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Best way to upgrade 2 electrical panels to one?

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Posted by: from Saint John
2/28/2016 at 4:44:22 PM

Hi,

I am inquiring as to rewiring steps, best guage wire to use and upgrading 2 panels to 1.

I am helping a friend in research as she is not computer literate.

Removal of K&T will be done next week but panel won't be upgraded for a couple of years. Home is 1 1/2 story with dirt floor basement and was built in 1900's, had some upgrades as it has baseboard electric heat which blows breaker when using hair dryer?

Suggestions for:

Panel upgrades? (electric panels are on first floor)

Best Guage of wire to use for energy efficiency?

Thanking you in advance.

Best regards,

Deborah

Best way to upgrade 2 electrical panels to one?
Best way to upgrade 2 electrical panels to one?
REPLIES (11)
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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time2/28/2016 at 8:31:38 PM

Hi Deborah,

Honestly, I am not sure why you would be inquiring about wire sizes as all this work cannot be completed by the average DIY person. All electrical work of this nature must be completed by competent electricians with proper licensing and permits applied for.

A few questions: who is removing the K&T and are these people not able to offer a price on the work you are needing done. These people must be electricians to ensure all the work is done according to the Canadian Electrical Code. Be careful of electrical work not carried out by either an electrical contractor or electrician as some insurance companies can refuse coverage as peoples lives and property would be at risk. If your hair dryer blows a heating circuit breaker, that is already a sign of electrical hack jobs, as baseboard heaters run on 240 volt and hair dryers on 120v, 2 completely different types of breakers. Wire gauge has nothing to do with efficiency of electricity, it all about code rules (over 1000 pages) that dictate what is safe and what is not. Getting rid of Knob and Tube is only the first step in a large process to make the home electrically compliant.

Hire a licensed electrical contractor (or request 3 quotes from various electrical contractors) and do your homework. And for your safety get an inspection and permit for the work from an insured electrical contractor.

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Date/Time2/28/2016 at 8:45:56 PM

Robert is right on all counts. I do have a few questions though...

Why are there two panels? I looked at the pictures and noted one is upstairs and the other downstairs. Are these separate apartments? If they are, apartments must have their own panel in their unit or access to it in a common area.

These panels are definitely old, but they were quality made; why do you want to combine them into a single location? I would suspect that the original installation (if someone went to the effort to install two separate panels) was likely code compliant. If you want to upgrade to GFCI and AFCI circuits, then you will have to upgrade the panels.

Are these panels in the same room? If they are, if you are going through the process of rewiring, then you will eliminate the panels just through the rewiring process. If you are not rewiring, then you will have to turn one of them into a 'junction box' and then bring all the circuits to the new panel. In most cases it would be less expensive to install a new panel in the same location then it would be to extend all those circuits back to a new single panel.

Cheers

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Deborah in Saint John
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 11:49:00 AM

Thanks John. The 2 panels are together on first floor...years ago this was a 2 unit home. Yes a licensed electrician is removing K& The. And rewiring, but not upgrading panel. The removal Landers Thanks is covered under grant, but owner will have to pay for panel upgrade...so that won't be done until she can afford that. The previous owner sons were electricians who did this job and it was done sloppy and I just want to ensure this time it will safe, by keeping an eye on the electrician work being done and most efficient when it comes to replacing panel near future!

Thanks,

Deborah

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Deborah in Saint John
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 12:01:12 PM

Thanks Robert, please see my other reply to John.

Just want to know...is 12 2 wire not more energy efficient and withstands more heat than 14 guage?

Owner just doesn't want these electricians to do another hack job.

She just wants safe and best way for panel upgrade when that will be done in 2 years.

The 2 current panels are both side by side 100 amp each and on the first floor.

Want to upgrade panels to one as she has 2 meters she is paying for.

Thanks again Robert.

Deborah

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 3:32:04 PM

Deborah,

All wire is rated for a specific ampacity and is protected properly by its corresponding breaker size. It is certainly a good idea to use #12 wire compared to #14, but in saying that, all normally installed plugs and switches are only rated for 15 amps, so the upgrade of wiring is only good if you exceed 75' in length. BUT, bigger is always better, providing someone doesn't find #12 wire in the panel and start adding in 20 amp breakers. Most light fixtures, dimmers, switches and extension cords will melt if they exceed 12-14 amps. There are also additional costs with this larger wire to consider.

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Deborah in Saint John
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 3:38:32 PM

Hi Robert, thanks, that answer all :)

Regards,

Deborah

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 3:45:11 PM

No problem Deborah, I used to live in Quispamsis, so I know what kind of hack-job electrical is out in those areas. People don't seem to care about a good job, only to get paid and move on. Hopefully you find a good electrician to help you.

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Deborah in Saint John
Date/Time2/29/2016 at 6:32:02 PM

Your are right, I just want to be aware of how things should be done and hopefully these guys do a better job than previous owners son

All the best,

Deborah

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 8:25:47 PM

In a similar but separate note, electrical cable used in North America is way overrated to begin with.

Except to meet code requirements for voltage drop, there is no logical reason to 'oversize' wire in a residential application. While there might be a perception of 'safety' in over sizing a wire; if the contractor is doing his job properly, no wire will ever exceed the 80% (12 amps on a 15 amp circuit).

If you use #12 wire, you are still subject to the device limitations (as Robert pointed out) as well as box fill calculations as well as some other rules related to wiring practices.

Cheers

John

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 8:27:50 PM

You mentioned about two meters, you may actually be looking at an entire service change in the future depending on what materials were used when it was done many years ago.

Cheers,

John

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Deborah in Saint John
Date/Time3/3/2016 at 11:18:21 PM

Great thanks John for your help:)

Deborah

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