Do I have 60 amp or 100 amp electrical service?

03/11/14 9:28 AM



electrical panel unfinished

Rob Swyrd from Robart Electrical Services Ltd visited our office and shared some really helpful information on a topic that is very relevant to today’s home owner. Insuring a house with 60/70 amp service is very hard, because (I’m told) only 1 company provides insurance for houses like this (excluding houses that have been grandfathered in), and it will likely cost you 3 times as much as a house with 100 amp service. Here are the basic things to look for to help you determine what type of service is in a given house (keep in mind that I am certainly not an electrician, and I’m giving you this info as a way to increase your knowledge and not as any kind of info to rely on without first contacting someone who is an industry professional):

The electrical panel (or box)
The Meter socket (that glass thing outside on the side of the house)
The weatherhead (that thing on your roof our exterior wall that connects to the power line)

 

 

The main electrical panel

Some houses have more than one panel, the main and a sub panel or pony panel. They often have stickers on them that indicate the rating of the panel. This is not necessarily the same as the electrical service you have coming into your property. For example, a box that is rated for 100 amp service may well be used in a house that only has 60 amp service. Think of it like your car. The speedometer shows that most cars can do in excess of 200 km/h, although you know darned well they don’t (or do you?)!
The first thing to look for on a panel is a main shut off switch. It will generally be at the top, separate from the rows of breakers that go to lights and plugs, etc. If there isn’t a main shut off, you better call an electrician. If it does have a breaker, look closely to see if the switch is labeled 100 or 60/70. It will be indented in the switch, so look closely. If it doesn’t say 100, call an electrician.

 

Panel with no main shutoff

Panel with no main shutoff

100 amp panel with shutoff

100 amp panel with shutoff

 

The meter socket

This is that glass globe-like thing outside that is used to measure how much power you use. Some have a spinning wheel, some are digital. If it is in a square or rectangular box, it’s probably 100 amp. If it’s just round with no box, it’s likely 60/70 amp, and you should call an electrician.

100 amp meter socket

100 amp meter socket

60 amp meter socket

60 amp meter socket

 

 

The Weather head

Old school weather heads usually connect under the soffit and eaves to the side of the house. Newer weather heads are generally above the roof, extending from a pole, or way up on the side of a 2-storey house (code is 12′ 4″ above the ground or surface you’re standing on below it). If it’s under your soffits or low on a flat wall, call an electrician.

Rooftop weatherhead

Rooftop weather head

How much will it cost?

Rob says an electrical upgrade shouldn’t be more than $2000-$3000, which includes a new panel, meter socket, weather head, and permits. Always pull your permits, people! If more work is to be done inside the house, of course the cost may go up, so just make sure you get a detailed quote for what should be done in order or priority. Rob also said that in houses with aluminum wiring, he can upgrade it for roughly $1500.

 

Advice for buyers and sellers

Sellers, your job is to make buyers want to buy your house. The fewer obstacles or red flags they encounter, the more likely is is that they will buy your place and not the one down the street. If you have two identical houses except one has current electrical and the other has out-dated electrical, which do you think they will buy? Even if you discount it, it’s one more thing they have to do before they can even insure the thing. Spend the money up front to get the work done, and you will have a more successful selling experience.

Buyers, I hope you don’t find yourself in this situation. However, it may well happen. If it does, you have a few options:

  1. Run away. I really don’t think you need to do this, but it’s an option.
  2. Ask seller to upgrade it before you move in. Make it a condition or even a term of the purchase agreement.
  3. Negotiate a discount so that you can do the work yourself once you take possession (this means you’ll still have to insure the house at a higher premium until the work is done).
  4. Negotiate a cash back rebate in the purchase agreement (the same would apply about the insurance as in #3).
  5. Get a purchase plus improvements mortgage, so you have access to money for renovations. Talk to your mortgage broker for the ins-and-outs on this one (you’d still have the same insurance challenge, though).

There you have it. Again, there’s no way this post will cover all scenarios, so keep that in mind, and find an electrician you trust. Most will be happy to give you advice or even a free written estimate that could help you out with a purchase or sale.

60 100 amp electrical flowchart

60 100 amp electrical flowchart

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