Electrician Advice Needed - Service Upgrade

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Bobby_M

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Bottom line, I finally applied for the permit to upgrade my service from 100 to 200amp. Homeowners can do any work themselves around here as long as it's to code obviously. In general I know what to do but the devil is in the details when you're actually buying the gear. Also, I'm sure a lot of this is local rules so I'm looking for basic sanity check unless there's actually an electrician from NJ that would know the exacts..

I bought a Square D QO 40-slot 200amp load center, two ground bars, and all the replacement breakers I need to go with it.

I got a new 200a meter pan with a 2" hub included. Luckily my meter is already marked CL200 but I think the socket is undersized so I figured I'd replace it anyway.

I have a LOT of questions after this.

1. Aluminum or Copper SEC? I know the 4/0 x 3 SEC aluminum is OK for 200a and only $2.75 a foot at Depot. It can be directly strapped to the siding between the weather head and meter with a weather tight compression fitting in the hub. In my current install the SEC comes out of the bottom of the meter and just enters the wall through a hole with some caulk around it. Seems shoddy.

2. If I use THHN copper, is it true I can use 3 x 2/0 and put it in 2" PVC? If I do this, it has to be in conduit all the way into the load center correct? If the meter and load center line up right back to back, can I just put a 2" short nipple between knockouts with plastic bushings on the ends?

3. Grounds. I'm clear on needing #4 AWG copper from the ground bus to two 8' rods at least 6' apart with no cuts in the wire. Do they care if it's solid vs. stranded? Does it have to be bare or can it be green?

4. Bonding to water pipe. #6 copper to the closest cold pipe also jumped to the hot across the water heater. Bare or green, stranded or solid? My water supply coming in is plastic so no need to jump across the meter.

Why does everyone think I'm nuts to do the live splice at the aerial? It's only 120v at a time ;-) I got those butt-splice lugs with the heat shrink tubing to go over the two hots.
 

oldschool

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Bottom line, I finally applied for the permit to upgrade my service from 100 to 200amp. Homeowners can do any work themselves around here as long as it's to code obviously. In general I know what to do but the devil is in the details when you're actually buying the gear. Also, I'm sure a lot of this is local rules so I'm looking for basic sanity check unless there's actually an electrician from NJ that would know the exacts..

I bought a Square D QO 40-slot 200amp load center, two ground bars, and all the replacement breakers I need to go with it.

I got a new 200a meter pan with a 2" hub included. Luckily my meter is already marked CL200 but I think the socket is undersized so I figured I'd replace it anyway.

I have a LOT of questions after this.

1. Aluminum or Copper SEC? I know the 4/0 x 3 SEC aluminum is OK for 200a and only $2.75 a foot at Depot. It can be directly strapped to the siding between the weather head and meter with a weather tight compression fitting in the hub. In my current install the SEC comes out of the bottom of the meter and just enters the wall through a hole with some caulk around it. Seems shoddy.

2. If I use THHN copper, is it true I can use 3 x 2/0 and put it in 2" PVC? If I do this, it has to be in conduit all the way into the load center correct? If the meter and load center line up right back to back, can I just put a 2" short nipple between knockouts with plastic bushings on the ends?

3. Grounds. I'm clear on needing #4 AWG copper from the ground bus to two 8' rods at least 6' apart with no cuts in the wire. Do they care if it's solid vs. stranded? Does it have to be bare or can it be green?

4. Bonding to water pipe. #6 copper to the closest cold pipe also jumped to the hot across the water heater. Bare or green, stranded or solid? My water supply coming in is plastic so no need to jump across the meter.

Why does everyone think I'm nuts to do the live splice at the aerial? It's only 120v at a time ;-) I got those butt-splice lugs with the heat shrink tubing to go over the two hots.

I'm in Indiana but most electrical laws are similar.

1) Aluminum or Copper is just personal preference. I would choose Copper because it's easier to work with because it's more flexible and is smaller. It is more expensive but will have to be in conduit and just looks a little better.

2) Run conduit all the way to the meter. Is you service coming in underground or from a weather head? You can use 3/0 for the two hot legs and a size down for the nuetral. Yes, just use a short nipple between your meter and load center, if not then you will need a disconnect outside of you building.

3) Ground wire-It can be solid or green stranded. I prefer stranded because of looks. I also run a 1/2'' piece of conduit from the meter box to a few inches fom the actual ground to hide the wire (again just looks). In indiana we only have to have one ground rod. Unless you live in Arizona I wouldn't know why you would need more ground than that.

4) Not sure what you are talking about.

Remember the worst that can happen is that when the electric people come out to hook everything up they will not do it and tell you why.
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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That's not how it works here. PSEG doesn't disconnect the aerial to let you do the work. You cut the connection live and you splice it back in live. I see what you're saying though, worst case the inspector comes back and tells me to fix something. I just rather not do things twice.
 

kjung

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In most places (every one that I've ever done work in, anyway), the power company is responsible for everything up to the meter socket. From the socket down, it's your responsibility.

