Overloaded and irregular circuit

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  #1  
Old 10-20-13, 07:54 AM
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Overloaded and irregular circuit

I have one breaker that I feel is very overloaded and I have slowly pulled off some of load and spread it amongst other circuits.

The breaker is a 30 amp single pole, with what appears to be 10g copper wire with tinned ends in cloth sheath. While it begins with heavy gage wire, as it zig zags in and out of walls, it slowly reduces down to 14 gauge at the end of the line.

It works its way around the house powering 27 load centers.

It was the only breaker in the main entry panel that was marked and had a bright white tape pointing to it, which begs the question, was it the only one that popped often and required a quick indicator to it.
The seller of the home is 93 and ill, so I can not speak to him about the history of the breaker.

I made an inventory of every potential demand, at full demand (which I can never see actually happening) it would have drawn about 3200 watts totally maxed out.

So far I have:

Run a new line to the kitchen and taken the fridge off this circuit, it is now on a solo line and breaker.

I have changed all the light bulbs for low energy bulbs cutting the load from ceiling lights dramatically.

I have taken 6 basement ceiling lights off the circuit and placed them elsewhere.

I have removed the over kitchen sink lights and added them elsewhere.

I have pulled one closet light off the line.

Shortly, I will remove the furnace switch (1/2 horse power, hydronic system) and add it elsewhere.

Over the winter I will renovate the bathroom and while the walls are open, I will pull the 2 bathroom lights off this line.

I can not remove every string of wire on this breaker and replace the wire, as it means breaking up almost perfect, like new, but 67 year old, hand plastered walls and ceilings.

This would leave me with about 15 load centers.

These are mostly ceiling lights, ceiling fans, the 2 exterior over door entrance lights and 2 or 3 wall plugs will remain.
The estimated total draw once the line is cut down, is about 1000 watts if maxed out.

Am I over working this if:

To reduce the risks, once I pull all the extra load off this line, should I swap out the 30 amp breaker for a lower 20 amp (1800 useable watts) in hopes the breaker trips earlier if there is an issue?

Or do I leave the 30amp breaker on that line in place until such time as I can pull all the larger gauge old wiring out and have it completely updated?

In the stair well, there is 10g leading to the lights, but 14g is being used for the travelers.

Is this ok?

I would have though all wiring on a 30amp line must be 10?

I am sorry for being so long in the description, but I though as much background info as possible would be best.

Thank you!

PS.
When pulling off the basement lights lights I found a box in this state, no marrettes, not even tape covering the connection.
 

Last edited by Kiton; 10-20-13 at 08:24 AM. Reason: typos
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  #2  
Old 10-20-13, 08:24 AM
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A general purpose lighting and receptacle circuit can be no larger the 20 amps so for that reason alone the breaker would need to be reduced immediately, not in the future, to 20 amps but since it has 14 gauge wire it must instead be reduced to a 15 amp breaker. There is no wiggle room on that. It is a fire waiting to happen.

The connections in you picture should be remade correctly with the cable striped back to the point where it enters the box. That said I can't even tell exactly how the connection was made. I'm guessing you have black to black white to white. If not that also needs to be corrected or the reason it doesn't follow color code determined.

n the stair well, there is 10g leading to the lights, but 14g is being used for the travellers.
#10 is okay but it must be on a 15 amp breaker because of the travelers. What about the common? It must be in the same cable as the travelers?
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 10-20-13 at 09:10 PM. Reason: 14 amp >> 15 amp
  #3  
Old 10-20-13, 08:34 AM
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Ok..... I've read your post three times now.

You have a disaster on your hands. You can not protect # 14 (15 AMP) wiring with a 30 AMP breaker.

You are going to need to separate the receptacles off that 30 amp line.
 
  #4  
Old 10-20-13, 09:46 AM
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Thank you Pete and Ray, you are confirming what I suspected. I will pull the 30amp breaker and replace it with either a 15 or 20 depending on the out come of part 2 below.

