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Upgrading an Electrical Service Panel

How should I upgrade my electric service panel? Considerations when Upgrading an Electric Service Panel.


Main Electric Service Panel
Electrical Question: How should I upgrade my electric service panel?

Our home was built in 30’s. The service meter is 200amps. The panel originally installed is an old Square D. The problem is there are several circuits bundled together and terminated under breaker lugs.The service entrance wire from the meter to the panel is two insulated 2/0 aluminum wires and one aluminum stranded twisted around both the others. The entire service wire is in a sheath covered cable. There is a solid number 4 copper ground coming from the exterior ground rod to the existing panel. There is no visible insulated neutral wire (Typically seen in older homes). We want to change out the panel and install a new 200 amp main panel.

My questions are: Is it safe, being I have a solid ground to take the single strand wire and twist it together, coat it with insulation electrical tape not to have any bare wire existing, and use it as a neutral wire? The existing wire was installed when walls were open and is strapped. We will have to tear out a wall cavity to replace it, which is what I want to avoid if possible. Second, What is the farthest distance allowed from the meter can to the location of a panel with main? I will consider running copper as feed. Third, If replacement is our only choice for the entrance wire, will the meter head can have to be changed also?

Additional Comments: Great website.

This electrical question came from ML a Homeowner in Rockwell, NC.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question.

Upgrading an Electric Service Panel

Main Electrical Service Panel
Be aware that at the main service panel the neutral and ground are bonded together. This however is only at the main service panel, and additional panels that are added are then required to have separate wires for the ground and neutral which will originate and bond together at the main service panel. Typically the bonding of the neutral wires and the ground wires at the main electrical service are to the terminal block system that is provided inside the main service panel.

The service entrance cable that you have described is typical.
The ground wire system that you have described is also typical as long as it has been installed and bonded properly.
To correct the problem of having more than one circuit wire attached to a single circuit breaker you may want to consider installing an additional sub panel where more circuit breakers may be installed.

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