I'm looking to add central A/C to my 1970s era home. The electric panel is a GE Load Center, 125 Amp max. It's basically "full" with no space for additional breakers.
The bids for the electric panel "upgrade" range from $600 to $3600. Crazy span. "Upgrade" is in quotes, because I think what it boils down to is 2 choices, hence the span in price. I don't believe the service needs to be upgraded:
Replace the whole panel= $3600
Install a "main breaker conversion kit" at the top of the box and "make space"=$600. Currently the power comes into the box and connects to the two lugs. There are 3 double-pole switches that must be thrown to truly power off to the whole house (oven, "main", and the sub panel). My understanding is this new main breaker kit would then kill power to the whole house, oven and sub panel included, but how does this free up space?
I haven't found much discussion or videos for what installing this main breaker kit actually does, can anyone dumb it down for me?
Update: We’ve scheduled the work and will be doing a whole new panel. Again, this was part of a larger project (heating/AC), so the information I was after was “what would adding a main breaker “do””. I think the answer is “not much” or at least “not much good”. I still don’t have a clear picture of how the $600 bid guy was going to accomplish what he wanted to do and be able to pull a permit. All worked out in the end, as several commenters have said, the new panel makes a lot of sense from a resale point and we had a bid that included a new panel for just a bit more $$.
Also, I learned a ton! So I’ll definitely be posting in these forums again. Thanks all!