The 14-3 used as a traveler can easily be pulled and replaced with 12g. It is located in the unfinished emergency exit stairway from the basement and is exposed.
I would like to pull as much of the old wire as possible and change all the boxes and switches which show signs of light corrosion.

Now it gets worse.

Hopefully your years of experience can help me with the next curve on this circuit.

There was a sub panel in the storage room on the main level fitted with 2 fuses. Based on the configuration of the upper level, 2x 15 amp fuses.

This sub panel has been bypassed!!

I feel I should replace the now defunct sub panel with a new one to provide another stop check on the line.

I have not opened the bypassed sub panel yet, but I will and post a photograph as soon as possible.

If I replace and thereby reactive the 2x 15amp fused sub panel, do I "need" 30amps to the sub panel or can I still take it down a notch to a 20amp breaker?

I assume the sub panel should be the first stop on the wiring journey on the circuit. But I am learning to assume nothing in this house.

I really appreciate your advice.

Ray,
I have completely removed the box and wiring in that photograph. It was what brought power to the basement lights which are now on another breaker. I was just shocked to see no marrettes on the connections.
 
  #5  
Old 10-20-13, 10:07 AM
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I'm trying to figure out the sub-panel. You have a two pole breaker feeding a sub-panel with two breakers. Basically... that sub-panel is being used as a splice point.

The key point you need to keep in mind is that the wire can not be over fused. If need be you can put a smaller breaker on a larger wire but not the other way around.

If there is any #14 involved it must be on a 15A breaker.
 
  #6  
Old 10-20-13, 11:18 AM
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In your picture in post #1, the NM cable on the right enters the 4" octagon box through a knockout with no NM cable clamp. You need the proper connector, usually called a romex connector, for that cable.
 
  #7  
Old 10-20-13, 01:33 PM
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PJmax
I'm trying to figure out the sub-panel.
This is the first time I have opened the old sub panel. The building inspector seemed to think it was great that it had been bypassed.

The larger gauge wire leads in, then gets divided into 2 smaller gauge wires (looks like 12) that go, god only knows where, in the house.

There are no ground wires on this circuit. It is now the last of the original wiring lines in the house.

My intentions at this point are:

Pull the 30amp breaker, replacing it with a 20amp.

Remove the 14-3 travelers and replace with 12g
The rest of the wire in the circuit appears to be 12g or larger.

Possibly have a new sub panel installed and put modern breakers back into the circuit.
 

Last edited by Kiton; 10-20-13 at 02:13 PM. Reason: changed fuses to breakers
  #8  
Old 10-20-13, 04:01 PM
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I see one circuit and don't believe there was ever any more than one fuse in the old box. Don't forget to add a romex connector at the junction box in the picture in post #1.
 
  #9  
Old 10-20-13, 04:26 PM
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Don't forget to add a romex connector at the junction box in the picture in post #1.
Thanks Joe,
I have completed removed the box in that picture and the old line that did not have the connector.

In the upper level of the home, where my daughter now lives, there is the same box, in the same spot, but her's is still active. She has 2 fuses. One controls the front half of the ceiling lights and wall plugs, and the second controls the back half of the ceiling lights and wall plugs.

So I am running on the assumption that once upon a time, a similar setup was in the lower level.
 
  #10  
Old 10-20-13, 06:16 PM
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Ray and Pete,

Browsing the big box shops, this seems to be the best choice to my untrained eye,

any thoughts before I start out?


Siemens | 60A Sub Panel Multi-application Loadcentre With 2/4 Circuits, Main Lug, 1 Phase, 3 Wire, 120/240V | Home Depot Canada


Schneider Electric - Square D | Single Pole 15 Amp QO Plug-On Circuit Breaker | Home Depot Canada

The old line is ungrounded, but the location allows me to run a ground from the main to at least to this sub panel. But the 2 smaller lines running out have no ground wire bundled.
 
  #11  
Old 10-20-13, 06:58 PM
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The Square D QO circuit breaker will not fit the Siemens panel. Look for a Siemens Q115 15 amp 1 pole breaker.
 
