Rip-Off Red Flag: Electrical Service Replacement

LESLIE: Alice in Maryland is on the line with a question about electrical service replacement. What’s going on at your money pit?

ALICE: We are trying to determine whether it would be worthwhile to replace our service. Our house was built in 1976. We currently have 150-amp service underground. An electrician recommended that we upgrade to 200-amp service. And it’s a pretty big expense, so we were wondering if that’s a worthwhile choice.

LESLIE: Are you doing any sort of renovation that requires more power? Are you adding in central air, upgrading appliances? Is there a change happening that requires the power of an electrical service replacement?

ALICE: We’ve done a lot of upgrading here in the past and this is just something that recently was recommended to us when we had just a ceiling fan installed by the electrician.

TOM: I have to say, Alice, that I think what your electrician is recommending you do is fund, perhaps, his next vacation or college-tuition payment. Because I don’t think an electrical service replacement going from 150 to 200 makes much difference.

You have a – is this a gas-fired house? You have natural gas?

ALICE: We have no gas in the area.

TOM: So this is all electric?


TOM: How are you heating your house? Is it a heat pump?

ALICE: We have a heat pump, yes.

TOM: And you have one zone or two? How many heat pumps do you have?

ALICE: One zone.

TOM: I’ve got to tell you, I think you probably have enough and do not need an electrical service replacement. Unless you can prove to me that he’s …

LESLIE: It sounds like there’s – it’s sufficient.

TOM: Yeah, unless you can prove to me that you’re really using more than 150 amps, I seriously doubt you need 200. That’s a lot of power, even for an all-electric house.

ALICE: Interesting.

LESLIE: We had to upgrade to a 200-amperage service because we put in central air conditioning. We were only on 100 and that was that.

TOM: Yeah. Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And even 100, I’ve – I was an inspector for 20 years. I used to put a tool called an “amp probe” on those main cables when everything was running in the house. We’re talking about electric ovens, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners. And it would be a 150-amp service pulling 50, 60 amps with everything on. So, you’d be surprised how much you can pull through that.


TOM: I think you ought to get a second opinion.

ALICE: We were skeptical, so thought it was a …

TOM: Didn’t feel right.

ALICE: Definitely wanted to check into it before making that major expense.

TOM: Yeah. Yep. Yep, exactly. Well, thanks for calling. I’m glad we helped you out on this.

ALICE: Thank you. You’re a great resource. I really appreciate it.

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