Upgrade electrical, worth it?

We currently have a 150 amp panel.  We have 200 amp service coming into the house.  We need to replace the panel (old, corroded, and took a big hit from a surge recently) so instead of replacing like with like we’re going to upgrade the panel to 200 amps.  Most everyone agrees that it’s smart to upgrade now since we’re putting in a new panel anyway, this way down the road we add more computers or more air conditioners, etc, we won’t run into trouble.  

Only two have said it is a waste of money.  One was a family member who asked why spend the extra money to upgrade.  The second was the workers at JCP&L when they came to investigate whether the original issue (flickering lights and multiple small appliances and electrical items fried) they said to replace the panel because it was fried, but that an upgrade was a waste of money, 150 amps is fine.

Thoughts?

Also, we’re having a whole house surge protector installed.  The electrician specified that this will only protect against large surges, and we would still need regular surge protectors at outlets for smaller, regular surges.  Any thoughts on this?



--- not the answer to your question, but given your location, open fields around you, I would investigate lightning rods.


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

--- not the answer to your question, but given your location, open fields around you, I would investigate lightning rods.

 I was actually thinking of that down the road, but the panel ($$$) is our immediate concern at the moment 


I guess it depends on the difference between staying at 150 and going to 200, but the JCP&L guys probably know what's what, so I'd lean in their direction.

What are the odds that you'll need another 50 amps of service? That's an awful lot. If you weren't blowing fuses at 150, you're probably ok.


spontaneous said:

We currently have a 150 amp panel.  We have 200 amp service coming into the house.  We need to replace the panel (old, corroded, and took a big hit from a surge recently) so instead of replacing like with like we’re going to upgrade the panel to 200 amps.  Most everyone agrees that it’s smart to upgrade now since we’re putting in a new panel anyway, this way down the road we add more computers or more air conditioners, etc, we won’t run into trouble.  

 If you can afford it, go for the bigger panel.  That way, you don't have to worry when/if you add more equipment or services to the house.


How much more expensive would it be to go with 200 rather than 150 now?  What would it cost to go with 150 now and then upgrade to 200 later should you need the added capacity in the future? If you can afford the added cost and you expect to be adding additional appliances/electronics in the future, it would be prudent to do the upgrade now. 


200 amp panels are standard, and allow for future expansion.  I have put them in, and I can't see how they cost much more than a 150 if the service is already there.  In either case labor should be more than half of the cost, and the labor should be identical.


-- additional future appliances. Problem is, we don't know what appliances will be in our future. How many of us thought we would have a Tesla outlet in our driveway? (OK, you ain't got one now but 5 years from now?) Or an invention we haven't even thought possible.


I will be the first one in my neighborhood for the transporter room that's 'posed to come  out in 2 years. Transporter beams take a lot of electricity to run.


Spontaneous, what cost difference is being quoted? It's a larger panel and a larger main breaker, if I understand it. Home Depot shows about $50 increased cost in parts between 150 and 200 amp setup.


is it a matter of just a bigger panel?

when we upgraded from 100amp to 200 amp we needed the power co to upgrade from the street to the house 


oots said:

is it a matter of just a bigger panel?

when we upgraded from 100amp to 200 amp we needed the power co to upgrade from the street to the house 

I think she said she already has 200 amp service, so no upgrade is needed except for the panel.

Or not. What do I know about upgrading an electrical panel? cheese


your right-didn't see that

I say yes to the upgraded panel


Agree with everyone else regarding ensuring that you have enough amps for future consumption, especially if you get a plug in electric car that uses a fast charger.  Also,would the choice of panel also be important if you wanted to install solar?


As pointed out by someone else above, labor costs will be about the same.  If we weren’t replacing the panel and it was the difference between doing nothing or an upgrade I could see not going for it.  But since we‘re replacing the panel already and since we also already have 200 amp service coming into the house, it just makes sense to me.  The family member who questioned it is known for doing things on the cheap, so if it was just them I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  I’m just curious as to why JCP&L would recommend that also.  

