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New electrical panel?
Old 10-29-2013, 09:37 PM   #1
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New electrical panel?

I am hoping someone has some experience in this area or can give me advice.

So my heater did not come on by itself this year and I know it is getting older (like me) and will need replacing soon, but the plumber came out and worked on it and said it is fine, it is the electrical connection not working.

So then I got an electrician out and he said the wires are basically just not connected to anything, or they wore out this year though they had been connected somewhere for all of these 18 years I have been living in this house. So my options were going to be - he can wrap a cord around the house and connect it to my electrical panel in the ac switch for $600.00, and that would not be entirely legal, or I could get a new electrical panel upgraded to like 200 amps, because 200 would not be significantly more than any smaller upgrade - I am currently at 70, and I am looking at probably getting a combo heater/refrig air in the future since I can not have a heating unit outside unless it is a combo.

He has told me he thought it would be between $2,500 - $3,000. He had the electric company out today while I was at work and they told him, that he would need to move my meter from the back of the house to the side of the house and I guess put the electric panel there also. They want the meter at the side of the house to make it easier for meter readers. Now that will take more money - there is the cost of the wire (which I said electrical wire is not gold - and i doubt he will use copper) and of course all of that labor and now he cannot get me an estimate until next week.

OH and the transformer in my yard (the pole feeds the four houses) is old, and good news they will get me a new free transformer for my a/c.

I kind of feel like maybe I have sucker stamped on my forehead. And of course I am being held hostage. I don't have a working heater..

Does anyone know about this sort of thing. I mean it sounds like the electric meter being moved could be expensive, etc.I will try and call the electric company tomorrow, but I have never even had much luck with the customer service speaking to me about the bill, I am not sure they will talk to me.

Do you think the electric company would hold me hostage like that? Someone is.
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Old 10-29-2013, 09:53 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ohfrugalone View Post
Do you think the electric company would hold me hostage like that? Someone is.
I am kind of in the dark about your exact situation, but it sounds like they have made code changes, and since you intend to make basic changes to your installation, you must conform to code.

Overall,. I have always found electric utilities to be trustworthy, and money spent on up to date, safe installations money well spent.

Ha
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:04 PM   #3
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It all sounds reasonable to me. But if you don't really need the new panel, I'd stay on track and just rewire the furnace. Hopefully in some legal way, possibly with a conduit. On the other hand, your furnace electrical circuit just disappeared, so some new wiring all around might be wise.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:11 PM   #4
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Let me see if I understand. There were originally 3 options as follows, but it appears that you only have the last one available now.

1) Run a new line for the heater: $600.
2) Upgrade entire panel from 70A to 200A: $2,500 - $3000
3) Upgrade and relocate panel: Cost unknown

First of all, I do not understand why the original wire connection could not be repaired. Perhaps it was not up to code? If possible to repair, that should be the lowest cost, particularly as it has worked for you for many years. I would ask what was exactly wrong with the existing wires.

Secondly, if one runs a new line, inside a proper conduit and not a cord around the house, it does not look good but other than for appearance, I do not see why that would not be up to code. That's done all the time. I do not know how long a run you need, but I guess $600 is not too out of line.

Thirdly, upgrading the panel from 70A to 200A should not cost $2,500 to $3000. But then, I do not know about your specific installation to know if there is not some complication there. Still, it seems excessive as all the existing wires are used and simply connected up to the new panel, and no major rewiring is needed. The new panel higher capacity is for the new A/C, whose wiring is not installed nor included yet, right?

Fourthly, to relocate the panel IS a really big deal, because much of the house wiring will have to be relocated along with it. Again, the cost depends on the exact situation, and I do not know what it could run up to.

PS. I am not an electrician, and do not know about the legality and the electrical codes that must be conformed to. I was only thinking in terms of the work that needed to be done to restore service to where it was before.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:14 PM   #5
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Do you have any idea how old the existing panel really is. 70 amp service sounds like a really old installation, I believe 100 has been a minimum for at least 30 years if not longer. Also do you have fuses or breakers? You would likley get GFI breakers installed on circuits in the kitchen and bathrooms as well.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:23 PM   #6
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Well he says the electric company wants him to move the meter too, but he can't use the same space, which I don't understand why for the electric panel. Outside is preferable to inside?

