FEDERAL PACIFIC BREAKER BOX REPLACEMENT

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  #1  
Old 11-30-00, 08:40 AM
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Question

Am currently remodeling a bathroom in my house. New fan/light combo requires GFCI circuit. Requirements are also that I install a GFCI outlet by sink. I have a 20 amp breaker covering the bathroom and 2 outlets of an ajoining guest bedroom currently. My solution was to simply install a Replacement GFCI breaker on this circuit. I identified the breaker box as Federal Pacific Electric. It was a single pole stab 20 amp breaker. The Home Depot electrical rep told me that they did not carry FPE and had nothing to substitute for it. He refered me to another electrical supplier with the warning that a GFCI breaker for my application would cost me about $70.00 and it would be cheaper to replace the entire breaker box. Further investigation revealed that Federal Pacific has had Quite the sorted past and that I'm running the risk of a possible fire hazzard just having these breakers in use ( see http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpe.html) Can anyone recomend a source for do it yourself breaker box replacement? I work much better with inclusive illustrations but will entertain any suggestions. Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 11-30-00, 10:16 AM
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The way I did mine was to run new romex from a 20 amp breaker directly to the new GFCI receptacle, and from the load side of that recep to the fan/light unit, thereby protecting the latter. The recep goes for $8 - $10 as opposed to a GFCI breaker. Also, the '99 NEC specifies that nothing but the bathroom be connected to that circuit.

As for your panel, I never liked FPE myself. But replacement breakers are available. Visit

http://www.electricaloutlet.com/

for info. They ship same day anywhere in the country.

Replacing the whole panel is a bit more complicated unless you have an electrician do it. To do this yourself requires a good working knowledge of the NEC and your local utility company's specifications. You'll have to check with your locality to see if you're allowed to do electrical work yourself. Mine does permit it (I'm not an electrician but have extensive experience.) and I did my own upgrade recently. You'll have to get a permit and inspection or most utilities won't even give you the time of day; and to swap out a panel nearly always requires a disconnect/reconnect from them. I installed a main service disconnect upstream from my panel, so I can avoid dealing with my utility in most cases.

If you're not inclined to go through all that, you might consider replacing all your breakers with new ones manufactured for your panel. Off the shelf breakers go for $4 - $5 each (single pole), and I have no idea what they get for aftermarket FPE breakers, but it may be worth investigating. Of course, if you have the money the best situation is to upgrade the panel. I'd estimate $2500 for a professional to do this for you, and he or she would handle permits, inspection and arrangements with the utility for you, and knock it out in a day or two. I did mine nights and weekends, and it took me a month! But I did it for the cost of materials, permits and inspection fee, all tolled about $900.

Food for thought. Hope that helps.

JH
 
  #3  
Old 11-30-00, 11:06 AM
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?re:

Thanks Juice, so it's ok to run the fan/light fixture off of a GFCI recepticle? my impression was that only other recepticles could be run off of the exsisting GFCI recep. I'd much rather do it that way. By the way, the offending FPE circuit box is an upstairs sub-panal from the main panal in the basement. thanks again.
 
  #4  
Old 11-30-00, 11:39 AM
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Pretty cool that it's a sub panel. Haul that baby outta there! You can get a 60 or 100 amp Square-D Homeline package that includes a few breakers for well under $100, kill the feeder at the main panel and go to town!

As far as powering the fan/light through the GFCI, it's no different than plugging a floor lamp and window fan into a receptacle. If there's a code restiction on this I'm not aware of it. Great thing about this forum is that others will browse these threads and offer corrections if advice is errant, so just in case keep an eye on this one. But I'm 95% sure about this.

Later,

JH
 
  #5  
Old 11-30-00, 07:21 PM
Wgoodrich
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As far as I know there is no limitation forbidding an exhaust fan to be run from a receptacle style GFI. Juicehead is right as far as I know.

