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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    4

    Default Newby service panel question.

    I've been researching this for hours and still have some questions. I just bought a house built in 1915. The service panel is a 100 AMP Square D QO load center. It has 20 spaces. I have three spaces left but have a microwave, a bathroom (2 lights, 1 bath fan, and a washer and dryer), and a dishwasher to install. So I'm wondering about how to get those things powered up and even if I have the juice available. I know there is some debate about whether 100 AMPS is sufficient. I have gas H2O, gas heat, gas stove, and a brand new Trane 4 ton heat pump. Then the normal lights throughout the house. There's only one outlet in each room and it will stay that way for a time being (we're not heavy electricity users). Here are what I consider to be my options: 1.) put three split breakers, giving me three extra spots; 2.) I can put in a 50amp breaker and create a little sub-panel. The best thing to do would be to put in a 200 AMP service but it's out of the budget until we do another home improvement loan. We were quoted $1500-$2000 for that. Any ideas? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Joshua

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,694

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    With so many "electrical consumers" in line, your best way to go is to upgrade to a 200 amp panel. Some of the appliances you mentioned require dedicated circuits, consult your building dept.
    If you don't have the juice, how are you going to run them all?

    Costly? yes.
    Safe? yes.
    Peace of mind? yes.

    Do it, it's worth it.

    Get more estimates, maybe you get lucky and get a less expensive bid. Promise the electrical contractor future work in upgrades to code later (adding outlets, replacing wires, etc). Around here you can get it done for $1,100 - $1,200.

    BTW, this type of work is heavily supervised by the power company, so a lower bid doesn't necessarily mean inferior workmenship.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,643

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    Your QO panel may not be able to accommodate "split" breakers.

    Look at the rail that the breakers clip to -- it's the rail under where the wires attach. If the rail has slots underneath it, the split breakers (aka "tandem") will work; if it is solid all the way to the back of the panel they will not work. You'll have to look thoroughly; it may be that only some of the breaker spaces will accommodate tandem breakers.

    Tandem breakers are not any less safe than regular breakers. The difference is that some panels have a maximum number of circuits that can be installed (known as "Class CTL" and usually limited to 40 circuits). Tandem breakers can usually only be installed in Class CTL panels. As a rule of thumb, any panel that has 40 spaces will not accommodate tandem breakers; a panel with 30 spaces may accommodate 10 tandem breakers, and a panel with 20 spaces may accommodate 20 tandem breakers (total 40 in each case).
    Last edited by Fencepost; 06-09-2011 at 09:42 PM.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    727

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    Joshua, whether you can add a subpanel to feed a few more circuits will probably depend on what kind of emergency heat your heat pump has. If you have 80A of emergency heat strips on a 100A panel you're locked in to a new 200A panel. If all your heat is gas, a 50A sub-panel(or more) seems possible and I do it all the time. You also mention a dryer..is it too late to go with a gas dryer?

    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, http://thesemi-retiredelectrician.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    Thanks for all of the replies guys. I would love to have the 200A service and I agree that it's the best way to go but I literally would have to sell my car to be able to afford it. Three split breakers I can handle at +-$60. Adding a sub-panel as well. To that end, I'm not sure what emergency heat my furnace has. I know it's a Trane 95afue and I believe it's either on a 30 or 50A (max) breaker. I thought I might be able to get by with one of those tow options as we don't have a bunch of high energy appliances being that they are all gas (except for the dryer). And we already have the washer and dryer so the gas dryer is out of the question. They are both energy star qualified if I'm not mistaken.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,825

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    I agree with Semi-retired electrician. Most homes use less than 100 amps even with an electric cloths dryer unless you have electric heat.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    So any advantage to doing either of those options? I'm guessing the tandem breakers would be the cheaper and quicker option.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    727

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    Joshua, you can get a 150A MLO w/ about 24 spaces(indoor main lug only), sub panel for about $75 at Home Depot or Lowes. If you feed it with a 70A two pole breaker ($60 ea.) via #4 copper romex/SE having black, red, white and green (or bare) you will have a better installation and more spaces than trying to cram tandem breakers into your existing panel. Then you can use full size 2 pole breakers ($10 ea.)or single pole breakers ($5 ea.) which are more reliable and cost less than 1/2 size or tandem breakers.

    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, http://thesemi-retiredelectrician.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    42

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    You might want to contact the power company and have them evaluate whether your incoming electrical service is large enough to handle the additional load . They might have to upgrage the transformer and service drop . The reason I'm asking is because you mentioned that the house was built in 1915 .
    You just want to make sure that the service kept up with all of the changes over the years . It probably did ,but it can't hurt to ask .

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,694

    Default Re: Newby service panel question.

    Here in my city, when upgrading the panel, a permit must be pulled. A power company rep comes to the property to approve the location of the intended new box and to see if a change in transformer is needed, before any work begins.

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