Moving electrical panel

15 Replies

Maybe this is the wrong place for this question, but someone here has to know. I have a 3 unit building where the electrical panels for all 3 units and common is in the basement. If a breaker trips, tenants have to go outside to the basement to reset the breaker.

Is it possible to have electrical panels moved into each of the units?

@Ray Harrell

Anything is possible.   The real question is:  Is it cost effective to move each panel into its unit {where it is suppose to be}?

Moving panels from the basement, into each unit is undoubtedly going to require extensive rewiring of each unit and the building overall.   You would need to get a quote on doing this work and decide if you are going to get a sufficiently short payback to warrant the expenditure.   If you were gutting the building,  or, even a unit, for other reasons, the answer might be, yes.  If the building is presently rented, the answer may be more conditional or simple "No".

That is major surgery, very expensive and will not warrant an increase in rent. A breaker should only trip when the tenant overloads the circuit. I think having a long walk to reset the breaker is a good thing from the landlord's and safety perspective. Sometimes breakers go bad, might be worth to have an electrician look into that.

@Ray Harrell You can always add subpanels in the each unit. is the property have one master panel or is the subpanels for each unit located in the basement. The extent of the work would depend on the existing runs. If you pull permits which I recommend, it will be pretty expensive moving panels. Maybe $1,500-2,500 each, plus and patching that needs to be done. i think first you should look at what is causing the breakers to pop. Maybe you can add a new line or breaker that would not require tenant to have to go down stairs. If you need recommendations, I can refer a licensed electrician.
@Ray Harrell Since each unit has a subpanel, this sounds like it can be relocated with minimal issues. Maybe a day or 2 of electrical work and then some drywall patching and painting.

It would be a lot cheaper to fix the issue that's causing the breaker to trip . Most of the time I see space heaters overloading the circuit . Also microwaves on a circuit with something else. I would consider running a dedicated circuit to whatever is overloading the circuit that is tripping. In order to relocate the panels in each unit would be a lot of work . You would Almost have to use the existing breaker panel as a junction Box and extend the circuits to the new panel box in the units. I couldn't do that job for under 6k .

I've done this. Like 6 times in 2 buildings. But doing it cheaply depends on the old wiring being utterly under standard! My 1 bedrooms literally had a single 20A circuit going up to a 2x15A fuse box in the unit. So when we fed a new riser to a new subpanel, only 2 old circuits needed to be brought over to it. New circuits were added for the kitchen and bath. 

So if you have a lot of circuits already feeding the units, it's a bad idea, and you should be figuring out what the problem is as @Andrew S. said anyway. Your tenant might have a ridiculous amount of crap piled on one circuit, which is a bad idea anyway.  With modern efficient appliances and lighting, it's hard to throw a breaker. One of my 1BR units is still running on 20A and never throws a breaker! 

its 100amp and first time it has happened to my knowledge.  Thanks for all the input tho. I will never buy a building this old again

Originally posted by @Ray Harrell :

its 100amp and first time it has happened to my knowledge.  Thanks for all the input tho. I will never buy a building this old again

Now that statement warrants a high five for learning by doing! You would never know that until you experienced it. Good thing you did so that n a 3 unit and not on a 30 unit or 300 unit! I love to see these eye openers.

In my decade p,us as a RE investor, I have made plenty of mistakes and all of them have made me the investor I am today. Though I would like to have a few of those mistakes back, in the long run, they all were beneficial to me.

Why would you make such an investment? Although it's an inconvenience to the tenants what value does it add? I wouldn't think it would increase your cash flow? In my eyes you are just paying money for no reason because it isn't a selling feature nor increases your cash flow. I would have a different opinion if the entire building was on the same box and you, the owner, were responsible for electricity.

Don't let a tenant talk you into anything, through nagging and complaints, just because it's an inconvenience. However, if there is a problem with the breaker isolate the problem and if needed get it fixed.

Originally posted by @Ray Harrell :

its 100amp and first time it has happened to my knowledge.  Thanks for all the input tho. I will never buy a building this old again

 I have made a >million buying >100 year old buildings.  They're cheap because they need TLC, but new construction is often utter crap that falls apart because during a boom its built as quickly and cheaply as possible by inexperienced workers.  I'm watching a 8U go up across the street that I suspect will sink into the swampy soil because they poured a trench type footing rather than driving piles like the better constructed infill. My 100 year old buildings at least aren't going anywhere. YMMV  

100A is the service to the property or the unit, and sounds rather new. You need to see how many lines of what amperage are going up, and find out what is causing the load. A fridge,toaster and MW on the same 15A circuit could do it, but normal household loads SHOULD NOT.

Get one of those 3 led outlet testers and map the apartments with someone turning on and off the breakers. This is something you should do anyway in an old building.

$4 at Harbor Freight, every property owner should have one in every building https://www.harborfreight.com/electric-receptacle-...

Originally posted by @Johann Jells :

Get one of those 3 led outlet testers and map the apartments with someone turning on and off the breakers. This is something you should do anyway in an old building.

One?  I have one plus a non-contact voltage tester in the glove box of each vehicle (you just never know when you might need it) and, naturally, in my tool bag along with the multi-meter. 

Originally posted by @Roy N. :
Originally posted by @Johann Jells:

Get one of those 3 led outlet testers and map the apartments with someone turning on and off the breakers. This is something you should do anyway in an old building.

One?  I have one plus a non-contact voltage tester in the glove box of each vehicle (you just never know when you might need it) and, naturally, in my tool bag along with the multi-meter. 

Well, I did say one in every building. And the noncontact tester too. Haven't gotten to the glove box, but I try and keep a minimum set of tools at every property, especially channel locks and adjustable wrenches to mess with sinks. The Leatherman with allen bits is always with me.