They don't want the meter in the back yard because if I put up a good fence, then they couldn't get to it to read it.

I feel like my situation was an electrical panel and now it is an electrical panel and electric meter, like I gave in so fast to the electric panel that he wants to push and see just how big the job could be.

I guess I do feel like the estimates I get from repairmen would be much less if I were a man.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:32 PM   #7
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The house was built in 1960, by a very reputable builder in the area back in the day so these house are supposed to be quality, and most repairmen will say that is the case. The electrician has worked here for years but has never heard of the builder. He says the panel, which has breakers is not the original. And was not done properly anyway?

There were only two owners of this house prior to me. So it's not like it was fooled with by a multitude of people.

I did a kitchen redo (not truly a remodel) and had the outlets changed to Gfi, but have not updated the bathrooms.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:36 PM   #8
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I guess I do feel like the estimates I get from repairmen would be much less if I were a man.
Look at it this way-if your wires are disappearing, one night you could disappear in a fire. Electricity is not to be toyed with. You can always have another guy look at it. Or find a female electrician.

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Old 10-29-2013, 10:40 PM   #9
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Relocating the meter is a big deal.

First, all new panels I have seen have the meter as part of them. The connection between the meter and the panel's circuit breaker banks is by big internal bus bars to handle the 200A. One does not run wires between the meter and the panel; they are integral together, or rather the meter is installed onto the panel.

Then, the panel is where all the house wiring converges. So, all the existing wires will have to be run to the new panel location. It may require rewiring most of the house.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:02 PM   #10
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I would get another electrician out and ask for troubleshooting and repair of the furnace circuit. That is solving the problem you have; there was enough panel capacity to run what you currently have, and the 200 amp upgrade i think is what is triggering the requirement to move the meter. If you simply repair, I don't think the utility will make you do that.

If you want more electrical capacity, that is different. I would get several bids before doing major work of any kind.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:06 PM   #11
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Option A should not even be an option if it's not code. IF It's not code then it will eventually be discovered and you will be forced to rip it out and do it over the right way. You won't have any recourse if its against code. Always get THREE quotes from reputable LICENSED and bonded electricians for that kind of work and choose the one you feel most understands the scope of work for the costs they quoted you and guarantees their work. Use Angie's list if you have it locally or know someone who does.

I personally would want a 200 amp service upgrade if I was planning future expansion requiring more breaker space, but in your case that might be overkill. Another reason to get multiple quotes.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:11 PM   #12
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I'd suggest getting 3 written bids as a minimum, specifying exactly what they are proposing to do. (Make sure they are pulling (and paying for) permits, btw.)
That should make it much clearer to you what work is to be done. Assuming the bids are all for the same work, comparing the bid amounts should show you who is the outlier.

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Old 10-29-2013, 11:33 PM   #13
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I remodeled my (at the time) 55 year old house 3 years ago. Had the original panel, I think 150 Amp.

Electrical inspector required me to replace my electrical panel while doing minor work in another part of the house. Cost to replace my existing 150Amp panel with a 200 Amp was about $1,600. This wasn't some self-employed service guy, it was a small outfit (so they had a little overhead/etc. to include). Should only take an electrician a day or less to swap out the panel.

Your price will depend on union vs non-union, as well as your area's cost of living. Not to mention whether you get a reputable electrician or not.

If it's some single person working for themselves, I would expect it to be somewhere along the lines of my cost, pending other difficulties and regional COL adjustments.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:39 PM   #14
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Option A should not even be an option if it's not code. IF It's not code then it will eventually be discovered and you will be forced to rip it out and do it over the right way. You won't have any recourse if its against code. Always get THREE quotes from reputable LICENSED and bonded electricians for that kind of work and choose the one you feel most understands the scope of work for the costs they quoted you and guarantees their work. Use Angie's list if you have it locally or know someone who does.

