Questions for the pro's and homeowners

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Old 11-09-13, 10:33 PM
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Questions for the pro's and homeowners

Hi!

I'm new to the forums. I have a few questions. My parents bought a house 5 yrs ago. The inspectors came, and it was all dandy. House was bought and we were all happy. I am an architecture student and upon doing my internship, i came back to see what my parents wanted to do with their basement. I designed something pretty livable and when i went to check the conditions of everything, I found that 3prong outlets were everywhere. So, I thought the house was fine. Upon checking everything, I opened up this old service panel which is a split-bus and I found some wires old NM wires, both the clothed versions NM with no ground and some newer NM with ground(No NM-B romex).
And What I was looking at is pretty much a mess. Upon tracing the wires, I asked my father if he had done anything to the house and he said no. We found out that the three-prong outlets were installed incorrectly(I don't know how it passed inspection) and the landscape lighting breaker was pulled leaving wires exposed within the service panel.

My question is, How much would it cost to replace it? Am i really fine with this setup? Should i leave it untouched? I want recessed lights but theyre 90C and I need new romex for that which is not what i'll find here. All lighting in the basement is with the old wiring. Can I just fish wires throughout the first floor(I only need for the living room and dining on the first floor) and Install new romex for the basement?

Am I looking at a hacked job that somehow passed inspection or is this a fine looking wiring job? Here is the service panel:

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  #2  
Old 11-10-13, 12:16 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

Yes....how did it pass inspection without grounds on a three prong receptacle.

The two wire NM cable is ok to have in use but there can't be grounded receptacles installed where there is no ground.

You will have to physically check to see if there is a true ground present or if they tied the ground to the neutral. If they did indeed connect the ground slot to the neutral.... a plug in voltage tester would show the receptacle as properly wired but of course in reality it isn't.

If it were my house I would aim to remove the two wire cable and replace it with grounded cable. You can use a GFI receptacle to obtain a protected receptacle where no ground exists.

As far as the panel.... it's not a disaster but there are too many cables in a small panel and there are ground wires and neutral wires in the same screw on the neutral bar. Two grounds may share one screw but neutrals must be connected one to a screw. There again, if it were my house I would update at least the panel and possibly the entire service based on the condition of the outside service cable.
 
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Old 11-10-13, 12:16 AM
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3 prong outlets are allowed on 2 wire circuits only if the circuit is GFCI protected. Each outlet should be labeled, GFCI protected, no ground.

The panel looks mostly ok, with two questionable practices.

I don't believe it's ever ok to put a ground and neutral wire under one screw. The panel's label will tell you if screws are listed for more than one wire. The label should specify how many wires of what size and type are ok for each screw.

The label will also tell you if those tandem breakers are ok by specifying spaces and circuits. If the label says "16 spaces, 16 circuits" then you're already over capacity. From the picture I see 19 circuits.

The new circuits will probably need to be AFCI protected. Report back on the issues above and I'll have a better idea how to handle the AFCIs.
 
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Old 11-10-13, 07:47 AM
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The inspectors came, and it was all dandy.

Independent home inspectors, I am sure. Home inspection companies ARE NOT known for their electrical expertise and knowledge of codes, but I am sure you are aware of that by now.

Am I looking at a hacked job that somehow passed inspection or is this a fine looking wiring job?
Not sure I'd call it a hack job, but it is a mess. The panel has also had water in it too, look at all the rust in the bottom of the box. There is probably water entering through the service cable. An inspection of the outside service cable and/or meter socket is needed badly. The water damage is not just what you can see, the busbars and internals of the breakers can be assured of having corrosion too. What brand panel is it? Like Glenn stated, the panel may not be rated for tandem breakers.

I also think I now see 2 single pole breakers (to right of lighting subfeed breaker) used for a 240 volt circuit.
 
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Old 11-10-13, 08:41 AM
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What exactly is your goal? Do want to rewire the entire house? The first floor wouldn't be too hard because you have access from the basement. You can run the wires down there and then pop them up into the wall for each receptacle. If there is a second floor, you will have to put some holes in the drywall to rewire your lighting. You can also get to the second floor receptacles from the attic if you have one. Find a location where you can get the circuits up to the attic and drop down into the walls from above.

