Replacing Breaker Box Project

It's done. Here's the report.
A few years ago, we had a 200-amp service box replaced on one half of a duplex. The cost then was $850.
Time to do it for the other side. Bids from three large electrical contractors were from $950 - $1050. Here's what we did instead:
1. BOUGHT (total $205) A. A "kit" from HD - $149.00 (Square D brand) B. Extra breakers not included in the kit. Mostly double-20amp to substitute for the single 15-amp breakers in the kit C. Six feet of 2/0 wire D. Ten feet of 10g wire in case of splicing E. A box of 100 wire nuts (two were used to hook up whole-house surge protector) F. Packet of sticky wire-numbers (they wrap around the wire to assign it a number). G. Can of "Great Stuff" to seal hole in brick. 2. Called the power company to remove meter seal (their standard is to respond in 6 hours or less). In our city, Houston, no permit is required. 3. Tools needed: Seemingly everything I owned. One tool that was handy was a Greenlee chassis punch to get a hole in the breaker box, in the right place, for an external conduit. Also a large Allen wrench to secure primary lines plus a big-ass screwdriver. Masonry bits. Unexpected: Chisel and sledge to remove brick.
2. PROJECT. A. Saturday noon, removed meter and began. B. Removed each wire from existing circuit breakers, labeling each black or red with a number and noting to what size breaker it was attached. Also paying attention to which wires were attached to double breakers (mostly the 240-type red-black pairs). C. Removed old breaker box. D. Oops. New box has no hole remotely close to where wires come from wall. E. Using Dremel, cut a 2"x3" hole in back of new breaker box to accommodate wires. Still not good enough. Remove one brick up. Now the existing wires will reach. NOTE: Electricity is required for Dremel and maybe drill. Long extension cord and compliant - or ignorant - neighbor needed. F. Mount box using two 1/2" masonry anchors (on hand) G. Following chart created in step B, attach house wires to appropriate breakers. It's easier to attach the wire to the breaker(s) before inserting the breakers into the box. H. After all the breakers in place, go back and attach all the white and green wires to the grounding strap. I. Dress all the wiring neatly, making sure nothing is rubbing where it shouldn't - much like a chaperone on a senior trip. J. Make hole in box to attach one external bit of conduit (here's where the chassis punch came in handy). Hook his wires up. K. Punch out hole in bottom of box to attach whole-house surge suppressor. Had to extend existing wires using wire nuts and tape. L. Last step: Re-visit EVERY screw and tighten the hell out of it.
3. Smoke test A. All switches in off position. B. Replace meter. Look for smoke. C. Turn on master 200-amp switch. Look for smoke. D. Flip on each breaker, in turn, pausing to look for smoke. E. Attach cover, then door. F. Squirt Great Stuff in any cracks. Plan on caulking to further waterproof in a couple of days.
4. Have beer while picking up and returning several hundred tools to their proper places. Finished 5:00 pm.
5. Tally stuff left over: 8 circuit breakers (mostly 15 amp), 98 wire nuts, 4 feet of 2/0 wire, misc screws, couple of unknown thingies, Spanish language stickers. Lots of wire numbers.
Total time elapsed for two people: Five hours. Money saved: ~ $800, plus the satisfaction in a job well done; if I might say so, better than the "professional" job done on the other half of the duplex.
TO DO: Call power company on Monday to replace meter seal.
CONCLUSION: This is a non-trivial, but straightforward project. Total curse-words necessary were less than ten! In our case, there was very little backing and filling. That is, if we had it to do over, we might be able to shave an hour off of the event. Still, it was not rocket surgery and a fairly competent DIY person should be able to save big bucks.
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Since it sounds like no one is going to inspect your work, I would just want to be clear on a few points. It sounds like this is just a panel replacement, and not a service increase, so the 2/0 copper is because the existing wire is to short? You were careful to install current carrying legs of three wire circuits on opposite phases of the panel?

