Basement subpanel (100A max) will serve: One 30A clothes dryer (220V) One 15A bedroom outlet circuit One 15A utility circuit (furnace, washing machine, misc) One 20A bathroom circuit Two 20A kitchenette circuits

I want to use Aluminum SER wire, the distance is about 100'. Half of that will be in the ceiling void behind drywall, the other half will be in PVC conduit as it passes through the garage then pokes through the outside wall into the back of the main panel.

  1. Based on the branch circuit requirements, would 60A suffice or should I spec it for 80A?
  2. What gauge Aluminum SER wire should I use for 60A?
  3. What gauge Aluminum SER wire should I use for 80A?

I have looked at the NEC codes but they vary by wire type and I don't know which temperature column to use, nor whether the distance affects the calculations


1 Answer 1


Never, ever scrimp on a panel

When I hear "100A panel" I tend to think very small panel. Don't get caught by that. Spaces are cheap, and you want loads of extra spaces. Firstfor future expansion (it's frustrating not to be able to add a feature for lack of spaces). And second, when the inspector comes 'round and says "these circuits need AFCI". My goal is to finish a project with less than 50% of spaces used (but without using double-stuff breakers). A neat thing about panel pricing is you can get industrial tier panels like CH, QO, GE or Siemens for about the same price as tenant tier lines like Homeline or BR.

Wire size

In aluminum wire, you need

  • 60A: 4 AWG ($92)
  • 80A: 2 AWG ($137)
  • 100A: 1 AWG ($167)

There is a "100A bump" because circuits >=100A get to pull out of the 75C column in NEC Table 310.15B16 instead of the 60A column. However in your case the numbers don't quite line up; 2AWG is rated 75A@60C and 90A@75C. You can "round up" to the next breaker size, so 60C gives you 80A breaker. Sadly, 90A breakers do exist, so you can't call it a 100A circuit (unless your AHJ agrees; worth asking since this is quite close and there's precedent).

100' is below the 115' threshold where anyone even starts to care about voltage drop. If you want to upgrade wire sizes to deal with voltage drop, that is fine, but feel free to upgrade breaker sizes also.

I don't know what your total project cost is going to be. Obviously if this all DIY the wire cost is a significant fraction, but this ignores the value of your time. Contracted it's at least a $600-1000 job. A small increment in wire costs can give you a lot of headroom in the future. It'll even help with home resale value.

  • Are you saying I need MORE than a 100A sub-panel? I think you may have thought my panel choice was only providing enough space for the branch circuits I listed. It's 24 spaces and I'll probably use less than 1/2 of them, and I have planned for GFCI and AFCI where needed. I think I will go with Aluminum 2-2-2-4 to get 80A. Thx
    – Timbo
    Apr 1, 2019 at 18:18
  • 1
    @Timbo yeah 24 is plenty, just last time I looked, you couldn't get a 100A panel larger than about 12 space, so I have assumed 100A implies "small panel". Apr 1, 2019 at 19:01
  • 1
    @Harper -- depends on the panel line -- 100A convertible-main panels typically use 125A bussing, so you can get 100A up to 24 or 30 spaces in many cases Apr 2, 2019 at 1:35

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