Breaker box full

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  #1  
Old 10-29-12, 01:11 PM
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Breaker box full

Just moved into our new (to us) house and I want to add a few 220v outlets in the garage for my welder, plasma cutter and compressor. The breaker box is currently full. I would like to add a subpanel. Not quite sure on how to do that. I've done a little electrical work before. I added those 3 outlet at my old house but there was room in that box. Can anyone help me out, or send me some links.

Thanks!
 
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Old 10-29-12, 01:44 PM
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I'm not sure about links but we could help you. It would be great if you could take your panel cover off and snap us a picture. Sometimes the panel is so full that a sub panel is not a viable option and in that case you could opt to replace entire panel. You would need to remove one or two circuits from the main panel and move them to the new sub panel. This moving of two circuits would give you a place to install a new two pole breaker to feed sub panel. You would need at least a 10-12 pole circuit panel based on what you want to install. What do you think about a pic ?
 
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Old 10-29-12, 03:20 PM
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Here is a picture. Let me know if you need a better one.

 
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Old 10-29-12, 06:10 PM
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24 circuit 100amp panel is pretty small by today's standards. It looks do-able to add sub panel. If you ask me my opinion I'd install a new main panel. I see a lot of cloth covered romex. Can you shoot a closer pic so we can see wiring a little better. Also...am I correct in that it's a 100 amp main breaker. Is the brand Square D ?
 
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Old 10-29-12, 07:07 PM
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Correct on 100 amp and they are GE. I'd like to replace the whole panel but its just not in the budget right now. Will get pictures up in a few min.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 07:11 PM
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Old 10-29-12, 07:30 PM
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You can add a sub panel to your existing panel but you will have to relocate 4 circuits to do so. GE uses the skinny breakers that have two breakers in a row on the same phase. This is not a deal breaker but just for info.

Easiest thing to do is get a new 100 amp panel, (main lug or main breaker) Use a 2" offset nipple to connect the two panels together, and run your feeders and relocated circuits through that. The upper left is a good place for your new 100 amp breaker.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 08:08 PM
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How old is that GE panel? Does it have copper or aluminum bus bars? Can you get a catalog number from a label inside the panel. Some of the older aluminum bus GE panels have been known to catch on fire due to connections between the thin type THQP breakers and the aluminum bus; this is documented at the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission's website.

CPSC Home Page | cpsc.gov

I know you said it's not in the budget, but I think I'd start a serious savings account toward a new panel. You can buy a 30 circuit 100 amp main breker panel from several manufacturers. I know Cutler Hammer has them and Siemens might have them too.

I just noticed at your location. Get on the phone to Cape Electric and see if they stock a 30 circuit 100 amp Square D main breaker panel. Homeline is the economical line and QO is the best they make.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 08:27 PM
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Really, I agree with Joe. A new 100 amp 30 circuit panel is only about $60 or so.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 09:14 PM
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Square D QO line is the way to go. I don't recommend the home line. The reason I asked for a closer pic is that I wanted to see the service feed cable. It's the old cloth covered type. Looks to be in need of change too.....which of course leads to a new meter pan and then possible new service cable to aerial service drop.
 
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Old 10-29-12, 11:19 PM
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I'd like to replace the whole panel but its just not in the budget right now.
I can buy a 200A main panel with 30-odd full-size breaker spaces, with the main breaker and 5 or 6 single-pole breakers already in it for $120 or so in any big box store around here. I can buy that same panel for significantly less at any local supply house. We don't fool with 100A panels much around here; they might be cheaper.

It's hard to imagine that a decent subpanel, plus the cost of the 240V 2-pole to put in your existing panel, would be much less than that. I agree with PJmax and pcboss. Why spend the same money twice?
 
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Old 10-30-12, 05:46 AM
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But assuming this is the first OCPD it is not a DIY job. So you are looking at $1000-2000 dollars for a pro to do it. An advanced non-pro might be able to do it but in some areas only a Master can pull the permit for it.
 
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Old 10-30-12, 08:03 AM
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We don't own the house yet, and probably wont be buying it for another year or so. Also I don't feel comfortable replacing the whole panel myself. I know I'd be paying for it twice but its just what I have to do for now.
 
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Old 10-30-12, 08:08 AM
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OK, I have to ask - if you don't own the house, why are you doing something like this? Who owns the house?
 
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Old 10-30-12, 02:40 PM
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Our friend/neighbor owns the house. We are doing a rent to own deal. He doesn't care what we do. He knows what I want to do. I already talked to him and he is cool with it.
 
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Old 10-30-12, 07:43 PM
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So, how old is the GE panel. Would you like to see some real cool pictures of a GE 225 amp main breaker panel with aluminum bus and the thin THQP breakers, like in your picture, that caught on fire?
 
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Old 10-30-12, 07:47 PM
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I don't know how old the box is.
 
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Old 11-01-12, 04:27 PM
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So is it doable like the box is now or? I'm not redoing the box unless the current owner pays and I don't think he's gonna be willing.

I mainly want to be able to use my compressor but want them all wired (even tho the welder/plasma may only be used a few times a year).
 
  #19  
Old 11-02-12, 11:43 AM
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So is it doable like the box is now or?
Yes. You will need to free up one half-high space so that you can install the 2-pole 240V breaker that will feed your subpanel from each of the split power legs in your old panel.

The empty slot in your existing panel is space 1b. That is on leg A. The brealer immediately below that is in space 3a, which is on leg B. If you can free up that space, you can install a 2-pole half-high, or tandem, breaker there.

There is an example straight across from these two spaces, where a 2-pole 30A breaker is in spaces 2b and 4a.
 
  #20  
Old 11-08-12, 05:30 PM
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Check your current usage.

I am not a professional electrician, but I have done considerable work on rental houses I have owned under the supervision of competent journeyman electricians. I suggest that you look and compute the total electrical load that you will EVER be using at any given moment. Assume that an air conditioner and air compressor may start at the same moment that you are welding something. Add up how many and what wattage electric heaters you may have in service at any given time. I see several 30 amp breakers and at least one 50 amp breaker that suggest that you may already be stressing your 100 amp breaker box. Welders and air compressors of significant capacity use considerable amperage under certain conditions. I believe that you will find that a 200 amp service is the minimum that you will safely be able to use with the electrical load that you already have plus what you want to add. The welder alone likely will add 40 to 50 amps under some conditions. The convenience of the tools you desire are not worth the risk of burning the house down. Hire a competent electrician to come and actually look at what you currently have and advise a route to add what you desire to add. You can hire an electrician to come look at it "off the record" and advise you for less than $100, perhaps less than $50 in some areas. You can then feel more confident in doing what you want to do - safely.
 
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