Now be careful on installing your changing you sub panel if that sub panel is found in a clothes closet or bathroom upstairs. Clothes closets and bathrooms are not allowed as areas to place a panel. Also remember to separate your neutrals and grounds in that sub panel and be sure that you either have four wires feeding that sub panel or three wires with a metal conduit.

If I were you I would double check you exhaust fan. The NEC does not require exhaust fans to be GFI protected. The manufacturer's recommendation should say if fan in mounted above the shower then GFI protection is required. But only if in the area above the shower. Just in a bathroom does not require a GFI protection in any manufacturer's recommendations or the NEC. Just re read this requirement to make sure you are required to protect with a GFI.

Good Luck

Wg
 
  #6  
Old 12-05-00, 02:14 PM
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So how easy is replacing my sub-panal? just keep the four wires organized and re-attach in the same fashion? Hot leads to bus bar etc?
Also, I have that 20 amp circuit feeding the bathroom. Can I use a 15 amp GFCI. Or in general does the amp rating on recepticles and switch have to match the amp rating on the circuit breaker?
I am also perplexed by the fact that since I have 100amp, 3wire service, how can the total on all my breakers excede 100 amps. I know this may be simple stuff, I'm on the verg of an electrical epiphany, what am I not getting here?
 
  #7  
Old 12-05-00, 03:49 PM
Wgoodrich
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You need to check with your electrical inspector. It is his call how much you will have to change. He may even require the dwelling's complete service to be brought up to current safety standards. We have no way of knowing what you have as existing to work on without seeing the condition and installation of the origianl service.

If the inspector says you can just replace the panel only, then yes just talk it over with your inspector, obtain the required permits, contact the Utility company. Then set a scheduling to have everyone where they need to be in order to get your service disconnected by the utility company, complete your repair or installation, obtain an inspection approval from the inspector, have the power company re-energize your electricity. You might want to do this just before you have everything in your freezer and refrigerator thaw out, hopefully the same day as you started, and before the kids cartoons come on.

If you are required to install a complete service upgrade including panels, meterbases, risers, grounding source, etc. then you have a bunch of minimum Code requirements to meet. If you are replacing the whole service then I suggest you ask the inspector if he has any instructions so that you can only do this job only once, or get ahold of a wiring book that shows details on how to do your job.

Your receptacle devices are allowed to be either 15 or 20 amp rated regardless whether the circuit is rated 15 or 20 amps. The only exception to this is if you have a single circuit with a single receptacle, not a duplex receptacle. It you have a single circuit and a single receptacle then the receptacle must be rated for that circuits rating.

The total amp rating of the branch circuit breakers have little bearing on the size of the service. There is a format required by the NEC to calculate a demand load which would provide the minimum service size required to serve your structure. You are allowed to go larger than the demand load rating but not smaller. The reason the total amps of the branch circuits have little value in judging the need for the minimum service size is because of the fact that you have a lot of equipment in the house that will not run at the same time as other pieces of equipment. This is called intermittent load value, or calculating diversity of load. A dwelling is not required to be sized by the total connected load because of the intermittent nature of a dwelling's use.

When it comes to electrical there is NOTHING simple.

Hope this helps your confusion

Wg
 
  #8  
Old 12-06-00, 06:56 AM
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WG is absolutely right in his approach to your situation of potential situation. We don't know the size or quality of your service and specific recommendations are not subsequently possible at this time without further info from you. But reading his reply, even having a full understanding of what he's talking about, I have to imagine that it souded pretty daunting to you. If we knew the size (gauge) of your service entrance cable and your main panel rating (info is on the nameplate inside the door usually) we would have a better idea of what you're looking at.

