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Question DetailsAsked on 1/30/2016

What is the cost to add an electrical outdoor disconnect?

We hired an electrician to rewired all our electrical. He got the permits and everything. The meter is located on the exterior of the house while the original panel was located on the other side of meter, inside of the house. We had to pay extra to move the new electrical panel to a new location about 15-20 ft away from original location. During inspection, I was told that the question of where's the main disconnect box came up (I was not present). The original panel had a main disconnect breaker, the new panel does not. We're told we need an outdoor disconnect and that it would require extra permits and extra cost to add. Do we really need new permits for this?

Are there any alternatives to the outdoor disconnect. I'm not in favor of the idea of having a switch on the outside of the house. Can we simply add a main breaker into the new panel? Or put the disconnect inside of house on the other side of the meter? Thank you in advance for any suggestions and help.

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1 Answer


Sounds like he screwed up - you HAVE to have a main breaker (and a disconnect with it in some code areas) before the individual breakers/main breaker box - some areas allow it to be , I hope, about to trip a breaker on a panel that is smoking or on fire. Some areas would allow it on the inside wall where the main panel used to be (right behind the meter base) as you are talking about - most these days require it outside next to the meter base so you can shut off power without having to move around in a house with an active electrical fault in the main breaker box or main feed to it and also so firemen can readily shut it off, usually required to be installed very close to the meter base so there is only a few feet or less of wire between the utitility service and where the main breaker/disconnect is.

But he defiinitely screwed up - now the question is, who pays for it, and do you trust him to do the job right if he forgot something that fundamental.

I should back up a step - presuming it is not there and just overlooked - some main breaker panels connect to the side of the meter base, some are incorporated in the bottom of it. Would typically have a slip-latch through an eye or a spring-loaded eye tab sticking through a slot in the panel door allowing you to open a panel door looking like this -

which might have exposed wiring and bus bars into as well as the main breaker, or may just expose the main breaker (will almost certainly be a double-breaker, probably in 100, 1050, or 200A rating), like above. NOT the meter base panel, which should have a wire or plastic security lock on it put on buy the utility company to prevent/show tampering.

However, if he failed to provide it, I don't know if I would trust him to do it right - or even trust what work he has done to date. Personally I would get another electrician in to go over his work and advise on how professional it is (though that means having to trust THAT electrician too - both his opinion and that he will not try to make things out worse than they are) - getting almost like a Wiley Coyote/Roadrunner situation eventually.

If this was a fixed price job, he should do the permit amendment, rework, reinspection, etc at no added cost - because that is a mandatory part of the job. If cost plus, probably about $250-500 labor and about $150 materials to install a main breaker box - more like $200-250 materials if a disconnect switch is required too (usually not on residential) - though since it was forgotten I would try to get the labor to do the reworkk for free or at least half off - because if done when it should have been while connecting the main breaker box to the meter base, the labor would have been probably more like $100-150.

On the permit - depending on how detailed the permit was he might have to amend it to add the disconnect/main breaker box to the scope of work, otherwise if as normally written he can probably just use the existing permit, do the work, and get it final inspected and passed. Inspector should be able to say what is needed, as can permit office. And of course don't pay until it has passed final inspection and you are sure everything is working OK.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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