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I'm wanting to upgrade my 125A, 24 space panel to 200A, 40+ spaces. I'm confident to work on the main panel, but not the main service entrance. Would I be able to add a safety switch (pic below) between the meter and panel, so that I can disconnect and have a 100% dead panel?

Are there any requirements to be aware of?

  • height/accessibility of safety switch
  • switch distance from meter and/or panel
  • proximity to gas meter

Is there a different option I should be considering, which gets me to my end goal of working on my own panel?

I'm in PG&E land if that matters. I currently have a combo meter/panel, but as part of my upgrade I'll likely need to move the meter outside. The safety switch would be inside.

200 Amp indoor safety switch

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    In the US your power company will come and disconnect for free--it's the law for safety reasons. You'd have to have them do it at least once to add this disconnect anyway. I wouldn't bother with the expense. – isherwood Feb 19 at 20:23
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    What is the make of the existing panel? Is there a reason other than spaces to want to replace it? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 19 at 21:08
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    Harper, current meter/panel combo is rated for 125A max so I assume meter pan is same. Existing is Eaton BR. Besides increased spaces I also want more amperage for future appliances. – dabi Feb 19 at 22:15
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    You might want to consider that modifying your service will require satisfying the current code. When the 2020 is adopted NEC 230.85 will require an Fire Fighters exterior disconnect. And just as a note, the picture you posted is not an outdoor "NEMA 3R" disconnect. – NoSparksPlease Feb 20 at 0:15
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    PG&E means it is California, we are still on the 2014 NEC, we will likely go to the 2017 code in 2021, we will not likely adopt the 2020 code until around 2025. So the exterior disconnect requirement is still a long way off for us. But as isherwood said, you will need to have PG&E kill power to be able to put in the disconnect anyway, so why bother with that step? Just make the changeover to the new meter / panel in one fell swoop. – JRaef Feb 21 at 1:32
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There's no point to adding a switch here

Since you will have to move the meter-main anyway, which'll require PG&E to cut your service drop and reattach it at the pole, there's no point in adding the extra switch you describe.

So, why can't the new meter-main go where the old one did?

Well, the NEC simply requires clear working space (110.26(A)) around the meter-main, so why can't it go in the garage? The answer lies in the fact it's a meter-main, and thus invokes your utility's distribution rules about meter location. In your case, they're found in PG&E's Greenbook, which states:

5.3.2. Prohibited Meter and Service Equipment Locations

The following locations are not acceptable for electric meters and service termination equipment.

...

F. Inside garages for single-family residences.

So, since you'll need to move the meter there, and probably use a meter-main for that job, I would simply fit a Class 200 EUSERC meter-main, suitable for overhead service, at a suitable outdoor location. Then, you can have your 200A indoor panel set up in the garage as a subpanel from the meter main.

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  • Why do you suggest meter-main outside with subpanel inside? I'm replacing Eaton Mbe1224b125bts, and assumed meter socket would go outside and new main panel inside. I did get bids first, one electrician said meter has to be outside but doesn't require 36" working clearance, thats only for panel – dabi Feb 21 at 6:04
  • @dabi -- that electrician is wrong, even if the NEC didn't require working clearance at meters, the PG&E Greenbook certainly does! Also, putting a meter-main on the outside instead of a meter socket is future-proof re: NEC 2020 first-responder disconnect requirements, and is conventional in Cali it seems (PG&E doesn't require it, but some other California utilities do) – ThreePhaseEel Feb 21 at 12:32

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