HVAC Installation – Electrical 200A Panel Upgrade

Outdoor Panel 14

Here is part 1 of a multi-part series of our HVAC installation.

When we moved into Jen’s family home we found out pretty quick that this place needed air conditioning in the worst way. I bought a laser based surface thermometer and began testing the temp at various times in the day. This summer was quite hot and we found ourselves in 115ยบ temps. No amount of fans blowing air could save us.

august 2020 temps

With the temps being as high as they were I took the thermometer and began testing though-out the house.

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Looking into what ineffencies were causing this I went on the roof to check on the flat roof of our den where the majority of the heat was coming from.

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I started calling a few air conditioner installers and also talking with the sales folks from Costco about having them install our HVAC system and interestingly enough they were the most expensive coming in more than double the amount others were quoting.

With this COVID-19 restrictions going it was really odd having people over to out house, wearing masks and just generally interacting with people outside of our home.

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The Game Plan

We had a multi prong approach to this project which required a few other projects to get us to a point where we could have a company come out and install the HVAC system.

  1. Find electrician that we can trust
  2. Upgrade electrical panel to 200A

This list would end up growing once we found out that we needed a bunch of prerequisite items completed first.

  1. Find electrician that we can trust
  2. Upgrade electrical panel to 200A
  3. Install subpanel in garage
  4. Repair Stucco around electrical panel
  5. Paint back side of house
  6. Find HVAC specialist
  7. Select location for condenser unit
  8. Clean Attic
  9. Abatement
  10. Install HVAC
  11. Insulate attic
  12. Insulate and drywall flat roof den

We started out by searching a few apps such as Angi’s List and and their competitors looking for HVAC installers. What I found is a lot of these places are one person companies that either subcontract or they are just sales folks that get a commission and hand you off to someone else. We started with the HVAC folks and then found out we needed electrical done first.

Finding an electrician

Look, unless you source vendors for a living this can get crazy fast. I searched Angi (formerly Angie’s List) and asked my local friends who they have used. I then looked at reviews and looked at licenses and all sorts of stuff. In the end after talking to about 10 different electricans is that most of these folks are also small mom and pop shops and when doing this in a pandemic with folks staying home it became quite apparent that a lot of these single person companies have a hard time answering phones, doing estimates and doing the work. I found a guy that lived about 30 mins from out home in the Los Angeles / Orange County area that owned his own business and was just starting out on Angi.

Things to look out for

Make sure they are licensed, bonded and had all his ducks in a row. Ask for referrals and photos of past work. Call their past customers if you can and make sure they do as much of the heavy lifting as possible. Our guy pulled the permits and setup the meter spot with SoCal Edison our electric provider so I didn’t have to. If your electrician doesn’t have these documents and doesn’t want to pull a permit don’t use them. A project like this is serious and you really don’t want someone that has no idea what they are doing messing with your house. If things feel weird trust your gut and make sure you document everything as the job progressed. I too photos and videos each morning and evening before and after the job and during lunch breaks. Respect the installers privacy but make you document their work.

Install begins

  • Upgrade panel to 200A
  • Run electrical to the garage for a sub-panel in there for my wood shop
  • Install a car charger outlet for future use
  • Our city required us to have a spot on the panel setup for solar panel future use.
  • We set aside a spot for HVAC use

Outdoor Panel 1

Our new breakers

Outdoor Panel 2

Outdoor Panel 3

Outdoor Panel 4

Outdoor Panel 7

Outdoor Panel 8

Outdoor Panel 9

Outdoor Panel 10

Outdoor Panel 12

Outdoor Panel 13

Outdoor Panel 14

Outdoor Panel 15

Outdoor Panel 16

Outdoor Panel 17

Outdoor Panel 22

Outdoor Panel 18

Outdoor Panel 27

Outdoor Panel 28

Outdoor Panel 29

Outdoor Panel 30

Outdoor Panel 31

Outdoor Panel 32

Since we were not sure as to where the HVAC condenser was going to go we didn’t run any electrical and planned to let the HVAC folks deal with that themselves. Our electrician walked the job, looked in our attic and started planning out how he was going to deal with the “whip” coming off of the “weather head” up to the power pole in our neighbors back yard. Here in Southern California LA/OC area most places have electrical coming from power poles AND in our yard this “whip” was strung over our pool which made things interesting.

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Temp Power

First thing was for the electrician to provide us with temp power. After calculating the power usage of our freezer in the garage, our networking equipment and our refrigerator in the kitchen along with electrical in the bedroom for our daughter to do school from home he ran spider boxes and extension cords to each of the locations so we kept up and running while he worked.

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Time for the subpanel

Once the panel was installed they ran a line over to the garage for our subpanel.

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One thing I will say is document everything, take photos when a wall is open and make sure you know where things are and how things are routed in your home. The more info you have the better informed you will be when questions arise down the road.

When we had the electrician work in the garage my plan was to build out a wood shop out there so to start we installed a sub panel with its own breakers out there along with 2 sets outlets for power tools and 1 car charging port for future use. You might as well have these folks do stuff like this when they are out there.

Subpanel 1

Subpanel 2

Subpanel 3

Subpanel 4

Subpanel 5

Subpanel 6

Subpanel 7

Subpanel 8

Subpanel 9

Subpanel 10

Subpanel 11

Subpanel 12

Subpanel 13

Subpanel 14

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We’re one step closer to HVAC install

With all this completed we knocked out a few things on our list

  • Find electrician that we can trust
  • Upgrade electrical panel to 200A
  • Install subpanel in garage
  • Repair Stucco around electrical panel
  • Paint back side of house
  • Find HVAC specialist
  • Select location for condenser unit
  • Clean Attic
  • Abatement
  • Install HVAC
  • Insulate attic
  • Insulate and drywall flat roof den

What$ the damage?

With the panels installed and the inspection passed we paid the electrician the remaining balance for the work performed and started the cleanup process. So how much did this all cost? $5500 for the panel, subpanel, wiring, 2 sets of outlets and the car charging port. Most of the electricians were right around this same price, some were way cheaper but didn’t want to pull permits or deal with Edison. I wanted honest work done and I wanted my family safe and to have a house my kids can inherit and not have to deal with cut corners.

Cleanup

Our house has stucco. What is stucco? “It’s a fine plaster used for coating wall surfaces or molding into architectural decorations.” What are the benefits of stucco? “Stucco siding is a siding material made of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water. Applied in three coats over a lath base, it provides a solid, durable, and seamless home exterior. Some advantages of stucco include a natural resistance to fire, lasting durability, and low maintenance.” There are a lot of things I’m interested in learning but one of them at the time was not stucco.

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I hired a handyman to come out and install the board, chicken wire and stucco to the outside of the house. After that we needed to find the color of the house that matched as well as it could and ended up painting the entire back side of the house so the color matched correctly. Overkill? yup bit thats fine.

More projects after this project

The install took a few days and our new 200A box was bigger than our existing box which means we have more breaker spots to work with down the road. All of the original electrical outlets are 2 pole and many of them don’t have ground which sucks. At some point we’ll look at rewiring the house but thats quite a bit lower on the list of things regarding this project for a project.

Dealing with patch and repair after

Going back to the 200A box, wow it’s bigger and when they were installing it they had to break up a decent amount of stucco around and above it. When installing the armored ground wires they had to drive into the ground they had to break a lot of stucco to route them facing down. Electricians don’t do stucco or patching, thats on you to do, be prepared for that. I hired a handyman that does that sort of thing once the project was complete.

Paint 1

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Paint 9

Got any questions? Want to share your panel upgrade story? Wanna share what you would have done different? Leave a comment below.

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