Main Circuit Shut-off on Service Panel?

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  #1  
Old 08-03-02, 10:58 AM
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lrning
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Question Main Circuit Shut-off on Service Panel?

My house is 40 years old and (by looking at the wiring etc.) it appears as thought the wiring was updated in the early 80's. I need to add a circuit in order to install an outside outlet, but there's no main circuit shut-off that appears on the outside of my service panel. As I'm still learning, I was wondering if it was located inside the service panel? I wanted to check before I start opening things up. The model of the service panel is Square D QO Load Center.

I know this sounds like a stupid question, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 
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  #2  
Old 08-03-02, 12:38 PM
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Wgoodrich
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Look inside you main panel for the biggest breaker in you panel. It will be found either at the top of at the bottom of you panel. Look for the word "MAIN" imprinted near that large breaker. This will be your main shut off.

Let us know how you come out

Wg
 
  #3  
Old 08-03-02, 02:57 PM
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lrning
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Wg,

I don't know if I'm missing something but, where the two hot mains connect to the top of the two bus bars - I can see where they're screwed in. There isn't any circuit labeled "main". Is this even possible or am I way off the mark?

Thanks...
 
  #4  
Old 08-03-02, 03:16 PM
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That is certainly possible that there is no main. Is that the only panel in the house? Its not really a legal panel if it is,, there is sposed to be one.
 
  #5  
Old 08-03-02, 03:29 PM
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lrning
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sberry,

Yes, this is the only service panel in the house. I bought the house from an older couple who are the ones who had it built. I think the electric was upgraded in the early 80's. Would the person who did it at that time have made a mistake? Also, when I first moved in and wasn't doing projects on my own, I had an electician come in and install a dedicated line for a dryer (there wasn't one, believe it or not!!!). The electrician didn't mention to me that he saw anything out of the ordinary. Anyway, what can I do at this point?

My original goal was to install a subpanel and run a new line for a 15A outside outlet - I only have two open circuits left and figured I should add the extra spaces for possible future use. At this point, would it be better to add an entirely new service panel, but one with more spaces?

Thanks for your help!!!
 
  #6  
Old 08-03-02, 05:20 PM
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You might find a disconnect switch at the electric meter. check around there.
 
  #7  
Old 08-03-02, 05:27 PM
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lrning
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Ron,

I've never messed around with the meter, so I'm not sure what the disconnect would look like. Right now, the meter is enclosed with a locked cover. Would the mechanism to disconnect the power be located within the meter?

Thanks
 
  #8  
Old 08-03-02, 05:49 PM
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lrning
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By the way, I forgot to ask if it would be advisable to just replace the entire service panel? (I'm satisfied with the 100 Amp service I currently have (my house is only 1400 sq feet), so no upgrade is necessary.)

If replacing the service panel is the way to go, how do I disconnect the power coming in the house (since I have no Main on/off circuit)?

Thanks again for everyone's help!

-Dan
 
  #9  
Old 08-03-02, 05:52 PM
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Gary Tait
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Turn off the big breakers, one at a time, until everything shuts off,
that will be the main. You can also trace the wiring from the meter
to see where it leads to.
 
  #10  
Old 08-03-02, 06:01 PM
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lrning
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Gary - When I trace the wire coming from the meter, I can see that the two hot wires attach at the top of the bus bar and the neutral (third wire) attaches to the other bus bar. However, where the two hot wires attach, there is no main circuit breaker, just a plastic mount that contains two fastener screw/clamps. The existing circuit breakers begin just below this plastic mount.

I don't think I'm missing anything, but what do I do in this circumstance?
 
  #11  
Old 08-03-02, 06:48 PM
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I think you have no main. I(t will work,,, just not good in an emergency if you need to shut the whole house down in a hurry. For the moment add the 15 a circuit that you need. You can go back for a sub later if you need.
 
  #12  
Old 08-03-02, 06:52 PM
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The previous owner probably bootlegged a new panel in without inspection.
 
  #13  
Old 08-04-02, 07:10 AM
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lrning
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I'm most likely going to sell this home within 1 1/2 years, so I'd rather fix it now. As a result, I'll need to put in a new service panel and have it inspected and approved appropriately.

Does anyone know the high level steps I need to take in order to get the ball rolling? Will I have to have the electric company come out and shut the electric off in order for me to begin working on this (Since I have no main?).

