Main Panel Questions

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  #1  
Old 06-17-12, 03:29 PM
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Main Panel Questions

Hello everyone,

I'm in the process of buying a home and have some electrical questions. I do not yet own the home, so I am unable to check things above and beyond what I have in the initial inspection report and photos.

The home has a 100amp service, however the panel is overloaded. There are 3 breakers that have two wires/circuits leading to them. That obviously needs to be fixed, however the panel is full - no extra room for more breakers.

I need to add a few outlets for two sump pumps and a garage door opener. All are running off of extension cords now and are not on their own circuit.

I suppose the biggest question is - should I install a sub panel to relocate the doubled circuits and add the new ones, or should I plan to completely upgrade the home's electrical to 200 amp service? We have mostly gas appliances and I doubt we'll exceed 100 amps. Obviously adding a sub panel is MUCH cheaper, as we'd have to have Xcel Energy come out and bury a new line for 200 amp service as well as all the other changes.

Another issue, all of the outlets are 3 prong but many are not grounded. I'm not sure if the ground is not correctly connected to the back of each outlet, that'll be the first thing I check. Based on the photos of the box, it appears that most of the cable has grounding lines.

Thoughts? I have a few pictures below. Thank you for taking the time to look! Name:  IMGP0141.jpg
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  #2  
Old 06-17-12, 03:53 PM
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I would look into upgrading the service. They may not need to replace the lines to your house. I have overhead lines to my house and they were not upgraded when I went from 100 - 200 amp service.
 
  #3  
Old 06-17-12, 06:04 PM
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You would gain little upgrading to 200 amps. Adding a sub panel would be a much cheaper way to go.

QO breakers are fine with two wires attached to them.
GDO do not require a dedicated circuit.
Sump pump likely do not either depending on the size of the pumps.
 
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Old 06-17-12, 06:51 PM
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The home has a 100amp service, however the panel is overloaded.
How have you determined the service is overloaded? Has the main breaker been tripping? I think you could maybe use a few more circuits, but other than adding a subpanel, you don't appear to have too many problems. Unless you have a very large home you probably have adequate power since you have gas appliances.
 
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Old 06-17-12, 07:32 PM
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Thank you for the replies so far!

As I've not lived there yet, I don't know if the main breaker has been tripping. I suppose what I meant by overloading was more than one wire per CB. My inspector said that was a no-no. He also said the sump pumps and door opener should have their own outlet at the very least, not requiring the use of extension cords. This would also require a subpanel for more breakers/circuits. We would like to add a couple more outlets in the garage and possibly one or two outside as well.

It's a relatively small home, 1800 SQFT. The largest appliances are central AC, electric stove, and the standard washer, dishwasher, etc... It's wired for an electric dryer but we're planning on a gas one.

Thank you again for the input. This is a new area for me and I'm trying to learn as much as I can before.

The grounding issues I'll have to address further when I move in and can actually get into everything.
 
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Old 06-17-12, 07:33 PM
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It looks as if your service entrance cable is in bad condition.
 
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Old 06-17-12, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Marksman762 View Post
Thank you for the replies so far!

As I've not lived there yet, I don't know if the main breaker has been tripping. I suppose what I meant by overloading was more than one wire per CB. My inspector said that was a no-no. He also said the sump pumps and door opener should have their own outlet at the very least, not requiring the use of extension cords. This would also require a subpanel for more breakers/circuits. We would like to add a couple more outlets in the garage and possibly one or two outside as well.

It's a relatively small home, 1800 SQFT. The largest appliances are central AC, electric stove, and the standard washer, dishwasher, etc... It's wired for an electric dryer but we're planning on a gas one.

Thank you again for the input. This is a new area for me and I'm trying to learn as much as I can before.

The grounding issues I'll have to address further when I move in and can actually get into everything.
Square D is the only manufacturer that makes breakers with clamps that are approved for two wire connections. Your inspector may simply be unaware of that. Unless you get nuisance trips indicating too many devices on the circuit, you can leave them as-is.

He is partially right, however about the sump pump and GDO. They do not require their own dedicated circuits, but you can not connect a permanent appliance with an extension cord. The GDO is usually on the same circuit as the rest of the garage outlets, and the sump pump - if not on a dedicated circuit - is usually shared with a lighting circuit (to make a breaker trip obvious before the sump pit overflows).

My only real concern is that you have grounds and neutrals under the same clamps. You can gang grounds two per clamp, but neutrals may not share a clamp with anything else - they are one wire per clamp. Those need to be separated out. It's not exactly dangerous as long as the clamps are very tight, it's just wrong.
 
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Old 06-18-12, 05:29 AM
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From a purchasing perspective, I think the panel looks a-ok. You're looking at $200 to install a subpanel if you do it yourself, probably $600 or so if you have a pro do it. (just rough planning numbers). As others have said, you could probably get away without a subpanel if all you need is the GDO and sump pump... but then again, you'll probably find other needs down the road. You could also lose the double pole dryer breaker if you're going to run gas.

A few other possible concerns...

It looks like the electrical was upgraded in some locations somewhat recently (the yellow wires) to include the kitchen. Was a permit pulled on this work and was it inspected by the city/town? I'd ask to see a copy (and ensure they leave the originals) or check with the town. Kitchens and baths are those things that can look nice but be nightmares underneath the pretty tile and cabinets. I did notice that the yellow wires coming in don't have staples on them. Safety wise, it's not a big deal... but it's one of those things that an inspector will often ding you on.... which raised my question.

Good luck!
 
  #9  
Old 06-18-12, 11:48 AM
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Consider adding a SP with a 200 amp Main Circuit-Breaker and X number of breaker spaces. The advantage is that if you do up-grade to 200 amps , the panel will be already "in-place" and you need not remove the existing panel.

This is feasible only if the new 200 amp Service-Conductors between the Service Panel and the 200 amp Meter Socket can be "shifted" to a location say 2 ft. Left / Right from the location of the existing Service Conductors.

You can "link" the existing panel to the new panel using the bottom KO of the existing panel and the side KO near the bottom of the new panel with , say, 1-1/4 PVC Conduit and either a PVC elbow or a PVC "LB"
 
  #10  
Old 06-18-12, 02:36 PM
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First thing to check the Panel and see if it is rated for tandem breakers.

That looks like a pretty new panel, I bet it is a 20/30 meaning the bottom 5 breakers on each side will accept tandem breakers

If this is the case then just replace the bottom breakers as needed to give you extra space.

For the neutral bar issue, buy 2 SQ D ground bars and move the ground wire to them, they go where the white circles are on the top and bottom of panel box
 
  #11  
Old 06-18-12, 05:46 PM
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It looks as if your service entrance cable is in bad condition.
Justin brings up a good point. The service cable is probably 40 years old, but it looks ok inside the panel. I am wondering what the condition of the cable is outside. If it is exposed to rain and UV rays, I'll bet it needs replacing.
 
  #12  
Old 06-19-12, 03:48 AM
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If you haven't closed the deal yet, this could be a good negotiating point.
 
  #13  
Old 06-19-12, 10:59 AM
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A few updates for everyone - it turns out the overhead service to the home will provide up to 200 amps without any additional work from the POCO.

Right now I'm between just doing a subpanel or replacing completely for a 200 amp panel with new feeds from the meter. I'm leaning toward replacing with a 200 amp panel. I'll run the costs and see which ends up being worth while.

Again, thank you everyone for your comments and guidance, it is much appreciated!
 
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