Replacing Circuit Breakers

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Old 11-05-07, 01:41 PM
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Replacing Circuit Breakers

I am being ordered by the Electrical Inspector to replace some of the breakers in my house. It is an older house which I am renovating. Since I replaced some of the wiring, he says everything I touched has to be completely upgraded to meet CSA standards. Fine, I don't really have a problem with that.

My question involves the breakers which I have to buy and install. The inspector said that I have to install AFCI breakers for the bedroom circuits and GCFI breakers for the bathroom and kitchen circuits. One of the types of breakers he mentioned also has to be 20A, not 15A. I forget which one. He was talking too fast for me to write everything down.

Do I have to replace the general purpose breakers which are in the panel with ones from the same company? Why? What is the difference?

Not all of the breakers in the panel are labelled. I don't know what company made them. The ones I can read labels for say either CEB, Sylvania, Commodore, or Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok.

The main panel is 100A and it was made by CEB Limited, Toronto. The sub-panel was made by Federal Pioneer Enterprises. I think it is 60A. It doesn't say.

I want to buy the AFCI and GFCI breakers from an American company because it costs less to buy things in the United States and have them shipped to Canada. But the Americans don't use the same brands. So which breakers can I buy?
 
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Old 11-05-07, 01:57 PM
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First thing you need to do is post your location. Rules are different for Canada and USA. You mention CSA so I think you might be in Canada.
Tell us what you are modifying. Sounds like you might renovating the entire house.
Simplest terms for Canada
Kitchen receptacle within 1 meter of sink need GFCI. If you currently have 15amp splits then you must replace the double pole breaker with a 15 double pole GFCI. Or you could replace the entire circuit witha 20 amp ciruit and install a 20 amp GFCI receptacle.
Bathroom receptacle needs to be GFCI.
All receptacles and light fixtures in the bedrooms need to be AFCI protected. Smoke detectors MUST NOT be on the AFCI circuit.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by doublezero View Post
Do I have to replace the general purpose breakers which are in the panel with ones from the same company? Why? What is the difference?
Standard breakers are designed to prevent fires caused by overload. AFCI breakers have an additional protection that can detect sparking caused by frayed cords, and GFCI breakers substantially reduce the risk of electrocution if an appliance is accidentally dropped in the sink or other such water and electricity hazards.

I want to buy the AFCI and GFCI breakers from an American company because it costs less to buy things in the United States and have them shipped to Canada. But the Americans don't use the same brands. So which breakers can I buy?
It can be pretty tough to find breakers for an old panel; it will be even harder trying to do so across the border. Many breakers carry both US and Canada certifications, but you would need to contact the breaker manufacturers for exact matches of breakers and panels.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 02:37 PM
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You have an FPE panel. You most likely won't find those breakers in the USA. They had a very bad reputation down there and those panels aren't sold in the USA anymore.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by joed View Post
First thing you need to do is post your location. Rules are different for Canada and USA. You mention CSA so I think you might be in Canada.
Tell us what you are modifying. Sounds like you might renovating the entire house.
Simplest terms for Canada
Kitchen receptacle within 1 meter of sink need GFCI. If you currently have 15amp splits then you must replace the double pole breaker with a 15 double pole GFCI. Or you could replace the entire circuit witha 20 amp ciruit and install a 20 amp GFCI receptacle.
Bathroom receptacle needs to be GFCI.
All receptacles and light fixtures in the bedrooms need to be AFCI protected. Smoke detectors MUST NOT be on the AFCI circuit.
Hi Joed,
I put my home town, Toronto, on the Profile page. It doesn't show up in the forum. I have no clue why not.

I have a copy of Wiring for Canadian Homes and Cottages by the Canadian Standards Association. I know which kinds of breakers I need, I just don't know which brand(s) I can use. The inspector is not going to notice if they say CSA or not on them, because they are going to be installed by the time he comes back.

For example, if FPE breakers are no good, and I need to replace one of them, which one do I replace it with? A Sylvania? A CEB? Siemens? Something else?
 