  #12  
Old 10-20-13, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by PJmax
I'm trying to figure out the sub-panel.
This is the first time I have opened the old sub panel. The building inspector seemed to think it was great that it had been bypassed.

The larger gauge wire leads in, then gets divided into 2 smaller gauge wires (looks like 12) that go, god only knows where, in the house.

There are no ground wires on this circuit. It is now the last of the original wiring lines in the house.

My intentions at this point are:

Pull the 30amp breaker, replacing it with a 20amp.

Remove the 14-3 travelers and replace with 12g
The rest of the wire in the circuit appears to be 12g or larger.

Possibly have a new sub panel installed and put modern breakers back into the circuit.
The "subpanel" isn't needed and doesn't need to be functionally replaced. You can either replace it with a regular box to contain the splices, if the wires will reach, or just put the cover back on it the way it is, or replace the full run of wiring with new cable and no splice.

It's hard to tell from a picture, of course, but I don't see any conductor in that box that looks larger than #12 AWG. Are you certain there are some larger conductors in it?

Originally Posted by PJmax
If there is any #14 involved it must be on a 15A breaker.
Any means any. Not one inch of #14 AWG conductor can be safely used in a circuit protected at 20A or higher.

I have changed all the light bulbs for low energy bulbs cutting the load from ceiling lights dramatically.
Sorry, but no points for this one. The maximum potential load on a circuit includes each light fixture lamped at it's maximum allowable level.

The rest of your changes look sensible and prudent, and reduce the total load by the values you assumed for them.
 
  #13  
Old 10-21-13, 07:18 PM
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originally posted by Nashkat1

sorry, but no points for this one. The maximum potential load on a circuit includes each light fixture lamped at it's maximum allowable level.
Thank you, I did not know that, I have been adding actual demand watts on the lines.

Someone here recommended Wiring Simplified, I picked up the 43rd edition and have been reading, but truth be told, I have been "cherry picking" the pages I read that apply to projects at hand.
 
  #14  
Old 10-21-13, 07:39 PM
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This is the plan for this Saturday, any thoughts, suggestions, tips?

Since it is 30a leading in on what appears to be 10g, 12g leading out of this box to the light switches and then all the living room lights turn out to be 14g wire, a 15 amp breaker is going back on this line.

I will shut the power and disconnect this junction box.
Then open the power again and determine if the line leads directly from the main entry to this sub panel or not.

The power line leading to the furnace comes from the back of the house, is 10g and runs to a disconnect with a 30amp fuse ( I think it is over fused?? as the furnace switch is only 1/2 hp), while the main entry is at the front of the house, so I fear the line splits off somewhere else in the walls.

If the line's first stop is this box, I will run new 10-2 from the main to the new sub panel.

If the line does not start here, I will run a ground wire to the main panel and use the existing 10g wire and at least ground the circuit up to this point.

This will leave about 10 plugs/lights on each of the 15 amp breakers in the new panel.

Plus the furnace which is 1/2hp, until I can relocate that demand.
The furnace has yet to be used and more than likely won't for about another month.

Have I missed anything?
 

Last edited by Kiton; 10-21-13 at 08:04 PM.
  #15  
Old 10-27-13, 03:48 PM
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I installed the new load center today, all went well and next week I will change out the 10g that runs from the main entry panel to the sub panel or load center.

One hitch however, the wire that leads out to the front section of the home is too short to allow me to place the sheathing in the wire clamp. There is no slack in the line what so ever.

What is the best and safest way to remedy this?
Is it acceptable to install a small length of sheathing along the lines of the attached pic?

Thank you,


CasualJoe,

Thank you for setting me on the right path with the breakers, I would have picked up Square D thinking they were all standardized on new boxes. You saved me frustration and a return to trip to the store.
 

Last edited by Kiton; 10-27-13 at 06:18 PM.
  #16  
Old 10-27-13, 07:10 PM
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You need to either raise the panel or install an accessible junction box in the line feeding it. The sheathing must be within the clamp on the connector. I'd just raise the panel and patch the wall afterward accordingly.
 
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