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1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 1/3/2007 4:06:58 PM EST
I have an old bungalow with a 60 amp fuse box and want to replace it with circuit breakers,I am not affraid of doing electrical work but have never done this before, any advise or should I leave this to a pro?
Link Posted: 1/3/2007 7:02:44 PM EST
I just installed a secondary breaker box in my house during the remodel. It was fairly easy and I believe the procedure would be similar. Make sure the breakers you will use are the correct one the wire gages. Never use breakers bigger than the ones recommended for the wire gages in your circuits.
Link Posted: 1/4/2007 2:49:50 AM EST
If this is a utility-fed service it will more challenging - you may or may not be comfortable with the parameters of a swap under those conditions. A utility-fed service requires the service provider (your electrical company) to disconnect power at their end, inspect the new panel, approve it, and hook it back up. Some charge for this and some do not. Some require a permit for this and some do not.

If this is the case, you'll need to go down to your city planner's office and get a copy of their requirements. City code often supercedes NEC, so that's what you'll have to go by to pass the utility company's inspection. If a permit is required, and they usually are, you then pay the permit fee and request disconnect. Once they have completely de-engerized the main line feeding the meter, they'll pull the meter and the feeds and you can go to work. Then it's just a matter of waiting for the inspection and the re-connect.

If this is an older dwelling, be prepared to pound ground rods, bond any and all water and gas lines, and change the height of the service mast. You may even be required to move the service completely or change its height.

The rest of this applies regardless if it is a utility-fed box or a sub panel. If it is a sub panel, you can typically forgoe the permits and service disconnect and just swap the old for the new.

This type of job is not inherently without its challenges, though.

My first thought is that old, fuse-type services have junk wire behind them and the wire leads are too short to reach breakers because they are connected behind the fuse socket and generally snipped to little over needed length. Since it is illegal to use a service entrance enclosure as a junction box, you'll probably have to install one. No big deal if it is a sub, but a utility fed gets a little trickier because you cannot run branch lines and utility lines within the same chase.

If it is a sub, you'd simply install the correct size junction box with the correct size nipples (if they are less than 24 inches you can pack them as full as you want, so you'll want to relocate the panel no less than 2 feet from the junction box), wirenut all the old wires to new lengths long enough to feed through the chase and land on the breakers, and done. But again, if the wires are "burnt" (old and brittle), they may just snap under the nuts and then you're kind of screwed because you have to run all new lines.

If this is a utility-fed, however, they have to approve the above method before they'll issue a permit for inspection. Their service comes into the meter socket, which will be separate from the panel itself. They do make a combination junction box/meter socket with separate enclosures to facilitate this, but finding the right size can sometimes be difficult. You'll then run two chases to the new panel whose location must also be approved before a permit is issued: One for the service entrance conductors and one for the branch wiring. Some municipal codes also require a separate means of bonding and grounding on split systems such as this, which is another consideration.

So, the short answer to your question is, yes, a fellow with a little common sense and who does his research can do this himself, and do it safely. As long as you don't screw with the utility company's meter and follow the city code to the letter and are nice and accomodating to the inspector, all will be fine. If you don't follow these procedures, you'll either be without power for some time or will get yourself killed playing with 230V tapped off a (typically) 480V or 600V transformer - so it isn't going to trip if you get locked up. The NUMBER ONE rule is always safety, and no where is this more important than when dealing with electricity, which has a mind of its own and doesn't care if your bungalo burns down in 2 years from a wire arc.

But the more prudent--and difficult--answer is, "it depends." There are so many variables it is next to impossible to account for every little snafu waiting to catch you napping in the planning stage. I gave you a few potential pitfalls, such as the length of the wires currently installed, the condition of those wires, and the fact city codes have most likely changed and they may demand a big whoop-dee-doo to approve it. If that's the case, you may choose to hire a professional just to avoid the headaches of dealing with the bearurocrats who seem to have sexual fantasies about making next to impossible regulations to follow. Doesn't mean you can't do it yourself, but it does mean you have the frustrations with your level of comfort and ability to carefully consider.

Depending on all of the above, a professional is most likely to want an hourly rate versus a flat rate to account for these unforseen variables. Typically, this runs between $35 and $65 an hour with a 10% markup on all materials. Best case scenario is a flat rate and you have a sub panel, which would run somewhere around $450 to $950 depending on area, company chosen, etc. If it's a utility fed, think upwards of $1,200 or more, again depending on how silly your city has their requirements penned.

I think your best bet right now would be to take some pictures of the service itself and inside it, as well, and post them here. This will give us a much better idea of what you're dealing with and expose issues you're likely to encounter. It may be easy or it may be tough, but without the pictures it's difficult to say.

If you're willing to do this, we'll walk you through the job, answer any questions, and I'll shoot you my cell number so you can call if you run into a rough spot.

Link Posted: 1/4/2007 8:15:02 AM EST
Thanks guys. It is the utility panel that I mean not a sub panel, and I have found a licensed friend who can do the install for me,it does require a permit so I will pay it. The wire in the house is original cloth covered but it's all in conduit and is easily replaced. My last house had open wire on glass insulators which I replaced with 12ga. wire all in conduit. I don't have the ability to post pictures yet but the old fuse panel is just that, an old fuse panel with an additional sub panel (also fuses) connected to that. Once I get the new breaker panel in everything else is a piece of cake. I will borrow a digital camera and see if I can post a picture anyway because I want to learn how to do that. What I want is a breaker box with at least 40 breakers and 200 amp service.
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