How many amps is your main service. It may be worthwhile to upgrade that anyway. A new panel and service upgrade may run around $2k.
 
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Old 11-10-13, 08:43 PM
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Thank You for the responses.
I see what you guys are saying about the rusting issues. I want to upgrade the system to a more modern panel of course. Getting the house rewired wil be difficult but I am sure i can accomplish that myself. Also, I found the 2nd floor outlets to be ungrounded yet it had been changed to 3-prong outlets.

Instead of answering questions through long sentences, I will just post pictures.

PS. Structure was already there
 
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Old 11-10-13, 08:56 PM
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That service looks pretty old. I like the wooden mast for the service. You don't see too many like that. The top of the meter pan is where the water enters due to cracked, old, missing putty.

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Old 11-10-13, 09:27 PM
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Ahhh thank you!
I suppose i can do that myself.
I'll just get some quotes on the new panel. I called one saturday and he got back to me today and said around 5000 for a new panel + extras which i thought was pretty expensive.
 
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Old 11-10-13, 09:45 PM
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Am I looking at a hacked job that somehow passed inspection or is this a fine looking wiring job?
Nrither. It's an old installation that has served its useful life. Split bus panels were the Hot New Technology when they were introduced -- or, at least, the Hot New Cost-Saver. Not anymore. Residential systems have evolved since then.

I would replace the service drop, mast, meter base and panel. I would also rewire the house before installing a hard ceiling in the basement. In fact, I wouldn't install a hard ceiling in the basement - I'd install a drop ceiling, so the cables and pipes above it would remain accessible. Use the bottom-up/top-down method Droo recommended to get the new cables to the locations where you need them. One tip: Dtoo said
If there is a second floor, you will have to put some holes in the drywall to rewire your lighting,.
but that's only true if you need or want to run cable with a grounding conductor to ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures, and then only for those rooms with no overhead access. In those rooms, if you want to stop with the new cables at the switch boxes, there's no need to make those holes.

You should do a residential load calculation to determine the size of the service you need, including existing, planned and "what-if" loads. (Look online for free templates for that.) With a new panel and new wiring, you can add all the required kitchen circuits, GFCI protested receptacles and AFCI protected circuits. The existing panel doesn't have enough room to allow all of that. You can have a grounding conductor everywhere for protection of equipment, structure and people - your parents. You can make sure there's a grounded (neutral) conductor in every switch box to allow the installation of those energy-saving controls that require a complete circuit.

It will be a valuable investment in comfort, safety and convenience. Your parents might be able to get their insurance premiums adjusted,
 
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Old 11-10-13, 09:50 PM
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I suppose i can do that myself.
You should be able to do all of the inside work yourself.
I'll just get some quotes on the new panel. I called one saturday and he got back to me today and said around 5000 for a new panel + extras which i thought was pretty expensive.
Hmmmm... yes. What "extras"?
 
  #11  
Old 11-10-13, 10:18 PM
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Thank You for the responses.
Half the house has NM 14-2 grounded romex. Half the house does not. Kitchen/bathroom/office room and addition all have grounded romex which is okay.
I was thinking of wood panels for the roof and change the current fixtures. Pipes shown are for the radiator heating system coming from the oil furnace. I will have everything that is important have an access panel and labeled(1 junction box, 4 valves for hot and cold water). Of course, I'll have to do banding to drop the ceiling by 1 3/4"(using 2x4's i found in the garage). I should have a 7'1" clearance from finished floor to finished ceiling so I'm within code.

And those extras he said for new breakers, a new grounding rod and new wiring for the furnace(But the furnace was installed 5yrs ago so the wiring is good and properly grounded). What's weird is that he has never stepped into the house yet he was well-recommended by the neighbor. I still think that's way too high.
 
