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Tesla solar, main panel upgrade question

tg9413

Member
Jun 26, 2021
5
3
East Bay, CA
Hi All,
I am planning to install a 8kWh + 1 powerwall from Tesla in Fremont CA. After the on site inspection, they came back with the conclusion I need a main panel upgrade due to safety reason and they can't install system on my existing panel. My panel, to be honest, it is very old, one of those FPE stablock breaker panel with 100amp rating. After going through one of the 110v line went down couple years ago I started looking into the issue with this panel and saw all sort of fire hazard report on it.

The quoted price is $5500, I am not particular shock at the charge seeing this seems in the right ball park with what was quoted for some other forum members. Tried to call Tesla to get a clue on how the whole process goes and what's included and what not, but the "advisor" seems pretty clueless as well only saying they will have to work with PG&E to get quote and what not. So I want to get a clearer picture what's gonna go down from here if I include that $5500 into my installation before I sign the contract.

1. The new box they put in the proposal is square d sc2040m200ps, is that means I am required have PG&E to up my service to 200a as well? and does that $5500 put in by Tesla covers whatever cost is needed from PG&E? ( service is over head, the wire from the pole to entry point of the house is about 30~40ft, and all my heavy hitter are NG and no AC, so I doubt i am anywhere close to 100a even at peak )

2. The placement for the new panel showing on their proposal is right next to my old panel/meter, with no new meter location ( tesla said they will need to wait for PG&E do an inspection first ), so what becomes of my old panel in this case? are they going to remove it and patch it up or just disconnect it and leave it at the old spot?

3. If I follow through with Tesla with the $5500 panel upgrade, can it be claim as part of the federal tax credit? This is probably the deciding factor now for me, if Tesla can deal with whatever cost comes from PG&E and the it can be recover some via the tax credit, then it is not all that bad especially considering I should be replacing that panel anyway solar or not due to safety concern.

attached the scope of work in the contract, and the location they mark for the new meter.

Thank you all for the advice in advance!
Screen Shot 2021-07-01 at 4.17.37 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-07-01 at 4.18.02 PM.png
 

sorka

Well-Known Member
Feb 28, 2015
8,251
6,022
Merced, CA
You do not need to up your PG&E service to 200 amps to upgrade to a higher capacity panel.

If your MSP can handle a single 100 amp breaker, then it might be more cost effective to do whole home backup and have them install a 200 amp distribution downstream of the GW2. Then your old service panel simply becomes a feeder to the GW2 vs a single 100 amp breaker.

The catch is that you have to do pretty much a whole home backup and will need at least one extra PW. If your loads are such that you can do whole home on 2 powerwalls then instead of paying $5500 to upgrade the MSP, you add an extra powerwall. Yes, it's more expensive overall by a little bit, but then you have more power in reserve for power outages and load shifting. 1 PW is barely enough for anything.

If you have two AC units though, forget it. I have 2 AC units and had to have 3 PWs for whole home backup. They would have done it with 2 PWs if I was willing to leave 1 AC not backed up.
 

tg9413

Member
Jun 26, 2021
5
3
East Bay, CA
If your MSP can handle a single 100 amp breaker, then it might be more cost effective to do whole home backup and have them install a 200 amp distribution downstream of the GW2. Then your old service panel simply becomes a feeder to the GW2 vs a single 100 amp breaker.
Thank you for the input, is this something I can haggle with Tesla? Their planning process seems pretty to be locked down now with the advisor barely answering anything meaningful. If i can switch out the panel for a powerwall, I would defiantly would prefer that route after all that's for sure can be recover some via tax incentive and maybe double dipping on the SGIP rebates.
 

holeydonut

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,121
1,503
East Bay NorCal
Yeah if your serve entry can remain 100A coming from PG&E, what sorka makes sense on paper. It's better to pay $8k for a new Powerwall and downstream sub-panel than $5.5k for a new MSP. BTW, there is no more SGIP in NorCal (PG&E territory) unless you qualify for the low income / CARE rate.

But PG&E planners and county inspectors don't really make that much sense sometimes. It's possible they want you to get a new panel just because they don't like the age/condition of the old one. So maybe they won't let you keep your old panel even if you put all the stuff downstream behind the gateway.