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RBM wrote:

Yes, a panel replacement. The original was manufactured by a company that evidently came into existence just long enough to supply the builder for our subdivision. The buss bars were corroded, the breakers themselves were flaky, and, if you had to replace one, cost north of $50 for a single 15-amper. The building was constructed in 1965. One would think a breaker box/panel would last longer than forty years.
Yes. One of the existing three leads from the meter to the box was too short for the new box. (The guy at HD huffed and puffed, using a dinosaur toenail clipper, to snip off my 10' piece. I found you can cut 2/0 wire with a Dremel!) The new panel we used is Square D, model HOMVPRB1. Lotsa room in the box. Just did a Google search on the box by model number. SRP is $795! (Home Depot sells it for $145.)
The box cleverly arranges adjacent breakers to be on opposite legs. That is, each buss is an "S" shape such that the legs alternate between breakers. If you place the new breakers side-by-side, their position automatically balances the load.

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That's not what I'm referring to. Pretty much all modern circuit breaker panels have buss from each leg adjacent to one another, so double pole breakers will connect with each phase. My question is that you installed red and black wires of three wire Edison circuits on opposite phases. These are not necessarily on double pole breakers. Also, did you install or connect the bonding jumper which attaches the neutral buss to the panel?

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BTW, all single phase 240 volt loads are inherently balanced. It's the 120 volt loads that have to be manually balanced

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RBM wrote:

I think so. By putting a red-black pair on a double breaker, I thought I guaranteed opposite phases (since each of the double breaker connects to a different phase).

I think so. Unless it's about 6" long, made of balsa wood, and is painted chartruese.
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Yes, it does, and although you shouldn't necessarily install Edison circuits on double pole breakers, it's perfectly safe. The bonding jumper can be a large screw or a strap, and would not come installed or connected as it's not used if the panel is not the main service panel. It sounds like you've done OK. The only other thing would be how you determined the wire size to be sure you install the correct size breaker. You indicated that you marked what was existing, but that assumes that others working in the panel knew what they were doing, it's always best to check for yourself, (which, maybe you did)

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Probably to late to mention that running romex into a panel with out labled and listed protection is not a accepted pratice. ( The NEC has a couple of sections that deal with this ) I have never seen a square bushing. If the hole is above the busing you have lost the U.L. listing of the can you bought and it is serious violation of the NEC. Also probably to late to mention that 2/0 is not rated for 200 amps. Especially in a service.

Only a novice connects the hots before the grounds. If it is grounded your a lot safer. When did you connect the ground, water bond and the bond to the metallic piping?
Time will tell, glad you made it out alive.
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I hope you only put 20 amp breakers on 12 gauge wires
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entire box should be mounted on plywood to keep box way from moist concrete
if he didnt connect 240 breakers properly the worst that will occur is 240 wouldnt work. I did this accidently my 5hp compressor wouldnt even start
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You may also want to research whether or not the plywood has to be fire rated. In canada, there was a requirement to place some forms of electrical equipment on fire rated plywood. Although, I do believe this has been retracted in recent code.
Regards, JW
10 From: snipped-for-privacy@aol.com - view profile Date: Sun, Apr 9 2006 8:16 pm
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entire box should be mounted on plywood to keep box way from moist concrete
if he didnt connect 240 breakers properly the worst that will occur is 240 wouldnt work. I did this accidently my 5hp compressor wouldnt even start
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SQLit wrote:

Good point. I forgot to mention I used do-it-yourself grommet material to shield the incoming wires from the raw metal of the box. The existing bushing was 2.5" and the closest I could get with a hole punch was 2.25". I COULD have made a trip to the store and got a couple of 2.25" bushings or a 2.5" hole saw. I didn't. I apologize.

It's close enough (190 amps). It's what was there. 3/0 wouldn't fit.

Good point. I'll do that next time. Thanks.

Yeah, I did that. A BX cable, solid copper wire that goes directly down to a ground rod.

I figured if I got through the first three minutes with no smoke, things look good for the long run. Besides, what could go wrong?
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I missed the business of the square bushings and home made stuff, but 2/0 copper is proper for a 200 amp service

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