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Old 11-11-13, 01:12 AM
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...I'll just get some quotes on the new panel. I called one saturday and he got back to me today and said around 5000 for a new panel + extras which i thought was pretty expensive.
You need to compare apples to apples. Either delineate exactly what you want changed or get itemized quotes with lists of materials and wire sizes. A big factor is whether the breakers will be standard or AFCI.

The panel should be large enough so that each breaker is full size. Tandems, half heights or quads in a new panel is a very poor design.

Unlike Nashkat1 I don't see anything inherently wrong with the service drop, mast or meter base. Though conditions of rot or deterioration would easily change my mind.

Here are some calculators for kicks and giggles. To the inexperienced they're only good for approximations.

Residential Load Calculators

Optional Method
Service and Panel Size Calculator

Standard Method
http://www.nojolt.com/load_calculations.shtml

Standard and Optional Methods
Residential Load Calculations - Mike Holt Enterprises

The third one, from Mike Holt, is the most up to date, complete and respected, but the hardest to use.
 
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Old 11-11-13, 01:41 AM
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Half the house has NM 14-2 grounded romex. Half the house does not. Kitchen/bathroom/office room and addition all have grounded romex which is okay.
Receptacles in kitchens and bathrooms are required to be dedicated GFCI-protected 20A circuits by current NEC requirements, and 20 A is a best practice provision for other receptacle circuits as well - especially in a home office. A 20A circuit requires 12 AWG conductors, so a nonmetallic cable for that circuit is 12/G Type NM (Romex® is a registered trademark of the Southwire Company). 14 AWG conductors are only rated for 15A.
I was thinking of wood panels for the roof and change the current fixtures.
The ceiling? One of our mods has pictures of this awesome wood-panel drop ceiling he built for a client. Maybe he'll stop by and post them.
Pipes shown are for the radiator heating system coming from the oil furnace.
If those pipes are well-insulated with long-lasting insulation, great. Otherwise I would prefer to have more heat-tolerant materials such as acoustic or metal tiles next to them.
I will have everything that is important have an access panel and labeled(1 junction box, 4 valves for hot and cold water). Of course, I'll have to do banding to drop the ceiling by 1 3/4"(using 2x4's i found in the garage). I should have a 7'1" clearance from finished floor to finished ceiling so I'm within code.
Hey, look, If you're married to gypsum board for the ceiling I'm not trying to start a divorce. I will say, though, that if there's an easier way to install recessed lights than in a lay-in ceiling grid, I haven't seen it yet. Access panels? How are those going to look?

those extras he said for new breakers, a new grounding rod and new wiring for the furnace
New panels can be bought for about $100 with a few breakers already installed. Going to full compliance with current NEC requirements will add several AFCI breakers, and they're kinda pricey for many brands - maybe another $500 or so.

If the house has a properly made Grounding Electrode Conductor then it either already has one or two ground rods or doesn't need them. If those are needed but not present, they should be added ASAP.

(But the furnace was installed 5yrs ago so the wiring is good and properly grounded).
How do you know? The wiring for the furnace may include a grounding conductor. That doesn't mean it's bonded to ground.
 
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Old 11-11-13, 07:13 AM
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I'll just get some quotes on the new panel. I called one saturday and he got back to me today and said around 5000 for a new panel + extras which i thought was pretty expensive.
Sounds terribly high to me, but if I were going to throw numbers over the phone I'd also throw a high one. I think you should ask that electrician to come by during his normal working hours and give you an exact quote and give you detail on exactly what he is including and how he will complete the job. There should be NO EXTRAS unless some other problem should be discovered that isn't readily visible.......OR unless you request extra work.

I agree with Nashkat, I'd replace the panel, mast, meter socket and all service entrance wiring. Considering the rust in the panel, I can just imagine the condition inside the old meter socket. By the way, the existing panel is maxxed out, no available circuits left and it was OK to use tandems in the lighting section of the old split bus panel. You should have no less than 30 spaces in a new panel.

