Upgrading attic subpanel


Old 07-20-06, 11:01 AM
wgc is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: New England
Posts: 362
Upgrading attic subpanel

I have a subpanel in my attic, fed by 8/3 off a 40A breaker, with a total of 6 fuses. I'd like to replace the box with something to allow more circuits, preferably breakers (I saw some cheap 8/16 pole 100A boxes that ought to cover what I'm looking for).

This sub-panel was added for an addition about 12 years ago and supposedly passed inspection, although I have not been able to get any paperwork from the city yet. Also, the home inspector I hired when I bought the place didn't say anything about it. However, I wonder about both those since there were some very obvious issues I fixed previously.

Previously I had decided that adding a subpanel was my limit where I would hire someone to make sure all the details are covered, but if it is just a matter of replacing an existing panel as is, I can certainly do that.

Some questions I have are:

- Should there have been a seperate electrical permit/inspection or should I expect to see it included with the building permit for the addition. The city only lists the one permit and since that was before things were digitized, they have not yet been able to dig it up.

- Are fuses to code? More importantly, would it have been 12 years ago?

- is there any issue with having a subpanel in an unfinished (walkup) attic?

- The feed has 5'-10' slack coiled up in the stud cavity below. Is this ok since it is an unfinished attic, or does it really need to be secured and/or protected.

- The panel is mounted between two vertical 2x4's in the middle of an attic. It is not against a wall, only open space. The cables leading out are secured along the 2x4's but not protected in anyway. Is this ok since it is an unfinished attic?

- What is the proper way to leave a little slack in the cables so the box can be moved a little in the future if necessary (such as if the attic is ever finished).

- In another thread someone mentioned required clearance for a main: is this the same for a subpanel? Currently it is about 3' off the ground. The rafters immediately above are probably only 5', but I can stand off to the side a little more to the center of the roof. The entire attic is wide open.

- I probably know the answer to this one, but assuming the current setup is grandfatherd or directly compliant, can I just replace the panel with a larger one (with the same service), or do I need to fix any of these?

- Previous threads have indicated that if you replace a panel, you don't necessarily have to bring each circuit up to code, but what about the feed? I do not need larger or different service, just a panel capable of adding more circuits.

- Assuming the installation was to code 12 years ago, can someone point me to a list of relevant changes since then?
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Old 07-20-06, 03:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,399
wgc, the answers to all of your questions are contained in your LOCAL code, both the current edition and the edition that was in place when the subpanel was originally installed.

Some of what you have stated does make me wonder if this was ever a permitted and inspected installation.

Since your city officials cannot find any paperwork on the original installation I would suggest that you bite the bullet and assume that much of the installation MAY be in conflict with the LOCAL code at the time of installation. Plan on pretty much starting from scratch and doing an installation that meets your current local code. Get a permit and get it inspected.

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