Need Guidance About Having Panel Replaced/Upgraded

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Mar 21, 2019
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Los Angeles County
Due to flickering power, we are replacing our original panel (1956-built CA house) with a new 200-amp, including new wiring up to the connection with the power company's line over the house. I am leaving this to a professional (getting 3-4 quotes) , but I need some guidance in specifying the scope of work so I am sure their estimates are all for the same scope of work.

1) Some sites say I need to replace the weatherhead and riser; is that correct? Seems like if I could use the existing riser with a new weatherhead there would be less stucco work needed. The current riser terminates only about 12" above the roof and looks much smaller in diameter than the ones I see in videos of panel upgrades.

2) The previous owner added the 2 circuits seen to the left of the panel. Since we are busting out stucco, I'd like them connected to the new panel directly and remove the added box, conduit, etc. Inside the conduit are 3 separate wires, not romex. Does that create any issues and how should they be addressed?

3) We may need to add some 220 circuits in the future for mini-splits. One electrician said the way to do this is to add an empty conduit from panel to crawl space and from panel to attic to avoid having to bust out stucco to add them in the future, then just fish wire through them when needed; is that the normal procedure/best practice?

4) We will likely remodel in the next 3 years, requiring some new circuits. Are there additional things I should get done (similar to installing conduit for 220) to make adding future circuits easier/less destructive?

5) Is it better/standard for the electrician to arrange city permit inspections, power company disconnect/reconnect or inspections, etc. rather than me?

Anything else I should consider when clarifying the scope of work? I do plan on asking each one when they would start work and when they expect to be finished.

Thanks for your help.


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A couple of question.
Are you a DWP , LA CITY, SCE subscriber?
Have you contacted your service provider and asked for a meter spot?
Thanks, and the meter spot in the existing location means you have an, "drive-by", metering device.

The reason to increase the mast dia. is the increased size of the service conductors, and 12" above the roof deck is fairly normal, however, if there is an overhead drop to an out-building, such as a garage, the conductor must be 12' above a walkable surface.

I'm presuming that you are breaking stucco, for aesthetics, so you need to have someone familiar with stucco patching, and the electrician may or may not refer you.

Here is a method I used in patching/joining stucco. I would remove the stucco from the lath mash, about 6", fold it back, place the new lath, fold the old over the new. this prevented cracking where the new joined the old, because the old had been, "tempered", by the stucco.

A 200Amp service will require 2 driven grnd. rods a min. of 7' apart.

I would place a single 3/4" flex in the attic and 2-3/4" flex in the crawl space, with 4" "J" boxes at there terminations.
Thanks! So I definitely need a new (larger diameter) riser/mast and weatherhead?

Any issue incorporating those two added circuits directly into the new panel and removing the conduit and box they were housed in?
There shouldn't be, because your existing service was installed prior to the lath and plaster.

As a general scenario, the elec. contractor, after the permit is pulled will contact SCE and arrange for the service drop to be pulled and reconnected, usually that's a same day operation. Generally, given the condition of the existing service drop, they may completely disconnect or simply coil it above the phone lines. If you haven't arranged for the stucco to be removed, in that stud-bay, they won't be gentle about if. Their primary concern is the panel, mast, weather-head and grounding.
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Care to share the scope of the bids, generally?
Not at all. This is coastal L.A. County.

Got 5 bids ranging from$3500 (non-licensed person who was the electrical guy hired by a GC who remodeled part of a friend's house) to $5600.

To be fair, all of the bids might not have included the full scope of work, because I wanted to have the added circuits to the left brought into the panel in the wall so I could get rid of the box and conduit, and I wanted empty conduit installed to prepare for future needs. My initial contacts were sort of "how much to replace this with a 200-amp panel?" and I only got more detailed after talking with a couple of the electricians and posting here.

Two of the 5 had a very high number of favorable reviews (4.9-5.0) online; one had 4.5 and a smaller number of reviews but was known to a relative, and two were recommended by a friend.

The two highest-reviewed (both mostly one-man shops with an assistant or two) were $4200 and $5600. I felt pretty good about them both so I went with the $4200 guy. He uses Siemens panels. Permit cost $108. Work starts in 6 days.


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Thanks again.
Another caution is to make sure that the SCE crew has full access to service their drop, pole to weathered.
Thanks. Pretty sure they already installed a new drop. When the power flickering started we called SCE and they sent two guys out. I didn't watch them but when they were done they said everything was good on their end from the pole to the house. Two of the electricians who came out said it looked like they installed a new drop. Either way, there are no obstructions and I can leave the gate to the back yard unlocked if needed.
The elec. contractor will notify SCE when they need the service disconnected and SCE will disconnect and because your service drop was recently replaced they may or may not reuse it, and your contractor will likely be present, prior to there arrival, and the contractor should have, or will detail the process for.
So, while knocking out the stucco, the electrician damaged the interior wall of the house on the other side of where the panel is. The vertical line of holes lines up with the stud on the outer edge of the bay they opened up.

Does this usually happen? Is it generally accepted collateral damage that I need to fix, or is it generally accepted practice that the electrician pays to fix the damage? Thanks.


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OOPS, I should have included that, as an advisory. In my practice it's automatic, and excluded from the bid, because it falls in the, "I can't see inside the walls", category.

Who ever is doing the stucco repair should be capable of patching and touching up the paint, and it helps if you saved the color.
Thanks. I will probably just patch them myself since they are behind a cabinet and I don't want to try to match the old paint. By the time we were done, several holes were all the way through the plaster and buttonboard (rock lath/plasterboard) to daylight. For surface stuff I have used spackle; would that be appropriate for holes like this or is there something better?
Yes, spackle is fine. In my practice, I chamfer the edges of any gypsum material, for a greater area of adhesion, and apply a heated-up mixture of fast setting drywall compounds, sand with 220 and prime.
That's fairly typical and just an advisory, when addressing lath & plaster, impact damage can affect the plaster material well beyond what is exposed, so when pressing on the surface adjacent to that seam, and you may find it has lost its adhesion, which may or may not elicit it being removed and replaced. I would.

So, when is your new service panel being installed?
The panel is installed, getting inspection tomorrow 9/12. In the before and after pic below, you can see that the stud just to the left of the old box was removed; the holes in the wall are from the nails attaching the buttonboard to that (now removed) stud. So now there is daylight visible through those holes. There is no more stud for adhesion to be lost from; are you suggesting that adhesion between the buttonboard and the studs on either side of the bay might be compromised? There is no damage apparent on wall inside.

I am not going to do any patching til the stucco is in because that may involve more banging on the outside to remove enough stucco round the perimeter to attach new paper and mesh.

BTW, the black oval on the"after" pic shows the lowest hole visible from the inside.


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