Messy service panel

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  #1  
Old 05-24-07, 08:24 AM
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Messy service panel

The electrician who I had upgrade my service made a mess of my service panel - a fact I was not aware of until I learned to do circuits several years later. The wires instead of being at nice 90 degree angles are all over the place and it is becoming difficult to run new circuits because of the mess of wires I have to fish through.

Once I am finished with my kitchen upgrade, I think I want to tackle the project of cleaning it up. In order to do so, I would have to make several splices in the wires like this picture:

http://www.oldhousestlouis.com/images/electric/main_panel_200.jpg

Here are my questions:

1) What are the codes regarding neutral wires into the ground bus bar and ground wires into the neutral bus bar? The above picture (as well as in my panel) have the wires running to both. Is this not a safety issue? I would imagine you would want all the ground going to the ground bus, and all the neutral going to the other?

2) In order to clean up the panel, I will have to splice new wire by the use of wire nuts. I am not crazy about this idea, but it seems to be the only way to get the wires in an orderly fashion since many of them are too short to reach where they need to go. Is this ok?

Any input would be appreciated.

Thanks..
 
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  #2  
Old 05-24-07, 08:29 AM
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1. In most home panels the neutral buss and the ground buss are one in the same. Neutral and ground wires may run to either. It is only sub panels that have the neutral and ground busses separate.

2. You are allowed to make splices in your service panel.
 
  #3  
Old 05-24-07, 09:01 AM
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Thanks for the info. That's interesting that the ground and neutral are connected - I would imagine if you have a fault on either line you would not want it crossing over. Perhaps the electricity will take route to ground if that offers the least resistance?
 
  #4  
Old 05-24-07, 09:19 AM
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You are confused on grounding, which unfortunately is confusing for most people.

Electricity does not return to ground. Electricity returns to it's source. Electricity takes every oath to return, not the path of least resistance. The amount of current on each path is proportional to the resistance of the path.

The ground wire at receptacles, lights and appliances is for safety. It is there to allow a path for current to flow back to it's source in the event that a fault occurs and the metal frame of an appliance or the metal junction box should become energized.

As such, the return path needs to be connected to the neutral wire somewhere so that the current can get back where it came from. This connection is done at one, and only one, place. Usually it is the main panel of the electrical system.

The connection to physical ground, usually via the metal water pipes and supplemental ground rods, is to provide both a reference point for the voltage and to provide a fault path for external current, such as from a lightning strike.
 
  #5  
Old 05-24-07, 09:31 AM
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> What are the codes regarding neutral wires into the ground bus bar
> and ground wires into the neutral bus bar?

One very important code is that neutral wires must be terminated one-per-screw. Ground wires of the same gauge may be doubled or tripled per screw.

> picture

This type of install is a little anal in my opinion. It's fine when it's first done, but one or two modifications down the road and it's spaghetti again. Granted the panel shouldn't be a rat's nest, but you shouldn't need a protractor and compass either. Also, don't use zip ties.

Be careful not to bend the wires too tightly at a 90. Keep a bend radius of at least 5 times the wire diameter. You can use a screwdriver handle to make a reasonable 90 sweep with #12 and #14 wire.
 
  #6  
Old 05-24-07, 12:58 PM
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"You are confused on grounding, which unfortunately is confusing for most people....."
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Thanks Racraft - I appreciate the explination. I will have to do some more reading on grounding principles. I was aware that the electricity traveled back along the neutral wire, but I guess I had the ground principles wrong.
 
  #7  
Old 05-24-07, 01:01 PM
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ipbooks:

"One very important code is that neutral wires must be terminated one-per-screw. Ground wires of the same gauge may be doubled or tripled per screw."
*******************************************************

Do you happen to know what code section or number this is? I would like to do more research on it.

"Also, don't use zip ties."
*******************************************************
Can you explain why? I was hoping to make my panel as neat as my car stereo install.