Don't worry about the service drop, that is the power company's responsibility. The electrician will coordinate with the power company and AHJ for reconnection anyway, that's his job.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 08:47 AM
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Ahh thank you for the replies.
I have a leak in the roof i discovered but thats another matter hence why i confused that with the ceiling haha
As for the wiring, i discovered that half the wires are white NM romex with ground. Upon checking the rest, they are NM 14/2 wires with ground and metallic sheating. And i cant seem to find the grounding rod anywhere.
The whole house had 55w incandescent bulbs on first and second floor.
The basement has
3 porcelain light fixtures and pullchain with 100w incandescent bulbs
4 square recessed lights with 55w bulbs
2 flourescent light fixtures.
Incandescent bulbs gave me 520watts running from a single feed at 15amps and 14/2.

I swapped all bulbs with 14w cfl which would give me 98 watts total
I was thinking of adding 3 recessed light fixtures for the small office, 2 accent recessed fixtures and 7 recessed fixtures for an open area.
Leave pull chain fixture for mechanical(boiler + storage) and pullchain for laundry room.

3x Recessed lights with 7watt led R lights = 7x3 = 21w
2x Recessed accent lights with 5watt led = 2x5 = 10w
7x Recessed lights with 7watt led R lights = 7x7 = 49w
2x pullchain fixtures with 14watt cfl = 2x14 = 28w

Total for basement = 108w

There are 4 electrical outlets running on a different circuit.
I think ill be fine if im calculating actual wattage as opposed to what the maximum allowable wattage per recessed fixture at 70w each. Afterall, there will be NO cfl or incandescent bulbs.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:06 AM
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Circuits for lighting are calculated based on the largest bulb that can be installed, not what is installed.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:12 AM
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And i cant seem to find the grounding rod anywhere.
A ground rod probably wasn't required back then. Have you gotten some actual estimates on replacing the service?
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:16 AM
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Quote was 2100 for everything minus rewiring.
And that was my 5th quote. The lowest i got was 800 but that sounded too good to be true. The ballpark was 2000-2400.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:23 AM
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Well, i have 10 cans at 70w, 2 at 50w and 2 pull chains at i dont know how many

12 cans pulling 800w max(according to their specs)

What is my safe leverage on a 15amp circuit using 14/2? The longest distance from panel to light fixture is about 20ft
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:35 AM
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To figure out the wattage available you multiply the voltage (120) x the number of amps. This will only work for lighting circuits since receptacle loads can vary so much. The circuit could be fine until you plug in a 12 amp vacuum and then it trips.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 09:43 AM
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If it helps, my father was using a 15amp table saw plus radio plus incandescent bulbs with no problems at all.
I see i have an allowable of 1800w but maxing that out is a no-no(common sense i guess). My safety net would be 15%-20% then my allowable wattage would be 1440-1530w
 
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Old 11-19-13, 05:11 PM
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$800 sounds ridiculous. Around $2k sounds about right. I had my service upgraded to a 200 amp panel a few years ago. I think I paid around $1600 for it and I believe that to be a good price. That included a Square D panel, copper service drop, meter pan, and new mast. We reused the breakers.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 06:25 PM
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The lowest i got was 800 but that sounded too good to be true.
I paid that much for just a new mast and meter socket, all wired in and switched over, 30 years ago. I already had the new panel mounted and ready to energize.

That quote sounds too low.

i cant seem to find the grounding rod anywhere.
Look at the neutral/ground bar inside your panel. Follow any large (#6 or #4) copper conductors terminated to it. One might go to your cold water inlet pipe, also.

and 2 pull chains at i dont know how many
What do you mean by a "pull chain"? An unenclosed porcelain fixture? If so, I'd figure those at 250W each if I didn't see a sticker.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 06:38 PM
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I forgot to mention two new ground rods as well were included.
 
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Old 11-19-13, 06:50 PM
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I forgot to mention two new ground rods as well were included.
And I forgot to mention that I'd already installed the ground rod and two conductors - one to it and one to my metal cold water supply pipe - terminated to the ground/neutral bar. Still $800 for the replacement mast, socket and wiring, permit and materials included. I thought it was a good deal at the time, and I still do.
 
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