When the electrician came out he certainly didn’t give us a hard sell on it.  He said if we had 100 amp then we should upgrade, but since we were at 150 if we wanted to we could stay as is when replacing the panel. He asked a bunch of questions about our future plans.  We were going to add an enclosed porch or other addition with electricity?  No.  Were we planning on adding a pool?  No.  Hot tub?  Yes, if we’re ever able to afford it.  Based on that he said we should consider the upgrade so that we don’t end up having to upgrade down the road, why replace the panel now and then in five or ten years replace it again because we need to upgrade.

And while on the one hand many appliances are now getting much more energy efficient, we’re also using a lot more than we did in the past, so who knows how many things we’ll be running in five or ten years.

Though looking at the bright side, the house had zero electricity or plumbing until 1968, so at least we don’t have any knob and tube wiring that many older homes have. 

I do wonder if major appliances come with some built in surge protection.  The power surge that our system took during the storm killed a couple of window and free standing fans, the coffee maker (my husband was devastated at that one  oh oh  ), the toaster, and the microwave.   But the fridge, freezer, washer, dryer, and stove all survived.


Here is something else to consider.  After going for the 200 amp panel you get to choose how many breaker slots it contains.  If you have the space get a 40 slot panel, even if you don't need 20 of them for now.  Each 220 volt appliance uses two slots, as would a sub panel in a barn or garage, electric vehicle supply equipment, or a surge protector, which you should install at the main panel to protect the entire house.  Again, if you have the physical space do it once, correctly, and be done.


Sounds like you can more than get by on 150 amps (I have 100) but 200 would be sensible for future proofing. But without knowing the cost differential, who can say?


Labor costs for 200A vs 150A should be the same if the drop from JCPL is already rated for 200A. The higher capacity main breaker and box are going to cost marginally more. I don't know if there are different grounding requirements for a 200A panel vs 150A.

One other thing you may consider asking about is a generator cutoff switch. Its a way to safely feed your panel with an outside generator in case of an extended blackout. We had it done at our house when we upgraded our electrical service. I dont remember what it cost.


Can you add surge protection to the panel to protect the whole house?


For the generator we’re going with an interlock system, supposed to cost less.  

Yes, a surge protector for the whole house is an option, though he specified on the quote that it would have to be replaced if we received a large surge, and that we would still need surge suppressors at the outlets for smaller power surges.


The panel is described as “40 space 200 amp square d panel.”


That's a good panel. And I would do the surge protector.


We decided to go with everything.  Since the major cost was the panel adding on the bits and pieces added to the cost, but not significantly.

They did the panel and the inlet for the generator today.  They also added an alarm so when we’re switched off from the grid using the generator if power comes back on, the alarm goes off so we know to go unhook the generator.


They still have to add the interlock piece itself, but they showed us how to manually do it in case we lose power before they can come back to finish the job.  Not likely, but still good to know.  They also have to add on the surge protector.

The guy tried to be nice and labeled the circuits and wires according to what they were labeled on the old board.  He mentioned the line for the pool.  We don’t have a pool, but google earth did show an above ground pool about 20 years ago. oh oh  We *think* that circuit is actually the back yard exterior outlet, hubby and I will check that ourselves later.

They had to shut off power to do the work (obviously).  Having no AC all day was a minor annoyance.  But we have well water.  With three boys in the house and not being able to flush all day (we get a few flushes before the tank empties) wasn’t easy.  We quickly made ground rules about which bathroom was for what since one bathroom is right off the kitchen (  zipper  ) while the second one is at the far end of the house off the laundry room where odors won’t travel far short term.


Thanks.  We’ve been here two years, so the generator hook up was past due.  Our one neighbor was here for ten years before he did his.  He freely admits that it was because he was overthinking it.  He is an engineer and was thinking starting amps vs running amps, how much did he need to run bare minimum, vs the fact that we lose power a LOT out here so maybe he should go with more power rather than bare minimum, etc.  Ten years to make a decision.  My BIL is an engineer also, and when I told my sister about my neighbor she said “Yep, that sounds about right.”  oh oh


what size generator are you getting (looks like a portable one?)


