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Absent-minded tenant almsot zaps himself/we find main breaker outside

Absent-minded tenant almsot zaps himself/we find main breaker outside

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Old 08-27-08, 06:19 PM
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Absent-minded tenant almsot zaps himself/we find main breaker outside

Got a call from this visibly shaken 60-ish tenant who easily could have been cooked by 240 volts when he somehow or another got the notion to try out his new 4-prong dryer cord in the outlet. ZSHHZSH!!!!!! Lucky for him he was holding the plug, not the other end, whose wires came together.

He calls me up and says the entire house is without power. He said all the breakers are on.

Well, I get there and there is no main breaker in the house. It happens to be mounted outside under a hinged door below the meter outside.

The landlord knew of this and told me it is against code to put a lock on that hinged door, yet has holes for one.

Hmmmm. What if someone had hundreds of dollars of meats in a freezer and some prankster turned off the main? Or any other scenario where the main got tampered with?

Who'd be liable to make good on a monetary loss?

In college rentals, some tenants like to put hasps and padlocks on the outside of their doors. But this is against code and we have to remove them. The reason is that a roommate or anyone could lock the person in their own room, as a joke, and if there was a fire, or noxious gas was slipped under the door, or?, they could not get out, or get out fast.

You'd think there'd be some similar code that would make it not possible for some prankster to shut off someone's power on them by turning off their main breaker.

Come to think about it, outside mobile home electrical pedestal boxes similarly have main breakers located out there. And they too have holes for a padlock. Hmmm.

Any thoughts or rational regarding this, and who would be responsible for any $ losses? (And several of the older tenants there do have stocked freezers in addition to their fridges. And this particular tenant was annoyed because he has several pieces of digital equipment where he has to reset clocks).

Or is such discussion basically moot because it hardly ever happens? That maybe if such pranks started to happen, then they'd do something different? Still seems odd to me.

But I suppose one could ask who is responsible if someone decided to throw a bucket of paint on someones house, and no perpetrator was caught?

But the breaker situation seems avoidable. What made them deviate from the standard of having it right in the panel box? THAT's the question, I guess. BTW, this is a 4-plex, and each of the 4 meters has their own 100 amp main breaker, outside.
 
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Old 08-27-08, 06:42 PM
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The landlord knew of this and told me it is against code to put a lock on that hinged door, yet has holes for one.
Ask that landlord to cite the applicable code, I'll bet he (she?) can't.

There is no prohibition in the NEC concerning locking circuit breaker panels. Most panels that are located in public areas ARE routinely locked. The only possible reason to not lock an outside electrical panel that makes sense to me is for the fire department to be able to turn off the electricity and I know that all fire trucks carry a "universal master key" in the form of 48 inch (or maybe 60 inch) bolt cutters.
 
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Old 08-27-08, 06:49 PM
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When I had a home with an outside panel, I would normally keep it unlocked. A couple of times I had an incident with a prankster, so I would lock it for a couple of weeks, and then remove the lock. I think it's safer to keep it unlocked so that you can get to it quickly if needed in an emergency. I've been told (never seen it actually happen) that the fire department, if called to your house and find the panel locked, will shut off your power with an axe. This of course would make the restoration of power after the incident expensive and time-consuming.

I think you are looking for a response that the landlord might be responsible for your spoiled food and other monetary losses of the tenants in case of a master breaker trip. I sincerely doubt, however, that this would be the case.
 
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Old 08-27-08, 07:32 PM
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furd,

I will look into this.

furd and John,

I got my little chuckle for the day, reading your posts.

John,

I was actually thinking that if the power company does not allow the box to be locked, that THEY could be held liable. But I'll have to look into what furd said.
 
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Old 08-27-08, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post

But the breaker situation seems avoidable. What made them deviate from the standard of having it right in the panel box? THAT's the question, I guess. BTW, this is a 4-plex, and each of the 4 meters has their own 100 amp main breaker, outside.
the reason behind having the breaker at the source and not at the panel is because if you look on most houses that have there breaker inside the house in the panel you can always count on the meter box being within about 5 feet away from the panel. With your situation the panels are so far away you have a potential hazard having all the feeders to the panel being without a disconnect running through your house. With the breakers outside being that the tenants panels are so far away. You need to be able to shut off all power in the house that way you can.
 
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Old 08-27-08, 08:39 PM
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I think it also has to do with real risk. Granted, if a prankster turns off your main and you lose a couple hundred dollars of food, you won't be happy, but life will go on. Compared to a padlock on a door in a fire, a couple hundred $$ doesn't really rank.

