Some general panel / feed questions

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Old 03-26-11, 10:19 AM
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Some general panel / feed questions

I'm looking at a house and I just got all the pictures from the inspection back. It's an oddly complicated older system, and I'm wondering about a few things.



There are two panels in the house (one for each "side"), fed off a 200 amp service disconnect box (the partially hidden box in the picture may actually be a separate breaker for the "far" panel). The cable to the "far" panel is three wire no ground (as far as I can tell). This panel is a QO with bonded neutral. The "near" panel is also a three wire feed from the disconnect, again with bonded neutral. Questions:

The near panel has a bunch of neutrals tied together with a wire nut, and the wire going to the bus is the same size as the others. I assume this is a code violation and possible safety hazard due to combined amperage?

The far panel has some 30 circuits but no main breaker. Is this a violation of the "you need a single disconnect if you have more than 6" (I can't remember the exact rule)? The only disconnect for this panel is on the other side of the house.

The near panel is chock-full of wires. What's the max fill rules on a panel?

I'll be taking a look at the grounding situation. I assume that because of the disconnect box I should look to separate ground & neutral in each panel, right?

Thanks for any feedback you can provide - this forum is always incredibly helpful
 
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Old 03-26-11, 10:45 AM
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Hello RK2,

In regards to your panels with a 3 wire feed, if your panel is fed by an enclosed breaker on the other side of the house, the wire between the enclosed breaker and the panel must be 4 wire, 2 insulated hots 1 insulated neutral and 1 bare stranded ground. After the first over current device, (your enclosed breaker) the neutral and grounds must be kept seperate and so you would not be able to share the stranded neutral as a ground in a 3 wire feed (SEU cable).

Also, your bare copper ground wires from your ground rods and water main need to be connected to the ground bar in the primary (first) over current device which would be your enclosed breaker.

The neutrals wire nutted together is also a code violation. The neutrals should be connected directly to the neutral bar. There are 2 possibilities of why they didnt connect it properly. 1 is the panel was replaced and the old wires werent long enough to reach the neutral bar. if this is the case, it is acceptable to wire nut an extension onto each neutral but not to use one extension for all of them. The 2nd reason would be if the panel was over loaded and there were not enough holes in the neutral bar. Also remember that National Electric Code requires 1 neutral wire per hole in the neutral bar. You cant share holes.

The NEC rule about 6 breakers says if there are more than 6 throws of hand to disconnect a service you need a main. You have a main on the other side of the house so that is acceptable.

To figure out wire capacity for a panel you need to do some calculations based on the NEC and auxilery gutter sizing. The easy way to figure it out would be to look at how many breakers are in the panel. as long as you dont have alot of piggy back / tandem breakers (the breakers that take up the same space as a single pole breaker but have 2 tiny handles on it for 2 circuits) then you probably are fine.

A sloppy electrician can make the right number of wires in a panel look like too many because they weren't neatly installed.

If there is a main breaker remotely located for each of the 2 panels then you would need to seperate the neutrals and grounds in the panel. If the first main breaker is in the panel itself then you dont have to seperate the neutrals and grounds.

If your main breaker is an enclosed breaker remotely located on the other side of the house, and they only ran a piece of 3 conductor SEU flat cable instead of SER 4 conductor round cable, to your panel, there is no point in seperating the branch circuit wires in the panel for grounds and neutrals because the service cable is incorrect and just splicing them all back together again.

I hope my rambling was helpful.

___________________________________
Jeff Baltimore, MD
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Last edited by Wire Jockey; 03-26-11 at 10:49 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 03-26-11, 11:12 AM
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Yes, that was very helpful thanks.

I actually just noticed in one of the other shots it's a 4 wire feed to the far panel, so I'll just need to make sure there's no neutral bonding in that one. Just to make sure I fully understand: you're saying it does not need a breaker in that panel itself even though the "one swipe and it's off" disconnect is may rooms away?

It does look like they went over capacity in the near panel (see below). Quite a few double breakers, and some double hot taps on breakers too. Not looking forward to cleaning that up haha.

