I own a VERY old house and the wiring is a combination of fuse boxes
and small breaker panels and some individual breakers, sort of added
as they were needed. I am considering a replacing all this and
rewiring. My question is: is the power coming into the house standard?
Can I buy a 200 amp breaker panel and then have 200 amp service or is
this determined by the wires and meter running into the house?
Call your electric company and they'll tell you the existing capacity,
if you need larger feeder the electric company will install the larger
feeder from the street to your meter at no cost to you, past the
electric meter it is all your responsibility.
If it's an underground installation, anyway.
For overhead installations, typically the power company handles everything up
to the rain head at the top of the service mast; everything from there onward,
including from the rain head to the meter, is the homeowner's responsibility.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
In short NO.
Most places will require that you obtain a permit before starting and
likely require that you contact your electric supplier. The Electric
company needs to determine if their transformers and wiring have sufficient
capacity for your new service and update if needed. They/You need to
determine if the wire going from the power company to your home is
sufficiently rated for the new service. And you need to work out the change
I did my own some years ago. I had a friend who was a professional to
keep me in line, but it all turned out to be rather easy. That being said I
did not really like working on a latter cutting the wires to the existing
power and re-attaching them to the new power with the power on.
You will need to upgrade the wire all the way from your service
disconnect to the service point, where the utility connects their
aerial "drop". That is past the meter. You own that part going up the
side of the house too. Their drop may look too small but they operate
under different rules since this is "free air". Generally speaking, if
it is a twisted drop, it is good for 200a.
Coordinate your service upgrade with the utility. They will cut the
power, you do your upgrade, then they hook it back up. One triuck you
can do is to install your new box and service entrance next to the old
one plus any new circuits you are adding before you have them cut the
power. Have it inspected for temporary power (assuming you need that)
then call the utility. They will swing over the power in one visit.
Then you move your circuits into the new box, tear out all the old
stuff and get your final inspection.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
The OP's questions in order, with *correct* answers:
Q: Is the power coming into the house standard?
A: No. Not in terms of the service amperage provided, anyway. Many older homes
have service laterals that are capable of providing only 60A. Some newer ones
go as high as 400A.
Q: Can I buy a 200A breaker panel and have 200A service?
A: Not if the feed from the power company isn't capable of providing 200A.
Q: ... or is this determined by the wires and meter?
A: It's determined by the lowest-capacity component in the chain: power
company transformer, power company service lateral, service drop from the
lateral to the meter, meter and meter base, feeder from meter to service
entrance box, rating of service entrance box, rating of main breaker. To have
200A service, *all* of these components must be rated 200A or higher.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Additionally, I was told by the utility once that if you change to 200 amps and
don't notify the utility, you may be responsible if the transformer blows. They
check for sufficvient capacity when you notify them, and replace the transformer
The service size is determined by the size of the service entrance
conductors. These are the wires that you own, that bring electricity into
your house, as gfretwell said, the utility owed wires, both overhead and
underground are sized by different authority. In a garden variety single
family home, you will have one service disconnect, which will be sized for
the entrance conductors as well. Who pays for a service increase varies
wildly from one location to the next. you need to contact a local
electrician or the utility company to get this information
I want to thank everyone that responded to this post! I had no idea
there would be so much involved. Like I said, this is a very old house
and it has NO main breaker. The power comes down to the meter on the
outside and from there runs into the basement where it goes into
several different boxes. It's very hard to trace what's going where.
Some of the original wiring is still present in the house, in one of
the upstairs bedrooms there is an outlet that has one round, sideways,
recepticle, and another bedroom still has a pushbutton lightswitch. I
think I'm gonna end up calling an Electrician for this one. Thanks
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