5500 watts, 8250 starting watts.   I have no idea of what that means.  We don’t want to be able to run AC units and play video games.  But we both have sleep apnea, so powering the machines that is a definite need.  Turning on the boiler in the winter.  Lights.  Charging cell phones.  Switching circuits between the freezer and the refrigerator if it is a long term outage, though the electrician who was here seemed to think we should be able to run both at the same time.  We also have well water, so running the well pump, showers are nice, but flushing the toilet is a MUST

We actually bought it when we lived in Maplewood, shortly after Sandy.  I don’t remember the cost but it was second hand, barely used.  Of course, Maplewood having the infrastructure it does, we never used it once until we moved out here.  My husband would just start it twice a year to make sure it ran, and then put it back in the shed.


To clarify, the boiler is oil, we just need electricity to turn it on.  In Maplewood we had gas heat and had the same issue, it wouldn’t work after Sandy because no power means no call for heat 


spontaneous said:

We decided to go with everything.  Since the major cost was the panel adding on the bits and pieces added to the cost, but not significantly.

They did the panel and the inlet for the generator today.  They also added an alarm so when we’re switched off from the grid using the generator if power comes back on, the alarm goes off so we know to go unhook the generator.


They still have to add the interlock piece itself, but they showed us how to manually do it in case we lose power before they can come back to finish the job.  Not likely, but still good to know.  They also have to add on the surge protector.

The guy tried to be nice and labeled the circuits and wires according to what they were labeled on the old board.  He mentioned the line for the pool.  We don’t have a pool, but google earth did show an above ground pool about 20 years ago.
oh oh
 We *think* that circuit is actually the back yard exterior outlet, hubby and I will check that ourselves later.They had to shut off power to do the work (obviously).  Having no AC all day was a minor annoyance.  But we have well water.  With three boys in the house and not being able to flush all day (we get a few flushes before the tank empties) wasn’t easy.  We quickly made ground rules about which bathroom was for what since one bathroom is right off the kitchen (  
zipper
 ) while the second one is at the far end of the house off the laundry room where odors won’t travel far short term.

 Which receptacle is for the Tesla?


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

spontaneous said:

We decided to go with everything.  Since the major cost was the panel adding on the bits and pieces added to the cost, but not significantly.

They did the panel and the inlet for the generator today.  They also added an alarm so when we’re switched off from the grid using the generator if power comes back on, the alarm goes off so we know to go unhook the generator.


They still have to add the interlock piece itself, but they showed us how to manually do it in case we lose power before they can come back to finish the job.  Not likely, but still good to know.  They also have to add on the surge protector.

The guy tried to be nice and labeled the circuits and wires according to what they were labeled on the old board.  He mentioned the line for the pool.  We don’t have a pool, but google earth did show an above ground pool about 20 years ago.
oh oh
 We *think* that circuit is actually the back yard exterior outlet, hubby and I will check that ourselves later.They had to shut off power to do the work (obviously).  Having no AC all day was a minor annoyance.  But we have well water.  With three boys in the house and not being able to flush all day (we get a few flushes before the tank empties) wasn’t easy.  We quickly made ground rules about which bathroom was for what since one bathroom is right off the kitchen (  
zipper
 ) while the second one is at the far end of the house off the laundry room where odors won’t travel far short term.

 Which receptacle is for the Tesla?

 Har de har har


We have one that was put in since Sandy and never used once. (When we first got the generator after Sandy, we just used extension cords, no house connection then.)  We haven't been good about checking the generator, though, partly because we have had to store it separately from where the plug is.  But now we are renovating and setting it up so that we can store it near the plug and in a place where we can use it, so it should be easier.  But, dang, it's loud, so I dread imposing that on the neighbors.  Hopefully it won't need to be very often, if at all.



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