Sub-panels

May23

Electrical Service Upgrade

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // New Electrical Service, Panel Upgrades, Renovations, Sub-panels

Your electrical service is the system which brings power from the electrical utility provider (BC Hydro) to your home. There are 2 different types.

Overhead: Wiring is run on power poles then distributed to individual homes and buildings.

Underground: Wiring is in underground conduits or cables then brought to the individual homes and building through an underground conduit or cable.

Both systems consist of the electrical panel, circuit breakers, meter base, grounding and bonding system

The elecrical utility provider owns and is responsible for the meter installed in your meter base and the underground or overhead lines which bring electricity to the building.

There are a number of different reasons for upgrading your Electrical Service.

1) Renovations, additions, outbuildings

2) Adding significant electrical loads

3) Replacing an outdated or unsafe Electrical Service

4) Damage from wind, vehicle impact, grow-op etc.

5) Requirement by your insurance company or the electrical inspection authority

Panel Replacement or Upgrade

This involves disconnecting power to the building, removing the existing electrical panel, then installing a new panel. The grounding and bonding systems are inspected to confirm they are intact.

Grounding: Approximately 70% of the homes where we have replaced the electrical panel have had no grounding system prior to our work. In older homes (25+ years old) the main water line has often been replaced. The original main water line was copper and this was also the grounding for the electrical system. When the original copper line is removed and the new PVC (plastic) water line is installed the home has no grounding system. The electrical system ground has essentially been disconnected from the earth. Check at your main water shut-off inside the building. There is a clamp that attaches a copper wire to the water lines. If you do not have a minimum of 10 ft of copper water line in the earth at this point you have no ground. The solution is to install an approved grounding plate or grounding rods.

 

Bonding: All metal plumbing, waste or natural gas lines in the building must be bonded (electrically connected) together. Usually natural gas lines installed after the home was built have not been connected to the bonding system. There should be a visible clamp connection from the metal plumbing and gas lines to the electrical panel. If not, the solution is to install a copper wire from the metal lines to the bond connection in the electrical panel.

Installing a Sub-Panel

Often this is all that’s needed if you need space for new circuits or an addition or renovation. The sub-panel is installed close to the original main electrical panel or where the new circuits will be needed (outbuilding, suite, new kitchen etc.).

Sometimes the existing breakers can be reconfigured or replaced to free up additional circuit space as well.

Service Rebuild

This involves removing the existing meter base, panel and (overhead service only) the conduit or cable attaching to the BC Hydro lines, then installing new components.

400A Electrical Service

400A services require a BC Hydro meter cabinet and CT's installed. Basically, there are no meters that are capable of mopre than 200A so the current must be stepped down through the CT (current transformer) so the elctricity usage can be determined

CT cabinet on the left, meter base on the right. CT's and meter still to be installed

For questions, or a free estimate on upgrading your electrical service click here:

www.pacificstarelectric.ca

 

May23

Should I Install a Sub-Panel?

Categories // Additions, Panel Upgrades, Renovations, Sub-panels

This is a question we get asked often.

The question arises when circuits are being added to an existing electrical system. Often we can replace existing circuit breakers with space saver breakers or reconfigure existing wiring so that a sub-panel is not required. This always the first option before installing a sub-panel.

Sub Panel to the left of the Main Panel

Top Reasons for Installing a Sub-Panel

  1.  If you are adding a suite, outbuilding or an addition we will usually recommend installing a sub-panel to serve the new location. This way the new electrical system can be kept separate. By code, the electrical circuits for power in a suite must be accessible from within the suite or in a common area. Basically, you don’t want your tenant, or yourself, to have to go into someone elses space to reset a circuit breaker.
  2. Additional electrical circuits. Hot tubs, heat pumps, welders are all large electrical loads and may require a sub-panel. Electrical panels in older houses sometimes only have space for 12-16 circuits. If a new kitchen, bathroom or heating system is being installed and the original panel is full a sub-panel is needed. Sometimes, instead of installing a sub-panel, it makes more sense to replace the main panel with a larger one. For example, we would replace the original 12 circuit panel with a new 24 or 32 circuit panel.
  3. Illegal/unsafe wiring. Sometimes new wiring will be installed back to the electrical panel by a homeowner or handyman and they do not know what to do when there are no spaces left in the electrical panel. To replace the panel, install space saver circuit breakers or install a sub-panel is too daunting of a task. Hey!... two wires fit on this circuit breaker! The circuit works and the home handyman feels proud of his accomplishment. Circuit breakers are not designed to have two wires installed under the single lug that connects the wire to the circuit breaker. When two wires are connected to the same breaker there's a much higher chance of arcing, fire and breaker damage because of the poor connection. A sub-panel, spacesaver breakers, or a new panel can be installed to connect the new circuit safely.