You're just lucky your gas riser is no where near your main panel and you have above ground service...
 
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tg9413

Member
Jun 26, 2021
5
3
East Bay, CA
Yeah if your serve entry can remain 100A coming from PG&E, what sorka makes sense on paper. It's better to pay $8k for a new Powerwall and downstream sub-panel than $5.5k for a new MSP. BTW, there is no more SGIP in NorCal (PG&E territory) unless you qualify for the low income / CARE rate.

But PG&E planners and county inspectors don't really make that much sense sometimes. It's possible they want you to get a new panel just because they don't like the age/condition of the old one. So maybe they won't let you keep your old panel even if you put all the stuff downstream behind the gateway.

You're just lucky your gas riser is no where near your main panel and you have above ground service...
ya the inspection part is tricky :( last time when they came out to fix the 110v line the technician kinda mentioned I better get it replaced and that's what took me down the route of researching on the issue on that panel has. decision.... decision... X(
 

BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
374
234
Bay Area
First, it is your house.
Second, you seem to already know that the Federal Pacific panels / breakers are unsafe / fire hazard.

But can you help me understand why you want to live with the FPE panel a second longer than you have to?

Insurers are refusing to cover homes with FPE panels, as I am sure that you know.

A full 65% of the FPE breakers failed to trip at 135% of the rated current during a CPSC testing in 1982, some of them for more than four hours. This was with many of the breakers supplied by FPE.

Which raises, at least to me, the question of why you want to keep your existing panel..., but perhaps I am in the twice shy department, as I have been burned already. I have seen the damage that faulty wiring can do first hand, and that was with reliable breakers. (Hint, it burned almost everything in the room, at 2am, after we had flipped the breaker eight hours earlier when something smelled odd, and the automatic fire alarm had the fire department on scene in less than three minutes. Imagine what it would have been like if power had stayed on...)
 

arnolddeleon

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 21, 2012
894
951
SF Bay Area
For comparison I had main panel replacement/upgrade done at my property in Sunnyvale, CA for about $4000 in 2020 That included permits and I didn't pay PG&E anything. The previous panel was 125A and the new one is 200A. The service was overhead. My electrician installed a new weather head and PG&E ran new lines to it. The new service entrance was just around the corner from the old one.

Consult a tax advisor on the ability include the service panel upgrade for the tax credit.

When we bought our house current I had the Zinsco panel replaced before we moved in.
 

tg9413

Member
Jun 26, 2021
5
3
East Bay, CA
Ya, thank you all for the response. I reached out to the tesla advisor on file via email see if he can give me some insight on what's cover from that charge. I guess better just to get the panel replaced at this point with tesla or not as @BGbreeder pointed out, it is not something to be mess with or try to get lucky on.
 

BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
374
234
Bay Area
If it is any consolation, like @arnolddeleon we had a Zinsco sub panel that I could not wait to get rid off for similar, or worse reasons. That reminds me, I still have new in the box Zinsco breakers that came with the house that I need to toss.

All the best,

BG
 

sorka

Well-Known Member
Feb 28, 2015
8,251
6,022
Merced, CA
If FPE is really as bad as that article says, I would take this opportunity to replace it. Sounds like Tesla won't touch it without replacing it probably for that reason.
 

arnolddeleon

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 21, 2012
894
951
SF Bay Area
If it is any consolation, like @arnolddeleon we had a Zinsco sub panel that I could not wait to get rid off for similar, or worse reasons. That reminds me, I still have new in the box Zinsco breakers that came with the house that I need to toss.

All the best,

BG
I saved the old panel thinking the breakers might be useful to someone but then quickly realized I was not comfortable in being complicit in keeping one in service. I just found it a few weeks ago and tossed it in the garbage this time so I wouldn't be tempted to give it to someone.
 
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BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
374
234
Bay Area
I saved the old panel thinking the breakers might be useful to someone but then quickly realized I was not comfortable in being complicit in keeping one in service. I just found it a few weeks ago and tossed it in the garbage this time so I wouldn't be tempted to give it to someone.
That is my thought, too. They are worth a lot on eBay, but I couldn't do it.
 
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