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Tesla Recommended Electricians (Portland, Oregon) -- Shady Practices?

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by pdxgibby, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. pdxgibby

    pdxgibby Member

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    I wanted to share some shady business practices that I experienced with my NEMA 14-50 installation, and recommend Gregg Walther with GAW LLC ([email protected]) to do your NEMA 14-50 installation in the Portland, Oregon area.

    The Tesla-referred Electricians in my area (Portland, Oregon) were:

    Young Electric LLC
    Westside Electric

    I reached out to both -- here is my experience:

    Young Electric LLC
    A representative came to my home to review my request and offer a bid. He pushed me hard for about 10 minutes on why I needed to upgrade my entire panel. He pitched me on the greatness of two different panels and why I should consider an upgrade at costs of $1800 and $2500 respectively. After listening to the pitch, I asked him if he could perform the installation on my existing panel. With some hesitation, he said that he could, but I wouldn't be able to do any future upgrades (untrue) to my panel after this one. I asked him to bid the job and he did so. I received the following itemization:

    1) Parts / Labor - $500
    2) Permit - $200

    Westside Electric
    This company reached out to my via email and asked me to send pictures of the panel and surrounding area and he would bid the job based on the images. I sent the pictures and he came back to me with the following itemization:

    1) Parts / Labor - $498
    2) Permit - $200

    A little background -- I received a BS in Computer Engineering from Purdue University and I have done some smaller electrical projects personally, so I know what is involved in this job. I have 4, 15-amp single pole breakers all in a row that can be twinned up to make room for the 50 AMP breaker. The parts should be no more than:

    1) 50 AMP breaker - $25
    2) 2 dual 15 AMP breaker - $60
    3) Receptical - $25
    4) Wiring (6 AWG) - $25

    Parts total = $135

    I called the county (who handles all of the building permits for the City) and they told me the cost would be $120 for a permit. Why would BOTH companies overbid the cost of the permit, not to mention, why the hard sell on a new panel from Young Electric?

    I found a third electrician -- he sent an itemized list of parts and his permit cost was ... $120!!! He even bid 1.5 hours of labor at a rate of $93/hour. His parts total was similar to my estimate, giving a total of $435 (including the $120 permit)!! HIRED on the spot! He came out this morning and did the work with permit and authorization to begin work in hand. The inspection will be completed on Wednesday.

    What's more? He arrived, and realized that he made a mistake on the bid and lowered the cost by $60, and then showed me the permit cost which was $130. We adjusted the price and he did the entire job for $385 out-the-door.

    For those in the Portland area and are looking for a good electrician -- I highly recommend Gregg Walther with GAW LLC ([email protected]). Excellent electrician! Honest and reliable.

    As far as the other electricians overbidding the cost of the permit and gouging me for what amounts to about $300 per hour, I don't know what to say.

    Has anyone else had negative experience with the Tesla-recommended electricians?
     
  2. RobAndrews510

    RobAndrews510 Member

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    My wife is in the construction business, but one point: It does cost time/effort to fill in and file the permit. I won't disagree that $80 for that service >may< be out of line, but there is some administrative time to this piece.
     
  3. Max*

    Max* Autopilot != Autonomous

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    They need to fill out the "paperwork" (in my county I think I can do everything online), and my county requires an inspection, which means they need to send someone to go over the work with the inspector (time = $$$).

    Yep, they gave huge ballparks (it was a little while ago, I want to say they told me $1,200-$1,600, but you can search my posts if you really care to get the exact numbers). I had a very simple run.

    I send them photos of the job, with a detailed description and a run length, etc. They emailed me quotes (I didn't want to waste the time with them coming over if they price was going to be redunculous). Good thing I did it this way.

    When I pressed them about their ludicrous prices, they said "Well it can change, it depends, maybe it'll be less, we've had jobs as low as $400, can we come over?" "HELL NO".

    Emailed another company, same photos, same description, $395 total. I told them an "RV outlet", not "tesla outlet", and when they came over first question was "EV charger, right? Do you park nose in or nose out?" So they knew exactly what I needed, even though I thought I was pulling the wool over their eyes with my RV outlet quote.
     
