Cost of service upgrade

ylmzmJune 17, 2013

We are in the process of upgrading to a 400 Amp electric service. We currently have a service drop, and the new service will be an underground lateral. The ZIP code is 94022 (northern California). The distance from transformer pole to the meter is 150' -- a straight line)

I got a quote from an electrician and he wants $8K for this job. This looks like an insane quote for what he will do: All trenching and backfilling will be done by us. I will get the permit. The cables will be provided by PG&E (utility company) and PG&E will also pull the cable. Electrician will provide the conduits (3" conduit for electric service lines + 2 additional conduits for cable and phone lines), boxes, fitting etc. And a 400 Amp main panel (Square D Model #: SU3040D400CN). He will also remove the old panel and make connections to the new one etc.

Is $8K a reasonable price for what he will do? According to what I can find online, the 400 Amp panel is ~ $700 (at Lowes). The conduits & fittings, at most, may cost $1000. Add another $300 for items I may have missed. ~$2K material cost and $8K quote does not look reasonable to me. Am I missing something?

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When you hire a professional to do the job, you are not just hiring some unskilled day laborer for $10 per hour. He also has to pay for his:

-work truck
-gas and insurance for the truck
-tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools to be able to run a contracting business
-continuing education classes
-safety equipment
-cell phone with data
-phone, gas, electric, water, sewer, and other utilities at his shop
-fund a decent retirement

The list is nearly endless.

My suggestion is to get 3 quotes and go with your gut on who you think you would like to work with. Who you would feel comfortable letting into your home for a couple of days. I wouldn't let most of the low ball bottom feeder "electricians" in my yard, let alone in my house.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Ron Natalie

Yes, alas, we can't give a reading on the price. Labor and other operating expenses is highly regional. Getting bids and REFERENCES on the people you wish to hire is advisable.

The cost of materials is usually a tiny amount of the total cost. The amount of effort to just replace the panel is not trivial. We just saw a quote of around $2000 here for that labor alone (no service upgrade, nothing move, just replace old panel with a modern one).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 7:41AM
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" We just saw a quote of around $2000 here for that labor alone"Sounds like a bargain just about anywhere.

EVERY CIRCUIT has to be moved.

How many fuses or breakers do you have?

Some will NOT reach most of the time.

Now a junction box has to be added to extend the wires.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 6:31PM
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I have a $250,000 home in Dallas that would probably be three times that in northern California. We charge $2,500 plus equipment for a service upgrade in Dallas. Based on the California differential, $8,000 sounds like a bargain.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 4:41PM
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Tex, I wouldn't waste your "breath". I highly doubt ylmzm has even been back to read the replies.
Yet another in a long line of post-it and forget-it's.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 9:26PM
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>I will get the permit. The cables will be provided by PG&E (utility company) and PG&E will also pull the cable.I realize the poster may not come back but have a question about the above for you friends to the South of me (in Canada here)
Here a homeowner can not take out a permit (unless they are doing the work themselves) only the Electrical Contractor can. Is this actually different in the US, or perhaps State to State?
The other question is, our Hydro company charges a fee for disconnect/connect and to run cable underground. For a 400 amp service it would be a large one to include the cable. Recently the Hydro company just charged $6000 for a 350 amp underground service on one of our jobs. In the US is this something not charged by the Utility or is there a possibility the posters Electrical Contractor is including that fee in his quote?
Just curious as to the differences is all.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 9:20AM
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Ron Natalie

Actually, the owner IS the one who takes out permits (though the contractor can do it in the name of the owner) here. Just because you obtain the permit doesn't mean you are doing the work. The comments indicate that PGE and is pulling new service cables to the house (I can assume there is a fee involved for this, just separate to the price the poster is concerned about paying to HIS electrician).

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 10:46AM
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Ah, thank you ronnatalie. Here the Elec Contractor takes out the permit IN the customers name but using the EC's account number with the Electrical Safety Authority and the EC is then the one responsible for paying for the permit and calling for inspections. The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is also the body that issues Licenses to Electrical Contractors allowing them to work in each City/Province. The only time a homeowner can take a permit out and pay for it directly/call for inspections, is when they themselves are doing the work. They are then NOT allowed to hire anyone to help them (though they often try to get away with it:)
Interesting to learn the different rules, from one Country to another!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 4:39AM
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In our area of Michigan everyone has to get their own permit. Plumbing rough in was done by contractor, finish hook ups by owner, 2 permits. Move elec meter one permit for electrician, all inside work by owner another permit. Elec co. charges $6 to $10 a foot for buried cable. Includes trenching and back filling.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 9:22PM
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