Complex wiring question for triplex home (service panel interconnectivity)

BACKGROUND: 1910 Queen-Ann Victorian in Oil City, PA Currently has three 100A panels, one for each floor. I will add one more meter for the basement where I will put an apartment, but for the sake of this discussion it is not of primary importance.
OBJECTIVE: I want the FLEXIBILITY to switch from multi-family to single-family. I have already devised plans for gas and water. Now I want to do the same for electrical.
I have the permit(s). I can have the inspector onsite for $55. I wanted to have a tentative plan in place first.
I called to upgrade my service from 100A to 200A for 1st floor. But after calculating AMPS for the entire house I do not believe 200A is enough. The 1st floor/meter/load center is the one I would like to be able to use as the source for the ENTIRE house if/when I don't have tenants on 2nd and 3rd floor. or if the new owner wants to make it SINGLE FAMILY.
Yesterday I did a complete breakdown of my amperage requirements based on a formula in Taunton's Wiring a House.
Floor #1: 119A -General lighting 1920 sq. ft x 3 = 5760 -Kitchen 3000 -Disposal 900 -Stove 8000 -Dishwasher 1500 -Washer 1500 -Dryer 5000 -Hot Water Heater 4500 Total 30160-10000
AMPS Required 10000 (1st 10,000) 8064 40% of remainder (20160 X 40%) 10500 (heating based on 42' of baseboard heaters 42'x250) Grand Total: 28564/240V9A
Floor #2: 93A Floor #3: 92A This is approximated.
It seems a little high because I am migrating AWAY from gas to electric due to predicted/continual price of gas.
It seems to me I will be better upgrading my service (floor #1) to 300A or 400A. This will allow some room to grow and why do it TWICE?
I currently have 3 meters with a single SE cable coming from the transformer on the utility pole into a box that houses the 3 meters with the individual SE cables for each of the 3 100A service panels.
Should I upgrade my service to 400A for first floor to cover all current/future needs?
How do I interconnect them? I think I need switches inbetween the meter and service panels but cannot find out how to set this up.
Thanks, Frank
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There are different grounding requirements for a main panel -vs- a subpanel. So I don't know how you would get around that issue without a permanent re-wiring job.
Also there is a safety issue. Someone might think power was off to one of the panels when in fact it could be energized. Back-up generators have a similar problem, and panels are made for that specific use. Might want to look at some of those.
Check with your electric company about their being able to provide a 400 amp service.
I would ask your local inspector what you can and can't do. In my area, I can go in and ask the inspector questions before I do any work.
"MASTERCHIEF" wrote in message

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Panel require grounds and subpanels require a ground wire back to the panel. No big deal to disconnect the ground when changing them to subpanels.
Beyond that, the project is way over my head. Seems silly to approach it without bringing in an electrician who knows what he is doing.
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I never planned to do it all myself, but if I had a plan/diagram that was approved by the elec inspector I would certainly try. I am here for advice and brain-storming. Thanks for your input. Frank
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I may be wrong but I do not think any electrical codes permit switching of any kind in metering boxes, nor to I think your local utility would permit it. It is also unnecessary. To switch from three meters to one or one meter to three, it is just necessary to add/remove the meters and rewire the service entrance system accordingly. You will need the conduits and conductors to feed the 2nd and 3rd floor panels from either the meter box or the 1st floor panel. You can not feed out of the 1st floor panel back into the meter box to feed the other floors. Any competent electrician can arrange a system that will do what you propose and be approved by your utility but it will not be as simple to change back and forth as just throwing switches. Your utility has to be involved in switching from one meter to three meters or the reverse.
I cannot judge your load calculations but a 300 or 400 ampere service with the necessary facilities to do what you are asking is going to be expensive enough to consider just leaving the three meters as is. Don Young

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Don Young wrote:

I never planned any tinkering UPSTREAM of the meter, just DOWNSTEAM which is more or less my domain as long as it is code.

I think I can do it WITHOUT removing meters, just removing the SE cable which is in essense the same thing. Right?

No, but I want to use the new 400A (1st floor) service panel to feed the 2nd and 3rd floor. Noted in this message thread.

Yes, the technology is there, but the bureauacracy supercedes my plans.

