No Main Switch in Panel


Old 09-20-05, 07:42 AM
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No Main Switch in Panel

Recently purchased rural property with a detached shop building. This shop has dedicated power line (separate from the house) direct from utility pole to meter and then to main panel box. I've recently built a horse barn near the shop and need to run electric to the barn from this shop panel.

However, unlike other main panels I've ever seen, this one does not have a Main circuit breaker at the top that I could use to shut off power to all the individual circuit breakers below. (I estimate this system is 15-20 years old...all outlets are two-prong.)

With no main swith to de-energize the circuit breakers, I can't figure how to safely work in this panel to add the new circuit breakers I need for the barn. Only solution I come up with is to have the power company come and remove their meter (probably at a charge)--do my work in the panel--and then have the power company back to re-install their meter (another charge). This seems a bit "extreme". I figure the pros must come across this situation from time-to-time and I'm wondering how they would handle this.

Related question: I'd like to have a more up-to-date 3-prong outlet set-up in the new barn. Is this even possible with the two-prong set-up in the current panel box? I don't know if 2-prong vs. 3-prong is a function of the circuit breakers in the panel or if I would need a completely new panel box to support 3-prong. (If I need a new panel for the 3-prong service, my "safety" question above probably doesn't matter, since then I'll get an electrician to put in a whole new, up-dated service to serve the shop and the new barn.)


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Old 09-20-05, 07:52 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
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If there's no main disconnect in the panel, there probably is one outside. How many breakers are in the panel?

If the receptacles in the shop do not have a grounding hole, then this shop must be much older than 15-20 years. You won't need a new panel to provide grounding to your receptacles, but you probably will need to rewire the branch circuits. You'll also want to add GFCI. Does the shop have finished or unfinished walls?
Old 09-20-05, 10:26 AM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Northern Minnesota
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Do you have a fat breaker on top taking up two slots with the wires from the meter connected to it?

Electrician installed a Square D panel in my garage and for whatever reason didn't use the top main knockout, instead used a 100 breaker in slots 1 and 3 with a tag saying, "Main". I think it is referred to here as 'back feeding' a panel. I have no idea why he would do it this way.

If so, turning this one off will kill power to the rest of the breakers, check to be sure. Careful though, there is STILL POWER to that top breaker.


Last edited by Baldwin; 09-20-05 at 10:50 AM.
Old 09-20-05, 10:32 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Ontario Canada
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There could be a main switch on the pole.

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