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Electrical Panel replacement

Alacrity59

Wanting for wisdom
I've had a lot of good advice from this forum. I saw once a Disney quote that was something like "None of us is a smart/wise as all of us".

Our house was built in the late 70's. Our electrical panel is a Sylvania. Turns out these things have been out of production for many years and it is tricky to get replacement breakers. We've added some pretty big stuff load wise, oven and separate stove-top, elevator, whirlpool tub . . . using sub panels, etc. where necessary. We have 200A service and the original panel has 32 slots for breakers with a few taking two spots.

If I'm upgrading I want to do it right. I'm thinking that Square D is pretty popular and will not go defunct as Sylvania did. Thinking 40 slots with 80 circuits max depending on how many half height breakers are installed. (based on what I've read I want Square D or Siemens)

I'm thinking of adding a whole house surge protector . . . and maybe since it is all being redone it is time to add provision for a back up generator.

What else should I be considering?
 
It's been years since I I've worked as an electrician, but Square D always seemed to be the gold standard with GE not far behind. Square D's QO load centers were much better than their Homeline series in my opinion, but we're much more expensive. I didnt use a lot of Siemens products so I can't really comment on their products.

I'm don't know how big your house is, but I used to wire 1500-2000 sq ft houses easily with 42 circuit panels. These were all electric HVAC, oven, range etc.
 
Just like Whisky said, Square D or GE
I've replaced mine with GE - just because was the size i needed and easy to find all kinds of breakers. From what i heard Square D are better but i'm not an electrician.
 
Odd, I had to replace a 30amp breaker tonight in my Square D panel (AC had it arcing & smoking, while pulling 22 amps). Lowes keeps them in stock, as does Home Depot. $15 and I was back in business. Our previous house had a Cutler & Hammer panel. They make two styles - commercial panel with supply house only breakers, and a lower grade panel and breakers carried in Home Depot. Of course our house had the commercial panel. My son is a master electrician so he could get the breakers I needed for various expansions at a reasonable cost. I needed a quick job one day and the local supply house charged ME $45 for a breaker my son could get for $10.
 
We went with a cheap Murray panel from Lowes when we upgraded to 200 amp service. It uses readily available and cheap breakers, was easy to wire up, and has had zero issues in nearly ten years.

Murray panels are kind of poo-pooed for some reason, because they are seen as cheap I guess, but ours has been flawless.
 
Mike, I think you are north of the U.S. so check local codes. In most States/cities/counties once you have the utility company drop the power to your residence, they will not reconnect unless they see a signed off inspection sticker from your local authority having jurisdiction(AHJ for short).

This gets murky. Some AHJ will let the owner do the work, some only a licensed mechanical contractor with local business license. Then again, some rural counties don't inspect at all. Make sure first.

Brands? I have used them all and I choose Square D unashamedly. The QO series. The Homeline is another model that uses what I call universal breakers. If you look at the lower cost GE, Murray, etc they have an almost identical mounting footprint. Anyroad, SD is like John Deere. You can get parts to fit almost anything they've made and unlike John Deere you can buy them at most home centres.

In any case, buy a 40 position, 200 amp box with main breaker. Don't use those ridiculous tandem breakers that convert one space into two. Even the SD versions are kind of weak feeling. 40 breaker spaces is plenty for a large home.

Also, I think you guys use U.S. 240/120v single phase power to residences so it shouldn't be anything exotic. If different check with supply house for correctly rated equipment and breakers.
 

KeenDogg

Social Media Guru
Mike, I think you are north of the U.S. so check local codes. In most States/cities/counties once you have the utility company drop the power to your residence, they will not reconnect unless they see a signed off inspection sticker from your local authority having jurisdiction(AHJ for short).

This gets murky. Some AHJ will let the owner do the work, some only a licensed mechanical contractor with local business license. Then again, some rural counties don't inspect at all. Make sure first.

Brands? I have used them all and I choose Square D unashamedly. The QO series. The Homeline is another model that uses what I call universal breakers. If you look at the lower cost GE, Murray, etc they have an almost identical mounting footprint. Anyroad, SD is like John Deere. You can get parts to fit almost anything they've made and unlike John Deere you can buy them at most home centres.

In any case, buy a 40 position, 200 amp box with main breaker. Don't use those ridiculous tandem breakers that convert one space into two. Even the SD versions are kind of weak feeling. 40 breaker spaces is plenty for a large home.

