Everything you need to know about residential electrical service upgrades

Written by Ryan Hauer, Owner of Hauer Power Electrical in Edmonton

Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s edition of your Edmonton electrician. At Hauer Power Electrical our mission is to power customer service. In these articles and our videos, this is how we show that we bring customer service back to the trades.

Talking about electrical service upgrades

We wanted to talk to you about service upgrades. Often coming from a 60 amp service upgrade or a 70 amp service upgrade, it’s always a good idea to safe out your electrical system and have at least a 100A electrical service installed. If you are at 100 amps already and you want to stay at a hundred amps and change out your panel for a more safe arrangement. In that case, a service upgrade is right for you.

Sometimes your home may have grown large enough to surpass its electrical service. In these cases, we recommend a 150A or a 200 Amp electrical service upgrade. We’re here to talk to about everything when it comes to your electrical service panel upgrades.

One of the biggest concerns with the residential service industry is safety and especially electrical safety. After all, most fires stem from electrical hazards, and we want to eliminate those!

A large portion of these electrical fires is attributed to federal panels. Federal Pacific specifically. Federal Pacific electrical service panels were extremely common in the US and Canada, but unfortunately, they were a company that had performed some fraudulent and inaccurate testing. This fraudulent testing was discovered after these panels were installed in millions of homes. This is why we perform so many of these electrical service upgrades in Edmonton and area.

Circuit breakers

It’s no rare secret in the electrical trade that Federal circuit breakers are known to be a fire hazard. They are known to not trip when experiencing an overcurrent condition or an electrical fault. Among not tripping, they also are known to remain open or to remain shut. All of which can result in some pretty dangerous situations.

The whole point of an electrical circuit breaker is to trip when the wiring and devices are at risk of being damaged. After researching, it’s most common in the United States. However, it’s almost guaranteed that if your neighborhood was built before 2000, that there is a home on your block with this style of electrical panel.

The whole job of a circuit breaker is to protect the wire in that circuit. With these old Federal Pacific breakers that far too many older homes have, their circuits are not effectively protected. If too much load is placed on a circuit in the home, a fire could start when these wires become overheated.

Personally, my home was built in the 1960s, and it had this exact panel before I gave myself an electrical service upgrade. The problem with these breakers is that while some may work, and some may not, the breakers will only work until they stop working. That’s when you’re at risk of an electrical fire.

Edmonton Electrician | Upgrading Your Electrical Service for Safety

I want to start off with a scenario of why these old breakers could result in an electrical fire hazard.

If you have various appliances going on one circuit and you’re drawing more than, say, 15 amps on a 15 amp rated circuit, this is a problem. With a CSA rated electrical circuit breaker, that breaker should recognize this issue and open the circuit.

So if it’s your morning routine and you have a microwave and a toaster on one circuit without tripping the breaker, this is a problem that you may not have known that you had. Another common indicator comes around the holidays. In most older homes, the kitchen electrical has not been brought up to current electrical standards and codes. Chances are pretty good that if you’re hosting Christmas and have multiple cooking appliances on one circuit without tripping, you may have an electrical service upgrade in your future.

At Hauer Power Electrical, we do offer free in-home electrical estimates for precisely this service. If you have a panel and a Federal Pacific panel, get an electrician to give you an estimate to provide you with an idea of what it’s going to cost to get rid of that fire hazard.

Research on electrical fires

The last thing you want in your home is an electrical fire hazard. Those Federal breakers may trip, but they might not trip as well. On average, the failure rate is as high as 70% to 80%. These rates come from industry a professional named Dr. Aronstein. Dr Jesse Aronstein has said that these faulty electrical circuit breakers could be responsible for over 100,000 house fires over the last 40 years.

Dr. Jesse Aronstein has estimated that an annual 2,800 fires, 13 deaths, and approximately $40 million in property damage occur at a declining rate due to these Federal Pacific panelboards. If you see a Federal pacific or federal pioneer on your panelboard, you may want to have a second opinion on your panel, as it may not be as safe as you would hope.

One important note of the federal pacific panelboard is that In May of 1999, Schneider Electric Canada had Federal Pioneer circuit breakers sold and re-named from Federal Pacific circuit. There are two models of breakers as well that have been recalled since then. The two model names are NC015 and NC015CP. These breakers were made from August 1, 1996, to June 11, 1997, and have been recalled. Thus it is safe to say that if you have had a federal panel installed anytime before 1997, it is almost a certainty that you have non-CSA approved electrical circuit breakers in your home. If this is the case, you should contact the best electricians in Edmonton for an upgrade.

A burnt circuit breaker panel

Does the breaker physically fit?

Aside from the breakers being known not to trip, they also have a physical issue as well. Commonly these breakers are known to not fit tightly into an existing panelboard as tightly as they should. A loose breaker is that when a stable electrical connection is not made, arcing occurs. With arcing comes heat, and thus follows an electrical fire.

Edmonton Electrician | Upgrading Your Electrical Service From 60 Amps to 100 Amps or More.

