We recently moved into a older home and there is a garage detached from the house about 100 feet from main breaker box. There is a electrical panel under the meter (outside of home) with a 60 amp breaker that feeds the garage. I was wondering if anyone knew how to identify the electrical wire running from 60 amp breaker to sub panel in barn/garage?

I want to upgrade to 100 amps and thought there might be a chance that the wire already ran the 100 feet would be rated for the boost in amperage. Also, what wire would be ideal, copper and aluminum, for running new 100 amp service line 100 feet to detached barn/garage?

Thanks, Josh A.

2 Answers 2


To identify the wire gauge, the best way might be to take the cover off of the breaker box (advise to do this with power off for safety, but power can be left on - proceed at your own risk) and see if there are any indications on the wire sheathing. If there isn't, use a guide like to identify the gauge of wire.

Wire gauge sizes

As for copper vs. aluminum wire, aluminum might be cheaper in larger sizes. However, aluminum requires some special anti-oxident joint compound when you make connections with aluminum wire (see Ideal no-alox for an example of this stuff). If you don't use the compound, its possible that the connections will fail over time.


EDIT: Using the info you provided in the comments, and the wire voltage drop calculator at http://www.southwire.com/support/voltage-drop-calculator.htm, assuming:
- Single Phase 240V
- Direct Burial
- no more than 3% voltage drop
- 2 AWG aluminum wire
Your wire gauge will allow you to maximum run somewhere in the 75-80 amp range. I wouldn't go all the way to 100 amps, but 60 amp service should work. You'll need 1 AWG wire to run 100 amps safely that distance.

  • 1
    Note: the table above applies to copper only, a better chart can be found here: www.usawire-cable.com/pdfs/nec%20ampacities.pdf
    – Tyson
    Nov 21, 2016 at 0:14
  • Thanks for your help, I have discovered that the wire leading to barn/garage is Aluminum 2 AWG AL Type USE-2 600V XLPE (UL). The wire is running 100 feet, How many amps can wire carry? Thanks again, Josh A.
    – Josh A.
    Nov 26, 2016 at 3:49
  • Is this wire direct buried or in conduit for the full run? Nov 26, 2016 at 16:14

At 100 ft you will lose over 5% of your voltage at 100 amps. I would suggest not exceeding 60 amps with your current wiring. If you want to get 100 amp to the building, it would be better to use at least 3 awn copper or 1/0 aluminum.

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