I have a 30+ year old FPE 200 amp main panel attached to my house.
During the last few years, I've had 2 electricians on separate
occasions tell me that I should replace the FPE panel due to being a
fire-hazard. Upon googling, I've read alot of such stories about FPE.
Unfortunately, the cost estimates that these electrician gave me were
more than I wanted to pay for this job. I've priced a comparable main
panel, main breaker and circuit breaker, so I think the main part of
the estimates is labor cost.
I'm not an electrician, but I'm a electronic technician with a good
understanding of AC power.
It doesn't seem like rocket science in swapping out a panel. Please
correct me if I'm wrong.
I recently built a workshop and added and auxiliary panel to this main
panel, so I'm somewhat familiar.
Here's my basic plan:
1. Have the local utility company disconnect the power at the meter.
2. label the individual hot wires for each circuit.
3 disconnect the hot, neutral and grounds, as well as the main feeds.
4. pull the main panel off and install a new panel.
5 install new main breaker and circuit breakers
6. Attach the circuit neutral and ground to the bus bar.
7. Attach the individual circuit hot wires to the individual breakers.
8. Attach the main feed wires to main breaker and ground to the bus.
9. Have the local utility company reconnect power.
I will also check with the code enforcement to see about a permit and
I'm guessing that this entire job could be done within a few hours,
pending delays from inspectors and utility company.
Did I miss anything?
Hows the condition of the service drop & head? You must have driven
ground rods and unified grounds, ground jumper at water
meter.probably better to replace everything
Whats your power source during the upgrade friendly neighbor?
You better off to get power company to disconnect at pole, and heres
The new panel MUST be mounted to a wood board if your old panel isnt
or the new panels main line connections arent in the exact same
location the existing main lines from meter can to main service main
with such a old install you may want to replace the main service head
a neighbor did a DIY.
before power company arrived he installed a new drop right by his old
one with new meter can. he did this part a couple days
beforehand.installed new ground rods and showed me his unified ground
line and meter jumper
he had power company come first thing in morning had extension cord
for power tools light and radio:) to neighbor.
power company disconnected at pole, he had his brother in law remove
old service drop and old main panel while he conneted his new service
drop to the now dead main lines from pole.
then they installed new main panel with plywood backing, he had it cut
and painted days before hand.....
he called power company they looked over his job said looked good and
reconnected power, middle group came a couple days later and it
main panels can get kinda heavy I encourage you have a helper for this
job, it helps time wise and is handy.
dont underewstimate the time this will all take instyalkling a new sub
panel to all new romex is realtively fast and easy:)
connecting to old lines that may be too short poor insulation not flex
well or wires break when you have to bend them can eat lots of time
Add a whole hose surge protector for under 50 bucks and choose a panel
that locks out the main so you can backfeed your main panel safely
with a generator if needed. either main OR proper backfeed can be
powered at once but not both:)
It adds nearly nothing to the cost but can be very useful:)
On Sat, 3 Jul 2010 08:09:30 -0700 (PDT), " email@example.com"
If your drop was switched over to a triplex (twisted 3 wire) any time
in the last 3 decades it is probably OK for 200a. I know it is 2ga
aluminum but power companies have different rules.
You are still responsible for the wire from the service point (usually
the crimps at the service head) to the load.
The way FPL does it is they come out, cut the crimps, you install the
heavier service conductors to the panel and the panel. Ymmv on who
buys the meter can. FPL gave me one.
The real trick is coordinating the disconnect, installation,
inspection and reconnect. I was able to build my new service, have it
inspected, get a temporary OK for power before the poco got here so I
only needed to have them switch it over to the new riser and I could
call for the final. I was serving the old panel as a sub after the
Your footnote about code enforcement needs to be moved to the top of the
list. You may also be forced to do other code upgrades such as AFCIs,
sufficient kitchen circuits, a dedicated bathroom 20 amp circuit, and
even smoke detectors.
If you're just replacing the service panel, you may be able to kill the
power yourself just by removing the meter. You shouldn't have to replace any
service entrance conductors, or standpipe as they should already be for 200
amp. I'd call the electric company just to see what their procedure is
Thats for the advice. The meter box is right beside the old panel.
Both are attached to the exterior back wall of the attached garage.
All the circuits from the house go thru the attic of the garage and
down the wall cavity and then enter into the main panel thru the back
(about a 3" opening.) Because of this, i'll have to pull the old
panel completely off and mount the new panel into its place. I have a
generator to use for power while I'm swapping things out.
The built-in surge protector is a good idea. Thanks.
I have a new grounding rod, as it was a requirement when I installed
the sub-panel in the workshop.
Again, thanks everyone for the feedback.
