Too many breakers

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  #1  
Old 02-26-06, 02:14 PM
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Too many breakers

It appears that the electrical system in our home was way over engineered. It is a 2000 sq ft home, 200 amp service and a ton of breakers (several duplex breakers). The box is full. We could add more duplex breakers to replace existing breakers, however, I do not think it is necessary.

So far I have found 6 20 AMP breakers that appear to have only 3 or less receptacles on them and no apparent lights. These receptacles are for nothing special (TV, stereo, general bedroom/bathroom/kitchen, NOT the fridge or microwave).

Is it acceptable to combine circuits? If so, what does code require for performing this (I assume more than a wirenut splice to a single wire in the panel box is required).

Thanks,

Dave
 
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Old 02-26-06, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DavePearson

Is it acceptable to combine circuits? If so, what does code require for performing this (I assume more than a wirenut splice to a single wire in the panel box is required).
1. Yes, but always check local codes. For example kitchens here are limited to 3 duplex receps per 20A circuit. NEC requires a 20A circuit serving only the bathroom or a separate circuit for the receptacle(s). Also make sure you know which circuits, if any, are sharing neutrals (aka multiwire circuits) so you keep things straight to balance the load between the A and B bus without overloading a neutral.

2. Wirenuts are usually OK in the loadcenter. I suppose they might be prohibited somewhere but they are OK where I live. Some breakers also accept more than one wire if indicated on the breaker's nameplate or rating stamp. For example Cutler Hammer CH20 will accept Two #12.

Regarding adding extra breakers, CTL tandem breakers can usually be added only in specific slots, enforced with mechanical lockouts. Your loadcenter nameplate should have this info.
 
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Old 02-26-06, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by DavePearson
It appears that the electrical system in our home was way over engineered.
You would be lucky if it were true. This is very rare.

> The box is full.
You call this over-engineered? I don't.

> We could add more duplex breakers to replace existing breakers, however,
> I do not think it is necessary.
>
> So far I have found 6 20 AMP breakers that appear to have only 3 or less receptacles
> on them and no apparent lights.
> These receptacles are for nothing special
> (TV, stereo, general bedroom/bathroom/kitchen, NOT the fridge or microwave).

Most of those are special.

> Is it acceptable to combine circuits?
No. These are required to be on separate circuits.

Your house has the minimum electrical system.
It is not overengineered at all. If you said that you had two subpanels with 20-30 free spaces in each, then you could call it overengineered.
 

Last edited by bolide; 02-26-06 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 02-26-06, 06:22 PM
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While it is true that you sometimes can combine circuits, you generally shouldn't unless you absolutely have to. There are certain circuits that must remain separate (kitchens and bathrooms immediately come to mind), and others are generally dedicated for a reason (computer, home entertainment center).

If you need to add breakers for a new circuit or two, I would consider duplex breakers before I considered combining circuits. I would also seriously evaluate my future needs to see if it was time for a sub panel.
 
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Old 02-26-06, 07:09 PM
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let's call it what it is: underengineered

Given that the panel is full and already has several duplex breakers, I think you are past due for a subpanel. The sooner you bite the bullet and put in the sub, the sooner you will free to add more circuits.


Trying to squeeze more and more into a full panel is pointless.

If you need to add a circuit, add a well-placed 100A subpanel with 30-40 spaces first.
 
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Old 02-26-06, 07:55 PM
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Come on now

I do not want to get into anything, but for a person who has not seen the panel and has not looked at the setup, you seem to be pretty sure it is underengineered. I only asked a simple question, and I got what I think is a reasonable answer.

First off, I had no intention of combining circuits to major appliances, or any medium + load for that matter. I do have an electrical background, non-constuction.

Here is a breakdown, 1 bedroom, 5 outlets, 1 light, 3 20A breakers, (2 outlets per plus one light/outlet). 1 Bathroom, 2 outlets, 2 breakers (one for light and outlet, one for a single outlet). Hallway, 1 outlet, 1 20A breaker. Dining area (close to hall) one outlet, 1 breaker. Laundrey room, 3 outlets, 2 breakers (this excludes the dedicated breakers for the washer and 220 breaker for the dryer).

Over-engineered? Perhaps not, underengineered? definitely not. It is quite obvious from the wires running under the house additional outlets were installed post construction. It is also obvious that rather than combining circuits in like areas, a new circuit was run for each.

If it will make you feel better, I did remove one of the duplex breakers (2 20 Amp) and installed a 15 and 20 due to the fact I noticed (missed by the pre-purchase inspection) one of the 20s was feeding a 14 AWG wire.

Please excuse me if I overreacted.
 
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Old 02-26-06, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by DavePearson
I do not want to get into anything, but for a person who has not seen the panel and has not looked at the setup, you seem to be pretty sure it is underengineered.
No question about it.