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Old 11-05-07, 04:17 PM
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I'm afraid that if you have an FPE panel, you are looking at a service change.
If you are going to the trouble of renovating your home and bringing things up to code, please spend the money to install a new panel. If not, you may regret the decision to leave the FPE panel in place.
The GFI situation is not a problem beacuse you can always use feed through receptacles to accomplish what a breaker would do, but the AFCis are a problem because there are no AFCI receptacles yet.
The kitchen counter and dining room circuits and the circuits feeding the bathrooms are required to be 20 amp.
Joed stated that the smoke detectors are not to be on the AFCI circuit. You may want to ask the inspector about that because in many municipalities in the States, everything in a bedroom must be AFCI protected (don't know about north of the border).
 
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Old 11-05-07, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by dezwit View Post
I'm afraid that if you have an FPE panel, you are looking at a service change.
If you are going to the trouble of renovating your home and bringing things up to code, please spend the money to install a new panel. If not, you may regret the decision to leave the FPE panel in place.
The GFI situation is not a problem beacuse you can always use feed through receptacles to accomplish what a breaker would do, but the AFCis are a problem because there are no AFCI receptacles yet.
The kitchen counter and dining room circuits and the circuits feeding the bathrooms are required to be 20 amp.
Joed stated that the smoke detectors are not to be on the AFCI circuit. You may want to ask the inspector about that because in many municipalities in the States, everything in a bedroom must be AFCI protected (don't know about north of the border).
Ok then, which company makes the best panel and breakers? I might as well get the best one, since I am doing the work myself and I don't have to pay for labor.

Should I replace both panels with a 200 amp panel, or can I just replace the little FPE with another 60 amp from a better manufacturer?

The 100 amp panel has breakers from at least 3 different manufacturers. Why do I have to go out and get new CEB breakers to fulfill the AFCI and GFCI requirements? Why can't I just replace whichever breakers I want with whatever is available, whichever is the best quality, at the best price, and will fit in the panel?
 
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Old 11-05-07, 05:09 PM
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FPE panels are still sold in Canada. Don't listen the the Americans who freak out at the name FPE and insist on changing them out. The ones sold in Canada are safe.
I am saying you will not have any advantage to order them from USA. You can go to your local Candian Tire and get them.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 05:10 PM
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Most manufacturer's have about the same quality as each other. The exception would be Square D which has always been top of the line.
As to using any breaker, the problem is that a GE breaker may fit in a Siemens panel but by doing this, you are violating UL and CSA listing because the Siemens panel was not qualified using GE breakers.
There are some limited choices that are interchangeable but they are few and far between.
It is not uncommon for an inspector to fail an installation when breakers are mixed. Sounds like you have stickler, so don't push him.
As to GFI and AFCI, when using these breakers, you will need a dedicated neutral on the circuits they are serving so you may have to survey the wiring to assure proper operation.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dezwit View Post
Most manufacturer's have about the same quality as each other. The exception would be Square D which has always been top of the line.
As to using any breaker, the problem is that a GE breaker may fit in a Siemens panel but by doing this, you are violating UL and CSA listing because the Siemens panel was not qualified using GE breakers.
There are some limited choices that are interchangeable but they are few and far between.
It is not uncommon for an inspector to fail an installation when breakers are mixed. Sounds like you have stickler, so don't push him.
As to GFI and AFCI, when using these breakers, you will need a dedicated neutral on the circuits they are serving so you may have to survey the wiring to assure proper operation.
What do you mean about the dedicated neutral? Do I have to go to 14-3 instead of 14-2?
And the inspector said something about 20A 12-2 in the kitchen. So I have to rip out the new 14-2 and replace it with 12-2 rated 20A, is that right? AND put that 12-2 circuit on a GFCI breaker.

