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1960s Main Panel with pullout fuse disconnect serving multiple subpanels

1960s Main Panel with pullout fuse disconnect serving multiple subpanels

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  #1  
Old 01-27-13, 06:56 PM
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1960s Main Panel with pullout fuse disconnect serving multiple subpanels

Hi. Hope someone here can help me. I've never seen this type of panel before. I was called to a farm to troubleshoot some lights. The lights were fed by a subpanel. I checked the breaker - it was reading 0. I checked the breaker above it, it read 120. I put in a new breaker but still got zero. I tested the rest of the breakers in the panel and found every other one read 0. Same issue in each sub panel throughout the stable (I tested 4 panels). The right bus bar in all the subpanels was not powered. Problem must be at the main. The main is from 1960 and has pullout fuse block looking thing for disconnect, breakers below that.

Because the symptom is one side of all bus bars not getting power, my expectation is that something is affecting one side of the main. One lead. Maybe one of the fuses in the pull-out box thing is bad or the lead coming from the pole is corroded or something like that. Am I on the right track? Can I just pull the fuse box out without arcing anything? I'm used breaker or handle style disconnects.

My plan is to pullout the fuse box, hopefully disconnecting the power correctly, and testing each individual fuse. If it's bad fuse, I could replace it. I don't know how to clean the service leads if they are corroded or even if I will be able to see them when I pull the block. If not, I don't know where to go from there. The farm needs the lights for Tuesday night.

I'm partnered with a senior electrician but he has a 3hour minimum for jobs which is why he didn't come out today. When I explained to him the situation he just said sell them a new panel and installation for $1500 and he'd come do the job next week.

Frustrated that I don't know more.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-27-13, 07:16 PM
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A picture is worth a 1000 words.

I'm guessing you have an old style fuse panel with what are called pullouts. One is used for range. Possibly one for electric dryer, etc.

Go to the fuse panel......identify your main service wiring coming in from meter. Check for 240 vac on them. Check each leg to ground..... 120 vac per leg.

You should be able to just pull out the pullout and check the fuses.

Something is telling me that this panel is overloaded and that a new panel is in order. You need to determine how much of a load is on this panel and if it can still handle it. My guess....the 60amp or 100 amp service is at capacity.
 
  #3  
Old 01-27-13, 07:31 PM
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something like this one

I found this pic online for reference.

 
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  #4  
Old 01-27-13, 07:34 PM
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Is that just like your application ?

This is a slighlty more modern panel. A two pole pullout with circuit breakers. If you pull that handle out you will get a block with two fuses in it. In that pic....the panel looks to be a 100 amps.
 
  #5  
Old 01-27-13, 07:38 PM
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Pretty much the same. The panel I was at today had more breakers and the whole thing was about 30-40" long. It was getting dark so I didn't count breakers or monkey with anything. Left it for daylight tomorrow and advice from experts.
 
  #6  
Old 01-28-13, 04:18 AM
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Have you checked the cartridge fuses in the Main block for continuity? Take some with you when you go.
 
  #7  
Old 01-28-13, 05:19 PM
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I would recommend turning off the branch breakers before pulling the fusible main pullout to prevent arcing from any load you may have. Expect to find a bad fuse. Yes, a new modern circuit breaker panel would be nice, but if the only problem is a bad fuse, just fix the problem. BTW, who is the manufacturer?
 
  #8  
Old 01-28-13, 08:27 PM
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Thank You to Everyone

I hope I attached these pics right.

Panel was a Square D Q something...couldn't read it.

I pulled the fuse block out, checked connectivity on the 200A fuses, they were both good. I was then faced with this super dusty, dirty panel. I put the block back in and checked the lugs as PJMax suggested and got 120 on each lug. I checked breakers and same symptom here as in the subpanels - any breaker that was connected to the left side bus bar, meaning every other breaker on both sides, were reading 0.

So with fuse block pulled out, I pulled out every breaker one at a time cleaned the contacts, tightened the screws and bolts that were on the bus, tried to blow away as much dust and cobwebs as I could, and put them all back in. I pressed the block back in, everything came up working great. every light, every outlet.... Thanks everybody.

I tried to take pics to show what was in that panel. 3 100A circuit breakers, I assume going out to the subpanels around the farm.
 
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  #9  
Old 01-28-13, 09:36 PM
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It's good you got everything working. The bad thing was you didn't find an exact problem. Like burned pullout or buss bar connection. I only mention this in case you have issues again.

The pullout block looks like it's been running hot. It looks like the connections are dark, possibly corroded. It also looks like the buss bar connections bolts are pretty rusted.

Overall....pretty dirty looking panel. Maybe a replacement will be required soon.
 
  #10  
Old 01-29-13, 05:23 PM
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As I see the actual pictures I have to agree with PJ. Might be a good idea to start saving for a panel replacement on a scheduled basis, not an emergency basis.
 
