Add a tandem breaker?

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  #1  
Old 09-19-12, 11:15 AM
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Add a tandem breaker?

Thanks for reading, I just got ripped off by an electrician and I am determined now to do this myself.

I have 2 circuits in my box. 1 is 20A, one is 15A. The 20A powers my garage but I never use it, just powers the garage door opener. I want to move this circuit into the 15A one (lighting circuit). It is a 1/2 hp door opener.

I opened up the box and took a pic, I see where the black goes and I know how to wire it into the 15 by moving the black wire over. This leaves the 20 open.

The 20 will power a tv, small window ac and an xbox.

When the black wire goes into the circuit, where does the white wire go? I see the bay at the bottom with all the white wires and groundings going in there, is there a problem if I run my white wire into that as well?

Please help me, the last electrician I hired came out, moved the black wire to show me what he would "do", I paid him 60 bucks for the hour's work and he put the wire BACK AND LEFT! I asked why, he said "to make sure you call me back and not hire someone else". Are you kidding me?
 
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  #2  
Old 09-19-12, 12:46 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

I want to move this circuit into the 15A one (lighting circuit). It is a 1/2 hp door opener.
If the only thing on that circuit is the outlet for the garage door opener, then you will be adding slightly less than 400W to the load on the 15A breaker, as well as moving the heavier wire to the smaller breaker. What is on the 15A circuit now?

Power in the garage, including for the garage door opener, must be GFCI protected. Is that in place?

With rare exceptions, breakers are rated for only one wire under the terminal screw. Two wires that are different thicknesses might be more of a problem. That said, there is a way to do it safely, and to do the same with the two associated neutrals. We can help you with that.

BTW,
I just got ripped off by an electrician
is not necessarily the friendliest way to introduce yourself to a forum where electricians gather.

I don't charge anything for an estimate, but I also don't do any work during an estimate. I charge a good deal more than $60 for a minimum service call. The electrician you were working with very likely HAD to reconnect the wiring the way he found it, to leave your system safe and in compliance with the code, until and unless he was ready to complete work that you and he had agreed to. I'll bet he never energized the wires while one was relocated, if he even terminated it in the second location.
 
  #3  
Old 09-19-12, 12:58 PM
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You are absolutely right, and I do apologize for coming across that way. I am kind of irate right now, not intended towards free advice from electricians volunteering their own time. For that, I do thank you. Sorry
Just joined the forum (leeched enough info in the mast 3 weeks for that I thank as well).

As for your question, on the circuit i want to move TO there are lights in a room. Nothing else.
The guy who was here put both wires into one circuit and said it was ok to do that, I figured I would seek out an unbiased opinion.
 
  #4  
Old 09-19-12, 01:04 PM
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Oh and as for GFCI, I am sorry but I don't even know how to check that. I wish I did, Lord this stuff is complicated!
 
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Old 09-19-12, 01:22 PM
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Hang tight, we have lots of people here with plenty of information, time and willingness to share; sometimes just takes a while to get all the responses you need due to them being tied up helping customers

We'll get you through this.
 
  #6  
Old 09-19-12, 02:05 PM
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I do apologize for coming across that way.
That's okay. We all need to vent. I was just noting that negative judgments of an electrician can be hard for a brother electrician to hear.

I am kind of irate right now
I heard that. I invite you to reread what I said about the observation that triggered that. Reconnecting everything the way it was when I found it would be the only way that I would leave a system that I had not been contracted to work on. And without doing that, or doing the modification, that electrician would have left you with a non-compliant condition, and THAT would be worth his license.

To the substance of your question, when you say
as for GFCI, I am sorry but I don't even know how to check that.
my first piece of advice is that you read Wiring Simplified before you start any electrical work on your home. Wiring Simplified is inexpensive and invaluable. It explains the "why" as well as the "how-to" of residential electrical systems. You may find it in the electrical aisle at a BigBox HI center, as well as online.

