Is this dangerous?

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  #1  
Old 06-11-11, 09:06 AM
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Is this dangerous?

My house had two 110 circuits connected to two attached 30 amp circuit breakers that werenít being used. (They went to an old electric clothes dryer). The owner before me used one 110 to go to a wall outlet for a window air conditioner. And the other to a wall outlet for a wall air conditioner. He didnít change the circuit breakers. (He did unconnected the two attached circuit breakers). So I have one 15 or 20 amp Air Conditioner on a 30 amp circuit breaker on each 110 circuit. Are the 30 amp circuit breakers too much? Iím guessing that I should change the circuit breakers to 15 or 20 amps but is it dangerous if I donít. Itís been this way for 15 years.
And if I do have a electrician come and change it, what would it cost, roughly?
 
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Old 06-11-11, 09:16 AM
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What gauge wire is currently in place? How many conductors are in the cable feeding these receptacles?

General purpose circuits are limited to 20 amps maximum.

If this is a multiwire branch circuit under todays codes it would require a handle tie between the two breakers.
 
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Old 06-11-11, 01:07 PM
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Iím not sure of the gauge. Hereís the story. When I first moved into my house someone told me I should make a diagram of my circuits. (Put night lights in receptacles and turn on lights etc, etc, and turn off circuit breakers to see what was on each circuit.) I was able to trace all but two receptacles.

In the panel there was two 30 amp circuit breakers connected that had a label ďElectric DryerĒ next to it. It showed ďOnď. Once about 10 years ago when I had an electrician doing some work I asked him to check it out. Like I said itís been about 10 years so from what I recall, he said that the receptacle in the laundry room that was used for the dryer had no power. Iím not sure if he had away of checking or he just guessed, but he said that one of the connected 30 amp circuit breakers was for the receptacle by the bedroom window (which I used for the window A/C) and the other 30 amp circuit breaker went to the receptacle by the LR wall A/C (which I used for the wall unit A/C). So like I said in my earlier post it looks like one wall unit A/C only is going to a 30 amp circuit breaker. And one window unit A/C only is going to a 30 amp circuit breaker. When reading on line about trouble with circuit breakers all seem to be about not having enough amps on a certain circuit breaker. But what about having too much? If I have to pay someone a couple of hundred dollars to change the 30 amp CB to 15 or 20 amp CBís , no problem. But if I have to get a whole new panel (like if the company that made the CBís doesnít exist anymore) and pay a couple of thousand dollars Iíll have to wait. But is it dangerous while I wait?
 
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Old 06-11-11, 01:19 PM
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IF the wire between the receptacle and the circuit breaker is number 10 then the hazard is minimized BUT it is STILL not legal. AS PCBoss stated, general purpose 120 volt receptacles (and yours are general purpose as long as any 120 volt appliance may fit in the receptacle) are limited to a maximum supply of 20 amperes.

On the other hand, if the receptacles were wired with a smaller gauge of wire the it is definitely hazardous. In any case, the wire size needs to be determined and the proper circuit breaker needs to be installed. If the wire is number 12 then the maximum circuit breaker size is 20 amperes and if the wire size is number 14 then the maximum circuit breaker size is 15 amperes.

Depending on the manufacturer of your circuit breaker panel the cost of the circuit breakers could be around four or five dollars each or as high as sixty dollars or more each if they are of a discontinued model. Some circuit breakers such as Zinsco, Federal Pacific and some Sylvania are known to have problems that have caused fires so if you have one of these panels it really should have the entire panel changed. Labor charges for replacing just two single and readily available circuit breakers will be somewhere around $125 to $300 dollars depending on the prevailing wages in your particular area.
 
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Old 06-11-11, 06:53 PM
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Thank you for your quick answers. I guess Iíll have to get an electrician in and change those 30 amp CBís. But I am curious about the dangers. The electrician from 10 years ago seemed to think it wasnít a big deal. And I have been running only one A/C on each cable for about 15 years. I can understand the dangers of putting too much on one circuit, but I donít understand the dangers of having too little. Can a cable over heat with only one window A/C on the circuit?

Iíll have to check the gauge on the cable up in the attic but with a 30 amp CB shouldnít the gauge be bigger then 12?
Also if the cable is bigger then 12 and I get the CB changed to a 15 or 20 amp CB will I also have to change the cable to a 12 or 14?

My fear is that Iíll get an electrician in to change two circuit breakers costing me around 200 dollars, and him telling me I need both circuits need to be rewired and that I need a new panel and itíll cost around 3,000 dollars.

PS the company on the panel says Crouse Hinds. I don't know if this has discontinued models of CB's.
 
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Old 06-11-11, 06:58 PM
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Over size wire is OK. Over size breaker for the device isn't ok.
 
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Old 06-11-11, 07:09 PM
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Can only one window unit A/C on the circuit overheat the wire if the breaker is over sized?
 
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Old 06-11-11, 07:16 PM
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The biggest problem is that 30 ampere circuits are not allowed for general-purpose receptacles. If the wiring between the circuit breaker and the receptacle is number 10 then in my opinion there is no hazard but it is still a violation because 30 ampere general-purpose circuits are not allowed. Even though it is only a single duplex receptacle on each circuit it is STILL a general-purpose receptacle circuit because of the particular style of receptacle. Even changing to a simplex receptacle would not make it code-approved because it would still be a receptacle that would accept a 15 ampere plug (the one on the A/C) rather than a type that allowed ONLY 30 ampere plugs.

If the wiring is less than number 10 then the 30 ampere circuit breaker is a violation AND a hazard although in your current usage a fairly minimal hazard. It is a hazard only because you could theoretically pug two 15 ampere devices into the single duplex receptacle and "pull" a 30 ampere load through wire that is rated for only 20 amperes (#12) or 15 amperes (#14) and that would cause overheating of the wires.

All that needs to be done to make it safe and bring into compliance with the electrical code is to replace the 30 ampere circuit breakers with either 15 or 20 ampere circuit breakers. You only need to go as small as the 15 ampere circuit breaker IF the installed wire is number 14. Having a 15 or 20 ampere circuit breaker on number 10 wire is perfectly safe.

Crouse-Hinds circuit breakers are no longer manufactured but the Cutler-Hammer type BR is an approved replacement. Single pole BR circuit breakers are readily available from the big box megamart homecenters for less than five dollars each. You can replace them yourself if you are willing to follow some safety instructions.
 
  #9  
Old 06-11-11, 08:45 PM
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Thank you all again. I'm sure you can tell that I'm not fluent in electricity. I've changed a few outlets and put in a few ceiling fans and a dimmer switch but that's about it. I did those thing even though I'm scared to death of electricity. I think I'll get an electrician to change the circuit breakers.
I figuring that I would have to find an electrician, set up an appointment for the next day I have off work, and look for a replacement for the CB's. So I wanted to know if it was super dangerous to wait until I could get all that done. That's why I was asking all those dumb questions.
You answered all my questions and gave me a little bit of an education to boot.
You guys do good work. Thanks again.
 
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Old 06-12-11, 06:14 AM
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It is not super dangerous, and if you wish, you could plug everything into a plug strip, which always have circutbreakers in them. Do not buy a circutbreaker, your electrician would probably rather use one of his own.
 
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