I'm going to start finishing my basement soon and I need some advice about my switchbox.
This is my current setup (and is what came with the house, which I purchased two years ago.)
The house is just over 30 years old. It has 100 amp service and the switchbox is tapped out (no empty breaker slots and all breakers that are installed are in use.) Also there is what looks like a small sub panel mounted right next to it with a switch that controls an outdoor Jacuzzi.
Here is the main concern: A few months back, I had a contractor come in and install a new stairwell running down into the basement. While he was working on that project, I asked him to run a 220 outlet up to the kitchen because my wife and I were planning on purchasing an electrical stove to replace an aging gas stove. First of all, when he opened the switchbox, he found out that I only have 100 amp service. But, while taking a look at the whole configuration, and especially the sub panel next to the main box, he found that the sub panel is connected directly to the main electrical wire that comes into the house. I think the way he put it was that it was installed "before" the main switchbox and cut-off. He mentioned that this didn't sit right with him, as it might be hazardous for the sub panel to be installed in such a way (might be a problem if there was a heavy power surge, or something like that.)
This concerns me, but the contractor was not an electrician, so I don't know if he's correct, and he did say that he could be wrong, but it just didn't seem right to him based on what he's seen in his profession.
Anyway, the contractor told me that it might be a good idea to think about upgrading to 200 amp service if I was thinking about finishing the basement. I asked what the cost was and he told me that it could cost in upwards of $2000, but he'd have to check with an electrician buddy of his to find out. I asked if there was a more inexpensive way to handle the problem, and he mentioned that I could have the box replaced with a box that has more switch capacity, (and get rid of the subpanel while I'm at it.)
What I need to know, are the following:
What do you think about what I told you regarding the sub panel being installed the way it is? I'm not sure if I got the term correct, I think he called it a sub panel, but what it is, is a small box (looks like a mini-switchbox) containing a couple of breaker switches that links directly to the main power source, and it's connected before the main cut-off. Quite frankly, if this is as bad as the contractor made it seem, I'm very surprised the home inspector didn't "ding" this when I went through the purchase process.
I also need to know your thoughts about upgrading from 100 to 200 amps? I understand that 200 would be the way to go and it's no doubt where I would like to be, but it sounded very expensive. What exactly is involved with making such an upgrade? Is another wire from the electrical company pulled into my house, thereby bringing me up to 200, and/or is a new box installed as well?
I greatly appreciate your responses!
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