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Question DetailsAsked on 10/28/2017

is it. better to have the garage on its on electric line and its own meter

We have a detached garage and I was wondering.if it would be better, to have the garage on its own electric line and meter? I know I would probably have two separate electric bills, but would this be wiser?

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I like detached buildings having their own breaker panel and power feed, not tapping off the household panel - and if high load (more than just fuel-fired furnace power and normal lighting and 10-15A utility outlets, like if used as a serious workshop or using electric heat) I prefer to connect it as a secondary tap on the output of the main power supply panel with its own main breaker there so it is protecting the garage and also against shorts in the line to the garage (assuming the main breaker is right next to the meter) and a separate lead to the garage. That avoids putting a heavy and possibly sustained high load breaker in the household breaker box - so if there is a problem in the garage circuits which involves the feed wire or garage breaker box (as opposed to just one circuit in the garage) or you have a circuit breaker failure, it will just trip out or you can just shut off its main protective breaker near the tap point near the meter.

As I recall, either a main breaker or the breaker/distribution panel has to be within - oh, what is it, 3 feet or 5 feet or something like that - of the tap point, so you will need a main breaker on that independent garage main circuit near the meter/main breaker anyway. Commonly done by replacing that existing single main breaker box with a multi-breaker box with individual main breakers for the house and the garage at that point - with the service lead to each of their respective breaker / distribution boxes taking off at that point. (Some existing boxes can handle two double breakers already).

No need for a separate meter, although if the new garage load is large enough - like a major workshop or heavy welding or very large compressor or large (more than about 2 to 2-1/2HP) motor load, you may need an increased capacity service and meter box put in because the added load will exceed your existing service capacity. Normally if your household service drop from the utility is over 100-125A (150-200A or so for all-electric home) a normal garage load is no problem (and in fact would be a normal part of household load unless this is a "second garage" for the house, and if you are only using one power tool at a time (or maybe one plus a dust collector) and garage heat is not electric-fired, commonly you can use existing service if about 70's or later installation date - earlier services tend to be 100A or less so commonly are already strained with normal household loads.

As for the second meter - not only do you have no need for it, but unless the garage is owned by a different person or is on a separate legal plot, or you are legally running a business there, in most area you cannot get a second meter installed for one customer. Though I have seen a few cases with very heavy demand workshops/ garages/ greenhouses or all-electric heat where the utility company, for their convenience due to distance for service drop or need to upgrade the household service to handle the load, have chosen to install a separate service drop and meter to a detached garage or shop building - even in one case for an attached garage for a very serious woodworker with several 4-7HP planers and saws who needed more than single phase service. Also saw it a couple of times where an auto hobbyist or home auto shop guy was installing a commercial high-amperage welder with long-term anticipated 70-125A welder demand on the 220V power.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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