Electrical Service Change
By: Dave Varga | Oct 30, 2020
The electrical service change is a very common electrical service job. Your standard residential service electrician could complete one on any given day, and it would be an easy task for him. For the rest of the electricians out there, a quick refresher may be needed before diving into an electrical service change. Let’s review some typical service change details and procedures using the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC).
Today’s electrical service change, also called a service upgrade, is usually an all-day affair and will generate a solid profit when completed without any issues. A typical upgrade of an overhead service to a 200-Amp main breaker panel could range from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on a number of factors including the company and how much they charge to meet their desired profit margin. No matter who does it, the installation must meet NEC standards, local interpretations, and maybe even some superseding state codes.
The first step in the service change process is to visit the site to gather details for an accurate quote and a complete material list. Take detailed notes and photos. Once you have gone through the project with the customer, the customer will be ready to sign your proposal and schedule the work.
Now that you have a signed contract, it’s time to pull the electrical permit. This is a simple process in most larger cities due to the fact that the permitting process is all online and with roughly a $125 permit, you are ready to go.
Next, call the local utility company and schedule your morning disconnect of service. The reconnect will be completed once the utility company receives the pass notification from the county or city inspector. For this one-day event, there is no room for a failed inspection. A no-pass means no power for your customer, an adjusted final bill, and a bad online review.
Refer back to your site visit notes and pictures to add any other materials to your list that you may have left off. All the material needed for the service change can be purchased at your local supplier or at the local big box stores like Lowe’s. The good electrical service company has a fully stocked van and usually will have any missing part needed already on board. Make sure the day of the change you have a helper for assistance and for a parts runner just in case you don’t have the one part you might be missing. In most places, the service upgrade will not need to include arc-fault breakers if they are not already part of the existing equipment.
In the NEC, Article 230 Services covers most of the service change scope. Other parts of the code will need to be visited for items like wire size and grounding.
We can use a basic 1800 square foot single story home with an exterior panel as our example for this project. We will start at the weather head and work our way down as we finalize a material list and code section that applies to it.
Material Code Reference
Weather head Article 230.54
Point of attachment Article 230.24, 230.26
2” rigid galvanized conduit Article 230.28
200 Amp 250 Volt single phase meter base Article 230.66
Ground wire Article 250.62, 250.64, Table 250.66
Ground rod Article 250.53 (A) (3), 250.53 (G)
Intersystem bonding termination device Article 250.94 (A)
200 Amp 250 Volt single phase outdoor Article 230.70
Aluminum feeder wire Article 310.10 (B), 310.15 (B) (7), 310.15 (B) (16)
Breakers for existing circuits Article 240, 240.4 (D)
Complete panel schedule Article 408.4
Other materials like NMC connectors, wire nuts, 2” GRC stand off straps, #4 solid bare one-hole straps, screws, ground rod connectors, 2” roof boot, caulking will be needed. Other parts of the code will be needed for details like securing the mast conduit, knowing the maximum height of the main breaker, and panel working clearance. You must also be familiar with the requirements set forth by the local utility company such as meter base height and meter base specifications.
You don’t have to complete a service change everyday or even every year to keep up with the National Electrical Code and service change specifics. Use the code book every week at work to refresh yourself on the tasks you are performing. Stay informed on changes to the NEC and continue your education at www.jadelearning.com