That said:
1) Copper is a better conductor than aluminum, although it is a bit more expensive.

2) PVC as a service entrance is iffy, and up to local code. Personally, I've NEVER seen it in an aerial feed. Keep in mind, though, anything in PVC usually MUST be accompanied by a ground wire. MOST codes do require conduit from the meter socket to the panel.

3) Stranded cable, especially at that size, is considerably easier to work with than solid. TBH, I don't think that I can even recall SEEING #4 solid. IIRC, it CAN be coated, also. If it is, I believe that it must be marked by green tape, if it's not jacketed in green.
 
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Bobby_M

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We're responsible for the weatherhead to the panel. PSEG will supply a meter pan for free just by showing them a town permit.

I assume PVC ok here because they PVC weatherheads. Obviousy it can't be used as a mast above the roof line.

I like copper better but it's also $7 per foot for three conductors vs. $2.75. My main issue is no one I talk to can agree on the required gauge. I've read 2/0 and 3/0 for 200a SE. My current install, which was done in 1991 uses AL SEC and it's strapped to the siding both above the meter and below, just before it turns into a hole in the side of the house. I like the idea of a PVC LB at that spot just for physical protection.
 
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Bobby_M

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I decided it was time to stop thinking and planning and just cut the fricken wire.










Well, the power is back on so that's a good sign. 9 hours start to finish including pulling the bonding wire through the attic to the water pipe. Almost got stung by a yellow jacket while I was splicing to the aerial.


I see a welder and electric brewery in my garage's near future.
 

Hang Glider

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Whoa! - you cut the actual supply line from the pole? All the places I've lived, that is the Power Company's domain - for fear of the common citizen getting zapped.

If I wanted to upgrade, I'd have to schedule a service disconnect, rewire to my hearts content, then schedule a service reconnect after city/county inspection.


I see your post (#3 above) that indicates your power company does not operate this way - which I find surprising considering the potential liability...

Glad you're still here to post!
 
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Bobby_M

Bobby_M

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I was shocked (lols) to find out that bit of info also when I was planning this. Even when I went to pick up my free meter pan from PSEG, I picked up their documentation for services which described their responsibility ending at the "point of connection". That's a fancy way to say the eyebolt that the strain relief clips to.

I stood on a fiberglass ladder, wore rubber soled shoes, rubber gloves, and rubber insulated tools. Honestly, the worst thing I could have done would be to touch either the neutral or other hot with my other hand. I gripped the wire I was working on by the insulation and hack stripped the ends with an insulated utility knife.

From what I gather, the city will inspect my work so far and approve/deny. Then PSEG will come lock the meter pan and inspect to see if the aerial needs to be changed out.

The hardest part of the job was driving the ground rods. The deepest I could get with a sledge was 4'. I had to rent a power hammer and even then I got 5.5' straight down. I went with new rods at a 45 degree angle.
 

oldschool

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I'm sorry but I think it's totally absurd to think that the electric provider would expect you to make terminations to hot lines. It's just not safe.
 
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Bobby_M

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You should call PSEG and tell them that.

I suppose if a certain percentage of service upgrades produced injuries or death to the contractor or homeowner, they'd outlaw it. You might think it's absurd for the power company to let people work on hot lines, but this is something done in the electrical trades every single day. Expecting the power to be shut off in every situation is impractical due to the costs involved. Think of it this way, when PSEG sends a guy to disconnect the aerial drop to my house, HE would be the one disconnecting the splice at the pole. Someone has to touch the hots and in that case, he'd be touching them twice.

You just have to know what you're doing. The only way you're going to have a problem is if you're grounded and touch the wire at the same time. So was I being safe or stupid?
 

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Out of curiosity, do they replace the connectors that you installed with company approved ones or did they just leave those on?
 

the_bird

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I believe what you found out...

... but boy, I'm not sure how "to the point of connection" doesn't mean that they're responsible for everything on their side of the meter. Seems to me that the power's connected to the street at the meter, not at the eyebolt.

Must be an electricians' union think, to scare homeowners away from doing this kind of work themselves!
 

drez77

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I believe what you found out...

... but boy, I'm not sure how "to the point of connection" doesn't mean that they're responsible for everything on their side of the meter. Seems to me that the power's connected to the street at the meter, not at the eyebolt.

