April 18, 2016

I am looking for a little bit of info on a 60 to 100 amp residential electrical panel upgrade?

Hello, I recently bought an older house in St Albert, Alberta, Canada and for insurance purposes I need to upgrade the electrical panel from 60 amp to 100 amp. My spouse’s brother is a contractor and apparently installs panels in the townhouses that he builds all the time, despite not being an electrician. He said that he can buy a panel and install it for a couple hundred dollars (as opposed to the $2000 – $4000 quotes I got). I mentioned this to my father and he was leery, saying that it is not just installing the panel, it has something to do with running a new line outside (sorry I am not familiar with the repair) but to have him do it anyways. Now this has left me really confused, especially since I just looked up the electrical permit in my city and it asks for a master electrician number on it. Well, the companies to hire weren’t going to sent a master anyways. Is it possible for my borther in law to do this and to just have it inspected by a master electrician? Just looking for a little advice on the best course of action. I would love to save a bundle of money but I al so want to know what the right thing is to do here.

Ps – Do I need to get a permit for this for residential electrical work?




Call your city office. It is most likely that you need a permit. This is to ensure that work is done safely and meets code requirements. It is possible to do the work cut rate and have a qualified electrician inspect the work, but you should expect to pay a consulting fee. The city inspector will also be familiar with code requirements and will give you hints on how to do the work safely.

A A-W Hussain

Your father is correct when he mentions that a new service is needed to the 100 amp panel. Since this is a house and not a condo I suggest a 200 amp panel and service and make the needed rewiring as per the current code. For the amount of work that is needed the $2000 to $4000 $Cdn is dirt cheap. Check with the local AHJ for what they require about permits and who can do the work. In most jurisdictions you can do your own work on your own property with the proper permits and inspections.
This a list of what should be included in the upgrade:
New 200 amp service, mast, meter and base, panel and main disconnect and breakers. 2 new driven ground rods and the new wire and cable needed for this installation. Labor is for 2 workers for 2 days and probably a 1 year warranty on the work.
While you are contemplating this work, look at the branch circuits and the wiring changes that may need to be addressed. Probable needs are installing grounded cabling to all of the branch circuits, new tamper proof receptacles and arc fault breakers. This quickly becomes a remodel project that should involve a professional contractor.


Jim W is correct (I’m a licensed electrician too, but he has been doing it for almost 20 years longer than me). I would add that you need to contact the utility to apply for a new service drop. They will have to run heavier wire to the house and probably install a different meter — most utilities in the USA do not charge for this kind of existing upgrade — don’t know about Canada (though I work for one of the largest Canadian electrical engineering firms we don’t deal with house wiring.)

Your comment about the contractor not sending a master electrician. No, they may not but whoever does their installation does so under the permit and the responsibility of their company’s master electrician’s license and you’d better believe they will make sure it is done right.

Though some municipalities will allow homeowners to do such work themselves (their inspectors will check it to assure it is done safely and to code) , I always advise people to spend the money and have a pro do it. You also need to check with your homeowner’s insurance. I know people who have had their policies dropped due to the insurer finding out they did electrical work without a licensed contractor. And you can also run into problems if you try to rent or sell a property and have no record of the proper permits and sign-offs. Even if a faulty installation doesn’t lead to something as serious as electrocution or fire, it can still created unbalanced loads which can damage your appliances and stray current on the neutral. There is a reason we go through a 5 year apprenticeship and regular certification testing in the electrical field. Wiring is complicated and the average homeowner or handyman can’t possibly understand what needs to be accounted for. Hyst because your borother in law installs panels in cookie cutter townhouses doesn’t mean he would have the skill to figure out how your own house loads need to be wired and balanced. It is not the same as what he does. Trying to save a few hundred bucks on this is not worth the risks.

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