Joed, I'm sick of feeling like a chump. When I come home with a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff from Canadian Tire or Rona or Home Depot or Future Shop, and then I see on the internet the exact same things in the shopping bags and they cost about half of what I paid, I get angry. I like supporting Canadian business, but enough is enough. They need to lower their prices, or the Americans are going to have to raise theirs to change my mind.

I am going to buy in bulk from the United States until these prices get back into line. I don't mind waiting for an extra few days.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 05:49 PM
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What I mean by the dedicated neutral is that any circuit you are putting on a GFI or AFCI breaker cannot share a neutral such as a circuit you would run using 14-3 or 12-3, sharing a neutral with two hots.
The Code requires at least 2 - 20 amp circuits to serve the countertops in a kitchen as well as all receptacles in the dining room, pantry, breakfast room, or similar area of a dwelling.
One of these circuits may also be used for refrigeration if you choose.
As far as the FPE issue goes, please see the attached link.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm
 
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Old 11-05-07, 06:53 PM
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Have you researched the stab lock breakers in the USA. Since those panels are basically considered a fire hazard down there you won't find them new or they are very expensive since they are rare. I don't disagree with shopping in the USA I do it all the time. It is just in this case you may not see any gain and it may actually cost you considerably more.
 
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Old 11-05-07, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by joed View Post
Have you researched the stab lock breakers in the USA. Since those panels are basically considered a fire hazard down there you won't find them new or they are very expensive since they are rare. I don't disagree with shopping in the USA I do it all the time. It is just in this case you may not see any gain and it may actually cost you considerably more.
I just read the article Dezwit posted on Stab-Lok. Yes, 2 of the breakers are sort of falling out of the panel. That was sort of irritating to me, but I figured one of the previous owners did a poor job of installing them and I would just screw them back in when I started working on the panel.

I'll get a new panel.
 
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Old 11-06-07, 06:43 AM
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Stablocs don't screw in. They just push in. If you have loose stabloc you might consider a panel replacement.
 
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Old 11-06-07, 12:33 PM
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I hear your pain about Canadian pricing, but this is one time buying at home is better. I know CFI and AFCI are very expensive here, particular, the double pole ones. As Joed pointed out you only need a CFI in the kitchen if you are within 1 m of a sink. You can save some money by replacing the 15 amp split sockets (which must have a double pole 15 amp CFI breaker), with a 20 amp circuit with a 20 amp CFI socket. Of course, you need to replace the wire with 12/2 cable. The bathrooms can also be served by cheaper CFI sockets, and not the more expensive CFI breakers. The bedrooms will need AFCI breakers.
Federal Pioneer panels and Stab-Lok breakers are just fine. For some reason they work well in the Great White North. I believe they are still the number one selling brand here. I would not recommend trying to found old Federal Pacific breakers in the US, they maybe not even be CSA approved. Your safety is worth more than money
 
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Old 11-06-07, 03:42 PM
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You might also want to consider when buying online you may not be aware whether the breaker you are purchasing is even approved for use in any country. It is a known fact that there are a lot of knock offs sold every day on the net and in some case even with fake UL or CSA labelling.

Second to this is once you purchase online you are then subject to the shipping and handling fees which sometimes can add up to more then the device costs in the first place.

The third thing is in your origional post you stated the inspector wanted you to bring the electrical up to CSA standards the use of breakers not listed and approved in Canada would not accomplish this.

I know I hate spending hard earned money on something that I know I can get elsewhere for less but that seems to be the thing that you may have to do. Consider is the safety of your home and family worth a couple of extra bucks? In one way you are lucky as Toronto has a great many electrical wholesalers you could go to you are not limited to just Canadian Tire or Home Depot.

Each electricians has a brand they prefer to work with and each area has a brand of panel and breakers that are more popular. I have installed and used many different panels and I found the FPE to be as usable as any other. As a matter of fact FPE was one of the most popular brands in Ontario when I was contracting there. It works and the cost of the panel and breakers is one of the most reasonable on the market.
 
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Old 11-06-07, 08:48 PM
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Gonna recommend Square D or Cutler Hammer and an electrical contractor.
 
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