Replace FPE panel alternative

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Old 01-20-08, 06:06 PM
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Replace FPE panel alternative

I have a 35 year old FPE main panel and would like to replace it. Unfortunately, the incoming wires are all conduit and getting them to match up might be difficult.
My electrician who was here doing some other work recommended just leaving it alone for now.

Last year I rerouted most of the 120 lines to my GenTran transfer panel and now only have approx 5 120 lines and 3 or 4 240 lines going to the main panel.
In order to rerout to my Gentran, I had to wirenut the connections in order to extend the wires - as per Gentran installation instructions.

So why not install a sub-panel next to the FPE main panel and rout the remainder of the wires to the sub-panel - thus leaving maybe only AC and range in the FPE panel.

Is this OK? Or is there a danger in all these wirenut connections in my main.

I would get a 100amp sub-panel and then I guess I would need a 100amp FPE breaker if there is such a thing (kinda doubting it's existence).

Another alternative is doing the same thing, but running new wires from meter to my new main panel and then not requiring
the 100amp FPE breaker in the old main. The old FPE main would just be a "junction box".

Problems?

Thx,

Jim
 
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Old 01-20-08, 07:13 PM
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The main problems people had with the FPE panels was with the double breakers, and the a/c and such are the ones I'd most want protected.

I can see making the fpe box just a junction box and putting breaker covers over all the openings, moving the circuits to a new panel. But man, that would look hackneyed and make diagnosing a problem hard.
 
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Old 01-21-08, 10:14 AM
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I would think that converting the old FPE panel into a junction box would be the best solution, but I'd want to do it all the way, without leaving it looking like a panel box. Here's what I mean:

1. Remove the "guts" (busbar) to the panel box so that it is just a box (you'd want to keep the old grounding bars so you can connect ground wires together on it, but remove any neutral wires from them).
2. Have a metal shop cut you a simple flat piece of metal of sufficient guage to the correct size to replace the old cover plate.

That leaves it just looking like a big junction box. Of course, you'd want to ask the inspectors approval before proceeding with such a plan. I'd think if you tell them this allows you to get rid of FPE breakers, they'd be happy with such a plan.
 
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Old 01-21-08, 12:35 PM
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FPE junctionbox

No matter what, I still would have to wirenut the existing circuit wires to get them to reach the new box.

Is this really a bad thing or not?
If properly labeled, it should not impede any diagnostics if needed.

Also, would I have to run new wires from meter to old FPE box, or is it satisfactory to use a really BIG connector (of course not wirenuts) to extend to the new panel?

As far as asking inspectors around here - sorry, but they are all a waste; no offense intended.
I have a really sad (expensive) story about replacing my windows and getting a permit, etc and ending up with some idiot contractor and forced to get windows I don't like, because of "code".

I far prefer asking and paying a licensed electrician, but before doing that, would like to gather others thoughts here.
You know, line up the ducks and all that.

Thx,

Jim
 
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Old 01-21-08, 02:01 PM
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I have no personal experience with this, but Eaton (Cutler-Hammer) makes 'panelboard retrofit kits'. These are guts that can be placed in the existing 'can', replacing all of the breakers but not moving any of the conduit.

I've no idea how much they cost, nor if your local AHJ would accept them...but an option to consider.

The 'inspect NY' site that has lots of information about FPE panels also has information about these retrofits, both the plusses and the minuses.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpereplace.htm

-Jon
 
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Old 01-21-08, 07:07 PM
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eaton retrofit

I know about those retrofit panels from Eaton Cutler-Hammer. Unfortunately, my FPE is only 13w x 22h and would take the retrofit A panel which, I believe, is rated 60-125 amps (whatever that means).
I didn't get a price yet on the retrofit A panel, but have a feeling it might be pricey.
 
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Old 01-23-08, 06:28 PM
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second thoughts

I'm starting now to lean toward a complete panel replacement. I was reading more about the Cutler-Hamer CH retrofit panel and saw where they also have a "renovation panel", which is a new panel with merely a "terminal block" to extend any short wires. Unfortunately, the maximum "official" terminal blocks are 2 (each 5 circuits), and I'm afraid I may need a few more than that - altho guess I could use the simpel wirenuts.

The other thing is I sort of like the Siemens panels better since they have a copper bus.

Are these "terminal blocks" something that I could obtain separately and just install them in the Siemens panel (probably the 200amp G3040B1200CP "value pack" panel.

I think we can "jiggle" the conduit enough to make it all line up with the new panels holes.
 
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Old 01-23-08, 06:46 PM
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If you can buy the panel with a solid 'can' (rather than with knockouts), then you can use a punch tool to put the holes in exactly the correct places.

-Jon
 
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Old 01-24-08, 09:16 AM
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Are these "terminal blocks" something that I could obtain separately and just install them in the Siemens panel (probably the 200amp G3040B1200CP "value pack" panel.
Yeah, you can get all sorts of terminal block style connectors. The brand name "Polaris" makes every kind you can think of for wires from tiny to huge. You might need to get them at a supply house instead of a big box store.

I recommend that you get the 40 space panel instead of the 30 space -- much more room to work with. The part number is G4040... instead of G3040...
 
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Old 01-24-08, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by j1mw3b View Post
As far as asking inspectors around here - sorry, but they are all a waste; no offense intended.
I have a really sad (expensive) story about replacing my windows and getting a permit, etc and ending up with some idiot contractor and forced to get windows I don't like, because of "code". I far prefer asking and paying a licensed electrician, but before doing that, would like to gather others thoughts here. You know, line up the ducks and all that.
Given the way insurance companies are acting there days, you could end up with with an even sadder (and even more expensive) story about their refusing to pay after your house burned down once they discovered there had been major unpermitted electrical work.
 
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Old 01-24-08, 09:24 AM
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I had a Federal Pacific panel in my house, and did exactly what was suggested above, turn the FPE panel into a junction box. It was actually pretty easy, took most of a day, with only about 90 minutes of no-power to the house.

Start by mounting your new panel next to the old one, install all of your new breakers, knockouts, cable clamps, etc. Connect your circuits in the new panel, and leave enough cable to reach the old panel. I was able to run everything between the old panel and new one in NM (except for the main feeders, which I did in conduit). For protection, I was permitted to simply hide all of that NM behind a plywood panel screwed to the old FPE panel - much easier than trying to link up a dozen little sections of EMT. The old panel's door got screwed shut, so it's not operable as a door. Admittedly,it looks like a panel, but I couldn't see the value of getting a new junction box, or even a special sheet metal cover made for it, just for aesthetics. Functionally, it's fine, hidden behind plywood.

It was feasible for me (and OK with the inspector), because there was a separate main disconnect from the panel, so I could work in a completely de-energized situation. Lucky for me, the last owners had a non-FPE main disconnect installed about 25 years ago... makes me wonder why! If you have a main breaker in your panel, you'll have hots in there that you can't de-energize without the power company's help - that might require professional help.

Wire-nuts are an approved connection method - whether in a 2-gang receptacle box, panel, junction box, etc. So long as you're not crowding the box, I don't see how it would be a code violation. Make your splices good and tight, wrap with some tape, and keep it neat. For the big #2 and #4 copper wires, I used aluminum lug butt splice terminals, which got shrink tubing and tape on top of it. I have no worries at night, knowing the FPE panel is gone now.
 
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