 
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Old 03-26-11, 11:47 AM
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Are those colourful blue tandems zinscrap? (zinsco) There is also a large array of breakers in there including mcgraw-edison, squared, siemens, and bryant.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 11:51 AM
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Yes that is correct, even though the main disconnect is far away, as long as you have access to it then that is acceptable. The same situation happens in shopping centers. The main disconnects are grouped in 1 electric room far away from the individual stores but as long as all the stores have a key to the electric room then it is acceptable to code.

There is a code that says a residential panel can not have more than 42 circuits in it. Your panel has several tandem breakers. As long as the total number does not exceed 42 you are still within the letter of the law.

2 wires connected to 1 breaker is a violation. If you have room for more tandems you can do that. Be aware that some panels are manufactured so that they physically keep you from installing more than a few tandems so you cant over load the panel.

What you may need to do is to free up 2 spaces (2 single breakers or 2 tandem breakers with 4 circuits on them) in order to put in a double pole breaker. A 2 pole 60 amp breaker should suffice. You'll need a piece of 6/3 romex. even though its called 6/3 it really has 3 insulated conductors and a bare ground. This will be sufficient to run a 60 amp sub panel where you can relocate all of the additional circuits in your panel that you dont have room for.

You'll need to remove the extra circuits from the main panel and put them in junction boxes above your panel, then extend the circuits with romex to the new sub panel. Make sure you take care to put the wires on a breaker that matches the size of the wire. Example of this would be a 14 gauge wire belongs on a 15 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire belongs on a 20 amp breaker.

If anything i've said sounds confusing, just ask me to clarify. Again, I hope this helps.

____________________________________
Jeff
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Last edited by Wire Jockey; 03-26-11 at 11:54 AM. Reason: additionan info
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Old 03-26-11, 11:56 AM
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Justin the blue handled tandem breakers are most likely BR style. They were made by a company called Bryant, then Murray bought them, then Westinghouse, then Cutler Hammer bought westinghouse and Eaton Group now owns cutler hammer

You can currently purchase cutler hammer BR style breakers which will fit into your panel to replace the blue handled breakers.

I'll go back and look at the picture again zooomed in.
 

Last edited by Wire Jockey; 03-26-11 at 11:57 AM. Reason: more information
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Old 03-26-11, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Wire Jockey View Post
I'll go back and look at the picture again zooomed in.
This is a better closeup. It doesn't look like Zinsco at first glance, but my knowledge on their looks is limited.

 
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Old 03-26-11, 12:23 PM
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I can pretty much guarantee they aren't Zinsco. The Zinsco circuit breaker was about twice as long as most brands and the bus connection was totally different than most panels. In other words, they are not even close to being compatible with your panel.

HOWEVER, the several different manufacturers of circuit breakers IS a violation. Some of them MAY be "listed" for use in that panel but I guarantee the Square D is not. You need to check the listing label inside the door for acceptable circuit breaker manufacturers and the specific type numbers that are acceptable. Just because they fit does not make them correct.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Furd View Post
You need to check the listing label inside the door for acceptable circuit breaker manufacturers and the specific type numbers that are acceptable.
Makes sense, thanks for catching that. With the incredible mess in the panel and the excessive number of circuits given the number of rooms in this side of the house, I'm inclined to eventually overhaul the system. But, I will change out any unlisted breakers right away in addition to fixing the nutted neutrals. Ugh, at that point I might as well overhaul the entire panel. Who knows, I might not even be able to fit bigger neutral and ground bars.

Which brings me to a question: does changing out the panel trigger the requirement to bring other parts of the system up to code (e.g., use AFCIs), or is that up to the local authority?
 
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Old 03-26-11, 12:35 PM
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yeah, they aren't zinscrap. It is weird that the handles are on the nsame side as the screws. Also, I think that 20/30 murray is pretty neat looking.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 12:43 PM
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Which brings me to a question: does changing out the panel trigger the requirement to bring other parts of the system up to code (e.g., use AFCIs), or is that up to the local authority?
Generally not, at least under the National Electrical Code (which has no force of law until adopted by a local or regional authority) but it could be a local code amendment.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 01:39 PM
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looking at that panel, AFCI's wouldn't be a bad idea. The panel is usually a precursor to the rest of the place.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 01:52 PM
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Who is the manufacturer of the panel? It looks to me a little like an old Crouse Hinds.

