So You Want to Upgrade...
Tips on how to go about upgrading your main electrical panel, and ordering a bigger service from the IEC.
By: Jonathan Z. Kremer
Thinking of upgrading your electrical service with the Israel Electric Company (IEC)? Rash decisions can cost you a lot of money, and yet your electrical woes may still remain after all the work is done and the dust has settled.
Before making all your plans, you must know whether you actually need an upgrade or not. Are you upgrading because you need more electricity for a new air conditioner that you will be installing soon? Do you need to upgrade to 3 phases because of a 3 phase appliance that you are thinking of buying? Are you having problems with your breakers jumping all the time, and want to upgrade to solve the problem?
The first thing to know is what type of service you currently receive from the IEC? 25A single-phase? 40A single-phase? 25A 3 phase? (If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, pop over to “All About Your Electrical Panel” which explains how to identify the various parts of your panel.) If you look on your main breaker, it will have the rating printed on it. To be extra sure, you can call the IEC and ask them.
Will Upgrading Really Help my Problem?
If your breakers are constantly jumping, it’s important to know exactly what it is that is jumping all the time. Is it the main breaker? Is it the main ground-fault interrupter (GFI)? Or is it one of the individual line breakers controlling certain areas around your home?
If it’s your GFI or one of the line breakers (10A, 16A…) jumping, then upgrading will not solve your problem. You either have a fault in the system, or the lines running through your home are overloaded. You should bring in an electrician to examine the problem. If your main breaker jumps together with one of the line breakers, then you probably have a nasty short which should be repaired. On the other hand, if it’s only your main breaker jumping, and it’s during the time you are pulling a lot of power, by using several appliances at once, then you probably do need to upgrade.
If you already have a 3 phase service, and your main breaker is always jumping, it could be that your system is not balanced. The best thing to do is to make note when exactly your main breaker jumps and what appliances are being used at that time. After you know what combination of appliances is causing the main breaker to jump, call your electrician and discuss the matter with him.
What should I upgrade to?
The IEC provide the following levels of service:
Single phase – 40A (25A can be found in the older homes but has not been available for years)
3 Phases – 25A, 40A, 63A, 80A, 100A…and so on.
Upgrades with the IEC are priced according to "level", and a client will get credit for the "level" they have. For instance, say that upgrading from single phase 25A to single phase 40A costs “X”, and upgrading from 40A single phase to 25A 3 phase costs “Y”. This would mean that upgrading from 25A single phase to 25A 3 phase would cost “X” + “Y” + additional costs such as parts, materials and inspection, which is paid for again at every upgrade. Therefore, your cost will depend on where you are on their “ladder” and where you want to go. During the last few years, the IEC has lowered the price of the 25A 3 phase service, making it more available to home owners. Having more homeowners move over to 3 phases helps the IEC in balancing the load on their transformers and power plants (see "IEC's Cost of Upgrading").
A 25A service has the option of upgrading to single-phase 40A. If this is a workable option, the homeowner will be saving him/herself a bit of money and a big headache. Single-phase upgrades don’t need an inspection from the IEC (see “The Test”).
If 3 phase is your only option, then you should have your electrician come in to inspect your home to see what the job will entail. Together you can decide what size service is best for you, depending on your present and future needs. At the same time you may want to improve your present system by changing old wire, or by adding more lines, outlets or lighting points.
General Procedure for Upgrading to single-phase 40A.
When the decision is made to upgrade to 40A single phase, you can place the order with the IEC over the phone. Unless there is a specific problem, they usually do their part of the upgrade within a couple of weeks. Like with everything that involves the IEC, they take responsibility for the work up to and including your electric meter. From that point on it’s your responsibility. Your electrician will be responsible to make sure that the line from the meter to the electric panel is the right size. He will also have to change the main ground-fault interrupter and main breaker to the appropriate rating. In addition he should check your panel to make sure it is in good working order and has a proper grounding (earth).
General Procedure for Upgrading to 3 phases
Upgrading to 3 phases is usually much more complicated than single phase. As with single-phase, you can place your order with the IEC over the phone. Within a week or so the IEC will send an engineer over to your home to check the electric meter area to see if the upgrade doesn’t entail any special work. Sometimes when the upgrade is done within the course of a renovation, the electric meter may need to be moved for whatever reason. Your choice of location must be approved by the engineer along with any other changes.
Your electrician can start his work at anytime. He needs to inspect your home and correct anything that does not comply with Israeli code. This is the part that can be very costly. Correcting some problems may require opening walls, floors or ceilings. Depending on how old the wiring is, a complete electrical renovation may be in order. No one can be 100% sure what condition the wiring is in until they start to work, so prepare for the unexpected.
Your electrician must upgrade your panel with the proper main breaker and GFI. More often than not, the actual panel will have to be changed due to lack of space. It is usually a good idea to change all the “aging” panel parts at the same time. The line running between the electrical meter and the electrical panel will have to be replaced in most cases, and the grounding must be inspected and redone if need be.
Obviously, if there are walls to be chiseled and floor tiles to be lifted, this would be the best time to do any additional electrical work that you may want. It’s not every day that you do this sort of work.
After all the work is done, your electrician, together with the electrical drawings required by the IEC, orders a “test” (inspection) from the IEC. Depending on how busy they are at the time, they can schedule this “test” for any time between the very next day, and up to 3 weeks or so. The average is about a week to 10 days. Once the inspectors pass your electrical system (see “The Test”) they install the new meter on the spot and you are all set.
The following is the IEC's price list for residential electrical upgrades up to 3 phase 40A, taken and translated from the IEC's website. These prices are updated as of July 08, 2007. Prices can change without notice.
This price list is just for general information. There may be special prices for special situations, so don't make any final decisions without checking with the IEC first.