I might...but you don't know if you don't research. Thanks for your ideas. Frank
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yes, get the biggest service size you can afford. you know you'll be sorry if you don't supersize it. whether it's the size of a water main i need for plumbing [my house has a new 1" line not the 3/4" one every plumber wanted to put in] or the service panel circuit breaker count [i love spare slots for the future] or the between-room wall insulation we install that isn't in the building code. see also http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/afci.html regarding arc fault breakers for that older home. also check requirements for a house meter for the landlord to provide common area lighting in a multiple dwelling. you may be looking at a four meter setup in that case. don't forget the monthly charge for each of these meters. don't forget wind, solar, and geo-thermal as you dream of connecting into the grid and the earth for future power changes.
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Frank wrote:

with the individual SE cables for each of the 3 100A service panels.

What you propose can be done but can get expensive. IMO, it's not a DIY project either. One approach would be to build a 300 or 400 amp service with two 200 amp main panels that would be supplied through one meter from the power company. The individual feeders to each floor could then be brought off the main service panels through circuit breakers and sub-metered with meters purchased by you. I strongly recommended that you involve your Power Co. Engineering Dept. and local electrical inspector before doing any work, since they may want it built their way, especially the grounding.
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Most of these suggestions don't sound even remotely legal, in my novice opinion. In a multi (three) family dwelling, the different families require separate meters, and those can't just be your jury rigged meter, they must be real utility company meters connected to the mains, I think. That rules out any sort of transfer switch at your disposal. Just imagine trying to sort out a mess when one tennant rearranges things so that their power is metered by the family downstairs, then no one can tell who used what. Mutli-family metering is covered pretty explicitly by code, IIRC. And no power company would let you put any kind of box or switch _before_ your meter, else you could easily steal electricity (duh!).
The only sensible suggestion here was to just place your three main panels and three meters in such a way as to make for easier physical access later to rewire them to have all three panels feed from a single meter. Maybe even put conduits and/or wiring between the two extra panels and the third meter (but don't actually connect any wires in such a manner), and maybe even install the necessary ground wires for the alternative setup (but don't connect them either). An electrician could rewire this in a few minutes for cheap, just disconnecting the extra meters and grounds.
Besides, are you willing to spend upwards of a few thousand dollars so that maybe one day you can avoid a few hundred dollars in electrician costs.
And lastly, 400A is downright obscene for a single family dwelling. Not just excessive, but obscene.
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If 400A is what you need to operate a multi-family it is reasonable. Most all new homes take a 200A for SINGLE family. Mine is THREE/MULTI-FAMILY.
I think this will be the easiest way to accomplish my goal:
1. Upgrade #1 to 400A 2. When I want to run #2 and / or #3 off the 400A panel I will shut off the utility (won't be on anyway if there is no tenant) and remove the SE cable from the panel. 3. I should then be able to wire it in such a manner to make it a subpanel of #1. I know code does not require a main breaker, but I could leave it in there I do believe. My feeder cable will come from the 400A panel and be wired to a 100A breaker.
This will require some work since I cannot leave an unused wire in place when I am not using it. The only big question. When I rewire floors #2 and #3 I will be running ONE CABLE from the basement to subpanels on the 2nd and 3rd floors. When I go to single-family it will mean my two main panels (#2 and #3) become subpanels of #1. This means I will have TWO SUBPANELS in that configuration and I do not know if that will meet code. Frank
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That sounds like a workable plan to me. That is installing the 400 amp panel now, then later making the other panels subpanels.
Just be sure you have plenty of breaker slots in your 400 amp panel. I have a 40 slot 200 amp panel for example.
So in the future, you could have the electric service disconnected and meter removed from one of the other panels. Then wire that panel into the 400 amp panel with an appropriate breaker.
Then on the subpanel, you would then need isolated grounds from the neutrals. This would just be adding a separate grounding bar most likely, ask the electrician about this. If the subpanel is an old congested panel, you might need to get a new panel.
Otherwise sounds like a good plan to me.
"MASTERCHIEF" wrote in message

