Making room in panel for new circuit

Old 01-29-04, 02:57 PM
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Making room in panel for new circuit

The advice I have received on a few other posts is outstanding and really appreciated. I have another question:

I would like to add a circuit in my home in order to reduce overload on another circuit. Problem is that the main panel is full.
I am aware that it can be replaced with a larger panel or that a sub-panel could be added, but I was wondering if I have any reasonable options working just with the existing panel, such as:

1. Is it permissible to wire two circuits to one breaker at the panel (I think this is sometimes called "double-lugging")? I can see the pitfall that if a problem on one circuit trips the breaker then I lose both circuits. However, there will be less chance of a breaker tripping because I will have relieved the overloaded circuit that is most likely to cause a breaker to trip.

2. As another possible approach, I notice that microwave, garbage disposal, and dishwasher each currently are on separate, dedicated circuits. Also, there is another circuit that only has two kitchen receptacles on it. Should I leave these situations alone, or could I consider combining a couple of these circuits to free up room in the panel for the new circuit?

Are either of the above approaches acceptable, or should I bite the bullet and have the panel replaced? (This is an older home and all circuits in question are 15 amps.) Thanks.
Old 01-29-04, 04:45 PM
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Your three basic options are:
(1) Larger main panel.
(2) Subpanel.
(3) Tandem breakers.

Running two wires from the same breaker, even if allowed, will not help your situation one bit. You would still be limited to 15 amps on the sum of the two wires.

Combining other loads to free up space might work, but it would need very, very careful planning to avoid creating a new problem.

Tandem breakers, if your panel accepts them, are likely your best solution. Tell us more about your panel. How many spaces does it have now? Who is the manufacturer? What is the model number?
Old 01-29-04, 04:54 PM
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I would not mess with the kitchen appliance circuits. There are specific requirements for these for a good reason.

Depending on local code, you may be able to combine the dishwasher and garbage disposal. If local code does not bar this, it would depend on the load that each might take. If you do combine these, you could do it at the breaker (if allowed by the breaker) or within the panel.

However, I think that your best alternative is tandem breakers, sometimes called mini or half breakers. These would need to be allowed by the panel manufacturer.
Old 01-29-04, 09:23 PM
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First, I better make a correction and get my terminology straight.
I do not have a breaker panel. Actually, it's an older house (built in 1963) with an old fashioned fuse box. No breakers - it has screw-in fuses. To reply to comments/question by John Nelson and Racraft:

- The manufacturer of the panel, or box, was Federal Pacific Electric Company, and the manufacturer's info on the door says "Catalog # 1008." As noted, this unit was made sometime prior to 1963, so I don't know if this information is useful.

- I was thinking that tying in two existing circuits to the same breaker (or fuse) would accomplish something if I select two circuits that are under-used (few receptacles/lights) so that combining the two would not result in overload. That way, I create an opening for the new circuit. Basically, I would be consolidating two circuits by connecting them at their origin in the panel rather than in the attic or wall, where access may be difficult. Guess I'm still missing something? Anyway, I wouldn't do it if this is not an acceptable practice.

- Racraft, not sure I understand your comment on the possibility of combining two circuits: "you could do it at the breaker or within the panel." What does "within the panel" mean? Are you saying that I could splice wires with wire nuts and this is OK if within the panel, so that panel serves as "junction box"??? In other words I would be splicing just a few inches above the connections to the panel??

- I read a response by John Nelson to another post that warned about dangerous nature of working in the panel "even if the main breaker is thrown." My panel is in hallway closet. I would completely turn off the power outside by the meter where the power enters the house. That doesn't guarantee that I won't screw up the job, but I thought this would at least prevent electrocution. Is it still dangerous? Why? I need a handle on this!

- one other question on the subject, regarding my pre-1963 fuse box as described above. It has never given me any problems, other than not having room for new circuits. Would it be OK from safety viewpoint to continue with this box, or should I be thinking about having it replaced by a modern breaker panel anyway?? Thanks.

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