GFCI protection is Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection. It's required wherever a person might contact ungrounded power while themselves being grounded, such as in a kitchen, bathroom, garage, or outside. It can be provided by a GFCI circuit breaker, which you don't have on this circuit, or by a GFCI receptacle downline. The GFCI receptacles are the ones with the TEST and RESET buttons. That isn't supposed to be in a ceiling, because the buttons have to be accessible, but you can look there. The common way to provide it for that ceiling receptacle, though, is to feed that from a GFCI mounted at standard height in the garage. Look for those, and see if hitting the TEST button on them kills the overhead receptacle.

BTW, I notice that the title of your thread is Add a tandem breaker? but I haven't seen a question about that. Is that something you're considering doing?
 
  #7  
Old 09-19-12, 02:52 PM
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well that is what he said he just did, was that wrong?
 
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Old 09-19-12, 03:16 PM
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Wow thanks Mitch yeah, I am chillin'. Not going to do something without guidance, I have a good idea of what I need to do here but I am nervous I am going to screw it up.
If I throw that black in there, and it is connected under that same screw as the other, this is a bad thing right? And the white one goes in the bottom screw area with the non sheathed ground one right?
 
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Old 09-19-12, 03:39 PM
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If I throw that black in there, and it is connected under that same screw as the other, this is a bad thing right?
Yes. The two black wires will need to be spliced to a black pigtail and that pigtail connected to the breaker.

And the white one goes in the bottom screw area with the non sheathed ground one right?
No. The two white wires for these two circuits will also need to be spliced, to a white pigtail, and that pigtail needs to be installed under its own screw in the bus bar. I would also combine the two grounds into one, but that's just me.

In most panels, you may install up to two grounds under one screw. Each neutral needs to be under a screw by itself. And a ground and a neutral can never be installed under the same screw.
 
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Old 09-19-12, 03:40 PM
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well that is what he said he just did, was that wrong?
So long as he didn't turn the power on, no harm, no foul.
 
  #11  
Old 09-19-12, 05:29 PM
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Ok so from what you said, I am gathering this pic is what you mean. Two different circuits, pigtailed (do you mean like a wire nut?) and inserted. Ya? (Black is black, purple is white, red is ground)
 
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Last edited by fiosguy; 09-19-12 at 06:09 PM.
  #12  
Old 09-19-12, 05:34 PM
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And you said to never attach the white and ground to the same plug, you mean like this pic below? OMG man every single one in my breaker box is like that!
 
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Last edited by fiosguy; 09-19-12 at 05:55 PM.
  #13  
Old 09-19-12, 06:10 PM
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The whites and bare in the same hole is not correct. The whites need to be one per hole. The bares can be doubled up. Check the panel label to see the size combinations allowed.

Tandem breakers may not be allowed in your panel. Again the label will have that information. You could also post the panel model number here and we could tell you if tandems are allowed.

Unless the wiring is #12 you cannot put it on a 20 amp breaker.
 
  #14  
Old 09-19-12, 06:18 PM
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Ok, so I cannot figure out the model number. But here is what I know, and only saying this to add info, in no way debating what you said as I am admittedly CLUELESS on this. And very appreciative of the effort and help! I'd be happy to donate to the forum..
I was told just now that the common and ground can be on the same hole if I have a main breaker. Is this the biggest breaker that says MAIN on it, I know it is a stupid question but at this point there is no way I am taking something for granted. MAIN has the number 150 on it as well.
And I went to Lowes and bought 12/2 wire, I am assuming this is what you meant?
 
  #15  
Old 09-19-12, 07:18 PM
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The neutrals, (whites) and the grounds (bare or green) can land on the same bar if there is no means of disconnect ahead of this panel. They cannot share the same hole.

Your panel number will look something like QO150M30.

Your 12-3 can go on a 20 amp breaker.

Do not splice the whites as shown in your diagram.

A ground bar can be added to the raised bumps in your panel and the grounds can be moved if you need move space.
 
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Old 09-19-12, 07:21 PM
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I was told just now that the common and ground can be on the same hole if I have a main breaker.
The term common is not applicable in this context so if they said that they don't know much. Main breaker or not isn't relevant to whether you can or can't put a ground and neutral in the same hole. You can't do it period. If these nuggets came from a BigBox employee then you have learned the value of their advice... nada.
 
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Old 09-19-12, 07:31 PM
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Just an FYI - You have a 150 amp electrical service and the brand is Square D QO.

