Hi, I am about to start the electric refit part of my shop project, see:
My electric system in the house consists of a main panel with two breaker
positions in it, a 100 amp for the main subpanel, and a 30 amp for a pool
motor subpanel in the back that was clearly added on later.
According to everything I have read, 100amp is bare minimum for construction
nowdays, so clearly my home's builder cheaped out big time.
Anyways, I called up PG&E in California to ask for advice on if I needed to
upgrade the meter. They told me I had to give them a $1200 deposit for them
to talk to me at all, which I consider outrageous. They won't give me any
details on what they want the money for, what curcumstances I get it back,
nothing. They would not even tell me what amp rating my current meter is.
Has anyone sucessfully gone through a meter upgrade in California ? How much
did the new meter cost, and did you get your deposit back ?
It can't be that uncommon. A hot tub or a pool will easily push you over a 100amp
service feed. I am beginning to wonder if my pool motors are even legal.
What I want to do is add a new subpanel, say another 100 amp panel, and move
the pool to that, so that I would have two 100 amp breakers in the main panel.
Thanks for any advice from people who have been there and done this.
=====================================================By the way, for all of you home builders who think it is ok to build homes to the
minimum required code standards to save a few bucks, don't worry. I am in the
industry, and we are returning the favor :)
Hmm. Sounds like they need a swift slap upside the head. Maybe you
should short out a panel and see if the meter blows with, then you'll get
a new meter of known ampacity and no stupid deposit...
Of course they'll probably bill you for something a bit more exorbitant,
and of course I'm tired and just spewing BS... ;^)
In the immortal words of Ned Flanders: "No foot longs!"
Website @ http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms
Apart from PG&E's reprehensible response I wouldn't be too bothered. I
frequently need to run my home from my generator and typically only
dissipate 1 to 2 KW steady state (8 to 15 amps.) Even with my well,
furnace and clothes dryer running I'm well below 100 KW.
For a single person shop where only one large tool plus a dust collector
runs at a time you're fine.
Tim Williams wrote:
I run my entire shop through a 30 amp breaker out of my main box to a sub
panel in the garage. I do have #4 lines running to the shop. If I run the
RAS, dust collector, band saw, and balloon sander at the same time and the
compressor kicks on I have been known to trip the breaker...
Radial Arm Saw Forum: http://forums.delphiforums.com/woodbutcher/start
Not to lecture, but if you (or anyone) have the idea that putting a bigger
in to solve trips is a good idea, you are basically removing the wire protection
that was the goal of the breaker if you do that. The breaker is matched to wire
size. Put a bigger breaker in, now you have exceeded the amps allowable on
that wire. Exceed it by a lot, you have a fire.
70 to 85, you can't use the 90c column of 310-16 if you don't have 90c
terminations on the devices at each end. You are not going to find 90c
Most breakers larger than 30 are 75c tho.
(the ones with a hole and set screw)
You're absolutely right. You SHOULDN'T lecture without checking your facts.
He states he's got FOUR GUAGE WIRE running to the shop. And a 30 amp breaker.
#4 wire is adequate for an EIGHTY AMP circuit.
Replacing the existing THIRTY AMP breaker, even with one _twice_ the rating,
would *NOT* exceed the allowable current for that #4 wiring.
Agreed, that putting in a breaker that is larger than the rating for the
wire is a BAD IDEA(TM), but it _doesn't_ apply in this case.
He'd have to have a run of #10 wire, for the wire limit to be 30A.
You can actually add as much electrical load as you want to your supply. The
problem will only arise when your DEMAND Exceeds 100A or 30A depending on
the breaker. This may or may not happen very often. Depends upon the life
style of you and your family.
As I see it, your problem is the breakers not the meter itself. Meters are
easy to get changed for free.
I'm in UK so cannot comment on US systems in detail. However, a possibility
would be to connect your shop to the pool breaker via a change over switch
and not use the pool motors when your woodworking. Does a pool really need
it's motors running all of the time? Just remember to switch back when you
have finished or risk the wrath of the family.
$1200 does sound rather high but the supply company will have to check what
effect your increased load will have on their distribution network. Can it
handle the extra? That's not always a simple job but $1200 still sounds
high. The problem is that they are probably in a monopoly situation so you
pay up or don't do it.
They would not even tell me what amp rating my current meter is.
If you look at your meter face, you should see the current rating. It
may be embedded in a part number, but it should be there.
