Less than ideal circuit distribution


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Old 02-15-04, 08:29 PM
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Less than ideal circuit distribution

Hi,

The small house (around 1000 sq. ft.) we recently bought must have had a 200 amp panel installed in the last 20 years, which I am thankful for. However when it was installed, the original wiring (mid 1950's) was pretty much left intact, with a few additions. As I am finishing off a couple of basement rooms, I tore down the basement ceiling and have relatively easy access to the main floor. Because of this, I thought I'd do a wiring diagram of the existing circuits and try to come up with a better plan. It was pretty clear that a few circuits seemed over loaded so I thought I'd get a handle on it.

Well it was worse than I thought, several install breakers aren't being use, while a few have only 1 outlet on them. The bad news is that there are 3 circuits that seem to be carrying 70% of the distribution. Examples would be an overhead light & several outlets in the basement, going upstairs to 3 bedrooms and part of the living room. Our worse run (which ocassionally trips) has the kitchen and the basement laundry room on the same circuit.

I will get a permit to do the work & if I pass a test (which I am confident of doing), I can do the work myself. My question is since the offending circuits are strung in the walls from room to room, what is the suggested way of 'breaking' the run into smaller sections? Specifically,

1. Is there a way of telling where the circuit terminates easily? I'd like to follow the run from start to end, and perhaps 'break' it in the middle, for example.

2. If I find the 'best' place to end the circuit, I'd imagine I would terminate the circuit in the outlet box, leaving the rest of the circuit disconnected. Then I was thinking I would bring a new romex cable up from the basement into a box next to the freshly terminated on and 'pick up' the existing circuit there. Is that the recommend approach?

I am in the planning stages, I'll study load and try to distribute more effectively. In general, I'd imagine that (if feasible), keeping a circuit w/in a room would be ideal, right? I have plenty of space on my panel for such distribution, there is room for another 8 or 9 circuits if need be.
 
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Old 02-15-04, 09:17 PM
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I would suggest you leave all the existing circuits alone. Simply add more circuits and run new cable to the locations where you would like to offload existing circuits. Then install new outlets on these new circuits, and move loads to the new outlets. One simple way to start would be to run a new circuit for the basement laundry.
 
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Old 02-16-04, 08:13 AM
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John,

As I understand your post, you are suggesting that I leave existing outlets that I want 'off loaded' & put in new outlets? For example, I'd like to have one bedroom on it's own circuit, now it is on a rcircuit with 3 other rooms. So are you suggesting I leave everything in place and just drop a new line to that room and with new outlets?

If that is the case, I like the idea, however I don't necessarily like having 'dead' outlets. Do people just put a flat plate over the dead outlet in this case?

Also, I've installed outlets in new construction (basement studs), pretty straight forward. The problem in existing walls is space & nailing to a stud. Are there different outlets/techniques for nailing where you don't have a huge opening?

Thanks for the input!
Bob
 
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Old 02-16-04, 08:29 AM
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Yes, you can simply put a blank cover plate over the unused outlets. Or you can leave them alone and just not plug stuff into them, or at least no large loads into them. They might still be useful for a clock or radio, and those loads would cause no harm. Use child safety plug on them to remind you not to use them for the vacuum cleaner.

If you are adding new outlets, it is essential that you become familiar with "old-work" boxes. Visit your local home center and look at them. They are what you need. And since you are not familiar with them now, I infer that you have not yet read enough books on home wiring to begin this project.
 
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Old 02-16-04, 08:33 AM
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John is not suggesting that you disconnect the existing circuits, but rather that you add new circuits where needed. This might be to one of the bedrooms, or to the laundry area (as he suggested).

The problem with these new circuits is that someone unfamiliar with the wiring may use the old outlet and not the new one. To fix this problem, remove the outlet and install a blank face plate.

I believe that John is making this suggestion because it is generally easier to add a new circuit rather than to try and tap into an existing circuit. Tapping into an existing circuit requires knowledge of the existing woringm which must be gained by careful examination of the wiring, and sometimes by trial and error.

As for the new circuits, there is no need to cut open the walls and attach the boxes to the studs. Old work boxes came about for this purpose. An old work box has "wings" that spread out behind the wall and hold the box against the wall. They are installed by making a rectangular hole just large enough for the box to fit through from the room side. Any good book on do-0it-yourself wiring will explain these. You should buy and read at least one such book before doing anything on your own.

Several additional thoughts.

The existing wiring may not have ground wires. This does not matter for adding new circuits, but does matter whn trying to tap into an existing circuit.

Also, keep in mind that when doing any remodeling it may be necessary top bring the room being remodelled up to current code. This may mean redoing wiring elsewhere in the house. For example, kitchens and laundry rooms have specific requirements for circuits. If you remodel the kitchen you will have to adjust the circuits to meet the current code, possibly requiring rewiring of the laundry as well.
 
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Old 02-16-04, 09:12 AM
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Guys, thanks a load! Yes, I haven't done enough reading, right now I'm more in the planning phase, the wiring will probably be done in a month or so.

Thanks for the tips, just what I needed. As for the kitchen, that will have a complete remodel in a year or so, so I'll deal with those issues then. For now I just want to separate the some of the long runs that start in the basement and work up.

Bob
 
 

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