In my town, you can't get a certificate of occupancy if any exterior door has a double-key deadbolt (where a key is required to unlock it from both outside and inside). Then again, I know I don't want to be trying to get out of a burning house and looking for the key which is always hanging on that hook... but the wife put in her purse...
 
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Old 08-28-08, 07:21 AM
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chewy,

You are probably onto something there. All the meters are at the outside on the far east end.

If what you are saying is true, then too bad they do not come up with a system that requires say 125A breakers outside, and then also have what I will call them sub-main breakers of 100A inside. So that if internal apt. overload, the odds the one inside, the people can more easily reset, will go off first.

Here is something interesting for someone to solve: Why did the 100 amp main trip, rather than the 2-pole double 30 to the dryer? Wouldn't they both equally have time delay feature it THAT was the answer you were going to come up with?
 
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Old 08-28-08, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
chewy,
Here is something interesting for someone to solve: Why did the 100 amp main trip, rather than the 2-pole double 30 to the dryer? Wouldn't they both equally have time delay feature it THAT was the answer you were going to come up with?
Interesting point. Perhaps the 30A 2 pole is defective or maybe the main breaker is defective. If it was the former and for some reason it did not trip there must have been one hell of a surge. You did not say exactly what happened. Did the tenant wire the plug wrong?
 
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Old 08-28-08, 08:53 AM
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Sounds like he did the typical "Lemme just make sure this cord fits the receptacle" before he wired it to the dryer, and all the lugs/bare ends were twisted together.

It is odd that the 30A didn't trip before the main.
 
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Old 08-28-08, 11:50 AM
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The 100A main may have already been loaded up, the 30A breaker was cold. Add a short circuit on top of an existing load on the main and you could certainly see it trip before the branch circuit breaker.

Outdoor panels and switchgear are routinely locked; the electrical closet in any given public building is always locked. The fire department wouldn't trust that your main breaker is wired properly to disconnect building power even it was accessible -- maybe it's not really the main, maybe the breaker was bypassed, maybe it's malfunctioning, perhaps it's even the cause of the fire, etc. In the event of a major structural fire, they will still pull the meter and cut the wires at the pole. The power company is also on call to respond to emergencies at the request of the fire department.
 
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Old 08-28-08, 12:31 PM
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Ahh good info Ben...thanks!
 
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Old 08-28-08, 04:52 PM
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it has happened to me twice once with my uncles stove the terminal broke and shorted the instant high surge of current can trip the main breaker especially seeing that there are other circuits on and about the main breaker being outside for the reason i said below that is a definite it is in the code book although not clear but an inspector will fail a job if there is not a disconnecting means outside being that the panel is a good distance away mostly more than about 5 feet.
 
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Old 08-28-08, 05:14 PM
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Sounds like you guys are nailing it. Thanks. I'm now smarter than I was yesterday.
 
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Old 08-28-08, 06:31 PM
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The landlord might be thinking of this NEC code. If the landlord or other building supervision was not always there, and if he locked the outside box, the tenant would not have the "ready access" as mentioned...

240.24(B) Occupancy. Each occupant shall have ready access to all overcurrent devices protecting the conductors supplying that occupancy, unless otherwise permitted in 240.24(B)(1) and (B)(2).

(1) Service and Feeder Overcurrent Devices. Where electric service and electrical maintenance are provided by the building management and where these are under continuous building management supervision, the service overcurrent devices and feeder overcurrent devices supplying more than one occupancy shall be permitted to be accessible only to authorized management personnel in the following:

(1) Multiple-occupancy buildings

(2) Guest rooms or guest suites

(2) Branch-Circuit Overcurrent Devices. Where electric service and electrical maintenance are provided by the building management and where these are under continuous building management supervision, the branch-circuit overcurrent devices supplying any guest rooms or guest suites without permanent provisions for cooking shall be permitted to be accessible only to authorized management personnel.


If this is what the landlord has been told and was referring to, it can easily be handled by putting a lock on that tenant's box and then giving a key to the tenant.

willis
 

Last edited by williswires; 08-28-08 at 06:37 PM. Reason: edited for spelling and added text
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Old 08-28-08, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by williswires View Post
If this is what the landlord has been told and was referring to, it can easily be handled by putting a lock on that tenant's box and then giving a key to the tenant.

willis
As soon as I read your opening paragraph of your post, what you quoted here, above, instantly came to my mind. And then you said it, at the end of your post.

That all being said, NOW it would make sense to me that if a prankster shut off someone's power, and they lost $400-600 is fillet mignons in their freezer, or a couple deer from last hunting season, the landlord could maybe indeed be held liable for this. At this commercial building I work at, some prankster reached in a gap in the locked cyclone fence, and shut off one of the air handlers. At least the other 3 were still on.
 
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