What is involved with upgrading 150A service to 200A?

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I am finishing my basement, and am in the process of doing electrical. I did a load calc and came up with 181A, but my main panel is 150A.
So I need to upgrade to a 200A main panel. When I asked an electrician about it he implied it was a really big deal, and the "whole house needed to be brought up to code". I don't know what he means by that? The meter is CL200 which I believe means it is rated for 200A service so it looks like you just need to change the panel. What am I missing?
I know that if the buried service cables were sized only for 150A then I am in trouble and am looking at some big bucks to change, but as I said the meter appears to be 200A rated. Could the utility have installed cables for 150A anyway? That seems incredibly dangerous if they did since someone might assume the system could handle 200A!
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I would first check the load calculation, or have it professionally done. The meter box can be rated for 200 amp with 150 amp wire feeding it, in fact, I haven't seen a 150 amp meter box in years. The size of the underground wire depends on who owns it. In some locations the utility company owns it and they determine, depending upon the calculated load, if it's of sufficient size. If you own it, you need minimum 4/0 aluminum or 2/0 copper for 200 amps. You also have to change the conductors from the meter to the service panel, and upgrade the system grounding conductors. I've never heard of a requirement to upgrade the internal wiring, just to increase the service

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Did you do your load calculation according to Article 220? If you figured 181 continuous amps than a 200 amp service will not be adequate. The main breaker is only rated for 80% continuous load (3 hours or more) which is 160 amps.
In New Jersey one of the power company's has all of their residential service feeders rated for a maximum of 310 amps. They don't want to be bothered every time someone upgrades a service. The electrical contractor does the connection at the house. Check to see if your power company has info on a website.
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Exactly how did you determine that you have a load of 181 amps. I hope you didn't just add up all the amp ratings of your breakers. I only have a 100 amp service, yet I manage to run a whole house with electric cook top, double electric ovens, all the other electrical equipment, an office with 4 computers with a large UPS to supply them, air conditioning, a full woodworking workshop, etc. etc. and I have never had problems with capacity. Double check your figures, remember it is so rare to have "everything" running simultaneously, that it never really happens to most people.

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wrote:

I think about that (about not using all loads at the same time) when I consider the electrical load of all my holiday lights. Some people might think I need upgraded service, but all those lights use less than the central A/C, which is not on at that time.

--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.laughingsquid.com
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LOL. No. I did not just add up the breakers.
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What the f**k could you be running to use 181A in a home? And of course that would mean the everything is running at the same time, which I highly doubt. I run a whole farm on 200A service and never even come close to using 100A. Actually this farm was wired for 400A, but this was a full fledged farm with grain dryers and all of that. I only use one of the 200A pull out cartridge fuse holders.
I'd hate to pay your electric bill either way......
Mark

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If you truly need 181A, you'd be popping the breaker now and again. How often does that happen? That is a very large load so you must have a huge house with electric heat. Very few homes have that type of load.
If you truly have a 181 A load, you need a larger factor than 200A provides. Keep in mind, the labor to upgrade is pretty much the same if you go to 200 or 300A
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whats the largest main panel available today. I asked awhile ago and was told its 200 amps. Vistyed my wifes bosses home and noted it has a PAIR of 200 amp main panels. Its like a mansion......
I am looking to upgrade and would go 300 amps if I could.......
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I didn't say I was using the load NOW. I said I am finishing my basement, which means I am calculating the load AFTER everything is installed. With the addition of a heat pump, you have to add in compressor, air handler, AND the heating element, which is really what pushed it over the 150A mark. I might have been able to get by if it weren't for that.
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Do you actually use the compressor and the heating element at the same time?
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Mark Lloyd
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I sort of question the load myself, I had my electrician in the other day to plan a subpanel for my shop, he did a load check & I was pulling 60 amps,(30 on each leg). that was on a 103 degree day with all 3 air conditioners running, 2 full size double door refrigerators, 2 small refrigerators, a chest freezer & several other loads like the ventilators for the green house, the attic power vent. I'm running a small farm with a private well with a booster pump and a remote shop, a 2800 sq ft house all on a single 200 amp box.
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The eletrician who want to redo all the wiring in the house is not the elctrician you want to hire.
Why t call your local electrical inspectors, make an office appointment, and actually find out what code in your area requires. Makes a lot more sense than asking these locality dependent questions here.
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Jim McLaughlin

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It seems that most people are missing the point.
First of all, to the people who question how I have that kind of electrical demand: When the basement is complete I will have a three story home with approx 3000 sq ft, and at least six bedrooms. A home theater, and a photography studio, plus woodworking equipment in the garage - table saw, drill press, planer, band saw etc. For heating/cooling I have three a/c compressors, including a heat pump with a 5kw heating element. Double ovens in the kitchen. One large fridge, large freezer, plus two small fridges. Attic ventilator, dishwasher, electric clothes dryer. These things add up. And the shop equipment wasn't even factored in, because I only use those one at a time on a 20A circuit (no 220v equipment). Nor am I factoring in the home office with several PCs on all the time, with a floor standing 8000BTU A/C unit to keep the room cool.
My current system would handle everything fine, but the addition of the basement changes everything. I really don't understand why they didn't put a 200A in to begin with.
Secondly, to the people who say that I will never have that kind of demand at one time: I freaking know that. That's not the point. The point is, will it pass inspection? What am I going to do if the inspector looks at the size of my home and all the breakers crammed into the box, asks for a load calc, and I say "well it's over 150A but hey I doubt I'll use it all the time"? The worksheet that I used came from a book based on the 2005 NEC, and the formulas take into consideration the fact that you aren't pulling the entire load all the time. The final figure is a minimum, which means my box has to handle it.
As it turns out, I did make one error by not reducing the load from my double ovens to 65%, which changed my total load to 171A. Still higher than 150A but I get a bit more room.
Lastly, I want capacity for future renovations, like a screened in deck. And the extra panel size will avoid a subpanel, which is a good thing because the room with the breaker boxes will be my future office.
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BillyBA wrote:

What brand 150A panel do you have? Can you install the same brand and same series 200A panel, and swap in the 150A main from your old panel? (Set the 200A main breaker aside for later.) That would give you 40 spaces in your new panel, lots of wire-bending room, and you could put off upgrading the service conductors until later -- perhaps delay it forever.
When you ran the calculations, did you factor in the heat pump's heating strips and the compressor at the same time? I'm not sure, but I don't think they ever operate at the same time.
Best regards, Bob
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BillyBA wrote:

Your electrician is the expert. You are dabbling. Let your electrician size the panel as he will be the one responsible for it passing inspection. There is no reason for you to even speak to the inspector.

Your call, but I prefer subpanels. They don't take up an appreciable amount of space and they make it easier to do work without shutting down the house.
R
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Might have already OK service enterance cables, can you post what is written on the jacket?
later,
tom @ www.FreelancingProjects.com
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Not without climbing or taking the cover off the panel, buy I'm pretty sure it is 4/0 aluminum from the street.
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wrote:

4/0 s good for 200a in a residential service
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wrote:

THIS IS JUST GUESSING. I'm not there to actually look at your setup.
It sounds like you have everything other than a pannel with a 200 amp disconnect. 200amp SE, and 200amp Meter base. Now all you need it a 200amp panel.
One big question, are you tripping the current main disconnect? I figure a service calc is an 'esitmate', for planning. So if you aren't tripping anything, you should be ok till you can verify your calc.
later,
tom @ www.NoCostAds.com
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