Also, I think you guys use U.S. 240/120v single phase power to residences so it shouldn't be anything exotic. If different check with supply house for correctly rated equipment and breakers.
This! Well said. I go for Square D first.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
 

Alacrity59

Wanting for wisdom
Brands? I have used them all and I choose Square D unashamedly. The QO series. The Homeline is another model that uses what I call universal breakers. If you look at the lower cost GE, Murray, etc they have an almost identical mounting footprint. Anyroad, SD is like John Deere. You can get parts to fit almost anything they've made and unlike John Deere you can buy them at most home centres.

That is what I mostly wanted to hear. Easily available parts . . . forever. I'll be using a licensed electrician. Not doing so will void my insurance. In my province some electricians are approved to cut the main power and restore . . otherwise it has to be scheduled with the local utility co. Any thoughts on the whole house surge protector? I've heard the Eaton brand has some of the best.
 
Everyone seems to be ignoring the whole house generator part of the question. If you never have outages, it would be a waste in my opinion, but in northern Michigan after a flooded basement because the power failed and the sump pump stopped. we resolved never to go through that again. I went with a Kohler, and would have gone with natural gas fuel, which the house has, but that would have meant re-plumbing a larger line to the house, a larger gas meter, and a large line through the house as the gas entry is at one end and the electrical at the other. We decided to go with a propane fueled generator (I hate those ugly propane pigs) as even in the worst situation, the generator would run for several days allowing time to refill the tank. Actually, it's neat to have everything working while the rest of the area is in darkness! It takes about 7 seconds for the generator to kick in during a power outage...just long enough for the digital clocks to all reset to a blinking 12:00!
 
Probably the best consideration is a good electrician. With the voltage coming into yhe panel, you only get one mistake.
 
That is what I mostly wanted to hear. Easily available parts . . . forever. I'll be using a licensed electrician. Not doing so will void my insurance. In my province some electricians are approved to cut the main power and restore . . otherwise it has to be scheduled with the local utility co. Any thoughts on the whole house surge protector? I've heard the Eaton brand has some of the best.

Mike, surge suppressors are supposed to be a good thing and many of our facilities have them. I think one for your home would not be ridiculously expensive.

Some I have seen installed right into the panel like a breaker and had a small flexible metal conduit to a small box containing the electronics. It may also go some way with your insurance company toward better coverages in case of damages.

I saw the generator mentioned below and it is a good idea but can run the gamut from manual switch and portable connection to auto transfer and $$$$$.
 

Alacrity59

Wanting for wisdom
The power outage question and how to get by and for how long is interesting. It gets very complicated due to my wife's reliance on elevators and lifts to travel between floors in our house as well as having no tolerance for heat. Being disabled is. . . er . . . no fun at all. This is stuff that keeps me awake at night.
 
Yeah, I was posting on the go last night and did not get into it much in the generators. The manual connection and starting is not a big deal provided someone is typically close to hand most times. Sounds like you probably are so that is covered.

Now, going to automatic transfer and determining generator service size gets really dodgy and typically much more pricey. Auto start gensets have their own issues to deal with. First is fuel source. If you are on natural gas then you have to make sure that both service size and associated piping is sufficient for the job. Most jurisdictions are very particular about how the gas is supplied to an outside unit. Propane is typically easier but agsin, there may be regs about supplying both the home and the outside set from the same tank. I honestly don't know.

The big thing with automatic transfer is cost. The transfer switch can easily run into the thousands of dollars. Before you even buy the generator. Then agsin, some companies specialise in packaging home owner solutions to manage install costs. Either way, installed cost is NOT insignificant. And then there is maintenance. I don't care what anyone tells you, once a month you need to kill power to the breaker that the transfer switch monitors to simulate a power outage. You need to KNOW that generator will auto start and transfer.

If the set is liquid cooled then you will also have a block heater always drawing power in cool and cold weather. And you will also have a trickle battery charger running all the time ever to make sure the battery is up.

With manual transfer and manual connection of a portable set it gets much less complicated and less expensive. The main thing is to have someone who knows what they are doing to install your transfer switch and inlet for the portable set. Size is everthing. The larger your set's capacity the more the price increases for both genset and equipment install.
 

Alacrity59

Wanting for wisdom
A bit of an update in case it helps others.

It is easy to find an electrician. It is far harder to find an electrician you trust. I found a great one through a company I was using for another trade/job. After some discussion decided to go with Siemens panel. Reliability and availability of breakers was the deciding factor.

During the upgrade I used a quiet 3000 watt Briggs and Stratton generator to keep our refrigeration, internet, fans, and tv going.

I have a manual transfer switch I'm going to install for the furnace . . . just trying to decide the optimal spot.
 
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