If you can't figure it out, post a close up of the meter face on your
The meter rating is less than the sum of the total breaker size, as it
is highly unlikely that every single circuit is going to be loaded to
its maximum rating simultaneously. For example, our house has a 200A
meter which splits and feeds two load centers, each with a 150A main
Your description doesn't seem complete. Is there a MAIN breaker, one that
controls everything? What's on the MAIN panel and what's on the MAIN
If you have room for a double breaker in one of the panels, preferably the
main panel, just put a new sub in the shop. 50 A would be nice...6 ga wire,
like for a stove. You will rarely exceed 30 A at 240V in a shop. That will
do a saw, big DC, and lights. It will also run a home size stick welder.
As someone has pointed out, the statistics of loading help you. Rarely, if
ever, do many of the big loads come on at the same time.
Remember you may want to consider the code. More and more people are having
to undergo an inspection when they try to sell a house and any good
inspector will pick up noncode electrical stuff. I expect CA is bad about
It works better as: http://www.moorecad.com/scott/shopz.html
After looking at your page I have trouble understanding how the builder
got the garage through inspection. I really can't see how that might be
acceptable per code. But you're doing the right thing in how you're
fixing it, and you're eliminating structural problems that you would
have had later.
A couple of points:
1) I have seen a number of homes with 30 or 60 amp main panels. 100A is
generally enough and is fairly common.
2) I upgraded my service in California (SF Bay Area) two years ago going
from 100A to 200A. There was no deposit necessary and no cost for the new
meter. Dealing with PG&E was no problem. You have to call them to cut power
from their main to where ever the power enters your house. They will either
just cut the lines or perhaps run new ones if necessary. Then you install
your new panel and do your work. Once it is inspected they will pop the new
meter in. In my case I trashed the original panel (installed in the 1940's)
so if you are just adding a sub-panel, the sequence of events may be
different. Try calling PG&E again and see if you get someone else more
reasonable. I've usually found them to be quite helpful.
3) From my main I have a 100A subpanel to run the kitchen and laundry
appliances. This requires some big cable, but it is not difficult to do.
You might want to consider not telling the why you want to upgrade. They may
have been quoting you commercial prices.
I'm on the other side of the continent, but I upgraded from 60A to 200A
three years ago for around $1200. This included a new meter base w/6
breaker slots and a whole house surge suppressor in the same box as well as
a 40 breaker 200A sub panel in the basement. All done by a commercial
I believe if you get an Eletrical contractor to give you a cost estimate
for instalation he can also give you the requirements needed to meet
your needs. This shouldn't cost anything for the estimate. You then
can decide wether to have it done or do it yourself.
Power companies do not live by the same rules as the rest of the world.
Where I live, (YMMV) you simply install your new, larger, service entrance
equipment, get your electrical inspection, and then call the power company
to hook it up. They may well connect their very same old conductors to your
new, thicker, service entrance conductors and then plug the same old meter
into your new socket. As long as you have no problems, don't worry about
On Thu, 25 Sep 2003 23:17:07 GMT, someone who calls themselves
And the ironic part is, it's only $20 to $50 more for the larger
200A panel, and for one house it's nothing - better to leave room for
future expansion now. But to the builder putting up 100 or 1,000
houses at a crack, that can quickly add up to some serious money.
When you want to jump to a 400A panel is when it gets expensive.
That's something I do every few months, takes a few hours to round
up the parts and mark the circuits, a full day to do the work, and
sometimes a few hours to close the wall back up and pretty it up.
If there are any questions about legality, you are supposed to call
the City and Edison first for a "meter spotter" to see if they want
you to move the service elsewhere on the house - but that usually only
happens for placing new services on new houses, or if the old service
drop goes over a swimming pool or another person's property, and can
be skipped for a simple panel change.
We swap the panels out, pull a permit and call the city for
inspection, and after it passes inspection Edison deals with any
service feeder or meter changes, and for no charge since they are
responsible for the meter and wire from the meter back. (Except for
aerial services where you are responsible for the risers.)
it looks like a GE
100A underground panel - you can usually slide a 200A panel into the
same spot, though they're usually several inches taller. Then put in
a 100A breaker to feed the subpanel inside the house, a 30A breaker
for the pool sub, and you'll have a Whole Lot of extra breaker spaces
for all the shop equipment to plug into.
I'm surprised they did it as a "Meter Main" and separate house
sub-panel on a tract house with an attached garage, the builders
usually try to cheap out and use an "All-In-One" setup with all the
romex cables for the house running in a wood/drywall chase across the
garage ceiling straight to the main panel. Cheaper to build, yes -
but a real pain in the ass to deal with later...
The best custom houses have several small sub-panels scattered
around various corners of the house near the loads they feed. That
way all cable runs are short and easy, and future additions and
changes are easier also. And the tripped kitchen-circuit breaker is
only a short walk from the kitchen.
--<< Bruce >>--
Bruce L. Bergman, POB 394, Woodland Hills CA 91365, USA
Electrician, Westend Electric (#726700) Agoura, CA
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