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Do I Need to Upgrade Electrical Panel?

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by VillanovaEV, Mar 11, 2017.

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  1. VillanovaEV

    VillanovaEV New Member

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    I met with the Tesla recommended electrican in my region and he said I needed to upgrade my panel in order to accommodate the NEMA-1450.

    I sought a second opinion from a different electrician and he said no need, my current setup would be just fine. I could use mini breakers to gain more space. It's a 200a breaker.

    Attached is the photo of the current panel. Ideally if I don't have to spend $3K to upgrade a panel that would be great, but I also don't want to not be equipped to handle the charge of the M3.

    Anyone have any good insight on panels?
     

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  2. 182RG

    182RG Free The Service Manuals From Tyranny

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    #2 182RG, Mar 11, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
    Your second opinion is accurate. Move 4 of your 15 or 20A single pole breakers to minis, and make room for a standard size 2 pole 50A. It looks like you use gas for heat, dryer, hot water, and stove/oven, so load doesn't appear to be an issue. The current panel should be fine.

    That said, there is some "noise" on the Internet with the Challenger panels, that appear to be in your vintage. FWIW.

    Is Your Challenger Brand Electric Panel Safe? - Brubaker Inc.
     
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  3. JHWJR

    JHWJR Member

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    No real insights, but i had the same conflicting guidance. The first potential installer said that I would have to upgrade the service from the pole. He said that, otherwise, I'd likely experience substandard power delivery and/or circuit breaker pops. When i told him that I took out the electric stove, he said all would likely be fine. The second installer never mentioned it and said there would be no problem with the 100 amp connection.
     
  4. BruceR61

    BruceR61 Member

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    fc6946f2-fd10-4bb8-88e4-5ae6b555859e_1000.jpg I have a 200 amp panel that appeared full as well. It was an easy fix. In fact, they used a unit I'd never seen before (till I went to Home Depot and saw they were only about $25). It is a mini set with a 50A dual pole breaker (the 240V) in the middle of two 20A single breakers. In the space of two prior 20A breakers I now had the complete set-up. They even said they could do it again to install the HPWC which I procrastinated on, separately with a 60A breaker, without the need to do a subpanel (which I thought I'd have to do).
    I am just waiting for the car to try it out and see if I want to install the HPWC and keep the cord in the car for "emergencies."
     
  5. VillanovaEV

    VillanovaEV New Member

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    Thanks. I was hopeful that would be the case. I was thinking if I had the space (which it sounds like I might) I might splurge for the Wall Connector since its similar ampage.

    Didn't hear about the chatter on the panel. Anything serious?
     
  6. arnolddeleon

    arnolddeleon Member

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    I would ask my insurance company if I can get a discount if I replace/upgrade the panel. If the panel is above a certain age an upgrade sometimes can net a discount. If it was a Zinsco panel I would upgrade immediately.

    arnold
     
  7. Topher

    Topher Energy Curmudgeon

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    200 Amps should be plenty for you.
    $3k seems exorbitant for a panel upgrade. That's what I paid 15 years ago to wire up my entire house.

    Thank you kindly.
     
  8. Obsoletion

    Obsoletion Member

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    It's not just about about the space, it's about the maximum potential load of the panel. The electrictrician needs to determine what the maximum load would be at any given moment as to be sure that it can't exceed the 200 amp rating of the panel.
     
  9. VillanovaEV

    VillanovaEV New Member

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    Wow. Yea the Tesla preferred quoted $1k to run the wire from the panel to the garage (it's on polar opposite side of house) and $2,800 for the new panel/labeling. It felt excessive
     
  10. brucet999

    brucet999 Active Member

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    BIG +1

    Good catch Challenger being the same as Zinsco.

    I had Zinsco sub panels in a 1960s era apartment building I owned. A tenant complained that his TV shut off, so I checked the panel. Panel was in a dark hallway and when I took off the cover I could see blue light flashes between breakers. When I took the breakers out, I found pitting on the bus bars from arcing where the breakers made contact. Then I looked up online and found out that Zinsco is famously unreliable, perhaps next only to FPE for the number of residential fires caused.

