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Your Place: Should I amp up my electrical service?

February 16, 2015


Q: I have a modest suburban split-level that is 50 years old. As we’ve had work done, such as the kitchen 10 years ago, we’ve had two subpanels added to the breaker box, which is 100 amps.

Our current electrician is recommending cleaning up the breaker box with a larger one and possible upgrading to 200 amps.

The 200-amp service would cost more and would be more for a future buyer’s needs than for our needs.

Another inspector suggested that with the efficiencies of modern bulbs and appliances, we should be fine with the 100 amps.

I’m 65 and recently retired. We have no plans to move, but while I’m having work done, I’d like to have things set up so there are fewer future complications.

A: W.D. Sharpe, a North Jersey electrical contractor, has one of the better answers to the 100-amp question.

Sharpe offers a detailed explanation of how to determine your power needs at http://www.wdsharpe.com/200—Amp—Service.html .

The contractor’s short answer: If you don’t have 220-volt "electricity hogs" (electric heat, hot water heater, dryer, range or central air-conditioning), 100-amp service in a modest-size home will do for most families.

That is, however, the minimum service size allowed by the National Electrical Code, and it leaves little room for expansion.

This Old House’s website actually calls a 100-amp service "antiquated."

A 200-amp service, one electrician said, will allow you to run multiple appliances at once.

The website Networx.com places the installed cost by a professional, licensed electrical contractor of a 200-amp service at $1,300 to $3,000.

Don’t take Internet estimates to the bank, however.

I have 200-amp service in my house, but it came that way. My last house was also 200 amps, but I spent $665 (I still have the bill) to clean it up, as your electrician puts it, part of an $8,000, 13-year upgrade.

Cost is important for you, but if you are having work done already, consider this: 200 amps could be the new minimum when you go to sell the house.

 

 


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