 minute fix.

Mothers AC did the same thing. The "Pros" wanted to sell a new AC unit. I found one of the control wires coming from the outside had corroded. The protective insulation had eroded away ( after 40 yrs ). I replaced the wire and it was fine.
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Old 10-30-2013, 10:12 AM   #24
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"But even if they do relocate the meter why do they need to relocate the panel?"

A lot of electrical work is simply rules-based [code] requirements. Good ideas still need to fit thru that maze even when seemingly obvious. The old panel may not have sufficient space in front of it, or be in a closet, etc, so precludes replacement in that exact spot. Nevertheless, most panel upgrades leave the old enclosure [with the breakers and bussing gutted] as a big jbox and place the new panel elsewhere. This is purely practical due to wire length, new service conduit size req'd, etc.

We aren't standing there looking at the existing case, and much more needs to be known to evaluate this particular case.

I agree with your call that the old circuit can be revived or the electrician smartened up. [likely with a different one]
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:33 AM   #25
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I agree with what you posted but if the OP doesn't ask the question then they'll never know the answer or what the real constraint is and what other alternative might be available. IIRC where I live the wire from the meter to the panel can't exceed a certain lenght and that woud be the constraint that would need to be addressed.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:44 PM   #26
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I agree with what you posted but if the OP doesn't ask the question then they'll never know the answer or what the real constraint is and what other alternative might be available. IIRC where I live the wire from the meter to the panel can't exceed a certain lenght and that woud be the constraint that would need to be addressed.

Do you know that length My panel is located on the back wall of my semi-detached garage.... so the wires in my bedroom have to go the length of the garage, the walkway between the garage and the house and then all the way across the house.... I think this is a pretty short run when it comes to an electrical run.... but, I bet the gauge of the wire makes a difference...
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:54 PM   #27
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I'm in favor of:
-- Getting more quotes from reputable sources.
-- Doing the minimum amount of work needed to get your heater working safely. That means finding out what happened to the supply circuit that has worked well for 40+ years. An electrician who won't go into a crawlspace needs to hire an apprentice who will, or get out of the business.
-- Keeping your panel and electrical meter where they are. As pb4uski notes, fewer and fewer utilities are manually reading meters at all anymore, they just take out your meter one day, replace it with one that has a transmitter inside, then drive by the houses with an interrogator to read the meters electronically. It makes little sense to move your meter at this point.
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Old 10-30-2013, 02:08 PM   #28
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Going from a 70 to 200 amp panel will also likely require a new larger feeder wire from the utility. In my neighborhood all the utilities are buried under ground so it's no small task. Not such a major effort but not necessarily cheap if coming overhead from a pole.
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Old 10-30-2013, 03:21 PM   #29
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If it were me, I'd crawl under there myself, and at the very least see the actual disconnect/problem. I have done electrical work, so I'm reasonably comfortable with do-it-yourself. If the wires are corroded at the connection to the heater, just snipping off the ends, restripping, and reconnecting might be all that's needed.

You mentioned a plumber? Is this hot water radiant heat, i.e. radiator? If so, is it a standalone unit, or part of a larger system? It may just be a low voltage thermostat circuit to control water flow, a relatively inexpensive and easy fix.

I'd want answers to these types of questions before proceeding, and as I said, I'd inspect it myself first.
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Old 10-30-2013, 03:25 PM   #30
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Do you know that length My panel is located on the back wall of my semi-detached garage.... so the wires in my bedroom have to go the length of the garage, the walkway between the garage and the house and then all the way across the house.... I think this is a pretty short run when it comes to an electrical run.... but, I bet the gauge of the wire makes a difference...
I'm just talking about the wire from the meter to the panel, not from the panel to elsewhere in the house. I dunno what the maximum length is or even if there is one, I just seem to recall when we were building and talking about where to put the panel that the electrician like having the panel closer to the meter rather than farther.
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Old 10-30-2013, 03:30 PM   #31
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To go from the meter to the panel, for 200A you will need 00 AWG wire (two-ought). The diameter of the copper conductor is 0.36" (not counting the insulation), and you will need the 3 wires to be in a conduit. It is a heavy inflexible bundle that needs a large conduit, and would be difficult to go around a corner.