    How to Replace Zinsco Circuit Breakers & Panels or Zinsco/Sylvania circuit breakers & electrical panels - cost-savings alternatives for Zinsco Replacements
    Is My Electrical Panel Safe? - Important Information About Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco and Outdated Electric Panel Boxes

    I would go with the Tesla electrician's recommendation to replace the panel, not because of capacity but because Zinsco/Challenger panels are inherently unsafe and I would be afraid to put a large constant load on such a panel.

    That is what I had to do at my Lake Tahoe cabin when I went to add a 50A breaker for 14-50 and realized that the old panel was FPE, which is known to cause about 2,000 house fire per year in North America! I swapped out the entire panel for a Square-D one and now I can charge without worries.
     
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  11. timx

    timx Member

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    Breaker space wouldn't seem to be an issue, you can use minis on the right side. I'd be more concerned about your load exceeding 200A - looks like at least 100A continuous load (a/c, water heater, refrigerators). Other circuits really depend on usage - if lights are led, then those circuits wouldn't add up to much, however fans and halogen can add up, and any major appliances or power tools. Can you check your meter to see what you are drawing with "worst case" typical usage? I would guess not enough for 72A hpwc, though maybe ok with less. Can't say for sure just by looking at panel though, as the breakers altogether far exceed 200A.
     
  12. brucet999

    brucet999 Active Member

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    Replace the panel or at least upgrade if it is big enough to take an Eaton load center replacement of the working parts in the old box.

    See my post #10
     
  13. VillanovaEV

    VillanovaEV New Member

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    Thanks. Yea the panel is original (1994) and the Tesla tech did say the panel model might have trouble with the constant load, which you basically covered.
     
  14. gregd

    gregd Active Member

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    Add my vote to replace the panel. I had a Zinsco panel, also full like yours, and while we theoretically could have combined slots to make space for a new 50A circuit, I opted to do the upgrade in order to sleep better at night.

    What tipped the scale was when my electrician mentioned that some insurers will refuse to write a policy on a house with one of these panels. He was surprised that the 1983-vintage house had one. We'd already had our policy canceled by one insurer because they didn't like the trees on the property, and I didn't want to give anyone else any excuses. More importantly, electrical issues can be serious. We almost had a fire years ago due to a bad connection behind an outlet (wife and I smelled smoke and caught it in time), so I took his recommendation to heart.

    I pitched in my own labor (which is where most of the cost is) to string wires under the house, install the outlets (with his review), and generally fetch and hold things while he worked, and kept the overall cost to $2,300. Besides the 14-50 outlet, we also added a pair of 5-20's in the garage for basically no cost. See if you can find an electrician willing to work with you, and you should be able to get the cost down.
     
  15. BruceR61

    BruceR61 Member

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    Load being used at 10:00 at night should never be an issue on a single family residence with 200A to get a 50 or 60 amp breaker to Work. Of course do the calcs, but I have a pool, 5 ton HVAC, two refrigerators and all the usuals ( even a dedicated 20A for my stereo amp) and have plenty to spare.
     
  16. timx

    timx Member

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    Given the issue with that circuit panel others have mentioned, I wouldn't risk adding any continuous load to it - either replace it or run a new separate meter and panel.

    As a point of reference, I have a 4br house built in 1983, 200A, nothing unusual, where adding 40A charger wasn't an issue. Though adding HPWC at 72A in addition to other charger would have exceeded load calcs. Cost: $2800 to run second 200A meter, 100ft feed, second 200A panel, 10ft cable to hpwc. Utility ran new underground lines and upgraded transformer to 37.5 at no cost, however extra meter requires additional $25/month. Alternative to replace with single 400A meter and panel would have been $5600. Prices in Iowa, where electricians typically bill $100/hr.
     

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