Standards of professional conduct

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Old 02-23-13, 09:19 PM
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Standards of professional conduct

I had a new HVAC system installed in a townhouse I am rehab'ing. The contractor inspected the old system and the electrical panels beforehand and quoted an all-inclusive price for the new system. It seems to work well. It replaced a system with a dead compressor that was more than 32 years old.

Later I was told by a couple of electricians that the entrance service (which was 70A) was too small for the house and that the HVAC contractor should have upgraded the entrance service, or told me in advance that I would be separately responsible for this. I have a copy of the contractor's inspection sheet. It has a question mark circled next to the line "Upgrade panel".

This issue did not come to light until I started to do additional electrical work. Apparently an electrical permit and/or inspection is not required for a permitted and inspected HVAC installation.

Is an HVAC contractor who modifies or adds additional load to the electrical system responsible for doing this work in a manner that is compliant with all applicable building codes? Should I require a contractor (any contractor in the future) to agree in writing that all work done will be performed in a manner that is compliant with all applicable building codes?

Thanks,
Lynnx
 
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Old 02-24-13, 01:27 AM
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Kind of a tough call with the limited information you have provided. HVAC contractors are usually NOT electrical contractors so they usually have limited or no experience in doing what is called a Load Demand Analysis. This analysis, which IS done by an electrical contractor, is to determine if an existing service is of sufficient size to meet the anticipated loads of the building under normal conditions.

Depending on several conditions that may (or may not) exist with your particular installation it could be no problem at all, a possible problem under some anticipated but not common scenario or a huge problem. If the HVAC contractor didn't mention it in any way, shape or form I would tend to believe he either ignored the potential or deemed it an insignificant possibility. The mere fact that he put a question mark on the inspection report tells me he DID do some kind of analysis and came up with a questionable but necessarily definitive answer that the service was indeed too small. Was he remiss in not detailing his thoughts and explaining it all to you? Probably, but I don't think it was unethical so much as simply a mistake.
 
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Old 02-24-13, 04:05 AM
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I think his question mark next to the replace panel comment was his way of saying it needed to be done, but he questioned it, since he was not an electrician. Was it a preprinted inspection sheet? Unethical, probably not. He should have brought it to your attention, but it definitely was not his responsibility to upgrade the panel, since he is not a licensed electrician. On a 70 amp panel he should have made it clear that it was undersized, I agree.
 
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Old 02-24-13, 07:31 AM
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"It seems to work well. It replaced a system with a dead compressor that was more than 32 years old."

I don't know for sure but it seems to me a new system would be more efficient than a 32 year old system thus pulling less load. That aside, I get the impression that you are acting as your own GC on this rehab and as such, probably should have consulted the electricians first. On a rehab, an electrical upgrade on a 70 amp service would be routine and since you are the boss on this job, you can't expect the HVAC sub to run your project. He did bring it to your attention on the inspection report and your own electricians advised you of the need for an upgrade so...I guess you need an upgrade. I'm not sure what your beef is with the HVAC guy though, are you trying to get him to pay for it?

 
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Old 02-24-13, 03:05 PM
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What additional load did the HVAC contractor add? I thought they replaced an existing system? If you added more loads to the panel after the HVAC work was done, how is that the HVAC contractors fault?

I think we are missing some information....
 
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Old 02-24-13, 07:53 PM
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Sounds like the electrical contractors who were suggesting the HVAC guy "should have...." were passing the buck.
If the panel is too small for today's standards there are no requirements to replace it if the equipment is replaced is the same load as the old one.

Seems like your "rehab" would be the problem.
 
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Old 02-24-13, 09:07 PM
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Minimum required in a house today is 100 amps. If you have all electric, no gas, you should probably have 200 amps. You might want to post in Electrical - A/C & D/C - DoItYourself.com Community Forums about your panel size.

If you post in Electrical a couple of questions to answer in your initial post. Townhouse can have multiple meanings. Is this a standalone structure or part of a complex? Do you have your own meter?
 
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Old 02-25-13, 06:35 AM
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Based on what you've said, I don't think your HVAC person did anything wrong.

Could he have mentioned something, sure but I don't see any actual ethical or legal violation.
 
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Old 02-25-13, 07:16 PM
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[SIZE=3]Thanks guys for your thoughtful replies. My objective is to determine whether or not the HVAC installer should have left my electrical system in a state that is at least different from how it was left, and if so whether the installer should bear some of the cost to make things right. The installer's pre-printed inspection sheet has an "Electrical" section with notes about house wiring, which turned out to be different than expected. I am not expecting this will turn into a "court case." Here is some more info...
 
My townhouse is one of two units that share one common wall. I have my own electric meter.
 
Every once-in-a-while after installation when the air conditioning (the condenser in the backyard) switched on, it tripped the 30A 240V breaker. The installer came out and replaced the 30A breaker with a 40A breaker. No more breaker trips after that.
 
I had several electricians come out to consider other upgrades and to check my panels because I had grown up with the idea that #10 cable needs to be protected with a 30A device. All of them (including the electrician that the installer uses when electrical work needs to be done for an HVAC installation) stated that the #10 cable needed to be replaced with #8 cable (and estimated $850 for this).
 
It just did not sit well with me that a legitimate installer would make this kind of a basic mistake -- putting too big a breaker on too small a wire. Plus the nameplace on the condenser stated that it was rated at 29.3A and could have a breaker up to 50A. This also did not make sense to me. I ended up going to the LA Dept. of Building & Safety and was assured by two senior electrical inspectors that this was indeed compliant with the Calif. Electrical Code. I have since read through the Code and understand how certain ratings and current calculations are determined and why a protection device up to 50A is okay for a "hermetic refrigerant motor-compressor" (which is what I have).
 
