We have an old Victorian home built in about 1870 with 100A service.
We are looking to upgrade to 200A.
Our electrician quoted a price of $2800 (14 hours of labor for
electrician plus assistant at $110/hour plus about $1200 in parts).
- Does the 14 hours of time for master electrician plus assistant
sound right for this job? (includes maybe 2 hours of commuting
- Does $1200 in parts (assuming they mark up parts about 20-30%)
Note we are located in a Boston suburb.
The job involves:
1. Attaching to existing electric company service at the drop (about
20 feet above ground where it enters the house from the street)
2. Running new cable/conduit from the drop to a new outdoor ground
level electric meter with new 200A main breaker
3. Running cable into basement and then about another 25 feet to
current location of old 100A box
4. Installing new 200A 42 circuit panel alongside old 100A panel
5. Making existing 100A panel into a subpanel of the new panel and
connecting to new panel. I believe this involves separating the
grounds from commons on the subpanel and adding a 100A breaker to
the new main panel.
6. Sinking new grounding bars to provide ground service (since the old
water pipe method is no longer to code)
7. Ripping out the old 100A main breaker switch and wiring that
originally went from the drop to the old panel
The "parts" sounds really high to me, but I haven't bought huge copper
wire in a while. (is he using copper or aluminum for the service
entrance and feeder conductors?) No matter how much the copper costs,
$1200 for parts still sounds high.
The labor doesn't sound unreasonable, but it depends on how difficult it
is routing the big conduit/cable, and whatever hassles from the permit
office and the building inspector.
When I put a 100A subpanel in our detached garage ~7 years ago, we were
looking at something like $700CDN (~$450US at the time) for 110 feet of
4-ought for 200A is likely to be about double that.
So, $1200 may not be that unreasonable for parts - new conduit, meter
If it's within the OP's comfort zone, he may want to ask the electrician
to recompute using aluminum conductors. Cut our parts cost in half.
14 hours does seem a trifle much for two professional electricians (or
at one with a decent helper), but without seeing the situation personally,
I'd take that with a grain of salt.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
Well, I got another quote who is asking $1600 with about 1000 going
for labor (8 hours for one master electrician) and $600 for parts.
This is vs. the other quote of $2800 with about 1550 going for labor
(14 hours each for master and assistant) and $1250 for parts.
Both come well-recommended, licensed, insured with many years in the
- What would explain such a discrepancy?
Both seem to be quoting for the same work.
- What questions should I ask?
Any disadvantages of aluminum for Main's wiring vs. copper (other than
[I know that for circuits, aluminum has had problems in the past]
Also, is it really true that the biggest parts cost may be the wire as
opposed to the panel, main breaker, grounding rods, meter box, and
No. Provided that the service equipment (the main and the sub panels)
are rated for Al - most are. The electrician has to remember to use
the proper de-oxidant grease and proper workmanship, but aside from
that, there is no increased risk.
[Branch circuits in Al are a different story of course. Most jurisdictions
Well, it depends on how long the feed wire has to be versus how
much other parts you have to buy. A service upgrade _could_
just require _no_ new wire, just a replacement panel (many power
companies are installing 200A (or even 400A) service equipment no
matter how small the main panel is going to be) and some labour
to shift things over.
Or it _could_ require LOTS of 4-0 cable and no panel.
Depends on the circumstances.
In my case, upgrading my garage (from a single 15A circuit to a 100A
subpanel) cost approximately $600 in service wire (Al), and about $400
in panel, breakers and fixtures - over half of the $400 was lighting
Plus $200 for the electrician - a personal friend. The parts were
Plus $100 for getting the trench dug.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
Half assed shortcut, IMO. Rip out the old panel, stick in a new one with
modern hardware and breakers. This should be no big deal. By leaving your
old panel in place, he's saving a lot of time - time that it sounds like
he's quoting you anyway! Further, you just paid 3 freak'n grand and you're
still stuck with a bunch of (100 year?) old gear.
Still no big deal.
Sounds to me like this job should be 800-1500 bucks, but I can't see your
basement from here, nor your 100 year old wires.
I'd get another quote.
Using the Yellow Pages? It's a sure way to get a get a greedy moron over to
Maybe call a HVAC contractor or two and see who they use for their
electrical. He's probably unlisted. People upgrade their panels all the
time to handle new air conditioners.
Na... the house is old but a 100 amp panel could easily be
only 1 or 30 years old.
Not many quality guys I know would dream of going that
much work for such a small amount of money. But yes one can
beat himself into the poverty class with low ball bids if he
wants...Ive done it on occasion. its not bright though. and
does not sustain a top quality operation ...for very long at
The wiring may well be 100 years old, but it may not be..at
that age wiring would not support our living styles even 40
years back... the place has probably been rewired as evidenced
by the 100 amp panel... 100 years ago 30 amp buzz fuse boxes
and 110 service was all you got.
You can always find a cheaper guy..around you can get
chinese guys who have just snuck off of freighters working for
underground chinese contractors who will do that job for parts
cost and two bowls of rice.
In the US historically we have had a live and let live as long
as its reasonable way of doing business...thats been viable,
everyone makes money.. the cash flows...its a good thang.
In the third world with half the people starving its a
different scene, every single penny is worth a screaming
match, accusations of fraud etc.