* There are all manner of conventions for disconnecting power. In my town,
you call the power company. Within six hours they will appear, read the
meter, and remove the seal. When you're finished, you call 'em again and
they return - this time within twelve hours - read the meter again and
reseal it. You do the actual meter removal and replacement of the meter.
* My son an I did the exact same job on a lazy Saturday. It took about five
hours, including two trips to the box store for things we overlooked or
didn't know we'd need until we got the thing apart. (Great Stuff to seal a
hole in the brickwork, funny-shaped conduit, etc.) This is a good reason to
begin the project as early as possible.
* Where do the house wires enter your box? If on the rear, you'll need a
hole saw because breaker boxes don't have knock-outs on the back. There will
be some jiggling to line up the hole with available acreage inside the box,
mounting hardware, and the entrance of the primaries.
* As others have pointed out, you'll need a friendly neighbor and a long
extension cord. Gotta keep the beer cold.
* Take plenty of pictures with your digital camera before (and after).
* After everything is done, and before you perform the 'smoke test,' give
every screw an additional twist.
We got an estimate from two electrical companies of about $1400 to put in
200-Amp service box. Total out-of-pocket was less than $400.
We were so pleased with the results of our efforts, that two weeks later we
repeated the process at my son's house. Heck, I've even thought about going
up and down the street soliciting work!
I have changed them hot before. Just remove the feed lines one at a time
and tape them. You can pull the box away and insert a new one, rewire it
and then connect the main leads. But I'm a crazy electronic tech so don't
yeah unless someone is a EXPERT thats a great way to get killed.
I have done lots of wiring over the years, and repaired copiers and
office equiptement working live.
But I wouldnt mess with the mains, but have pulled meters when
I work almost every day with 480 3 phase equipment and other voltages. It
just does not pay to work things hot if you can advoid it.
Depending on the laws where you are, pull the meter and be safe. Only takes
a very short time. Probably less time to pull the meter than to tape the
A good reason is arc-flash.
The 5,000-10,000A short circuit current available if residential service
wires (or bus bars) are shorted can cause major personal injury -
including radiant heat, vaporized metal that condenses on your skin or
lungs, shrapnel, concussion, eye and ear injury. Service wires are more
exciting because there is minimal over current protection from the
utility - the arc may continue.
If you are doing electrical work for a living (like Ralph), OSHA has
discovered arc-flash and can become nasty if employers do not provide
protection in policies and equipemnt. Tapeing live service wires does
Yes, that arc flash will get you. If you short a wire at a light in a
house you have a 20 amp or less breaker or fuse to trip. Usually just a
flash and it is out. Short the mains comming into a house and hard telling
how many amps must be drawn before the current stops . It is posiable that
you can get a substained arc for several seconds or more before something
We (electricians) are required to wear cotton cloths and not anything with
polyester in it and we make polyester material. The reason is that while
cotton will burn, it will not melt into the skin like the polyester.
And that is for the low energy end of equipment. At the high end you
might need an "arc flash suit" - don't know how people can do anything
useful in those. And some equipment you may not be able to safely work
on at all while energized.
Arc flash made it into the NEC (in 2005?).
I believe OSHA requires employers to have a protection plan including a
permit scheme for working on live equipment (highly discouraged) and
having appropriate "personal protective equipment" available. The
default standard for electrical safety (including arc-flash) is NFPA70-E
(the NEC is NFPA70) - good reading for anyone working live on high
current, particularly 480V equipment.
On of the sharpest electricians I know was working (service call long
ago) in an industrial plant and wanted to measure the current for a
motor. It was a food plant and the motor starters were in a "purged"
room and in a motor control center (multiple 480V starter cubicles in
the same frame). He defeated the door interlock and put a clamp-on
ammeter on the motor wire - an absolutely common measurement. The guess
is that there was a loose screw that faulted the bus bars. There was an
arc-flash and he had serious burns including condensed copper that
vaporized. He was in the hospital for a long time. Could have been a lot
worse. (They were buying 'primary' voltage power, and the fault
destroyed one of the high voltage fuse holders.)
I heard a person, who was probably a field engineer for a company like
Westinghouse, describe measuring a cubicle with a steel tape (long
before anyone knew about arc-flash). The explosion blew him across the
room. If it hadn't he would probably be dead.
We do have rated arc-flash equipment. Several differant size (rated)
overcoat looking things. Helments or hoods with face shields. Rated gloves.
We seldom use them except to check to see if voltage is on the circuits or
to take amp readings under load. Kill the power and then take the stuff
off. Hoods are so tinted and many areas are so dark it is difficult to see.
Most load control centers have markings on them as to what level of
protection we need.
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