basic electrical panel intuition

I wonder if some kind soul could check my understanding of how to evaluate whether I need to "heavy up" my electrical service box.
I currently have a box identified as 160A, with thirty circuits.
The home inspector I used when I bought the place said "you're going to want to heavy up to 200A".
I'm not so sure.
The breaker for the kitchen appliances trips every so often, but that's likely because the entire basement is also on that circuit, and there's a dehumidifier down there. By chance, it occasionally kicks in when the microwave and toaster are on and overloads the circuit.
Since I have five unused circuits, I figure I can split the basement and the kitchen on to separate circuits, and add an extra kitchen appliance circuit for good measure, and one for the basement workshop tools.
The A/C circuit trips, too, but I believe that's because the A/C is dying.
The way I see it, and this is my question, as long as the load on no individual circuit exceeds it's rated amperage, and the load on all circuits collectively does not exceed 160A, which is the size of the box, I don't need to "heavy up".
Is that correct?
Thanks for any comments.
ccs>ikyr
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Not my intention to slam you
Unless your service was custom made there is no such thing as a 160 amp service.
Unless your adding a new electrical load(s) chances are you do not need a new service. What you do need is to fix the screw ups from the previous owner or you as the case may be. A load calculation would be required to know if you need a new service. If you just bought this place then it might be time to use the contract to get the previous owner to pay for the "not to code wiring". Which would need to be disclosed by law at least here it would.
As others said if you change the service and do not fix the circuitry then you have not fixed the problem.
Home infectors that use "heavy up" should be shown to the property line with a double barreled shotgun. Home infectors in general should be shown to the property line.
Call some licensed, insured and bonded pros and ask for bids to straighten out the mess.
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Well, the owner wrote "160A" on the service panel, or someone did. I imagine they meant 150. In fact, on closer inspection, it says "200 Amp Mains", but the 200 is scratched out and 160 is written above it. Don't know what to make of that.
Previous owner was a real piece of work. As I noted previously, the basement (excluding the washer/drier and furnace) is run off the kitchen circuit. What's more, because there's only one outlet in the basement, this clown had brown appliance wire extension cords running all over the basement, tacked to the underside of the floor joists, and plugged into the light sockets. I ripped that garbage out on the first day. Lucky for me, he didn't make many of these "improvements" or I would be lying awake at night wondering if the house would burn down by morning.
Yes, I intend to have a professional take a look around.
Thank you all for your guidance.
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I would be checking it out, ASAP. What does the main breaker say? ( on the handle there should be a number ) They might have added up the breakers inside the panel, ignorant mistake.

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

There's not a lot of difference between a 150A and a 200A service. If you have anything over 100A, it's probably plenty unless you have a *huge* house and have electric heating, electric water heater, and electric stove. I've neve seen a 160A service (is is fuses?) but there's not a lot to gain by going to 200A, and there probably would be a lot of expense.
It sounds like someone finished the basement after the house was wired and they just tapped into the kitchen circuit -- that's very bad. The kitchen should have 2 *dedicated* 20A circuits, although an older house might just have one. Nothing else should be on the kitchen circuit except perhaps a convenience outlet in the dining room. If you split the basement wiring from the kitchen circuit and put in a new breaker for the basement, I think it will solve all your problems. If you replace the 160A panel with a 200A but do not fix the kitchen wiring problem, it's not going to help.
There are other reasons to replace an electric panel, like maybe if it's an old Federal Pacific panel with StabLok breakers, or if you just ran out of spaces. But you wouldn't necessarily have to go with a 200A main breaker.
Best regards, Bob
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We don't have enough details to say if you really need a bigger service panel. Certainly, if you ever have ti replaced it's probably a good idea to do so, but not knowing exactly how big the current load is it's impossible to say over the internet.
Also, in my kitchen I have my microwave on it's own circuit, my dishwasher on it's own circuit, my toaster oven in it's own circuit, refrigerator on it's own circuit, and everything else on another circuit (oven is gas oven). You clearly need more going to the kitchen unless you don't have things like a dishwasher or microwave, etc.
I don't know what brand of panel OP has, but if he had a FP panel, his A/C wouldn't be tripping. They are famous for not tripping. D-oh.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Yes, but incomplete. Even if the load on all the individual circuits collectively DOES exceed the rating of the mains, you probably STILL do NOT need to use a heavier main -- because those circuits won't all be loaded to their maximum at the same time. You can probably find several that would *never* be used simultaneously at all -- for instance, an air conditioner and a furnace -- and others where simultaneous use is unlikely, such as outdoor receptacles and indoor lighting (you probably won't be doing much outdoor work after dark).
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Just get a separate circuit installed to the microwave and another to the basement.
If you have problems with the *main* breaker tripping, then that is when you would need to consider a larger service.
Of if replacing the main panel due to not enough breaker slots or whatever, then not much more expensive to go to 200 amps at that time.
Otherwise what you have now is probably good.
FYI - You probably have a main breaker. Look (carefully) for a number on the breaker (just like the individual breakers will say 15, 20, etc.) Also look at the number of breakers which are tied together for the main breaker - could be two breakers or four breakers. Post the info here.

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I'd question anything just hand written. Look for a manufacturers stamp and check the main breaker rating. I think you have a potential fire trap going - don't be alarmed, just be careful. If you DO have excessive amperage and a breaker fails, the wiring heats up until it something bad happens - lot's of older homes and trailers have gone up in flames because of faulty wiring. Your kitchen for example, by now days code would have two dedicated 20amp breakers just for appliance loads, etc. One for your refrigerator, one for your dishwasher for example, and then the general branch circuit that is limited by so many receptacles per breaker.
The only reason I might JUMP and replace the panel would be if the panel were outdated with obsolete breakers, etc. Otherwise, it sounds like the lion's share of your issues is not at the panel but rather, in the field (wiring within your house). Doesn't hurt to have an amprobe either. This would allow you to read the amperage of the individual branch circuits to determine if it's a load problem or a breaker problem (takes a lot of guess work out).
Finally, breakers USED to be guaranteed for only one trip. In other words, damage from a single trip could damage a breaker making it unreliable for future trips - all the more reason to purchase an ampprobe (AC amp meter) to help come to the right conclusions.
Best of luck... Make good decisions and it'll turn out...
Chris
On 25 Aug 2005 10:56:41 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Find your main breakers or fuses and see what they say on them. That's what tells you how many amps your service is. Like the other posters I haven't heard of 160A but there's lots I haven't heard of. 150A is now common but it's odd your electrician would recommend upgrading 150 to 200, and 30 circuits seems kind of low. I'm wondering if you have *sixty* amp service, which is the very common old level for homes that don't have electric heat. (The water heater, if electric, may be on an unmetered flat rate feed that bypasses the panel).
If you can't find your main breakers or fuses, have your electrician find them pronto. In this house I inherited an old 60A PushMatic panel with *no* main cutoff. My electrician only wanted to upgrade to 100 but I insisted on 200.
Chip C Toronto
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You ARE KIDDING

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