I now believe that 40A is okay in principle, but the face of the 40A breaker (where it should slide through a slot in the cover) is too large. The panel cover will not fit over the breaker and secure it. I also discovered that the specs accompanying the breaker identify my panel type as not compatible with this breaker. The installer's electrician said that no compatible breakers are available for my panel, and that I should replace the whole panel (for $600). I would prefer to add a subpanel with a single two-pole 40A breaker just for the condenser.
 
From one electrician I also received a Load Demand Analysis that indicated that my entrance service needs to be at least 80A for the existing house loads. To my knowledge no additional loads have been added since the structure was built. The installer's electrician also confirmed that the entrance service should be upgraded.
 
Thank you for any additional comments and recommendations.

[/SIZE]
 
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Old 02-25-13, 08:00 PM
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Ah, that is quite a bit different than the original post. As you have discovered there ARE circumstances where a larger than "normal" circuit breaker can be used with a specific size of wire and this is definitely one of them. HOWEVER, using a circuit breaker not "listed" for the panel IS unethical and probably in some manner of code compliance, unlawful. Perhaps you could post the make of your panel someone could tell you if a 40 ampere, two-pole circuit breaker is available, which I am reasonably sure it is.

As for the electrician that did the analysis and come up with the 80 ampere figure...a demand load calculation is somewhat subjective and a difference of only 10 amperes would be minor in my opinion. If you never trip the main circuit breaker then I would say there is no reason for an upgraded panel.
 
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Old 02-25-13, 09:35 PM
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[SIZE=2]Furd,

The distribution panel was manufactured by GTE Sylvania. The model is ML12. The breaker that does not fit in the panel is a Connecticut Electric 40A Two-Pole Thin Type-Z model UBIZ0240. It is sold by Home Depot, Amazon and EBAY.

I am reluctant to rely on a 30-year-old Zinsco main breaker to trip when it is supposed to.

Thanks
[/SIZE]
 
  #12  
Old 02-25-13, 11:11 PM
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It appears from your description you need a Zinsco RC38-40. Plugging that into a Google search turns up lots of suppliers, some used, some refurbished and a few new. Prices range from about $30 to $60 dollars with some companies having a fairly high minimum dollar order policy.

However, based upon your other thread it appears that you are seriously contemplating replacing the entire panel anyway.
 
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Old 02-26-13, 01:28 PM
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Minimum required in a house today is 100 amps. If you have all electric, no gas, you should probably have 200 amps. You might want to post in Electrical - A/C & D/C - DoItYourself.com Community Forums about your panel size.

If you post in Electrical a couple of questions to answer in your initial post. Townhouse can have multiple meanings. Is this a standalone structure or part of a complex? Do you have your own meter?

Read more: http://www.doityourself.com/forum/ai...#ixzz2M2SFzhxB
Is that the NEC, now?
Are homes required to upgrade?
Inspection ought to reveal (by figuring) those that would be overloaded with loads operating.

Does that apply to new construction or existing homes if sold?

Some older homes only have 60-amp service.
 
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Old 02-26-13, 01:57 PM
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I'm pretty sure the NEC has required 100 ampere service to single family homes for a couple of decades. Multi-family residences, including apartments and townhouses I don't know.

Existing installations that were approved at the time of construction are not required to upgrade as long as they are in serviceable condition.

Remember that this is the NATIONAL "model" code. Local codes enacted into law may add to or delete from the model code. Local codes rarely require upgrades during ownership but sometimes require certain upgrades during major remodeling or when a house is sold to a new owner.
 
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Old 02-27-13, 10:08 AM
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It looks like I should have done more homework on this site before contacting a contractor. I really appreciate all the help.

Thanks, Furd. Thanks to everyone.
Lynnx
 
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Old 02-27-13, 01:55 PM
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Before you order anything look at the other circuit breakers to be certain that the RC38 is the proper model. The -40 is the ampere rating.
 
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Old 02-28-13, 04:06 PM
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What size is the a/c?

Putting in a higher amperage breaker without changing the wire is a big no no.

The wire for the a/c might have the gauge # written on it.

See: Electrical Wire Sizes - What Size Electrical Wire Do I Need

70 amps is on the small side if you have an electric dryer and stove.

If the stove is gas or there's no dryer, it might be okay.
 
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Old 02-28-13, 04:50 PM
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Sorry, Muggle, you are wrong. Look at the nameplate at any condensing unit and it will state the minimum circuit Ampacity and the maximum overcurrent protection. The minimum circuit Ampacity defines the size of the wire and the maximum overcurrent protection defines the maximum circuit breaker or fuse rating.

This is not a new provision in the NEC, it has existed for decades with motor-driven equipment.
 
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Old 02-28-13, 04:52 PM
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Furd is correct...... Thanks Furd for clearing up the code.
 
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Old 02-28-13, 06:25 PM
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But Muggle is non-US and has declined to give his location so it may be a US thing not applicable to Timbuktu.
 
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Old 03-29-13, 02:34 PM
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If you think what has been discussed so far is bad; an HVAC company of many years, by-passed the main disconnect (it is a fused main panel) & ran small conductors from the main entry conductors to a breaker box for the new condensing unit.

No conduit nothing protecting those conductors; it would take 600-amps to blow the transformer fuse!

He had a 240-volt run to the living room where they used a 1.5-Ton window unit (they got rid of) that pulled a lot more amps than the new 12-SEER condenser, but they never thought of using that fused run.

Not only that, but they did the switch without cutting the power to those main conductors. Man, how far out can you get?
 
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