PS. The above is for copper wire. With aluminum, one has to use 0000 AWG (four-ought). The diameter of the alum conductor is 0.46", again without counting the plastic insulator around it.
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Old 10-30-2013, 08:36 PM   #32
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Well thank you for all of the information.

I called the electric company and was not able to speak with Harry about his specific concerns and reasoning (I mean he is one man who covers the entire residential work for a city of half million, but he was so nice to ....take such an interest in my house...).

Anyway the woman I spoke with said that code now is for the meters to be in the front of the house, on new construction, or to the side in front of the gate, but lots and lots of people upgrade their panel and don't move the meter. She couldn't imagine why I would need to move the meter, unless it might be next to a gas meter (no it's not). Well I should be able to do an upgrade without moving the meter. She said there is nothing in my personal record stating that meter readers have had problems accessing my meter to read, which could be another reason to move it, but not in my case.

Currently the electric panel is in the garage with loads of space in front of it and to the sides. In fact I would think it was protected there, from the elements - the wind, the rain, etc, etc. But I can see where it would more time consuming to move it instead of using the same space,? That's a plus right? For the electrician.

So I have someone else coming tomorrow. His ad said free estimates, but it turns out that coming to my house is a troubleshooting event, not an estimate so he charges $98/hour,

The fact of the matter is, I can't be leaving work every other day for this, and I need it to be over. If the other guy would have just been satisfied with $2,500 for a new panel he would be starting the job tomorrow and be done on Friday - but you needing to move everything to the side of the house - well he needs to get the electric company's approval on what they like and how they want it done and when they want it done? What? I had said I wanted things done appropriate and according to code. Maybe that is not a good thing to say if you don't want the job to expand so large.

I rather think the electrician felt that if he put things off long enough I would get more and more desperate as the weather got worse and being frozen myself and worrying about my pipes being frozen I might agree to anything,

Anyway - he is gone - let's see what his bill is. I am just not a crawl under the house kind of gal, and I not very handy doing plumbing or electrical and in no way would trust myself to be able to make judgments even if I watched a lot to you tube videos. I just don't want to be cheated.
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:49 PM   #33
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I'm just talking about the wire from the meter to the panel, not from the panel to elsewhere in the house. I dunno what the maximum length is or even if there is one, I just seem to recall when we were building and talking about where to put the panel that the electrician like having the panel closer to the meter rather than farther.
I recall that NEC was working to a standard on that years ago. The issue was that service wiring from the meter box to the panel is unprotected, since it is upstream from the main breaker in the panel. The goal was to minimize unprotected wiring inside the structure. The only "protection" the service entrance wiring has is the fuse on the primary side of the transformer, and it is sized to handle full loads of all the customers on the secondary of that transformer, plus a big reserve so there is no nuisance blowing... really there to protect the transformer itself.
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:58 PM   #34
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To go from the meter to the panel, for 200A you will need 00 AWG wire (two-ought). The diameter of the copper conductor is 0.36" (not counting the insulation), and you will need the 3 wires to be in a conduit. It is a heavy inflexible bundle that needs a large conduit, and would be difficult to go around a corner.

PS. The above is for copper wire. With aluminum, one has to use 0000 AWG (four-ought). The diameter of the alum conductor is 0.46", again without counting the plastic insulator around it.
I used 000 copper for 200 amp service in the 80's, and AL would be 0000 as you mentioned. I used copper from the mast head, down to the meter box, and into the panel. I wouldn't touch AL for in-building wiring! Even the local electric utility inspectors said they'd use only copper for their houses. They were using AL for feeders and drops, but as they said... the worst it could do there is to burn through and drop to the ground. I don't think anyone would freely share that comment today, though it's still true.

To do a turn with wire of that size, it needs a 45 degree pull-elbow, and even then it's not all that easy. Three 000's fill a conduit fast!
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:10 AM   #35
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For a replacement of an existing breaker box today, would arc-fault breakers be required for at least certain circuits?

Arc-fault breakers, besides being $$, also require different handling of the neutral. The neutral (white) wire returning from the branch circuit, instead of going to the neutral bar along with all of the other branch neutrals, has to go to the arc-fault breaker instead. So the A-F breaker has the hot in from the panel bus, and the neutral in from the branch circuit. In addition, another wire is needed to go from the A-F breaker to the neutral bar (the A-F breaker senses the neutral besides the hot to look for the arc signature).

