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I'm located in the bay area - PG&E territory. I have a Federal Pacific panel that needs to be replaced but it is within 3 feet of a gas line. My wires are underground so it'd require trenchwork and a length and $$$ project to move it.

I'm also trying to install solar panels and some vendors are requiring me to replace the main panel. They want to charge $3K+ to do a like-for-like.

I've talked to many electricians and they all say, it will not get approval by PG&E to do a like for like and does not want to touch the job.

Based on my research, I should be exempt via Greenbook 1.16.2. But then there are threads on Reddit and Tesla forums in which when it is time for inspection, PG&E gives pushback.

I have someone from PG&E Express Connections Department who says it is not an issue but then another PGE rep who works w my solar panel vendor stated otherwise.

I really do not want to put up money for a solar panel to fail during an inspection. Will I face issues?

Panel image: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zGovHsnN88ZmVKzp6

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  • It sounds like there's a lot of confusion between the people you are dealing with. You might have to get with the inspectors to figure it out but I don't think we can reasonably say whether or not you'll face issues.
    – JACK
    Mar 17, 2022 at 20:24
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    "Like for like" is not a term I'm familiar with, and I have 200k rep here. Could you edit to say it in different words? Are you trying to keep the FPE panel or are you OK with changing brands/makes? Is it a physical size issue? Also, does the panel you want to replace include the meter pan? Does it include the main breaker? (these vary: many Bay Area communities require a main breaker at the meter, but there's no rule that the panel be there too.) Mar 17, 2022 at 21:18
  • What does your house use gas for? (Not a silly question -- this might just be your golden opportunity to jettison gas in favor of an all-electric house) Mar 18, 2022 at 2:26
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    You're not looking to replace the existing panel with another FP panel are you? That's what "like-for-like" means to me...
    – FreeMan
    Mar 18, 2022 at 11:39
  • It uses gas for stove and water heater. I am doing the like for like to replace my fpe main panel. I do not have any subpanels.
    – kai
    Mar 18, 2022 at 21:41

2 Answers 2

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Go all-electric

Given that we've figured out that methane leaks really do a number on our climate, and the grid is getting cleaner and cleaner by the day as old fossil fuel plants are retired and more and more renewables come online, now is the time to ditch gas and go all-electric, not the least because it gets the pesky gas meter out of your way.

Presuming you have a 200A service and not something smaller, you should have enough service capacity to fit a 40A range circuit and a 30A water heater circuit to replace your existing gas appliances. Furthermore, since you're in the mild clime of the Bay Area, a hybrid heat pump water heater should be adequate nigh year round, and induction ranges are very capable and attractive alternatives to gas cooking in this day and age. (Seriously: head to your local furniture store and try one out.)

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Not all Federal Pacific panels need to be replaced (according to PG&E). But most electricians will not touch them. The way we have gotten them replaced (when located above the gas meter) as a like-for-like before is if you have a letter from your home fire OR hazard insurance that deems the panel unsafe. Take that letter, and submit it to PG&E. They will let you upgrade in the same location.

Another option is (depending on how much solar you are trying to install) to install a new subpanel, relocate a large breaker into the new subpanel to create more room in the main, and then tie it into the new sub. Ex: (E)200A MSP: (N)70A subpanel breaker (70A of load relocated to new 125A subpanel. You now have the 70A of relocated load (from MSP) in the new 125A subpanel and can put a (N)50A breaker in the sub for PV.

This is not allowed in every AHJ but is allowed in most! Manteca there is almost never a work-around to avoid a MPU. My husband and I run an electrical contracting company and install lotsss of solar. There are lots of work arounds to main service upgrades but lots of solar sales companies don't know how to get it done.

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