  4. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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    You got a great price but the $700 is within range. Permit includes more than just the fee. There is time involved in the paperwork and if they have to file the permit in person. In my state they also have to be there and wait (sometimes for a couple of hours) for the inspector to show up. Doesn't sound shady to me.
     
  5. SW2Fiddler

    SW2Fiddler Bannd Member

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    True, and I have put in personal time at the permit office more than I like.
    However, I must say I'd get a better feeling if the electrician put the actual cost of the permit (as if it were a part), and lined out the administrative time as a labor charge.
     
  6. ckessel

    ckessel Active Member

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    Putting in a 50amp breaker item requires a permit? I had mine done about 3 years ago (Beaverton, OR), I think it was something less than $300. I don't recall any permit related shenanigans.
     
  7. pdxgibby

    pdxgibby Member

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    Our area can do the permit handling online. It's a very simple process, so very little overhead.

    Other considerations are office / support staff. Larger operations probably have schedulers / accountants / etc. Perhaps I got a good price because it's a smaller operation. Either way, very pleased with the work and it looks fantastic.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Yessir! Don't tell Washington County that you didn't get a permit. :)
     
  8. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    That's exactly what it is, about an hour of time to go to the municipality or county office and get the forms, fill them out, etc. Some permit offices require you submit line drawings, etc., and prep for that is also included.

    - - - Updated - - -

    In most jurisdictions, anything beyond replacing an existing receptacle will require permit and inspection. Even adding a new receptacle to a room at the end of a branch circuit requires it. Now, the dirty secret is that many electricians won't worry about it, because it would be difficult to track down and it's a relatively simple job. However, generally if you have to take the deadfront off a panel to do the work, it's going to need a permit and inspection.

    Some cities have put in an "expedited", same-day permit process for certain types of work, like EV receptacles.
     
  9. BertL

    BertL Active Member

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    #9 BertL, Nov 16, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2015
    The first recommended electrician I tried to contact, did not return my two calls, or email. The second electrician was nothing but stellar -- prompt, business-like, reasonable, clean, followed-up, handled all permits & scheduling, was here again when the inspector showed-up in case of questions or problems, and someone I will hopefully use again one day.

    Upon completion of my HPWC installation, I sent an email off to the Tesla contact point (on their webpage) on my not-so-great, as well as the stellar experience with each recommendation from their website. I received a reply back, and sure enough, the order in which recommended electricians appear in my zip code using Tesla's web site is now different. I would suggest the OP do the same, and provide feedback to Tesla's program manager directly. It's good for our souls to discuss on social media like this, but IMHO, direct feedback to Tesla probably has greater impact to help others in the future, and for Tesla to take appropriate action with firms that may not meet their own expectations.
     
    • Informative x 1
  10. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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    ^^This.
     
  11. pdxgibby

    pdxgibby Member

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    I will provide this feedback for sure! :) Good point.
     
  12. fluxemag

    fluxemag Member

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    I don't have a problem with any of the quotes the OP received. Since I bought my 92 year old house last year, I have met with and worked with about 12 contractors (mostly named Steven, very strange). The bids I had on plumbing and heat varied by thousands of dollars, some even double the low bid. A lot of it has to do with how busy they are and if they need the work. Some of the big name companies just expect you not to shop around and send sales people out to bid.

    For my charger installation, I was looking at the same situation of replacing 4 15A breakers with tandems in order to fit the 50A in there. 15 foot run, very easy stuff.
     
  13. pdxgibby

    pdxgibby Member

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    Okay. Perhaps they were all very reasonable...but I felt like the permitting and the nearly identical pricing seemed suspicious.
     
  14. BertL

    BertL Active Member

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    Local jurisdiction establishes permitting costs. I would expect some electricians may add some marginal uplift for their cost to administer and coordinate that depending if they have to physically take in the docs vs send them electronically or what your city/township allows, but you can always call your city and find out what the permits cost if you did them on your own so you have a better feel for it vs what the contractor charges. In my case, permit cost was over 25% of my cost for a 65' conduit run with oversized wire for my new 100-amp circuit (that yes, now maxes-out my existing electrical box) with my customer-supplied HPWC mounted, configured and ready-for-use. I was very happy with a $1500 total price tag including the permit for a very professional job.

