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Should I replace my breaker panel?


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#1 toomanytoys84 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 01:01 PM

I am considering replacing my main breaker box in my house.  There it is a "challenger" brand panel.  It has a date written in there of 1978!  I haven't pulled off the cover yet to install my 40Amp breaker for my sub panel feed to the addition area.  I did my research online about these panels, and it seems they had some bus bar failures due to poor insulation and heat   I want to get in there and look around and see if I can find any indication of damage.  I've never had any problems with this house tripping breakers, or any electrical issues.

 

I was able to find out that BR style breakers are direct replacements for this panel.  UL listed as such from my reading.

 

Would it be worth it for safety to replace it with a newer panel even if I find no damage to the panel?

 

I am capable of doing it, but I have a friend who is an electrical engineer, and does a lot of home wiring(on the side, he does a lot of new electrical installs that are inspected by the power company so he knows what he is doing) that I would have come out to oversee/do it/teach me more than I know now.  The only cost would be a 6 pack of miller lite, cost of breakers, box and whatever the power company would charge me to pull the meter so we can be safe.  I am not concerned with the cost as my family's safety and home is more important.


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#2 WrenchinOnIt OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 01:10 PM

Well piece of mind and safety doesn't have a price, I'd say at close to 40 yrs old your engineer friend would recommend changing it. Your research would seal the deal for me. Biggest problem with any breaker , especially the main,( because most service drops are aluminum)is heat cycles in the wire as it absorbs the load demands on it, an expansion and contraction of the wire takes place on aluminum and can cause a loose connection. Usually not a problem on copper wire but a opening of the circuit breaker and a tightening check is good preventative maintenance. However not on the line side of the main unless the meters pulled or you have a qualified electrician do it. Oxidation takes place at most aluminum termination points furthering the problem and also impedes conductivity

Upgrade, if your budget allows I recommend the Square D line and install arc fault breakers to the bedrooms.
Don't forget the anti oxide paste if your service feeders are aluminum!

Something else , in PA anytime a meter removal is REQUESTED of the utility company for a service upgrade I believe it means a permit is required and a state licensed contractor has to be employed, proof of liability insurance etc. If you're"guy" meets the criteria great, if not ... In PA , no go. Of course they are ways around it... Good luck

Edited by WrenchinOnIt, March 25, 2016 - 01:40 PM.

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#3 boyscout862 ONLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 01:40 PM

In the mid 80s I had one of those aluminum wires from the meter to the box burn. A really nice guy from the power company came out, pulled the meter and disconnected the wires at the pole. He told me what to do and gave me the materials that I needed. About 4 hours later he came back and checked my work. Then, He hooked everything up and I was back to normal. About a month later, he was working on a transformer. A squirrel caused a short and the guy was killed.

 

Don't take any chances with electricity. Go for the new panel and check all the wiring. You might go for a bigger panel and a generator panel while you are at it. It can make life alot nicer when the power is out. Good Luck, Rick


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#4 WNYTractorTinkerer ONLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 02:21 PM

One of the 1st things we did when we bought the house was replace the panel box.  The 1967 one installed had out-lived it's useful life..  Just a question for the electricians out there..  If he replaces the panel box will it need to be up to date code-wise?  (aka-  GFCI with a neutral rod wired in as well?  Just another thing for TMT to consider as he makes his decision..  

 

The question can be answered by his power provider's rep I'm sure..  If he asks them..


Edited by WNYTractorTinkerer, March 25, 2016 - 02:22 PM.


#5 MH81 ONLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 02:48 PM

I have a friend who has not only changed his, but his parents breaker panels. The ones that were there were far too old and one of them had reports of a recall that had never been done, the other was a fuse panel.
Due diligence was done to complete the project the "correct" way, but due to the draconian and overly invasive Universal Building Code and it's ridiculous fallout, my friend was forced to do it the only way he could. Choices were to not be able to afford to do the needed upgrades and flirt with an unsafe panel or to make the needed changes in the safest manner possible and the Govt can go pound salt.
No choice, really.

I am certain the OP has considered the ramifications of going outside the parameters to complete the project. I am also certain he will do everything he can to keep his family and property safe.