There are several other panel brands in your home that you may also want to have upgraded due to them being discontinued or otherwise merely hard to find breakers for. Such panel brands are Sylvania, commander, Westinghouse, Novaline, etc. These panels are not necessarily dangerous, however, everything ages and fails with time, and electrical is no different.

They’re still pretty reliable panels. We always stock Siemens, and that’s what we like to replace for all of our customers. Siemens has been around for a very long time, and its breakers are quality. When we function test all of our equipment, they never seem to fail. As a plus, Siemens is made right here in Canada, so stock is never an issue, even in a global pandemic!

Consider new circiuts

Another reason why you may be interested in a service upgrade comes back to the space required to add new circuits. Some panels like square d, siemens, and Eaton have availability for slim saver breakers and space-saving tandem options. Federal pacific, federal pioneer, and Sylvania/Commander panels do not have these options.

So if you find yourself starting a kitchen renovation or installing an addition, you will require more space in your panel to bring these areas up to code with new circuits. This is another common starting point for an electrical service upgrade.

Another option is to have a subpanel installed, however with the current pandemic, finding a circuit breaker to fit your federal panel may not be so easy to source, as they are all back ordered for 2-3 months from all suppliers.

There are other ways to install an electrical subpanel; however, if you have a fire hazard for a panel, it is always a good idea to upgrade and safed out. The biggest hurdle is usually the cost, so Hauer Power Electrical offers to finance for all projects over $1000.

Edmonton Electrician | Upgrading Your Electrical Ampacity

Another Option for a quality service upgrade comes to your ampacity. An ampacity upgrade refers to when a client wishes to go from 60A-100A or from 100A to 200A or from 100A – 150A. These options all exist, as well. Often the most significant hurdle faced with these jobs is that your transformer from Epcor or Fortis is not large enough to accommodate such a massive draw. In these cases, the costs to your local utility company can be rather expensive. Sometimes, however, the transformer is of sufficient size, mostly if your home was built after 2011 here in Edmonton.

If your transformer is of sufficient size, then we at Hauer Power Electrical coordinate with the utility company, yourselves, and the local electrical inspectors to get your service up and running at the correct rated amount of power for you.

These ampacity upgrades are often required to install a hot tub, electric hot water, air conditioning, or a second kitchen suite. Without enough ampacity for all the loads needed for the home or business, the city won’t allow these additions.

Edmonton Electrician | Upgrading Your Electrical Panel

Another concern with electrical service upgrades is your electrical meter on the outside of your home. This meter must be of a specific size minimum and have a few key features to be compliant with current electrical codes. Also, the wire length inside must be sufficient for Epcor and Fortis, and the height must be compliant as well to pass inspection and restore power to the property.

Grounding. Grounding is always a significant factor in any electrical installation. If a home or business does not have correct grounding practices installed, many issues can arise. Current electrical codes may require your grounding to be brought up to code regarding your electrical service. At Hauer Power Electrical, we allow for this in our cost so that you don’t get any hidden fees after hiring us from the start.

Edmonton Electrician | Lookout for Dishonest Practices

Let’s get down to it. Service Upgrades are expensive, and if there’s one place where you want quality electrical work done, it’s at your panel. That’s why you want Hauer Power Electrical to work on your service upgrade from start to finish.

If you find a lower price somewhere and it seems too good to be true, that’s probably because it is. They’re likely trying to cut corners somewhere to get that job for that price. Our cost comes from the quality materials that we use and our experienced electricians. When we send you an invoice for our quality work performed, we wish it was all profit, but it certainly is not.

When upgrading a service, the major costs come to the cable, conduit, panel, breakers, grounding requirements, permit fees, labour, and all the little things that make the job get done correctly.

Older homes have a two-wire ungrounded system

An important note to make is regarding extremely old homes. Many older homes have an existing two-wire ungrounded system. If your home has no existing ground, then there may be new issues after upgrading your panel. Everything will be working safely and correctly.

There are two solutions for the ungrounded wires in your walls, such as GFCI use or ground fault circuit interrupters. Option B is GFCI Breakers right at the panel. These depend on which scenario is best given the conditions on-site and cost.

When an ungrounded system has poor wiring practices, a neutral or spare wire has often been used to conduct electricity in a circuit. In these cases, specific troubleshooting is required by your professional Edmonton electrician at Hauer Power Electrical.

Edmonton Electrician | Upgrading Your Electrical Service Professionally

If you could benefit from having their electrical service upgraded, give us a call at 780-935-0622. As Your Edmonton Electrician, we are here to power customer service. These informative articles are just one more way we like to reach out to you. It’s our aim to help fellow Edmontonians with their electrical. We offer free estimates to Edmonton and area, and we are happy to look at your electrical for you.

Ask about our promotion for new residential and commercial clients and contact us through our website at https://hauerpower.ca/

OR by emailing our team at info@hauerpower.ca

Stay tuned! Call us if you have any questions or if you would like to book your electrical service upgrade. Have fun, and stay safe out there!


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