How can I tell if you breaker [box] is full?

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  #1  
Old 12-02-11, 08:51 AM
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How can I tell if you breaker [box] is full?

How can I tell if my circuit breaker is full, or at capacity?

I have some panels/slots that aren't currently occupied by breaker switches.

but a few years ago when I had central A/C installed, I recall the installer asking me if I ever planned on having an electric dryer. I think he was saying I was out of room in my breaker.

How can I tell if any of my switches can be converted to half height, twin? breakers? I need to have a dedicated line run for an over the stove microwave and I'm afraid I'm out of room.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-06-11 at 11:47 AM.
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  #2  
Old 12-02-11, 09:24 AM
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The breaker panel should be marked and what types of breakers can be used. It should also sate the max number of circuits that can be installed.

You can post the manufacturer and model number and someone should be able to help.
 
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Old 12-02-11, 09:27 AM
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If you have slots available you can install a new breaker. Only a few older panels had more knockouts in the cover than there were for actual breakers.

If you post a pic and provide the model number more help can be given. If you are comfortable a pic with the cover off would help.

As a side note, there is a difference between space for additional breakers and extra capacity in the panel.
 
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Old 12-05-11, 09:06 PM
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Sorry for my delay and thanks for the assistance so far. I have a Cutler-Hammer panel. I think the model # is ch16cm100

I can't attach a picture, nor will the link display, but if you replace the *'s with tinypic .com, you can see a picture of my current array of breakers. Let me know if I'm missing any information and what you all think!

Thanks!
http://i43.************/ak7ub8.jpg


*Not sure if I did the image thing right here, hope I don't break any rules. If so I can edit this post. I read and read and don't see how to add attachments or do image links differently.
 
  #5  
Old 12-05-11, 11:20 PM
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Tinypic is not an allowed photo hosting site for this forum. As I understand they had some problems with inappropriate images in the past. Photobucket.com is the preferred host.

I was able to look at your picture and it APPEARS that you have lots of room for expansion BUT as pcboss stated, some panels years ago used covers that had more "twist outs" than actual circuit breaker spaces. We would really need to see the panel with the cover removed to be certain this is not the case with your panel.
 
  #6  
Old 12-06-11, 10:16 AM
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Furd, thanks for the info on tinypic. Good to know.

Here is my panel without the cover, on photobucket.

 
  #7  
Old 12-06-11, 11:20 AM
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Until the Pro's get back...looks like you only have one slot available.

What bothers me is....wth is that green tape tying some of the handles together? And you have one breaker that looks like it has overheated in the past
 
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Old 12-06-11, 07:47 PM
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thank you for that picture, the number you previously posted now makes sense.

The ch16cm100 would normally denote a Cutler-Hammer panel with 16 single-pole breaker spaces and a 100 ampere main breaker, which is what you have. The picture of the cover however showed 20 or 24 spaces as I recall. What you have is a "short bus" in a standard enclosure. This was not uncommon back when your panel was installed but it showed a cheap-out method of construction as it probably only saved about five bucks back then.

Gunguy is correct, you have only a single space open and you cannot use doubled up circuit breakers in that panel. Your only recourse is to install a sub-panel adjacent to that one or to replace the existing panel for a larger model. Since you have a 100 ampere panel an upgrade does make sense but you are also looking at a cost in the neighborhood of $1500 to $2000.
 
  #9  
Old 12-06-11, 08:36 PM
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Furd, thanks for the detailed response! A few questions for you.

Could you explain why I can't use a doubled up circuit breaker in this panel? Something like 20 amp. 3/4 in. Duplex Double-Pole Type CH Non-Current-Limiting Replacement Circuit Breaker-CHNT2020 at The Home Depot

Or perhaps the 1 inch version if that's what would fit? They make one for panels built pre-1968, my home is 1973, panel might be that old?

You estimated $1500-$2000 to upgrade my existing panel? You said "an upgrade would make sense". That's just knowing the 100 Ampere capacity of my current panel?

A sub panel would get me what?
What are the limitations there?
What's a ballpark cost for sub panel?

I could just install a new 20Amp breaker in my one open slot and know that I'm at capacity?

Thanks for the info so far everyone!
 
  #10  
Old 12-06-11, 11:04 PM
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Could you explain why I can't use a doubled up circuit breaker in this panel?
Panels and circuit breakers are "Listed" by a "Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory" (NRTL) for various combinations. The listing is only granted after stringent testing to prove that the combination is not a safety hazard. If the manufacturer doesn't submit a certain combination for testing then there is no approved listing for that combination. That particular panel is listed for a total of up to 16 "poles" of type CH circuit breakers. The 16 poles may be either single pole devices or two-pole devices in any combination but that is ALL that is approved.

Now it may be that the twin circuit breaker will physically fit; it may even work okay BUT if you were to ever have any trouble (such as a fire) and it was traced back to the panel, the mere fact that it has an unlisted component could be grounds for the insurance company to reject the claim. Do you want to take the chance?

You estimated $1500-$2000 to upgrade my existing panel? You said "an upgrade would make sense". That's just knowing the 100 Ampere capacity of my current panel?
That figure is pretty consistent across the country although local conditions could bump it either up or down somewhat. 100 amperes is the minimum size service that can be installed in any residence today and the cost to install larger is not all that significant once you get past the minimum size. Now if you have all gas appliances and no air conditioning in a small home then a 100 ampere service is probably sufficient but if you have an electric clothes dryer or electric water heater or electric kitchen range or air conditioning or electric heat or some combination of the above then 100 ampere service is really borderline. Replacing just the panel with a longer one (more circuits but same total capacity of 100 amperes) might be only a few hundred dollars but if you have any of the aforementioned electric appliances or are planning on getting any then an upgrade is in order.

A sub panel would get me what?
What are the limitations there?
What's a ballpark cost for sub panel?
The sub-panel would give you more circuits (more circuit breakers) but no more total capacity, i.e. you would still have a maximum amperage of 100. This would allow a lesser number of lights, receptacles or appliances on any one circuit but do nothing as far as allowing more utilizing equipment than you presently have. This might reduce single circuit breaker tripping on overload (if you even have this problem) but it could lead to tripping of the main circuit breaker if you tried to increase the overall load. The cost for the sub-panel would be the least of any upgrade, maybe in the $100 to $200 range depending on how much of the work you do yourself and the cost of permits and inspections in your area.

I could just install a new 20Amp breaker in my one open slot and know that I'm at capacity?
You would be at total CIRCUIT capacity, i.e. the total number of different circuits but that could be either under or over the maximum capacity of the panel in load (amount of maximum electrical draw) depending on what loads are on the various circuits. Only a detailed load demand calculation can give you the answer.
 
  #11  
Old 12-10-11, 07:25 PM
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Could you explain why I can't use a doubled up circuit breaker in this panel? Something like 20 amp. 3/4 in. Duplex Double-Pole Type CH Non-Current-Limiting Replacement Circuit Breaker-CHNT2020 at The Home Depot
The proper terminology is "Non-Circuit Total Limiting" and not Non-Current Total Limiting as Home Depot seems the think. It would be a code violation to use a Non-CTL breaker in your panel.
 
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