60 year old electrical box.

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  #1  
Old 05-13-12, 09:58 AM
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60 year old electrical box.

The origional box inside box to my apartment ( I own) is 60 years old and has 4 circuit breaker switches. Circuit #3 seems totally dead. I have checked outlet wiring, turned breaker switch on and off, and nothing. Thinking there is a bad circuit breaker, I opened the box and took the cover off, after turning off power to the box at the outside panel.
Either there are no individual breakers, or I do not know what I am looking at. Here is what I found:
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Can anyone tell me how to proceed to replace a breaker?
 
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Old 05-13-12, 10:05 AM
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With the power off. Push down on that cover plate slightly. It should pull off exposing the wiring to each breaker underneath. I suspect old wiring has either worked loose or a broken conductor. You won't know until you take that cover off. You may need to turn that screw in the middle slightly to release some of the pressure off the plate. Repost pictures of what is under the plate.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 10:10 AM
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There is metal connecting the plate to the large screws and wire on either side. It it safe to touch the large wire with the breaker off in the outside box?

The box on the outside of the house, I mean.
 

Last edited by patsy44; 05-13-12 at 10:37 AM.
  #4  
Old 05-13-12, 11:30 AM
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If the breaker outside kills the power to the box (this should be checked with a meter) you should be able to touch anything you want.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 12:44 PM
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I cannot get the cover off. The middle screw turns but does not unscrew and the place does not budge. The top plate seems to be attached to a different color metal underneath. There is a tab that goes on either side:

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At first I thought the tab extended the large screw, but now I think it just meets it. I have tried forcing the cover off, using pliers on the screw. Short of taking off the large screws holding the large cable to see if that does anything, I am at a loss.

The box is also very hard to get to. It is in what was once a coat closet, but now houses the HVAC. You have to reach around the HVAC to get to the electrical box.

I am thinking of having someone relocate the box to a hall closet and splicing all applicable wires. Is this possible?
 
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Old 05-13-12, 01:02 PM
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Whoever installed your HVAC violated code by not adhering to clearance guidelines, anyway, so replacing it in a new location with a modern box with breakers makes sense to me.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 01:02 PM
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I am thinking of having someone relocate the box to a hall closet and splicing all applicable wires. Is this possible?
An electrical panel cannot be located inside a closet. It doesn't sound like it's code compliant for accessibility now, so relocating it to an accessible location is preferred.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 01:12 PM
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There is no other place to put it. No utility room , no basement. Only other place would be the attic, or hallway with a cover.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 02:07 PM
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Only other place would be the attic, or hallway with a cover.
An attic is not an accessible location unless you can walk up permanent stairs into the attic and stand upright in front of the panel while having 42" (I think it is now) clearance in each direction from the panel. But it sounds like you've found the place: in the hallway with a cover. Something like a framed picture that comes off the wall in a second.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 02:07 PM
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Only other place would be the attic, or hallway with a cover.
A hallway would be fine, but I'd suggest a flush installation. The cover/door can be painted to match the walls.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 02:16 PM
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Your out-of-focus pictures make it hard to see and not including the entire enclosure also is an impediment to understanding the whole thing BUT I'm pretty sure that the little "buttons" on either end are in fact rivets holding the circuit breaker assembly to the small panel. The screw in the middle is for adjusting this panel assembly to the front cover without a gap. Turning the screw raises or lowers the small panel depending on which direction the screw is turned. It is possible (probable, in fact) that if you turned the screw something like twelve million turns (it is a fine thread) you would get the panel off. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that even if you DO get the panel off there is nothing you can do with it since a replacement (with all four CBs) is probably impossible to find.
 
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Old 05-13-12, 08:34 PM
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That's a Square D Multibreaker, circa 1939. That was the first style of residential circuit breaker panel ever sold. My house had one of those as well, and it also developed a bad breaker. You can't replace the breakers individually, and you will never find the whole assembly unless you happen upon a collector who has a working one to part with. You have to put in a new panel.
 
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Old 05-14-12, 06:00 PM
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I've never seen one of these before. But I checked on eBay and found a few similar items.
SQUARE D MO48 15A-30A MULTI-BREAKER NEW | eBay
 
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Old 05-14-12, 11:38 PM
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That won't work. The OP has one of the first generations they made, which has the line leads screwed directly to the breaker module. The one on Ebay is one of the later designs - after they had developed the modular 'busbar' style units like what we have today, but they retained the 'MultiBreaker' name.
 
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Old 05-15-12, 06:23 AM
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I can't imagine first generation breakers from 1939 being all that reliable at this point in time. If it were my place, I'd have an electrician come in and replace with a new breaker box. I can't imagine it being that expensive being that you currently only have 4 circuits.
 
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Old 05-15-12, 07:13 AM
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Thanks!

Thank you all for your information and input. I will replace the box and relocate it.
 
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Old 05-15-12, 12:28 PM
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No problem. Just out of curiosity, what's on the other side of the wall where the panel is currently? Is it on an exterior wall or is there a room or other accessible area (within your apartment) behind it? The reason I ask is because if it has an accessible area behind it, the new panel can be located in the same place, just facing out to that room. That will reduce the installation costs because there would be less wire to use and no need for conduit.
 
  #18  
Old 05-16-12, 08:10 AM
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I wish I could just turn it around, but there is a stacking washer/dryer on the other side. It would have to be pulled out to get to it.
 
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Old 05-16-12, 10:41 AM
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Hmm. Is there 30" of space on either side of the laundry with 42" in front of the space? Or can the laundry be shifted to one side or another to make 30"? If so then the panel can be installed in that space a lot cheaper than having to run it farther, and you wouldn't have to worry about .
 
  #20  
Old 05-16-12, 03:08 PM
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Unfortunately there is only about two inches on either side of the washer/dryer and no other place to put it. So I think the hall is the only place to put the breaker box.
 
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