    In my particular case, the electrician I went with does a lot of these (two other Tesla's apparently within a few blocks of me where they have done similar work), and has a standard set of rates based on distance away from your electrical box, assuming you have room for it with your existing service. I got the initial estimate over the phone based on my estimated distance of how long the run would likely be and them looking at google maps of my property explaining where things were, then paid $100 via credit card to them. An electrician was out the following day for a site inspection to verify if my existing service would handle the load, walk around my home to collect numbers from devices to estimate combined maximum load, went back and put all that in their model to ensure it would pass the permit submission, and called me that afternoon to confirm with a final price that was a little less than the first guesstimate. They submitted paperwork to the city and 2 electricians were out the following week to do the work, and my $100 was applied to the total cost. They coordinated a date that I'd be home for inspection, they set it up with the city inspector, and all were here for the walk around and final inspection. The electrician took photos of their work for their files and apparently they sometimes send them in to Tesla as part of the program as well. I called their business office and put the balance due on my credit card when they left. The job was done and I was operational. It was one of easiest things I've ever had done as a home improvement project, hence why I wrote Tesla to commend the great job, and give a couple sentences on the other outfit that probably thought my job was just too small for him -- well, he probably won't be getting as many calls in the future now being lower on the website list either. ;)
     
  15. davewill

    davewill Member

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    I gotta say, they look perfectly reasonable to me. I would expect to pay extra to the electrician for handling the permit, I would expect to pay for his time on site, I would expect to pay a markup on the parts. This is about as cheap as it gets.

    That said, if your panel could handle the new circuit, the first guy should have included that as an option right off the bat. It wouldn't be surprising at all if you NEVER needed to add another circuit, and if you did, you might retire the EV circuit before that. Making room for the future should have been YOUR call, not his. I'd give him the boot just for that.
     
  16. skip8jj

    skip8jj Member

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    I received a quote from Young after much discussion with them. They wanted to take a circuit off the common area (we live in a condo) panel because it had plenty of space. However I did not want to have to negotiate with the HOA for the circuit nor pay for a metering device for calculating usage. In the end they wanted about $3,000 for everything.

    I did find two other electrical contractors that would install a disconnect between the meter and our unit's main breaker box. Oregon Electric Group quoted about $1800 including the installation of the Tesla Wall Connector. There is a run of about 50 feet mostly in the garage, must use conduit for the whole run, plus a need for a hole through a 7" thick concrete wall. OEG has installed a couple of charging stations for Leafs in another building near by. They seem to have worked out ok.

    I have used West Side for some other issues and they have been OK but perhaps on the expensive side. As I get closer to delivery, I may ask them for a quote too but I will also add Gregg Walther to my list.

    As for permit costs, I have spent enough time hunting for parking and filling out paper work at the City to not balk at paying someone else to do it, ie $200 for permit and time to do it does not seem out of line to me.
     
    • Informative x 1
  17. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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    $1800 seems fair for an HPWC with a 50' run.
     
  18. StaceyS

    StaceyS Member

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    My response here isn't to criticize you, or the electricians you called. Its more to help educate people so they can understand the broader issues of these types of installations. The "righteous outrage" against "shady" contractor practices that I read in your post feels misplaced to me, and I hope I can shed some light on how this sort of thing typically goes.

    First off: unlike your Model S, your house (condo, apartment, whatever) was hand-built. It wasn't built on an assembly line by robots with minuscule tolerances and near perfect build quality. It was built by humans who arrived at the site in their cars, used hand tools and built it with wood, drywall, sweat and effort. Even if you live in a cookie-cutter subdivision, your house is unique.

    Add to that the fact that the house may have been changed since it was originally built or designed, furthers the uniqueness. This is also the same on the electrical side. There is also the possibility things were done in the past incorrectly without permits. One can never really know, unless you watched the house getting built and are its first owner.

