Adding main breaker OR new load center?

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  #1  
Old 10-09-07, 10:59 PM
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Adding main breaker OR new load center?

I live in Kansas and have a 1400sf 1975 home, and am in the process of finishing the basement. I would prefer avoiding the expense of upgrading to 200A service if I can reasonably avoid it.

Load center is a GE TX1612F - no main breaker, with double 50A breakers feeding the bottom 8 (16 slim) breakers.

Since moving in about a year ago, I've added several circuits, replacing 1" breakers with slims to free up a few spots. I will need several more circuits for the basement, as well as to upgrade/replace some poor original designs. (currently one 15A for garage+kitchen+outside+living room) Found it's a "split" panel when attempting to replace a double 50A with a slim. (after replacing a double 30A with a slim) Reading the panel's diagram beforehand would've been useful.

On to my questions:

1. Panel is listed as a max of 125A. Would I be able to infer/assume that the incoming service is suitable for 125A? (Was unable to see any markings on the incoming supply line, but conductors are aluminum.)

I know that while physically possible to add slim breakers to the top half, it would not be up to code. (Too many circuits without a main breaker.) Panel DOES appear able to hold a main breaker.

2b. Is a 125A main breaker kit (still) available for this panel?

2c. If a 125A main breaker is avilable and installed, I would assume installing slim breakers where the panel allows would be okay. (Everything but the top-right 4 breakers according to the diagram) Is that correct?

2d. Is a 125A main breaker available for ANY current panel? Would rather not go down to 100A if I can help it. (Will be adding two circuits to garage, several more for basement arcade, in addition to seperating kitchen/outside/living room.)

2e. Since I've added several circuits to the bottom half of my load center, would it be advisable to replace my double 50s with something larger? (Panel shows a max of 100A for the lower half)

If 125A main breaker is not available for this panel, it leaves me with several additional issues/questions:

I've been unable to find a GE >100A panel that isn't HUGE! (36"-ish, too tall to easily install without MAJOR rewiring) I found a reasonably sized 200A panel with 20 circuits, but it doesnt take slims. (designed for commercial usage, I believe)

3. Are there any other brands/models of load centers that would fit my needs, and are UL-listed to accept my existing GE breakers? (20+ [30+ slim] circuits, without being a huge panel?) GE seems to be the most commonly used around here, are readily available, and are inexpensive. Would prefer to stick with GE breakers for those three reasons.

4. Ive seen several new load centers with no main breaker rated for 125A, and are listed as "upgradable to a main breaker". Similar size/type panels including a main breaker are only 100A. Would it be safe (and/or to code) to install a 125A main breaker in a "100A" panel? (Again, most 200A panels are physically huge, or I would consider installing a 125A main breaker in a 200A panel.)

Any other info Ive failed to mention, let me know.
 
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  #2  
Old 10-09-07, 11:02 PM
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Pics of current load center:



 
  #3  
Old 10-10-07, 12:52 AM
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Bear with me i will answer much as i can here and with my answer i will type in bold


Originally Posted by awoolf View Post
I live in Kansas and have a 1400sf 1975 home, and am in the process of finishing the basement. I would prefer avoiding the expense of upgrading to 200A service if I can reasonably avoid it.

Load center is a GE TX1612F - no main breaker, with double 50A breakers feeding the bottom 8 (16 slim) breakers.

Since moving in about a year ago, I've added several circuits, replacing 1" breakers with slims to free up a few spots. I will need several more circuits for the basement, as well as to upgrade/replace some poor original designs. (currently one 15A for garage+kitchen+outside+living room) Found it's a "split" panel when attempting to replace a double 50A with a slim. (after replacing a double 30A with a slim) Reading the panel's diagram beforehand would've been useful.

On to my questions:

1. Panel is listed as a max of 125A. Would I be able to infer/assume that the incoming service is suitable for 125A? (Was unable to see any markings on the incoming supply line, but conductors are aluminum.)
this is pretty much is a 100 amp service but some say 60 amp also

I know that while physically possible to add slim breakers to the top half, it would not be up to code. (Too many circuits without a main breaker.) Panel DOES appear able to hold a main breaker.
it possible but with this set up IMO it better off just get new breaker box so you can advoid some issue with the splitbuss design it is too easy to abuse it.

2b. Is a 125A main breaker kit (still) available for this panel?
yes it is but IMO for me just get new box {see above}

2c. If a 125A main breaker is avilable and installed, I would assume installing slim breakers where the panel allows would be okay. (Everything but the top-right 4 breakers according to the diagram) Is that correct?
i cant really comment on that one because i cant see the digram you provide the photo itself not too clear to me but from my past expernice few people done add a main breaker to the box and can get confused because the lower section still restricted to 50 or 60 amp breaker for lighting circuit and if you add any pretty good sizable load it may trip the 50 or 60 amp breaker and leave the house in dark so better off just get new box get this up to the code anyway

2d. Is a 125A main breaker available for ANY current panel? Would rather not go down to 100A if I can help it. (Will be adding two circuits to garage, several more for basement arcade, in addition to seperating kitchen/outside/living room.)
the 125 amp main breaker is not very common at all most common is 100, 150 and 200amp for resdentail area but some have larger go much as 320/400 amp service too.


