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I'm going to be finishing the basement in my 28 year old house. Currently the entire basement (~1700 sqft) is going through a single 15a breaker, which isn't ideal. There's no room on the existing panel for additional breakers, but for some reason the (gas only) range is on a 50a circuit by itself.

My question - would it be fairly easy for an electrician to swap out the wires so that more current is available to the basement? If it's feasible, any ideas on the ballpark cost I should expect?

Sorry if this isn't enough info - I stay away from plumbing & electricity work so I don't have much knowledge here.

Edits----------

The range only requires 15A per the specs.

Regarding the current main panel, I've added links to some pictures - it looks to me like it's a 150A panel, but if I'm counting right the total of the breakers on the branches is 315A (which is 15A over what is allowed right?)

https://photos.app.goo.gl/UCt6uBvDAgc4umGd7

https://photos.app.goo.gl/uh2zTgKQHJqi58rS8

https://photos.app.goo.gl/VJChF2CGiUME3jtJ6

I think the utility box is 200A, so could I just replace the main 150A breaker w/ a 200A breaker & then run 60A to a subpanel?

  • Where does the range circuit terminate at? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 23 '19 at 1:04
  • First off, you can redo all the basement wiring when you finish the basement with #12 AWG and replace the 15 amp breaker with a 20 amp. ThreePhaseEel wants to do something with that range circuit. – JACK Oct 23 '19 at 1:47
  • Add a picture of the existing panel and the real pros (not me) can provide a lot more detailed recommendations. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Oct 23 '19 at 1:58
  • And yes, can you provide photos of the panel as well? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 23 '19 at 3:47
  • How many square feet is this house? Also, how many amps does the A/C in your house pull? – ThreePhaseEel Oct 30 '19 at 23:54
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If the basement is unfinished, this is easy work for an electrician. However, you really, really ought to address the "electrical panel full" situation Right Now because it will be much cheaper dealing with this now than later.

But yes, not terrible expense relative to professional work.

Further, if you want to save a lot of money, you can school up and do the bulk of the work yourself, then have an electrician finish. This has the advantage of you working on entirely cold wiring. My entre into this work was needing to rewire a 20,000 sf factory building. Cleaned out every 480VAC drop, 100% rewired both 120/240 services, etc. Paid the 480 guy $3000 to walk the floor, megger-test everything (all passed) then hook up the 1000A 480V service. He was "now you can start working on the 120V" and I turned the lights on. Already done.

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The gas range is likely on a 50A circuit by itself because the kitchen was wired up in case a future owner wanted to use an electric range instead. It is even possible that a previous owner had an electric range that was later replaced with a gas range. Can you switch that to a 15A or 20A circuit? That depends on:

  • Practical: Specifications of the gas range (model # would help)
  • Legal: Local building code might require a 50A (or similar) circuit in the kitchen for installation of a range/cooktop/oven.

But if those conditions are met (i.e., the range only needs a 15A or 20A circuit and there is no requirement for a larger circuit to be installed), then you can:

  • Install a subpanel next to your main panel and connect it to the 50A breaker. You may even be able to upsize (with appropriate size wire) the breaker to 60A or more, but that depends on the specifics of your main panel (pictures would help).
  • Install a 15A or 20A breaker, as specified for the gas range, and connect the existing range wires to that breaker. Note that if the gas range is connected to a plug/receptacle rather than hardwired then you will need to change the plug & receptacle to match the circuit.
  • Install additional breakers for receptacles and lights in the basement and/or for other locations in your house.

Depending on actual usage, a 50A subpanel could easily serve several circuits, so a larger panel is better than a smaller panel for future expansion. The subpanel could even be a large panel designed as a main panel, as long as it is installed correctly (e.g., ground and neutral separate).

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Further investigation revealed that the 50A breaker labeled as going to the gas range is actually going to the outdoor A/C unit for the (upstairs) bonus room. So I'm guessing that this was a late addition from a prior owner & they just used what was easily available.

Unfortunately, the label on the A/C unit says that the breaker should be 15A max (I presume for the protection of the electronics). I'm going to order a replacement that's 15A & hope it's an easy swap.

Regardless, the bottom line is that the 50a branch circuit isn't available like I thought it was.

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  • You may want to make this an edit to your question, not an answer. – dwizum Nov 1 '19 at 20:25
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    @dwizum, JCzech actually opened a new question for that, which I think is probably even better. So I think this self-answer just indicates that the question is no longer relevant due to its original faulty assumptions. – Nate S. Nov 1 '19 at 20:54

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