While it is no-one's intention here to encourage folks to bypass the safety net of obtaining permits and getting the involvement of your utility and inspector, you are in a good position to improve the safety of your home by hauling out that panel. Assuming you have a minimum of a 150 amp main panel and your service entrance cable is a minimum of size "2/0" aluminum, you are probably in very good shape overall as far as having an adequate electrical service and capacity to do a few things now and in the future. That general assesment changes quickly if you have a particularly large house or a lot of large-draw equipment such as electric heat, hot water, range and dryer, and stuff like central air conditioning. Also, to answer your question, the sum of all your breakers has little bearing on the service size, since it is assumed by all standards that you can't possibly use all that stuff at once, and that the individual breakers are not sized by what is connected to them, but by what the wire size that's connected to 'em is. My breakers add up to 250 amps, but if I turned on everything in the house at once, including a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner and a few power tools, I doubt if an amperage reading would see 60 amps.

Assuming your main service is adequate, the task at hand is not that big a deal. By killing the power to your FPE panel at your main panel you should be able to remove it and install the new one directly in its place without getting your utility involved. I would advise you to take close-up photos of the existing panel and make sketches and take notes before disconnecting anything. If you become unclear how it was before while installing the new panel you'll be glad you did. In very, very general terms you can obtain the rating of the box and its main breaker from the label inside it. Note the number of breaker spaces. If this is a flush panel (recessed into the wall), measure the hole, and maybe do some exploratory surgery on the wall to see if you can go physically larger if need be. If you can, I recommend getting a panel that has more spaces than you presently have, unless you have at least 5 or 6 unused spaces in it at present. (You always want to leave yourself room for future expansion.) Following the size of the feeder breaker (controls the FPE panel) in your main panel get a new panel of at least that rating. Home Depot has 60 and 100 amp "main breaker" panels for well under a hundred bucks, not including the breakers usually, you buy what you need at about $4.50 each. Pick up that home wiring book while you're there. You should have two "hot" lege, a neutral and a bare ground. You must NOT use the neutral bonding screw that comes with your new panel. This is a screw that connects your neutral bus bar to the enclosure, which needs to be grounded. you have to have all your ground wires completely isolated from your neutral wires in a sub-panel. You will need a ground bus bar. If the panel doesn't come with one, but it when you buy your panel, it's about $4. Sand off all the paint where it gets mounted and screw it onto the enclosure. Connect all your bare wires and main incoming ground wire to this bus. Now all your white wires go only on the neutral bus. The incoming neutral goes to the center lug at the top and one incoming hot feeder goes on the lug on the left and the right sides of neutral. If your wire is aluminum get some andi-oxidant compound and apply liberally.

Now, as for doing it under or over the table, I'd like to tell you my story. I was in a similar situation, was unclear on my locality's requirements or those of my utility, so I called annonymously and asked a few questions just to get my bearings and allow me to develop a plan. I discovered that I was allowed to perform my own electrical work by my village code inforcement officer. (I'm not an electrician but have worked with power most of my life, so I'm confident in my ability and knowledge to do the job correctly and safely.) The official referred me to the party who was responsible for electrical inspections in my area and I got further specifics of the job requirements from him. I got the permit ($15) and inspection application ($40), obtained a copy of my utility's specifications and completed the work within those specs and the NEC's and passed inspection. In the end I'm very happy that I did this above board. There is always the possibility that if you don't get the inspection, and you make a fundamental mistake that leads to a fire, that your insurance company's investigator will discover it and they will walk away from your loss, paying you zero dollars, and will be within their rights and your contract with them to do so.

Lecture aside, people do this every day anyway. Some know what they're doing and some truly do not. If you feel comfortable with doing the work youself, with the assistance of a good book that is heavy on Code requirements, then by all means proceed. If not call a few local electricians for FREE estimates and discuss with them what they will do for the money and why. In most cases they will obtain and pay for applications, permits, inspections and utility fees if any. You will pay one bill that covers it all and he or she will take care of all the details for you.

I hope I have helped you. If you have further questions please post a reply. I'll check in on you, as will others, and we'll help you any way we can. Good luck.