2e. Since I've added several circuits to the bottom half of my load center, would it be advisable to replace my double 50s with something larger? (Panel shows a max of 100A for the lower half)
no let me comment on this majorty of split panel were set up from factory to meet the UL requirement and if you install much larger breaker the trouble will crop up because the service entrance cable is rated for 100 amp and if you put in 100 amp insetad of 50 amp breaker and what will happend is the the other breaker in upper postion will stay the same but get the total sum of the load it will add up fast and get pretty serious overload condtion { it dont happend often but it do }


If 125A main breaker is not available for this panel, it leaves me with several additional issues/questions:

I've been unable to find a GE >100A panel that isn't HUGE! (36"-ish, too tall to easily install without MAJOR rewiring) I found a reasonably sized 200A panel with 20 circuits, but it doesnt take slims. (designed for commercial usage, I believe)
typically most box i upgrading they will go bigger anyway not too often it will have same size at all

3. Are there any other brands/models of load centers that would fit my needs, and are UL-listed to accept my existing GE breakers? (20+ [30+ slim] circuits, without being a huge panel?) GE seems to be the most commonly used around here, are readily available, and are inexpensive. Would prefer to stick with GE breakers for those three reasons.

noramally i useally stock CH for my bussiness but i can deal with other type as well but here the catalog numbersTM2010CCU this is a 30 space 100 amp main breaker box {this will only take 1 inch breaker no halfers } size wise it pretty much simuiar but i dont have the excat mesurement for this



4. Ive seen several new load centers with no main breaker rated for 125A, and are listed as "upgradable to a main breaker". Similar size/type panels including a main breaker are only 100A. Would it be safe (and/or to code) to install a 125A main breaker in a "100A" panel? (Again, most 200A panels are physically huge, or I would consider installing a 125A main breaker in a 200A panel.)
if i were in your feet i will just bit the bullet and upgrade with 200 amp service and the box will have up to 40/42 space so you will have alot more room to deal with it later date

Any other info Ive failed to mention, let me know.

The other thing you should done the same time you should do the load demand figures just goggle " load demand " it will show up and it will figure out how big the breaker box size wise to set up what you need


hope this will answer most of your question

i am sure few other will chime in also

Merci , Marc
 
  #4  
Old 10-10-07, 06:43 AM
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Close up of panel's diagram:

 
  #5  
Old 10-10-07, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by awoolf View Post
avoiding the expense of upgrading to 200A service if I can reasonably avoid it.
If your load calculation still fits within the existing service, you can do a panel change without service upgrade for about 1/2 the cost. If your existing service is 60A, then you cannot replace the panel without also upgrading to 100A or greater as 60A services are no longer legal.

Load center is a GE TX1612F - no main breaker, with double 50A breakers feeding the bottom 8 (16 slim) breakers.
Based on your questions, I think you're aware that the split-bus design is basically obsolete. My preference is really to not mess with these too much and replace with a modern panel if possible.

Would I be able to infer/assume that the incoming service is suitable for 125A?
Definitely can't assume that. It's probably a 60A or 100A, but you can only be sure by checking the wire gauge of the service conductors.

Is a 125A main breaker kit (still) available for this panel?
Probably, but the price may be on par with a new panel.

I've been unable to find a GE >100A panel that isn't HUGE! (36"-ish, too tall to easily install without MAJOR rewiring)
What would require major rewire? From the picture, it looks like a very easy panel change -- bare concrete wall, all conductors enter from above. Heck, you've even got several extra inches in the service wire loops. If you do replace the panel, I would recommend a 200A 40 space panel with a 100A main breaker (assuming service conductors are #2 AL).

UL-listed to accept my existing GE breakers?
Generally when upgrading a service or changing a panel, all the old breakers should be replaced too. Breakers are mechanical devices and do have a service life. If you have some newer breakers, you can re-use them in a GE panel if the series letters match. I don't work with GE very often, so I don't know for sure about the series compatibility.
 
  #6  
Old 10-10-07, 12:07 PM
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Based on your questions, I think you're aware that the split-bus design is basically obsolete. My preference is really to not mess with these too much and replace with a modern panel if possible.
Yes, I am aware that it's obsolete. Only considering leaving it since I can't find a reasonable-size new panel to fit my needs.

It's probably a 60A or 100A, but you can only be sure by checking the wire gauge of the service conductors.
Is there a guide I can refer to in determining what my incoming service would be rated for? (2GA = 100A, 4GA=60A, etc) Could I call my power company and ask what service I currently have?

What would require major rewire? From the picture, it looks like a very easy panel change -- bare concrete wall, all conductors enter from above. Heck, you've even got several extra inches in the service wire loops. If you do replace the panel, I would recommend a 200A 40 space panel with a 100A main breaker (assuming service conductors are #2 AL).
I was worried that the existing wires might not be long enough to reach the the breakers and ground/neutral connections in a new, longer panel.

Thanks for your input.
 
  #7  
Old 10-10-07, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by awoolf View Post
Is there a guide I can refer to in determining what my incoming service would be rated for?
For aluminum wire: #4 = 60A, #2 = 100A, #0 (1/0) = 125A. The power company may have this on record or they may send out a technician to examine the wires. Be very careful doing this yourself as the service conductors are live.

I was worried that the existing wires might not be long enough to reach the the breakers and ground/neutral connections in a new, longer panel.
As long as the main service conductors can reach the new main lugs while keeping the main breaker handle 79" or less above the floor, you're okay. The branch circuit conductors may be extended inside the main panel using wirenuts and short segments of wire.
 
  #8  
Old 10-11-07, 10:59 PM
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The branch circuit conductors may be extended inside the main panel using wirenuts and short segments of wire.
Ah ha! That was the bit of info I needed. Many thanks!
 
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