Combining Electrical Panels

Old 04-03-17, 09:44 AM
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Combining Electrical Panels

We have a lake cottage in Northern Indiana. In our utility room there is the main panel which is set into the wall cavity, then there is an additional panel that we had added to put in an electric stove. That panel (sub panel??, I don't know my terminology well) is mounted on the wall with a conduit running down through the floor, through the crawl space to the stove.
We are getting ready to remodel and I'd like to have those 2 panels combined into 1 and have it sit neatly in the wall cavity so I can put a pretty door on it and hide it a little better.
My husband says it's a big deal to have this done and it's likely expensive. We had it mounted on the wall because it was cheap and easy and didn't really matter aesthetically then.
First question - What is involved with doing what I want? Wall board can be removed to gain easy access to the panels. Relatively easy access to the new panel from the crawl to move the hole to the wall cavity.
Second question - Am I allowed to cover the panel with a pretty door or is there some code that says it has to remain visible and ugly.
Third - Any rough idea on price? Assuming no other electrical work needed is it a $300 job or a $1000 job? I would say our contractors tend to be on the cheap side, it's in a very rural area. Running the new panel to the stove including having a small guy crawl far back to the stove in a dark creepy place was only about $200.
Fourth - Any better suggestions? My goal is to clean it up so I don't have 2 panels side by side looking ugly.
Old 04-03-17, 10:19 AM
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I suspect the reason a sub panel was added at the time was because there was not sufficient space in the main panel to simply install an additional breaker for the stove. Otherwise it would have been easier and cheaper to just install the breaker and run the wire from the panel to the stove.

Assuming that is true, and there isn't space in the main panel for a double pole breaker, eliminating the subpanel would involve replacing the main panel with a larger panel. Not a huge job, but will cost more than $200 in most areas (although estimating cost over the internet is kind of hopeless!)

Another option might be to have the subpanel recessed and the wiring run inside the wall; that would likely cost less.

Code in most areas calls for 36" of clearance in front of the panel, and 30" side to side, but you can put a painting or the like over the panel to disguise it, as long as it can easily be removed for access.
Old 04-03-17, 05:43 PM
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First question - What is involved with doing what I want?
Depending if the main panel is full, the power would need to be shut off at the meter or outside disconnect.
Remove the old circuits
Disconnect the feeder
Remove the old panel(s)
Install a new, larger panel (ideally of the same brand to reuse the breakers)
Reconnect the feeder
Reinstall the branch circuits
Turn it back on.

Some locations require extra things when doing a panel change including, but not limited to:
Changing the meter socket with one with a bypass handle
Ground service to water line
Ground service to ground rod

Second question - Am I allowed to cover the panel with a pretty door
Yes. It is done all the time. As long as it is "readily accessible" meaning you do not need tools or ladders to get to it.

Third - Any rough idea on price?
I think Carbide is a little light. For an electrical contractor to do it you would be looking at (just a guess) $800 - $1000. Of course, best option is to get 3 bids from different contractors.
Old 04-03-17, 09:25 PM
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One thing that your electrical contractor will need to do is ensure that the cable to your stove from the sub-panel will be able to reach the new single panel. They'll need to install a junction box to extend the cable if it's too short, but like the panel it can be covered by a wall hanging. If it's close enough to the new panel, one hanging could cover both.


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