  #11  
Old 02-12-13, 07:40 PM
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Question Panel Revisited

Greetings,

Several people gave the advice to put in a new panel and I've convinced the owner to do so. The electrician I work with, Tom, ordered a QO load center and some other stuff and told me to disassemble the old unit and he would put in the new unit. (why do i think this is supposed to put hair on my chest or something?). Anyway, I had the power company pull the meter and set to work. I've pulled and labeled all the wires in the box. Having difficulty with rigid conductors. They have no 'play' and I can't seem to get them out of the box.
In addition to that, and more important, is that i was unscrewing one of the main service leads and felt a vibration. Not more than that but it scared me nonetheless. Can't figure out how there can be power if the meter is sitting on the picnic table. Tom said it was probably residual. I'm not sure how to evaluate residual or if the line is being backfed from somewhere. what would you recommend I test? Any guidance appreciated.

Thank You
Colette
 
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  #12  
Old 02-12-13, 09:42 PM
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I'm not sure how to evaluate residual or if the line is being backfed from somewhere. what would you recommend I test?
I would use an analog multimeter to test from each ungrounded conductor in the panel to the bonded ground conductor. Tom may suspect that there are some capacitors on some of the circuits that can feed back onto the conductors. There may be. They can have a bit of a bite.

You could also twist a wire nut onto the end of each ungrounded and grounded conductor.

(why do i think this is supposed to put hair on my chest or something?)
IDK, Colette. The only thing it ever taught me was that 240 tastes saltier than 120.
 
  #13  
Old 02-13-13, 04:07 AM
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I'll go get the readings and wire nut everything. I love the helpful people on this forum.
 
  #14  
Old 02-13-13, 08:35 AM
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Having difficulty with rigid conductors. They have no 'play' and I can't seem to get them out of the box.
I'm guessing you're referring to rigid conduit. The ideal way would be to loosen their clamps enough to let you slide them up a bit. But since you're keeping the conduit and the conductors for the new panel, it might be best to just set the interior locknuts aside and lower the old panel off the pipes - assuming they only come in the top. You can always loosen the clamps to help slide the new enclosure in.

I hope Tom thought to order the new enclosure with solid blank ends.
 
  #15  
Old 02-13-13, 08:42 AM
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That is an incredibly busy panel.
Looks like you'll be replacing the service cable too.
Old cloth covered stuff that big is a b*tch to work with.

Good luck
 
  #16  
Old 02-13-13, 05:31 PM
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Having difficulty with rigid conductors
I'm guessing you're referring to rigid conduit
Nash, I am guessing the reference was about solid conductors as most of the branch circuits appear to be BX.
 
  #17  
Old 02-13-13, 06:33 PM
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Just curious, what is the property owner doing for power while you work on it? On topic have you considered putting a new panel next to it and just gutting the old panel and using it as a junction box and maybe just moving the heaviest loads to the new box.?
 
  #18  
Old 02-13-13, 10:20 PM
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most of the branch circuits appear to be BX.
Different monitors show different things, Joe. I didn't say I saw any rigid conduit. I didn't. I also don't see any BX. But only conduit is rigid. You know as well as I do that all conductors are malleable. Some just require a bigger mallet than others.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 02-14-13 at 11:19 AM. Reason: typo
  #19  
Old 02-13-13, 10:26 PM
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There is what looks to be an 1-1/2" conduit in the top center of the panel.
Also by the distinct lack of lots of bare ground wires......probably a lot of BX.


A big 10-4 on the mallet
 
  #20  
Old 02-14-13, 11:18 AM
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There is what looks to be an 1-1/2" conduit in the top center of the panel.
I see what looks like a 1-1/2" X 3" nipple with individual conductors pulled through it. Probably just a stage in the demo work.

by the distinct lack of lots of bare ground wires......probably a lot of BX.
From the apparent age of this installation, plus what I can make out in the pictures, I think it may have been done with the early Type NM, which also didn't have a grounding conductor.
 
  #21  
Old 02-15-13, 07:49 PM
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Panel

Sorry I said conductor instead of conduit.

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  #22  
Old 02-15-13, 08:36 PM
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Nice job......looks really good.


Funny.....when I looked at the new panel I said.....what a minute....how did it become three phase. I saw the three lugs in a row. The neutral was hanging out in the middle.

Looks like a lot more incoming wires than breakers.
 
  #23  
Old 02-16-13, 06:06 AM
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junction

Yup, that top left mass of wires should have all been in a junction box. They all go to a subpanel in the next room. It's a steel building with a double steel wall going to next room. They have all those conductors feeding to the main, then each is wire nut to individual conductors that feed up through the top, into an LB and through 1.25 EMT into the next room to breakers in a subpanel.

My first idea was to eliminate all the junctions completely and just terminate those lines to breakers in the main rather than going to the subpanel. Unfortunately the owner uses 8 breakers as switches to turn on and off the arena lights. The deadfront on the subpanel restricts access to just the light breakers. Its a safer situation than having people open the main breaker every day just to turn on lights. I asked to move the lights to actual switches and he wouldn't hear of it. So I did my best to dress the box.

The main is in a big open arena without temperature control and subject to high levels of humidity and dust. I should offer a maintenance contract on this box right now.

I did this whole job by myself. I'm 5'1" and 150. Wrestling with rusted, corroded fittings and heavy gauge wire was really tough. Thank you all for your help and support.
 
  #24  
Old 02-16-13, 07:12 AM
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The main is in a big open arena without temperature control and subject to high levels of humidity and dust. I should offer a maintenance contract on this box right now.
Why didn't you install an outdoor-rated panel? It would most likely hold up better under these conditions.
 
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