I personally would want a 200 amp service upgrade if I was planning future expansion requiring more breaker space, but in your case that might be overkill. Another reason to get multiple quotes.
To boot if the job is not run to code, your homeowners insurance may choose not to pay if there is a fire:
Note that I just looked at Lowes web site and panels exist with and without meters. Howver running a new cable to the existing location will have to be large gauge wire and will be expensive, all be it likely less than
relocating (essentially redoing) all the wiring. However another question is are the plugs 2 or 3 prong. Dating back to 1960 they could well be 2 prong, and of course another question is do the wires have ground.
One other question is why does the electricial say pulling a new wire to replace the old one is not possible, running where the wire currently runs?
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:56 PM   #15
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Sounds like the electric co is being unreasonable in asking to move the meter. But I can see their point if you want to put up a fence and make it tougher to get to the meter. If the meter is moved and the the panel is moved to the same location, a lot of new wiring will be required to extend circuits to the new panel location. You may want to explore the code for max distance between panel and meter. I installed my panel close to my meter, but I'm not sure what the code limit is on separation between panel and meter. It would make sense ( and cost a lot less) to put the new panel in the same location as the old one. The 2500-3000 price for replacing the panel seems high. A 200 amp panel is around $200. There must be some code upgrade costs in there as well.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:02 AM   #16
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As others have mentioned, it might be something to do with code...

My mom's old house was just two wires..... no ground... one day during high winds the line leading to the house had the anchor bolt pulled out and the line was sparking... she was out of the country, so I called the utility... the guys in the truck came out and told me that if they turned off the electricity to the house they could not turn it back on unless it was code... which meant rewiring the whole house with a ground wire... I thanked them for letting me know and did not have them turn it off.... we got the wire fixed and it lasted another 15 years until she sold the house...

I would find out if there is a repair that can be done to the existing wire.... as you said, it was working for many years.... find out where the disconnect is located and fix....
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:14 AM   #17
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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
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:16 AM   #18
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the original heater was in the crawlspace and if I had that heater replaced I could do it much cheaper than a combo heater/refrig air unit. I was just afraid people would not want to work on it. The plumber I originally called did not want to go into the crawl space to look for the electrical.

I was trying a new plumber this year and last, my plumber closed up shop the previous year
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Old 10-30-2013, 05:22 AM   #19
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my neighbor just had his panel replaced with 200 amp at a cost of 1100. the contractor started out at around 1800. but then my neighbor told him he was going to check around and how about if he bought the panel and breakers himself and just had the electrician install it. I also don't know how a wire can just disappear. most of the time wires will deteriorate and break or short out and blow a breaker. If you have been getting by with this panel for this long and are not adding any major power draws, I would be looking for someone not so finicky about replacing the existing wire but up to code. electricians are salesmen also, so the more work the more money they generate. just because one person says it so doesn't make it that way. get multiple opinions, talk to your electric company. If I were you I might call the electrical inspector for the city where you live and as him to come over and check to see for alternatives. a lot of city inspectors work for free and are very helpful. plus they know the current codes and what is acceptable. the part I don't understand is that if an appliance has been working with a certain size wire why it will no longer work with that size wire if installed according to code. a.e.. in conduit or whatever.
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Old 10-30-2013, 08:40 AM   #20
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ohfrugalone...
Sorry for the problems and can understand the frustration.

What I can't understand is the part about disappearing wires, and the "wire around the house" sounds like a claustrophobic caused solution. Like you, I am suspicious of the expensive solutions, as a means to disengage from a job that no one is really excited about.

I have similar situation with the crawl space (not electrical, but support pillars) and the guys I asked to estimate the cost, came up with estimates that were beyond outrageous, simply because they didn't want to do work under the house.

My problem is not serious, so am going to wait until spring, and look for a good handyman who will be willing to work at a reasonable rate.

My first thought for your situation was what frank mentioned about getting a city inspector, or someone who doesn't have a vested interest to give a complete and thorough explanation about exactly what the problem is, and why, if it had worked before, it could not be repaired.

When you get estimates of two or three thousand dollars, you have to ask how many hours of work at what rate? After we get beyond a certain age, we become targets for those who realize that we don't have the knowledge, the energy, or the patience to put up a good fight... Not everyone, but greed has a way of excusing conscience.

Good luck in having a satisfactory outcome.
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