> I had no intention of combining circuits to major appliances, or any medium + load

You could still break NEC rules.



> underengineered? definitely not.
> It is quite obvious from the wires running under the house additional outlets
> were installed post construction.

- further evidence that it was underengineered from the beginning.


> It is also obvious that rather than combining circuits in like areas,
> a new circuit was run for each.

The latter is reasonable and what I usually recommend.


> If it will make you feel better
Don't worry about me. Thanks!


> I did remove one of the duplex breakers (2 20 Amp) and installed
> a 15 and 20 due to the fact I noticed (missed by the pre-purchase
> inspection) one of the 20s was feeding a 14 AWG wire.

Good catch.

Use of 14 AWG also suggests that it was wired to minimum standards.

If your panel already has duplex breakers in it, then you have the minimum size panel.

It appears that the house electrical was originally underengineered and wired to minimums (this is very typical) and past attempts to correct this has resulted in your panel being stuffed.


You didn't say why you want to combine circuits.
Is there something wrong with the present number?
 
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Old 02-26-06, 10:12 PM
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I plugged in some rather generic numbers (on the high side) for a house your size and came up with a 150 AMP service requirement. This assumes electric hot water, range, and dryer. Also includes A/C. I'd say the electric service was built beyond minimum requirements.

The question is, how many breakers are in your panel. If the panel was designed to use "double - duplex - piggyback -whatever" type of breakers then it isn't necessarily full just because some are in there and all the slots are used. They make panels that have 20 slots but are rated for 40 circuits, refered to as a 20/40, and as such can contain 20 double breakers before they are full. This is done to save space as a full 40 or 42 circuit panel is a BIG box, and isn't something done to gain space in a panel that would otherwise be "full" - panels are specifically designed to accept or reject this type of breaker. If the panel buss isn't designed to take a double in a particular space it won't seat. So, if your panel is rated to used with double breakers you need to know how many can be installed. There should be a label on the panel that tells how many circuits the panel is rated for.

All that said, the best way to get more circuits, if that's what you're after, is to add more doubles if the panel will handle them. That way you aren't adding another splice to the involved circuits. Not that they are necessarily a bad thing but done incorrectly can be a source of trouble.
 
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Old 02-26-06, 11:27 PM
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Purpose and number

The purpose of this question is so I can add a circuit for outdoor lighting and a circuit to supply power to a shed.

As stated, it is a 200A service, currently there are 31 breakers installed (7 220s and 24 110s). 10 of the slots in the panel are designated to be duplex breaker capable, 8 of which are duplex (16 breakers in 8 slots).

Thanks
 
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Old 02-27-06, 07:53 AM
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need full sized breaker for GFCI

I'll chime in before one of the experts since I've been dealing with a similar situation ... An outside/shed circuit probably needs to be on GFCI, but that is a full height breaker with a lead. In order to make room for that I had to give two other circuits half-height breakers to make room for a full height, then I had to re-arrange breakers a bit since the lead was not long enough to reach the neutral bus from the bottom position where it originally had been.
 
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Old 02-27-06, 08:55 AM
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Dave,

Your figures are incorrect. I'm not sure what you have, but your numbers are not correct.

If you have seven full size 240 volt breakers, then they count as 14 when determining how many breakers you have.


My advice. Do not attempt to combine any existing circuits.

If you want to add a single circuit for an outdoor shed and some outdoor lighting, then add one circuit. Either add a breaker to an existing open slot or install a tandem breaker so that you get a new spot with a separate breaker.

The details of your circuit we aren't even discussing yet.
 
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Old 02-27-06, 10:59 AM
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Where I am

Let's normalize for a second, a lot has been brought out since I first started the thread. Before I posted, I did not read the fine print (if that is what you want to call it) inside the panel, otherwise I would have realized it was designed to take 10 duplex (110V) breakers and would not have asked the question.

The panel has 30 spots for full height breakers, currently 14 slots are taken by 7 220 V breakers, 8 are filled with duplex breakers, and 8 more are with full height breakers. The math did not add up because I was not counting spaces, I was counting breakers, 7 220s, 16 (8 duplex) and 8 is 31 breakers in the box, counting the 220s as 2, makes it 38 breakers in the box.

I do not plan on combining circuits and really did not want to from the beginning, however, I made the mistake of asking the wrong person where to get Westinghouse breakers and was told because they were no longer made (not untrue, they are just made by Cutler Hammer now), I would have to replace the panel if I wanted more breakers. At that point I checked the load on each breaker to possibly combine if possible. Now that I know I can get the breakers AND the box is made for more duplex breakers, it is no longer an issue.

The circuits? 2 lights on a post in the driveway for one, 2 receptacles and a light in a shed for the other.

Thanks to those who replied in a way to actually find out what I had and what I was trying to do while not assuming anything. My question has been answered, and I am not going to exceed the design of the panel.
 
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