There comes a time when the invasivness and micromanagement of a Government make lawbreakers of all of us.
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#6 KC9KAS OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 03:04 PM

  If he replaces the panel box will it need to be up to date code-wise?  (aka-  GFCI with a neutral rod wired in as well?  Just another thing for TMT to consider as he makes his decision..  

 

The question can be answered by his power provider's rep I'm sure..  If he asks them..

I'm sure any new/upgrades would have to be installed according to any code currently in effect now.


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#7 case442 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 04:20 PM

Having read the above in Pa you must bring the service up to code anytime the seal is broken by the power company. All work should and or must be inspected before the power is restored to the residence. The home owner may complete the work in Pa. As long as it passes code. The service inspection is only for the service, to add arc fault breakers would be at your request the same for gfi breakers. A home inspector will suggest any up grades or safety hazards in the home.

Mike

#8 EricFromPa OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 04:52 PM

How many amp service do you have? You might want to upgrade your old service if you plan on a bigger panel.

 

We had an 80amp service and upgraded to a 200amp service and panel a few years ago.Our old 1950-60s service line was aluminum wire to the pole so we called the electric company and had them pull the meter and unhook from the pole for a couple days till we could get it done and have an inspector to sign off on it.

 

Our electric bill is actually considerably lower and we now have room to add stuff to the panel if needed.

 

Expect to pay 200-300+ $$$ for inspection and what charges your electric company will want for the pole work.Some electric companys will add the hook up fees to your annual payment contract if you ask about it.Could save you from having to pay 1 big bill all at once.

 

I would definitely go with a Square D panel and breakers.The breakers are readily available at most hardware stores and are very good quality.You don't want a panel that you will have a hard time finding breakers for in the future.


Edited by EricFromPa, March 25, 2016 - 04:58 PM.


#9 LilysDad ONLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 05:34 PM


 

I am capable of doing it, but I have a friend who is an electrical engineer, and does a lot of home wiring(on the side, he does a lot of new electrical installs that are inspected by the power company so he knows what he is doing) that I would have come out to oversee/do it/teach me more than I know now.

You  have a friend who is a proffessional electrical engineer and your asking a bunch of yard mechanics what to do. What's the matter with you?


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#10 toomanytoys84 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 05:40 PM

You have a friend who is a proffessional electrical engineer and your asking a bunch of yard mechanics what to do. What's the matter with you?

I've come to find some of you guys are pretty smart. He is usually pretty busy. He has 3 kids as well and works a full time job plus his side business. I usually don't bother him with questions until I am certain of what I want to do.

I'm going to try to get him to stop over next week and take a look. Bribe him with a couple beers.

I found a lot of lose connections. I tightened all the breakers connections. The incoming line I carefully tightened with an insulated screw driver(with rubber all over it) nothing looked burnt or corroded.

The only thing that concerns me so far is the old wiring from about a half dozen runs from the oldest part if the house. It's that real old stuff with the oldest part of the house. It has that flaky jacketing that I've ran into before. It falls off if you fool with it too much. I need to figure out where those runs are going ASAP.

#11 WrenchinOnIt OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 06:14 PM

You have a friend who is a proffessional electrical engineer and your asking a bunch of yard mechanics what to do. What's the matter with you?

At least two of us who commented here are professional electricians, and carry the licensing and certified documentation to prove it. All good advice here. The old stuff you reference if it's the old cloth covered romex or knob and tube, I'd replace it. 36 yrs ago I graduated high school joined and have never looked back, I'll take the hits , I'm damn proud to be a member and of the skill set they taught me to succeed. I've put up more services than Carter has pills guaranteed.

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Edited by WrenchinOnIt, March 26, 2016 - 10:11 AM.

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#12 toomanytoys84 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 07:09 PM

The old stuff you reference if it's the old cloth covered romex .


I replaced this stuff in my last house. It was bad...

#13 Bruce Dorsi ONLINE  

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Posted March 25, 2016 - 07:18 PM

One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet:

 

If the work is not inspected and signed-off, in the event of a catastrophe, your insurance company can possibly deny any claims.



#14 karl OFFLINE  

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Posted March 26, 2016 - 05:13 AM

If it Ain't  broke? Don't Fix It.






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