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A 400 amp service for a house that is less than 2000 square feet sounds excessive. Instead of trying to install switches to go back and forth I suggest a submeter configuration. Install a new 200 amp service (Or 400 amp if you prefer) with one meter from the power company. Split that up into 3 or 4 submeter feeds to power your subpanels. You would have to purchase the submeters and bill your tenants for the power that they consumed each month. You would only pay one bill to the power company and if you decided to make the house one family again you would not have to make any changes to the service. You can do the same thing for gas and water also. The downside is that the submeters can be expensive to purchase. Call an electrical supply house for a price quote.
I suggest that you consult with an electrical contractor about this. You should also meet with a representative from the power company and tell him or her what you are trying to accomplish. They may already have a solution.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv
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I suspect that if he calls the power company, he'll find out that if it went single-family, they'd bill him in such a way that he'd pay the _same_ whether one meter or three.
In other words, "not changing anything" is also an option and may well have the desired outcome.
Power companies must be used to this sort of things, especially those in rural areas with large properties with outbuildings and separate meters.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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John Grabowski wrote:

Floor #1 1920 sq. ft Floor #2 1288 sq. ft Floor #3 966 sq. ft

WOW! Great idea and most cases it would work, but I am not about to put the entire house (electric) in my name. I want the tenants to be responsible and I do not want to get stuck with their bills. Collecting rent can be had enuf sometimes.
I LIKE THE IDEA THOUGH.
Frank

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Let me try again on this point: 400A for a single family is excessive. Very excessive. It is perfectly legal, and reasonable, to have (say) a 200A main panel, with a bunch of breakers feeding part of the house, and also feeding two 100A subpanels, each also with breakers feeding other parts of the house. Just because you are feeding two 100A subpanels does NOT mean that you need to have a 400A main panel.
In multi-family dwelling mode, 200A panel, 100A panel, and 100A panel on three separate meters should be fine. In single family mode, a 200A panel on a meter should be plenty, and it can just feed the two 100A subpanels. You would probably want to feed the 100A subpanels with a wire and a breaker rated for at least 60A, or maybe even 80A (if you are expecting some enormous power consumption on one particular floor). Really, 60A is a hell of a lot of power for an upstairs in a house. Even a big house.
So my point is: the 100A rating of the subpanel means _nothing_ when it is being used as a subpanel. The upstream 60A breaker (say) in the main panel will keep the subpanel from overloading, and it will effectively turn into a 60A subpanel. And you can still put a zillion amps worth of breakers in that 60A box if you like, just as you can feed a zillion subpanels of whatever capacity you like from your single 200A main panel. The numbers do not need to add up, and normally don't (I have a 100A service, and at least 150A worth of breakers in my main panel).
Of course, you have to make sure you can find a 200A panel with enough slots, and that can take two 60A or greater breakers in addition to the rest of the breakers in there.
-Kevin
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Then you may be shocked to learn that a lot of the new McMansions being built around her come with a 600A panel. Talk about excessive... Personally, I think that 100A per floor is more than enough, even with electrical baseboard heat.

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"jstp" wrote in message

Yes, there are some very large "single family homes". Some of these have elevators. I know of one which has an elevator for cars (limos) in the garage. Basically there is a large parking garage underground, yet above ground, it looks like your "typical" 5 car garage.
One such "single family home" has a "staff" of 60 people working there!
And the big shots who own these places are never there. They will be at their "summer home", or whatever...
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Not shocked at all. But it is still obscene and excessive.
Of course, there _are_ situations when a house might reasonably need a lot of power. Like if you ran a business out of your home (esp one that required power-hungry machines). But then, I would't call that a home, but more of a home/business. But if you are just running a huge shop for fun, I'd say that is excessive too. Not that anyone does or should care what I think...
-Kevin
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Tom Horne
Well we aren't no thin blue heroes and yet we aren't no blackguards to. We're just working men and woman most remarkable like you.kevin wrote:

Kevin 400 amps is only excessive if you don't need that much power. I have done heavy ups to 400 amperes when the calculation of the present or future loads warranted it. A blanket statement that 400 amps is excessive for all single family homes does not withstand knowledgeable scrutiny. -- Tom Horne
"This alternating current stuff is just a fad. It is much too dangerous for general use." Thomas Alva Edison
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