Be sure to be safe when working in the panel! The large wires at the top/bottom are always energized even when the main breaker is off!

QO breakers are one of the few that may have two wires under the one breaker screw. You can do the pig-tailing method, which is fine and works just as well, however you do not need to splice the grounds and neutrals (what you were calling commons) if you have open holes available on the neutral bar. (where the whites and grounds go)

The grounds and neutrals may be connected at the same bar in your main panel. This is the only place you may do this. You can not have more that one neutral wire per hole in the bar. You may have up to two grounds per hole in the bar. IF you run out of holes in the neutral bar you can add a ground bar to the case of the panel and move some grounds there.

From what I understand of your original question, you are looking to double up two lightly loaded circuits to make room in the panel. That is fine, as long as the load will not exceed the rating of the breaker. As PCBoss mentioned, only double up like circuits. If the Garage is #14 wire and a 15 amp breaker, you may only connect it to another 15 amp breaker. If it is #12, then 20 amp or lower is fine.
 

Last edited by Tolyn Ironhand; 09-19-12 at 07:46 PM.
  #18  
Old 09-19-12, 07:44 PM
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It looks to me like the panel is bottom fed with the main breaker at the bottom so the wires that remain hot when the main is turned off would be the large wires at the bottom, not the top.
 
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Old 09-19-12, 07:48 PM
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And you said to never attach the white and ground to the same plug, you mean like this pic below? OMG man every single one in my breaker box is like that!
That's technically incorrect, but I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it. Although it's not correct, it was pretty common to terminate the neutrals and grounds that way 30 to 40 years ago. I don't think I have ever seen a real problem because they were terminated that way.
 
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Old 09-19-12, 07:48 PM
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You know, after I posted that I thought "I wonder if it is a bottom fed panel" but didn't go back to check because I thought I remembered it was a top feed. Wrong again! Thanks for catching that Joe! My post has been edited.
 
  #21  
Old 09-19-12, 08:31 PM
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Question

Ok, so I think I can do this:

I am going to remove one black wire.
I am going to run wire, 12/2, and strip it so the new wire has black, white and bare.
I am going to pigtail black to black, then stick the pigtail in a breaker.
I am going to put white and bare in their own holes in the bottom, NOT pigtailed.
This will allow me to install a new wire without it;s own breaker, piggybacking off of a 15 amp breaker that is just running a light and a garage door opener.

Did i get it?

Oh and side note, how can i tell if I have 14/2 or 12/2 wire? Easy way to do so?
 

Last edited by fiosguy; 09-19-12 at 09:02 PM.
  #22  
Old 09-20-12, 05:49 AM
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The cable size is written on the jacket. You can also compare the size of the conductor against a piece of a known size.

The breakers you have can be used with two conductors under the breaker clamp. You don't need to move the existing wire. You can just add the new branch to it.
 
  #23  
Old 09-20-12, 07:57 PM
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Sweet thanks PCboss, going to try it on Saturday. I cannot tell you how nervous I am about this, I don't want to blow my house up!
 
  #24  
Old 09-20-12, 08:13 PM
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This will allow me to install a new wire without it;s own breaker, piggybacking off of a 15 amp breaker that is just running a light and a garage door opener.
If you're planning to pigtail the new hot wire, in the new cable, onto a 15A breaker, why are you planning to use 12-2/G? The less expensive 14-2/G is the cable designed for use with 15A circuits.

Maybe you're saying that you will have freed up a 20A breaker to feed a new circuit which is fed with the 12-2/G that you're running?
 
  #25  
Old 09-21-12, 03:06 PM
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12/2 because i was dumb, and now I need to go to lowes and swap it out for 14/2 I learned so much off this site I wish I was here before my trip to lowes.
Another question if you don't mind: If I get the wire outside the house on the other side of the wall, can I run it to an access panel and leave it for now, and later from the panel to underground piping, or do I have to run it from inside the house to a service el to begin with?
 
  #26  
Old 09-21-12, 03:23 PM
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If your wiring is NM-B you will need to transition to a method suitable for a wet environment once you exit the building. An accessible junction box either inside or just outside would be fine.
 
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