Dividing overloaded circuit


  #1  
Old 12-12-04, 05:31 AM
jsforrest
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Question Dividing overloaded circuit

One of the circuits in my older home has way too many lights and outlets attached to it, including the only two kitchen outlets. The 20 amp breaker often trips under normal use . So I would like to run a new circuit to divide the load up a bit. Especially a new line for the microwave and fridge.

My problem is that I have no idea how the wiring is set up. The lighting is all over the house and the outlets are in several different rooms. I've mapped out things, but this gives me know idea what order each outlet/light is on the circlut. I am at a loss to how to take some outlets out of the loop.

I'm thinking about:

1) Removing certain recepticals from the old circuit and connecting them up to the new circuit, then
2) Splicing the old circut so it just passes through the box that is being serviced by the newer circuit.


Is this safe and likely to be up to code?
 
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Old 12-12-04, 05:55 AM
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I had/have the same problem in my home. The previous owner did some "creative wiring" when he finished the basement and just tied the whole thing into an existing 15 AMP circuit. Including pre-wiring for a garbage disposal I don't think they ever attached one, but just wired it. This circuit also serves about 70% of the rest of the house too!!!

I started by drawing a rough floorplan of my house and drawing in all of the outlets, switches, and lighting. Next I figured out exactly what outlets and lights were on that circuit and marked them on the floorplan. Then came the hard part of figuring out how they were wired (this is where you are at, right?). I had access to the wiring in the basement and in the attic, so that made the job a *little* easier. It also required opening up all of the switches and outlets on that circuit and seeing how many wires were spliced at that box. Trying to think like an electrician (finding the shortest/cheapest/easiest way to wire adjacent outlets) I made some assumptions about how things were connected. I would unsplice wires in strategic locations (one at a time) to verify my assumtions, restore power to the circuit and test. Another tool that ocassionally came in handy was a toner.

After having a clear view of how things were wired, certain obvious locations became evident as good locations to break a room or two for a new circuit. (this is where I am at now)

I will run new wire from my panel to the locations I have identified, cap the wire from the old circuit, and splice in the new wire.

Does anybody have any better ideas/suggestions/comments??? I'm no expert, but this made sense to me.
 
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Old 12-12-04, 06:55 AM
R
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What I would do in your case is to bring the kitchen up to code. A kitchen requires two circuits to serve the counter top are. These circuits can't serve other areas of the house, and they must be GFCI protected and 20 amp circuits. I would also put the refrigerator on it's own circuit.

Yes, you can use the existing boxes to house the new circuits, and it is within code to do so as long as you don't have too many wires in the junction box. Figuring out how many wires is "too many" involves using formulas and counting wires and devices in the box.

What would be better is to either use the existing wiring in those boxes, if at all possible. It depends on how the wiring is run. If you can't use the existing wiring you may at least be able to abandon it in place. If you have access to the kitchen from the basement, you may be able to add a junction box or two in the basement ceiling joists below the kitchen to make a splice and eliminate the present wiring.
 
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Old 12-12-04, 11:40 AM
jhasty
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dividing overloaded circuit

Bob,
When you were talking about the number of conductors in a box, a very basic rule of thumb is; a #14 concuctor counts for 2 cubic inches and a #12 conductor counts for 2.25 cubic inches. And all of your bare grounds only count as one conductor. So in an 18ci gang box you can have 9 conductors, and so on.
Jim
 
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Old 12-12-04, 02:36 PM
jsforrest
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So, to make sure I am understanding...

This would be my short term solution until I have the time to actually rewire the whole kitchen, run several dedicated lines for major appliances, etc. When the time comes for that, I probably will have to bite the bullet and remove and test each receptical to get a handle on the order on the circuit. I also will have to do a lot of drywall and tile cutting to get the new wiring in...a major deal for me right now.

So, other code issues aside (and I am sure there are many right now, but I want to get things safe ASAP), I would be able to just let the old circuit pass through th box while running a new line to actually support the receptical? I was wondering if having live wires from two different circuits in the same box might be a saftey and/or code issue.
 
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Old 12-12-04, 02:47 PM
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There is no code issue with having different circuits in the same box. However, do not connect the two circuits together, except for the ground wires.

The safety issues have to do with servicing the receptacles. Unless you know that two circuits are in the same box, you may only turn off one breaker. You might then reach into the box and find live wires. This is not so much an issue if the other wires are wire nutted, but would be a problem if they connect to other receptacles or switches in the same box.

Your plan will present problems when it comes to using GFCI receptacles. You will find it tough to fit a GFCI receptacle in a box when there are other wires connected together in the same box. You may want to add one new receptacle as a GFCI in a new box, and then downstream feed regular receptacles in those boxes.
 
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Old 12-12-04, 02:51 PM
J
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If you're not quite ready to completely rewire the kitchen, I recommend you leave everything you have now exactly as is. Add a brand new circuit with all new receptacles in all new boxes with all new cabling. Then plug some of the load into the new receptacles. This doesn't require you to figure out anything about how the existing stuff is wired, and it doesn't require you to change anything about it, and you can leave all existing boxes alone.
 
 

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