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Main Service Upgrade (Do I have this right?)


Ralph A
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My question is do I understand my basic electrial needs correctly? Here is what I have and what I understand to be true.

first, I currently have a 100 amp service which I can have at least 40 to 50 amps left over to use on the show. I have been planning since fall of 2007 for the show. I have 15 LOR controllers, 240 channels (CTB16PC). I had planned to upgrade my service to an additional 400 amps. I talked to the city electrical company both the engineer and the distribution plant manager for residential service. They both said the power was available at my location, and would run a second service for the 400 amps (one meter then split to two 200 amp main breaker boxes). I called two elections and explained what I was doing and wanted to do some of the work myself (;))

Second, I added up all of my amp calculations as if they were all on at one time. It would use 373 amps (not to many LED's yet). I have most of the controllers totaled at 8 to 13 amps per side I have two at 14.1 amps. I am using 15 amp GFCI receptacle and each breaker in the load center is a 15 amp breaker, and I am running 12 gage wire from the breaker to the receptacle.

So, if I need 373 amps do I really need a 400 amps service, because if I have 100 amps now is that or could that be really 200 amps at 120v. I don't know if my service now is 100a @240 or 100a @110? I do have 220 on the load but I am not much of an electrician. Also, do I need 400a @ 110 or 200a @ 220. I'm So confused here.

I'm trying to upgrade my service as inexpensively as possible. The electrician stated it would run $3,000. to $5,000. to upgrade to 400a. When I talked to him several months ago it was a different story.

Anyway any advice would be appreciated and help in me understanding my electrial needs would be of great help!!

Thanks Ralph

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Donald Puryear

400 amps @ 220v = 800 amps 120volt. Most electrical services are rated at 220v. If you have a 220 volt appliance in you house then your service must be 100a@220v.

How old is your home?

I would use 20amp breakers instead of 15a, as a general rule you should only load a breaker to 80% capacity.

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Richard Hamilton

Donald points out your first mistake. When amps are quoted for a service panel, it is almost always at 240 VAC, not the 120 you are using. If you calculated you need 373 amps (I'd like to see how you calculated that number), then you really only will be using "equivalent" of 187 panel rated amps.

My suggestion.... you can buy a LOT of LED lights for that amount of money and bypass this whole mess!

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I myself, even being new, would like to see the math used. If the math is correct, did you use the exact amps your lights will use each strand. In the beginning, I used a chart online that had 100 mini lights at .33, but after I bought my lights, the lights were actually .41. Even with the recalculation, I am under 60 amps with 144 channels.

Are you estimating that you want to max almost all your channels, or is it a known fact that 400 mini lights will go on the bottom of the house outline, when only 300 mini lights are needed for the top of the house outline?

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Thanks for the input!!! The way I arrived at my total amps was by using a chart as I am sure we all have. For example, minis @ 100ct .33a, C-9 @ 25ct 1.5 etc,etc. I then made a layout of my show for example I have 5 leaping arches, they are 16 feet long and have 7 channels per arch, each channel has 200 minis @ .66a per channel. Making the arch a total of 4.62, then I round up to 5a just to be safe. I then make sure I have each side under 15a most are around 11 or 12. Next, now that most of my props are built and wrapped with lights, I have a load tester and I tested some of the props like the arch and I have found the chart to be correct 90%. Once my lights are in place and all extensions cords ran I plan to test the load again at the controller just to be sure. This is why I tried to keep my amps at 12 or13 per side however I have several sides I believe at 14.1 a. Keep my fingers crossed on those. If I go over an my amps on those I have a backup plan to drop it by about 1 amp.

Anyway I took every channels total amps, added to the total for the controller added all 15 controllers together and I got 363a, if all lights were on at full capacity, I then add 10a just to be safe. Does my total seem hight for 240 channels? I do have a lawn light section were they are all C-9, and they do use a lot of juice.

When talking to my electrician I showed him the chart and the total amps. But nothing ever came up about 373a at 110 or 220. I am thinking if I upgraded to a 200a service @220, I will have 400 amps @110amd I will be fine, not to mention cheaper. Will that not throw the main breaker of the circuit panel because it is rated at 200a when I have all lights on? Or is it also rated @200a 220 which is 400a@ 110?

Thanks for the help!!!!

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Ralph, I actually posted a help question a couple of weeks ago on a similar matter. I was looking to upgrade my service to support my growing light habit. Here is the conclusion I have come to:

I was going to add a new panel dedicating 36 new circuits, each 20amp. Some of my recepticles would actually be 2 circuits totalling 40 amps by splitting the bus between outlets. Then comes this issue.....you cannot split the outlets of GFCI recepticles. So now you are either adding GFCI switches, or GFCI breakers. I went down today and bought 36 GFCI breakers.....AT $46 EACH! That is insane. $1600 just in breakers today. So, I am changing my plans tonight. I am taking this stuff back Monday and starting over.

New Plans: 24 dedicated circuits each @ 20 amps. Each recepticle will be GFCI recepticles bypassing having to buy and wire switches, or spending major $$$ on breakers. By the way, even at Home Depot the switches are still $15 each and regular breakers $7-$11 each. I planned on switching slowly to LED's anyway and after today's episode I decided that this year will be a little challenging keeping the loads down, but I will add LED's in the off season. With 24 circuits at 20 amps, I won't be able to overload using LED's. For $3000-$5000, you could certainly by alot of LED lights, and not to mention you are going GREEN and saving a ton of energy. Obviously you do have to make sure they are the right variety that work with LOR.

My opinion would be add some new circuits if you need to, but consider switching to LED's. I spent $500 in the off season sales last year buying incandescents and now wish I would have bought more LED's.

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Richard Hamilton

Ralph A wrote:

When talking to my electrician I showed him the chart and the total amps. But nothing ever came up about 373a at 110 or 220. I am thinking if I upgraded to a 200a service @220, I will have 400 amps @110amd I will be fine, not to mention cheaper. Will that not throw the main breaker of the circuit panel because it is rated at 200a when I have all lights on? Or is it also rated @200a 220 which is 400a@ 110?


Ralph, just one other comment here that you may have thought about, but I wanted to mention it just in case.

If you upgrade to a 200 Amp service (400 Amps at 120 vac), you can't assume that you are fully covered if you are pulling 370 amps. You would only be covered if you very even loaded each circuit breaker in the panel. That is rarely a reality.
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