"Be careful not to bend the wires too tightly at a 90. Keep a bend radius of at least 5 times the wire diameter. You can use a screwdriver handle to make a reasonable 90 sweep with #12 and #14 wire."
*******************************************************
Good point - thanks.
 
  #8  
Old 05-24-07, 01:13 PM
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Bundling wires with ties leads to heat buildup. The wires should be allowed to have natural air space between them.

408.41 Grounded Conductor Terminations
Each grounded conductor shall terminate within the panelboard in an individual terminal that is not also used for another conductor.

As with any project, be careful not to make things worse as you try to make things better. That's always a risk.
 
  #9  
Old 05-24-07, 01:24 PM
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Thanks John. According to that code none of the wires can be terminated with other wires under the same screw - yet I often hear / see electricians doing this. What gives?
 
  #10  
Old 05-24-07, 01:31 PM
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Neutral wires must be one per screw. ground wires can be more than that, if allowed by the panel.
 
  #11  
Old 05-24-07, 01:37 PM
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Neutral wires are technically called grounded conductors. Bare "ground" wires are technically called grounding conductors. Article 480.41 applies only to neutral (grounded) wires. Grounded conductors are one per screw. Grounding conductors may be terminated two or three to a screw depending on the panel manufacturer's rating.
 
  #12  
Old 05-24-07, 01:51 PM
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Definitions are everything. This is one of the reasons that many people draw the wrong conclusions from the code. They don't know the precise technical meaning of the words. Before reading the code, start with the definitions section. Most people would not guess that ground, grounded and grounding all mean different things. Nor that there is a technical difference between "neutral" and "grounded" (although for most puposes, you may regard them as the same thing). And most people think that "outlet" means the place you plug in a lamp, but if you read the code, you better understand exactly what "outlet" means.

All of this is why we seldom encourage people to read the actual code, unless they are willing to spend the time to learn the terms.

Another big danger of reading the code is selectively reading it. Unfortunately, what one article seems to allow, another article prohibits. So you really have to read the whole code book, and not just pick one passage. Books at your home center, aimed at the DIYer, are usually better for the homeowner.
 
  #13  
Old 05-24-07, 08:02 PM
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Hey Spta97,
I thought that house looked familiar! Great work restoring that old girl.

-Fellow Kirkwoodian (Woodbine and Harrison)
 
  #14  
Old 05-25-07, 05:20 AM
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"Hey Spta97,
I thought that house looked familiar! Great work restoring that old girl.

-Fellow Kirkwoodian (Woodbine and Harrison)"

*******************************************************

Oh no, that was just a picture I found online - not my house
 
  #15  
Old 05-25-07, 05:35 AM
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Grounding....

Wow - I didn't realize that. Thanks for the explanation.

I would agree that the code is not written for the DIYer but I want to make sure that I am doing things correctly which is why I try to find specific codes to explain to me the correct wiring methods. I do not want the next home owner to be looking at the wiring saying "My God - I can't believe the place hasn't burned down yet!" like I have.

I guess I can excuse the old non-grounded wire mess (well, not really) who's the sheathing has the strength of dandelion spores, but some of the "DIY" jobs that were tapped into it were just appalling. Here are some findings:

1) My stove feed running in a mysterious circle all the way back to the panel with the wire just hanging there (it was capped). The actual junction box behind the stove was dangling out of the wall.

2) The dishwasher circuit wired with both 12 and 14 gauge wire.

3) The main junction box for the kitchen lights was just dangling by the wires it was connected to buried in blown-in insulation in the attic - no cover to the box.

The codes have been helpful with my kitchen rewire - between the small branch circuits, countertop outlet spacing, and island outlet requirements I really would have had no idea.

I see posts from people on this board and it makes me cringe sometimes how carelessly they treat electricity. I really appreciate everyone's help as the kitchen remodel is the biggest most complicated wiring job I have done at the house yet.
 
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