There is a code that says a residential panel can not have more than 42 circuits in it. Your panel has several tandem breakers. As long as the total number does not exceed 42 you are still within the letter of the law.
This restriction was removed in the 2008 NEC. I think the determining factor here would be the maximum number of circuits the manufactuer says this panel is designed for.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 02:04 PM
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Wasn't crouse hinds bought out by siemens?
 
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Old 03-26-11, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
Wasn't crouse hinds bought out by siemens?
I think Murray bought Crouse Hinds from Cooper and then Siemens acquired Murray. I believe there are several breakers U.L. Listed for the old Crouse Hinds panels, but I'll have to do some looking to find the info. This gets a little tricky and many inspectors don't even know the answers. Just like, current Murray "MP" breakers and Siemens "QP" breakers are identical and come from the same plant, but not interchangeable.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 04:55 PM
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Ok, this is some information on what circuit breakers are U.L. Listed to be installed in a Crouse Hinds loadcenter taken from a Crouse Hinds loadcenter back in about 1990. Approved breakers were Crouse Hinds Types MD, MP, MH or MM. Also approved was Bryant Types BR, BRD, BRO, BAR and GFCB. The last manufacturer approved was Westinghouse Types HQP and DPGF. This list does not include possible breakers that may have been U.L. Classified for use in Crouse Hinds loadcenters at a later date. The Bryant BR has since become a Cutler-Hammer BR and should today be allowed.
 
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Old 03-26-11, 11:24 PM
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With that much mess in the load centré I think it will be wise to call in electrician to assist you on this one due some C-Hind load centré do have burnted main breaker connection { few did show up but not very many but few electricians will know this one it will not be visabile at all it will be right on the bussbar tabs right below the main breaker and only way you can see it is remove the POCO source and take that main breaker out and see it the key item will show up is flickeing lights or burnt smell }

As far for other breakers they should be removed and get a listed correct breaker installed but beware some busbar tabs may be weak or damaged from loose connection on bussbar so that is the other thing you have to watch out but with this type of load centré they are not too bad but again have a electrician to help you on this one in case something go wrong.

You can able clean it up all the netural connection but see if how much more room you can get it clean up and with grounding conductors { bare or green } you can have it up to 3 conductors per hole but netural always one per hole.

Merci.
Marc
 
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Old 03-27-11, 09:48 AM
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It looks like there is a disconnect partially hidden behind the door? Where is the meter?
 
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Old 03-27-11, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
It looks like there is a disconnect partially hidden behind the door? Where is the meter?
From what I can figure out, the feed comes into the bottom of the GE disconnect box on the right (meter is outside in a stand-alone enclosure - underground feed). One thing that isn't clear to me is whether that thing in the GE box is a breaker or just a switch.

The cables then go into the lower box between the GE and the panel. There the cable must split - one goes left into the panel and the other up into that partially obscured box. I believe there is a 200 amp breaker in that one, which then feeds the "far side" panel via a cable that is routed through and out the top of the visible breaker panel.


So here's a follow-up question on bonding. If the GE box has a breaker the panel ground should float, I get that, but does that change if it's just a switch (not an overcurrent protection device)?
 
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Old 03-27-11, 03:11 PM
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One thing that isn't clear to me is whether that thing in the GE box is a breaker or just a switch.
Looks to me like that could be a 400 amp breaker. Look at the PVC conduit feeding it from the bottom, it has to be at least a 3 inch conduit.

The cables then go into the lower box between the GE and the panel
I think that's a trough.

There the cable must split - one goes left into the panel and the other up into that partially obscured box. I believe there is a 200 amp breaker in that one, which then feeds the "far side" panel via a cable that is routed through and out the top of the visible breaker panel.
That's the way I see it too. I don't like the second feeder from the 200 amp breaker being routed through the Crouse Hinds panel, but I see it was done that way because of the window. Not the neatest installation.
 
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Old 03-28-11, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by RK2 View Post
Which brings me to a question: does changing out the panel trigger the requirement to bring other parts of the system up to code (e.g., use AFCIs), or is that up to the local authority?
AFCI breakers for circuits serving living spaces are usually required in a panel update. The requirements for the rest of the house, if any, usually aren't excessive. One jurisdiction near me requires smoke detectors be upgraded to hardwired, interconnected models which can be a pain, but mostly it's minor things like GFCI in the kitchen and bath which you should have anyway.
 
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