Must be an electricians' union think, to scare homeowners away from doing this kind of work themselves!
In MA and the town you live in that is served by NGRID the customer owns and maintains the service entrance cable. The utility’s point of demarcation is the connections. Also, if your sevice is underground you own from the pole all the way to the meter.
 

jgln

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That's not how it works here. PSEG doesn't disconnect the aerial to let you do the work. You cut the connection live and you splice it back in live. I see what you're saying though, worst case the inspector comes back and tells me to fix something. I just rather not do things twice.
By saying you would not rather do things twice are you saying you hooked power back up before the inspection? I would think that would not fly.
 

jgln

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In MA and the town you live in that is served by NGRID the customer owns and maintains the service entrance cable. The utility’s point of demarcation is the connections. Also, if your sevice is underground you own from the pole all the way to the meter.
Here in NJ I have a several hundered foot underground run to their "pot" which they replaced for free when someone (not me, blamed UPS/Fed Ex) ran into it. I hope they are responcible for the run between the pole and their transformer and meter.
 
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Bobby_M

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Of course you hook back in before inspection. How long do you think a homeowner would be willing to live without power? One day? How long do you think it takes to get the inspector out? Hint... way more than one day.

The splices are "temporary" on paper until PSEG does an inspection and evaluates the ability of the aerial to carry 200amps. I've heard that 99% of the time, if the existing wire is in good physical condition, they pass it with the existing splices and walk away.

I guarantee I'm not mistaken when I say it's my wire up to the weather head and the power company's after that. If that were the case, Home depot and Lowes would not stock dozens of weather heads and hundreds of feet of service entrance cable. I'm not saying it's a foolproof way of knowing, but it's probably a good indicator that you're in an area/state where the homeowner is responsible for it.
 

jgln

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Of course you hook back in before inspection. How long do you think a homeowner would be willing to live without power? One day? How long do you think it takes to get the inspector out? Hint... way more than one day.

The splices are "temporary" on paper until PSEG does an inspection and evaluates the ability of the aerial to carry 200amps. I've heard that 99% of the time, if the existing wire is in good physical condition, they pass it with the existing splices and walk away.

I guarantee I'm not mistaken when I say it's my wire up to the weather head and the power company's after that. If that were the case, Home depot and Lowes would not stock dozens of weather heads and hundreds of feet of service entrance cable. I'm not saying it's a foolproof way of knowing, but it's probably a good indicator that you're in an area/state where the homeowner is responsible for it.
I am not an electrician or a contractor but I would think you set up an appointment or something in that case where you cannot leave it down long and to be safe. If you are allowed to hook up before an inspection it is almost like why bother having an inspection. I am not judging your abilities just wondering about the guy who does not have then and tries it.

I don't know how many accidents do happen, and you are probably right about that but it just would just seem a safer practice for non electricians.

We had an electrician working on a box for the company I work for and whatever he did he almost blew the box off the wall and spent weeks in the hospital recovering. I saw the pictures afterward, scary.

I went on the PSE&G website and they don't tell you much about this stuff, guess you need to call.
 

Hang Glider

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When I rewired my house in Ala., I had to do the weatherhead, the meter box, etc - but the pole-to-weatherhead connection was all theirs - I had to leave it hanging.

We had to set up a service pole - a 12' (min) 4x4, with weatherhead, meter box, and temp outdoor circuit breaker box. Then we called, they moved the power line from the house to the service pole (after inspector cleared it). Then we had to "live" off the service pole while we rebuilt the house wiring. Once the house wiring was cleared by inspector, power company moved the wires back from service pole to house.

of course, there is double expense: temp weather head, temp circuit box, temp circuit breakers, but that's how we had to do it.
 
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Wow, I'm gonna have to chime in with the "that's crazy" crowd. Expecting you to work with live, high amperage, power lines is nuts! I've done it before, but with gloves specifically made for that purpose, and only because we didn't have time to wait for the power company to come.
The two power companies I deal with, KCPL & IPL, both will tell you that they are repsonsible for connections up to the meter, and will gladly come pull the meter or drop the line for you to work on it. It just has to be planned ahead, otherwise it will take them several hours to get there.
Here in Independence, IPL will even come out in the morning to drop an overhead line if you need to trim your trees, then put it back up in the afternoon when you're done. All free. Another difference here is when you move up to 200A, Independence requires you have the line buried.

Thank God you were smart about how you handled it. Some people aren't.
 
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Bobby_M

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I was sure there would be tons of red tape and bureaucracy involved since NJ is mostly like that. I went to the town zoning/permits office, asked for a permit for electrical upgrade. I filled out the address info and put myself down as the contractor. The electrical inspector said "you're going to do it yourself?". Yes. "You know you have to do the live splice right?". Yes. "Ok, just be careful. If you leave a blank check for the permit you can get started right away."

Then I called PSEG to ask if they had any specific requirements for the meter pan. They said bring the permit and you can get a free one.

I agree that this is a dangerous job for a homeowner and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. The most dangerous aspect is that it's an unfused connection so if you close the circuit, you're screwed very well.
 
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