Thanks...Dan
 
  #14  
Old 08-04-02, 08:05 AM
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It depends on where you are at. You may need a plan. I am in Mi and dont. We get a service upgrade permit. Often I locate the new panel next to the old one and have the new service inspected and ready to go for changeover by the poco. You may not have that location luxury. Also remember that God didnt put the old panel where it was and there may be a better location, or you may choose underground entrance with the new. Sometimes that really works out well so you neednt interupt your service. I have it set up so The interuption is minimal,,, have been already with old clamps and fittings loose, new connectors in the box and had the fridge, freezer and well running again in 10 mins or so. Barely had to reset the clocks.
 
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Old 08-04-02, 09:53 AM
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Originally posted by lrning
[B]I'm most likely going to sell this home within 1 1/2 years, so I'd rather fix it now. As a result, I'll need to put in a new service panel and have it inspected and approved appropriately.

Does anyone know the high level steps I need to take in order to get the ball rolling? Will I have to have the electric company come out and shut the electric off in order for me to begin working on this (Since I have no main?).[B]
I just finished this project myself... see my thread "What I learned by replacing my own breaker box" in this forum.

First, go visit the local electrical inspector. In person. Talk to him/her about the project. You'll learn exactly what he/she will be looking for during the inspection and save yourself lots of grief and possible rework. The five minutes you spend talking to the inspector could pay off in spades. Really. The inspector is there to help you... USE THAT RESOURCE!

You will need to have the power company cut power to the house. They do this by pulling the meter out of it's socket. Free in many cases. My power company did this at no charge and showed up right on schedule. The contractor also cut the power feeds at the weathermast so that I could safely replace the cable to the meter base. Again: free and on schedule.

Physically replacing the breaker box is some hard manual labor, but there's nothing really difficult about it per se. It's hot, dirty, unpleasant work, but easily within the abilities of most DIY'ers.

It seems that many posters in this forum are afraid of dealing with contractors, the inspector, or the power company. I've learned that these people really are here to help you, and that leveraging the resources provided by these folks you get a lot more safety and the project goes much more quickly. Knowing that I did my project "right" and that I'm less likely to run into problems in the future is also a big plus.
 
  #16  
Old 08-04-02, 10:11 AM
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Canoe875
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it sounds to me that if you couldn't find the main breaker to shut it off the power and you that scared to to work with live wires maybe, you should hire somebody to do it for you, where i live the electric company won't bother to pull the meter for you , you have to do it yourself. and there are so many new codes that im sure if you talk to the inspector he will not bother to list all the things you need, like watergrounds ground rod, where you need the disconnect(in the panel or outside. Good luck
 
  #17  
Old 08-04-02, 01:54 PM
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lrning
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Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely speak with my local building inspector. NogginBoink - thanks for the info. While I've never replaced a service panel, I've got to learn sometime. Luckily, there is enough room right next to the current service panel to mount the new one.

I've replaced all of the wiring in my basement (unfinished) and every outlet, light switch and light fixture in the house - the boxes were grounded, but none of the outlets, switches or light fixtures were. Therefore, I just want to take everything from the existing panel and move it over to the new panel - but balance it out better - have the stove circuit across from the air conditioner, etc. I can easily pull out the meter to cut the power myself, if the power company won't come out to do it.

Does this plan sound O.K.?

Thanks...
 
  #18  
Old 08-04-02, 02:36 PM
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Sounds like a plan. One small thing though. Breakers (120) across from each other are on the same leg. 220 is self balancing so it doesnt matter where you put them in the panel. Any 2 single pole breakers side by side are on different legs. Look at the drawing in the panel or go to HD and open one and you will see how the buss is routed. Go 200 A and 40 spaces.
 
  #19  
Old 08-04-02, 02:44 PM
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Wgoodrich
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If you want to learn what you have concerning doing a service upgrade try reading the followig article. This may help you answer your questions and inform you more of what is involved if you take the DIY project on yourself. Once you have read that article you should be more informed to ask you local inspector better questions for you info and come back here for more specific questions that you may not understand. The first link should help you understand porforming a service upgrade. The second link should guide you in performing a demand load calculation telling you what the NEC says it the minimum service size required to serve you home.

After reading and looking at pictures in these links you may find that installing a main weather proof disconnect between the meter base and your house panel would be your best answer. Just guessing at that by what you have been saying.

http://www.homewiringandmore.com/hom...ter/meter.html

http://www.homewiringandmore.com/hom...DmdCalc02.html

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #20  
Old 08-04-02, 05:44 PM
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lrning
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O.K. Thanks for the info. and the links. I'll read over and speak with the building inspector. I plan on getting this started as soon as I can (this week, hopefully), so I'll make sure to stop in with any additional questions as I go. I'll also document the steps (I found NogginBoink's thread very helpful) and any problems that occur along the way in case another member is attempting the same project.

Thanks and I'll check-in soon!

-Dan
 
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