Plus and minus of installing sub-panels

Old 08-14-02, 07:53 AM
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Plus and minus of installing sub-panels

I'm trying to decide whether to put two sub-panels in my house. The problerm is that there are 30+ Romex cables coming out of my main service panel. They all go up into an attic above the garage, go to the other end of the attic and then split. 10 go up through the wall of a closet to the second floor attic and provide power to the second floor circuits. 10 go down through a kitchen wall into a basement and provide power to the kitchen circuits. The other cables go to other locations. Having 30 Romex cables in the attic looks like a mess.

So, I thought why not install a subpanel in a second floor bedroom to feed the second floor circuits and install a subpanel in the basement to feed the kitchen circuits. That way there won't be so many cables coming out of the main panel. A friend has said that the down side is that if a breaker in the sub-panel trips, that the larger breaker in the main panel that protects the subpanel will trip as well. That would cut-off the power to the entire sub-panel and all the circuits fed by it.

Any other reasons why not to install the two sub-panels?
Old 08-14-02, 08:25 AM
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Seems like a whole lot of work and expense just to rid yourself of seeing all of those romex's in the attic!! Clearly, the box that they are all coming from is rated to have that number of cables installed otherwise you wouldn't have power to all of those circuits.
Even with the installation of sub-panels you will still have either a pipe of a cable going to the sub-panels. Is there really a need not to be able to see the cables?
Old 08-14-02, 08:54 AM
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I completely agree with Sparksone42. In a new installation, there might have been a lot of interesting arguments on both sides. But to change from existing trouble-free individual circuits to subpanels after the fact seems to have very few advantages.

By the way, I don't share your friend's concern.

The biggest downside is that this project is whole lot of work, and a lot of money, for what I perceive to be very little gain. However, my perception of value is relatively unimportant. If you think it's worth the money and effort and service disruption, then there's no significant reasons not to go ahead.
Old 08-14-02, 05:08 PM
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The more subpanels you have in a house the more places you are going to have to look if one breaker trips out. Now you lost power is it the branch circuit breaker in the upstairs sub, the main breaker in the upstairs sub, the breaker downstars at the main panel controlling the feeder to that sub, or could it be the main breaker in the main panel controlling the whole house.

I also see no advantages to installing sub panels unless we are talking about a shop area or a 10,000 square foot house so huge you need telephones to talk from one end of the house to the other. Otherwise I would keep all the breakers in one location for simplicity and central location for diagnosis.

Good Luck

Old 08-15-02, 07:03 AM
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Thanks for all your replies. I have thrown the idea of sub-panels into the trash bin. I will turn my attention to replacing the aluminum wire and cloth-braided wire that I have found in various parts of the house.
Old 08-15-02, 07:31 AM
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I have a proclivity for installing sub-panels. I recently wired a kitchen for a young couple that had purchased a small "starter" house. I set a panel in the utility room under the kitchen and ran a 100 amp feeder cable to the service. This was my reasoning----It was less labor to run one feeder cable than 3 or 4 branch-circuit cables.----- The difference in cost between a 60 amp cable and a 100 cable was not significant----- You need X amount of breakers either way-----Every receptacle outlet was a 2-wire home-run directly to the panel, not difficult when the distance to the panel is short. This was less labor than cross-cables between outlet boxes, avoided splices in the outlet boxes,and eliminated 220 volts connections in the outlet boxes and the possibilty of an open Neutral on a 3-wire branch-circuit.-----I connected an oil-fired hot-water heater and an oil-fired hot-air furnace, both located in the utility room, to the panel,placing the circuit-breakers close to the oil burners.-----The panel provided power for a future central AC compressor circuit.--------Labor is the important consideration in electrical installations. If dons can DIY I suggest he do it.
Old 08-15-02, 09:39 AM
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PATTBAA, You have piqued my curiousity. Why in the world would you advocate installing the sub-panels? Keep in mind that all of the circuits are currently working and there is no trouble with the system. You say if he can diy he should. How many people have you run across that, with very little or no knowledge of the work and codes involved, could do this on their own?

Again I am just curious here not trying to start an argument! What benefit would putting those sub-panels in provide?
Old 08-15-02, 03:25 PM
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I like subs also where the runs are long and the current is high on branch circuits,,, as in large shops or garages in ranch style homes where the panel is at the far end and tools are often high current like skill saws and shop vacs. They are nice where future additions are in mind also,,, but I dont think I would rewire a house if everything was already working, especially if they fed second story stuff like bedrooms and as long as the kitchen isnt overloaded. 30 cables isnt a lot anyway in a modern home,,, you could have a thousand and it wouldnt hurt anything. Actually its good as it means there are a lot of availiable circuits and overloading shouldnt be a concern.

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