JH
 
  #9  
Old 12-06-00, 08:33 AM
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THANKS for your help and advice guys. One other thing before I do more book research, I read mention of breaker boxes not being allowed inside of closets. Are they allowable in hallways? Also I intend to keep everyone infomed of my progress. Heres alittle background on my house. It's 96 years old. It currently has the older silver coated romex, 2 wire+ ground. Also the old the two prong recepticles. I'm tearing out walls and ceilings and putting in new walls, insulation etc. Along the way I'm upgrading to the 3 prong recps. and grounding everything to the copper/ cast iron plumbing and or to panal grounding. In any case, The sub-panal to the upstairs is currently in a closet which was built apparently yaers after the house was contructed. When I take out the old panal and install the new one I could simply turn it around to face the hall way for access. this would be easy because at this stage my upstairs is all torn out. the panal would then be at the top of the stairs as you walk up on the left in the hallway landing area. any problems with that? If so, can the cables comming from the main breaker in the basement be extended to facilitate better positioning of the new sub-panal or must there only be uninterupted wiring between panals?
 
  #10  
Old 12-06-00, 11:01 AM
Wgoodrich
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Your panels are not allowed to be installed in a closet or bathroom. Yes you can turn the panel around and face into the hallway as long as you maintain 30" dedictated width of wall space and 30" clear approach from ceiling to floor. The maximum height of the main breaker is 6 1/2' high and the minimum height of the lowest breaker must be out of reach of small children. Your main overcurrent device [main breaker] must be nearest point of entrance of the house with the feeders from the meterbase. My jurisdiction limits the distance as nearest point of entrance at 3' once the service feeders enter the crawl of walls of the house. The meterbase must be a 5'6" above finish grade. If overhead service then the drip legs coming out of the weatherhead must be 12' above finish grade. Your sub panels must have a four wire feeder serving that subpanel and the whites and the bares or greens must be separated in that subpanel. BE SURE THE FEEDERS IN THE RISER AND BETWEEN THE METERBASE AND THE HOUSE PANEL IS SIZED TO EQUAL THE AMPACITY OF THE MAIN BREAKER. #4 COPPER FOR 100 AMP AND 2/0 COPPER FOR 200 AMP OR #2 AL FOR 100 AMP AND 4/0 AL FOR 200 AMP. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GROUNDING SOURCE SUCH AS A GROUND ROD. THE GROUNDING SERVICE CONDUCTOR MINIMUM SIZE FOR A GROUND ROD IS #6 FOR 200 AMP OR #8 FOR 100 AMP.

Yes you should be allowed to take the guts out of the old panel, mark the face of the cover as a junction box and extend those branch circuits from the old panel made into a junction box to the new panel somewhere else in the dwelling. I advise water heater, electric ranges, and electric dryers to be non stop feeders from the panel to the appliances.

If you change out two prong receptacles with new three prong receptacles you must not go to the nearest water pipe. You are either required to install a GFI receptacle in place of that two prong receptacle, install a GFI breaker in the panel protecting the complete circuit that has had the receptacles changed from two prong to three prong receptacles, or replace that two prong receptacle with another two prong receptacles. These are your only approved replacement methods concerning two prong receptacles.

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #11  
Old 12-07-00, 04:27 AM
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One more option for your 2-prong receptacles: You can rum a ground wire from the ground bus of your panel to every 3-prong receptacle.

JH
 
  #12  
Old 12-07-00, 10:18 AM
Wgoodrich
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Juicehead as far as I know you do not have the option that you descibed. The NEC lists the approved methods of replacing the two prong receptacles and the wiring method is not listed like your suggestion. See 210-7-D.

Also you would violate the NEC requirements of having all conductors to a device or panel to be installed within the same conduit or cable. SEE 300-3-B

Happy Holidays

Wg
 
  #13  
Old 12-14-00, 09:09 AM
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thanks again for straightening me out, wg. Happy holidays to you, and may you get the bass boat in your stocking.

Juice
 
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