    Ok, so you have your electrical panel, and your BS in Computer Engineering from Purdue says you can take 4 15-amp single pole breakers out, and put in a single 50-amp, 240 breaker (taking up 2 spaces) and 2 double 120v 15-amp breakers (taking up another 2 spaces). What you didn't tell us is what the total amp capacity of your panel is. Yes, physically, you can put those breakers on there, but what you are in fact doing is increasing the electrical demand on your panel by 12 KW, which is a lot! The question becomes, does that overload the panel's main breaker? Does it exceed the rated capacity of the feeder wires from the panel to the meter? You don't specify details to determine this in your post, but it suggests to me that your panel is probably close to capacity.

    If you overload the capacity of your panel, the best case scenario is that you trip your main breaker and your whole house goes dark. Worst case is that your house burns down. So, while you have saved $300 by going with the lowest bid and avoiding those other "shady" contractors, hopefully the installation the contractor did was code compliant, your main breaker is safe and fully functional and your feeder wires are sufficient for the added demand.

    This issue is not about physically putting more breakers in the panel, its about wire feeder size from the service to the panel. The whole reason we have breakers and fuses is so the wires don't heat up and melt, short circuit and cause fires. Breakers and fuses can fail, and when they do, wires get hot and start burning. The longer the runs, the higher the demand, the more heat is generated. Like I said, every installation is different.

    We were in a similar situation as you. We have a fairly full panel, but physically, we could see where we could put a new 50 amp, 240v breaker. In the end, we decided to go with our electrician's recommendation of bypassing our house's main panel, putting in a new branch feeder to a new panel in our detached garage. By doing this, we do not increase the demand on our existing wiring and panel, and the new service goes through a trench buried in the ground out to the garage. Doing this made us be able to install a 100 amp panel in the garage, with lots of room to grow, and the added safety of having the new service physically separated from our house, so if anything goes bad, its physically very difficult for the garage to start our house on fire. All together, our installation cost us about $2000, with me doing some of the heavy lifting (digging the trench).

    The building codes specify how much load you can put on a panel. The electrician who "pushed" you to upgrade your panel was probably doing so out of conservative, and forward thinking concerns. Conservative, in that it is most likely the safest route to go, and forward thinking in that if you ever want to change anything else in your house electrically, you will need to upgrade your panel. (In the 1980s, a typical US house had a 100-amp main panel. It went up to 200-amps in the 90s and 00s. Now, we're seeing 400-amp panels and higher. Electrical demand is not going down, its going up.)

    And as far as your claims of them overcharging you for small things, my guess is that you don't work for a small company. Small businesses must put a cost margin on all services, parts and labor they provide. They are not going to buy parts and just give them to you without recovering the cost it takes them to get those parts. My guess is that you may have suggested to the guy you went with that you got 2 other bids and were unhappy with their responses. He may have decided to "buy" your job at cost, knowing there may be a good possibility you would recommend him over the Tesla recommended electricians.

    It seems that all three electricians responded reasonably. There's more than one way to do an install like this, and its never cut and dried. A spread of $300 over a total scope of work of $400-700 isn't bad. Honestly, this is a tiny job, and for most electricians, it is more expensive for them to do these small, fiddly jobs than a construction job where their bill is $20,000+ and they set a couple of guys on a job site for a week or so, and there is actually MORE liability for them on a job like this.

    Hopefully this makes some sense and provides some perspective into this. Unfortunately, there's no clear cut solution. Every installation is unique.

    Trust me, I'm an architect. :smile:
     
  19. bonnie

    bonnie Oil is for sissies.

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    Really helpful post, Stacey. Thanks!
     
  20. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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    Stacy, very informative. Thank you. It's still worth getting a couple of bids to keep everyone honest and perform basic due diligence. It's also educational. I received 4 bids for a 14-50 all from Tesla recommended electricians. Three were between $600-$700 and one was $2500. The expensive guy didn't even come out he just bid it by email. I let the appropriate group at Tesla know and I see now they have removed them from the list. Tesla sent me an email thanking me and mentioned this happens sometimes. Lesson is sure not everyone is "shady" but unfortunately not everyone is 100% on the up and up.
     

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