This has spawned a new design of panels, called Plug On Neutrals. They have an integral neutral bus under the breaker positions, so the third wire, neutral from A-F breaker back to neutral bar, is integral. So on the branch circuit side of the A-F breaker, there are just two connections: hot to branch, and neutral returning from the branch circuit.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:44 AM   #36
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Not a current electrician, just one back in the day (and that was a long time ago). Another suggestion to ponder is that if the cost issues are around the future needs for upgraded heating, and the need for a 200 AMP service at that time, along with or without a possible meter move, why not bring in the new service to the meter (on the side), set a 200 AMP service capable box (separate from the meter) near by, and then run secondary wiring from that box to your existing box. Thus you will have made your current box an auxiliary box with the feeders to it being protected by the main fuse from your new 200 AMP box. This moves the additional cost to the future when you need it. All of your current wiring stays the same. You still have to fix your current problem of the so-called missing wire, which others have already commented on, but it delays and should drastically reduce your additional cost needed just to accommodate the additional service needed. Of course it should be obvious that your new future heater will need the wires for it to be run to your new box and not your existing one, since your existing one is only good for 70 AMPs.
Not sure where you live, but this should pass code with no problem.
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Old 10-31-2013, 03:49 PM   #37
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Hello, I am off work for the new electrician. My new wonderful, honest electrician. My heater is fixed.

He didn't see any missing wire, but he pointed out the conduit or whatever that holds wires, and said - you just follow that under the house - and there are your wires. So he went under the house and came back up in about 20 mins, and said he plugged it in. The problem was that the heater wasn't plugged in.

How it became unplugged, I can't imagine. I had a plumber under there 2 years ago because he was giving me an estimate on new heater - but the heater worked fine last year. I don't think the plumber I got this year did it cause it was already not working, and he wouldn't go under the house. The heater usually comes on by itself when it gets cold and then I get the plumber out to do a cleaning after the rush dies down. This year it did not come on by itself.

So now I am thinking of making a list and getting things done with this guy every few months because it is kind of difficult for me to find someone like this.

I will ponder your idea whitestick, after I get some lights fixed and outlets checked. I am also further considering whether I will just not have a combo refrig air/heater unit. It will depend on a lot of things. First thing I want is a LED light over the garage - it will give me some front yard light and according to the bulbs at costco will last for like 36 years

Its the refrigerated air that would require the upgrade. I don't need refrigerated air.

Having this fixed is such a relief as is finding someone who does what they say they wll, when they say they will and doesn't have the idea that the stupid lady will give me every cent she has.
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Old 10-31-2013, 04:18 PM   #38
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Hello, I am off work for the new electrician. My new wonderful, honest electrician. My heater is fixed.

He didn't see any missing wire, but he pointed out the conduit or whatever that holds wires, and said - you just follow that under the house - and there are your wires. So he went under the house and came back up in about 20 mins, and said he plugged it in. The problem was that the heater wasn't plugged in.
Sounds like a "keeper". The plug in part sounds strange, most heating units have their own electrical run to the breaker panel. Portable space heaters plug in but not whole house heating unit.

Might be a critter in the crawl space. I've seen squirrels chew through electric wiring in attics.
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Old 10-31-2013, 04:19 PM   #39
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When repairing something, one must remember the simplest goal: restoring the operation to where it was before.
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Old 10-31-2013, 04:54 PM   #40
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When repairing something, one must remember the simplest goal: restoring the operation to where it was before.
Not necessarily. I once rewired an old farmhouse. Restoring what was there would have most likely resulted in a very big fire somewhere along the way.

Plenty autos have been "fixed" with a can of Bardahl in the crankcase, yet I would certainly strongly consider rings or even a re-bore before starting out for Maine.

And I sure have never heard of a furnace that somebody plugged in. I'm glad the homeowner is pleased, but I am not sure that I would have been. Judging by the size of her service, I guess this I just for the igniter that starts the gas flame, and maybe these are sometimes just plugged in.

Ha
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