Another contractor sent me a Korean customer, slum lord sort
of property, a triplex with 45 people living in it.. black
mold... rotten sils, holes rusted in the bathtubs. ... I
sent a man to start the job to see if if could fly... day two
I get a call from the Korean... he had been utterly sweet two
days prior... I arrive at his laundry business and he is still
sweet...doenst speak much english so communitcation is hard
until we get to the pricing my guy put on his invoice for
calking... $2.27 a tube, one tub.
The Korean guy screams at me...T000 DOLLAHHH! TWENNY SEBEN
CENZ!! I BUY DOLLA NINEY ATE!! YOU FUCK ME! YOU FUCK ME!
.... that went on for a while as the man tried to get the
material below the retail sticker price on the tube... I had
quoted him 30,000 dollars for the work he needed two days
before... we lasted one day on the job.
29 cents worth, my guy billed him the calking at cost though
for various reason..it was a two bit item etc.. That
philosophy of utter ruthlessness and human stress and strain
over pennies creates a non viable business environment and
that creates third world conditions...and we have those in
many of our US cities today... trade rates are going lower...
sone trademen get to have no retirements now, no savings for
the kids education..and no health care. But yes, one can
still drive the prices lower, particularly if his kids start
going hungry... you can get him down another 400 dollars.
the mentality that one can always drive the price lower, with
no regard for others or the man doing good work for you is
It's not much work, and it's way, way too much money if they are leaving the
old panel in. I would wager he will find a very wide spread in price if he
gets 1-2 more people in there looking at it.
[Tons of completely irrelevent BS snipped]
The perception that quality work and price are somehow related is an
expensive misperception to hold. If someone comes in and tells me that he
wants to, basically, save time for himself by leaving in old work and still
charge a lot of money, there's not much more I'm interested in hearing from
The current 100A panel is in good shape and by its looks is no more
than about 20 years old.
In general I would agree about ripping out the old, I am just not sure
it will gain me much.
The current panel if full with 30 circuits. The biggest panel we can
put in is 42 circuits.
We are planning on adding 2-3 central AC units plus adding a number of
new circuits to fill in around the house (it's a big house and many of
the rooms have only one outlet which in some cases is ungrounded, so
we are going to fill in with new circuits).
Though I would aesthetically prefer it all in one box, my concern is
that if we consolidate it all into one box, we will be left with very
little space for expansion.
What would you recommend?
I just had mine done...I'm in Milford, MA cost me 950$...thats for a new
line from the peak of my roof, new 200a meter, 200a large breaker panel with
about 15 breakers installed. The guy I used is named Mike at Milford
Electric, it was him and a helper. Took them most of the day. If your in
their service area give them a yell, I can't say enough good things about
them, very profesional, very clean and treated my wife and kids like
I like consistancy, myself. I also like having lots of room, so I use 1/2
height breakers. 20 years is pretty old. Can you still easily find
breakers for it?
There you go.
I recently paid exactly the same for the same in Colorado - except my house
has Al wires, so lots of expensive wire nuts. He wired up a new AC as well.
A quick check of my records shows 40 bucks/hr for 16 man hrs and 300 bucks
in gear. It's all Siemens equipment. Fine stuff. 3 of those man hrs were
not spent at the house - basically quoting, specing and purchasing the
equipment. I got the permit in my own name. I paid on a T&M basis. I
think I was on the generous side in calculating their hours. The guy
certainly didn't argue. I cut the check before he drove off. Heck of a lot
cheaper than 2800.
Prices for construction vary widely for a lot of reasons...
some hasher might be able to put that in for you perfectly
well for half the money...and you would luck out... or he
might do something stupid that leaves your house and lives at
risk such as improper bonding for the new heavier service or
overloaded neutrals or whatever.
To me 2800 sounds reasonable enough for quality work... a rip
off guy would nail you for 4 or 5k or more... much under 2k
the guy is running thin, he is selling his expertise short for
some reason... any kind of reason, maybe he is cash only, no
taxes etc at 2k. that could come back on you. Then there
is the logistics of the job.
On balance his figure considering everything these days is in
the mid range... and the time? He has to figure all of the
time, permitting, gathering the parts (3 hours easily) some
travel... some contingency for hassling... he is not giving
his labor away...but he is getting a fair price. The sign of
a competent person. But you could shop around and maybe save
500 dollars...if you save more than that its getting risky.
When the dollars go too low the tendency to cut corners to
save ones ass and pay the rent goes way up.
We are also in Boston, and paid $3300 about 2 years ago for roughly
the same thing. Yes, we know we paid more than the average, BUT we
had hired Robert L. Pann company (sort of a jack-of-all-trades
contracting company) knowing they were more expensive, because they
were available to do it in the timeframe we wanted. I would imagine
if I had been more flexible on timing, I could have gotten it for
between $500 to $1000 cheaper.
These guys got the whole thing done in a day, but they had 4 people
on-site the whole time (one of them appeared to be more of an
apprentice though). They didn't mess with configuring the old service
as a subpanel, they just ripped out the existing fuse box and pulled
all the new circuits over to the new breaker panel. There also wasn't
room on the basement wall where the tiny fuse box was mounted, so they
knocked together some plywood and 2x4's, secured it to a different
wall, and mounted the new breaker panel on that. They also found an
old Edison Electric index card under the fuse box from 1929,
presumably when the thing was originally installed -- that was kind of
As another point of comparison, Pann charged $700 to run a new circuit
to our furnace when we found the existing one wasn't working (again,
this was on a couple hours notice, outside of business hours, but I
was annoyed at myself for not just running that circuit on my own).
Hope this helps.
email@example.com (Jeffrey J. Kosowsky) wrote in message
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