re-wire basement

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  #1  
Old 12-26-13, 06:39 AM
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re-wire basement

My mother has asked if I could possibly fix some of the electrical in the basement. At issue is;

Symptoms
Trying to turn on the radial arm saw trips the breaker before it can even do anything (saw used to work just fine, or at least work for a while before tripping).
The breaker is the same one for everything in the basement except for the freezer (and possibly the washer and dryer).

Breaker Box
There is no master kill switch and I did not see anything saying what the box's rating is. It appears to have two spots left for a new breaker.

Wiring
The breaker that gets tripped is a 15. I was able to see that the lights are connected by 14-2, the wiring going to outlets has no markings, but the outlets are 15 amp.

My initial thought was to put in a separate breaker for the outlets in the work room and make them 20 amp. But; 1) I do not feel comfortable working with an electrical box I cannot turn off, and 2) I think that might be ignoring the fact that the saw probably has an issue.

So, ignoring the saw for now; what can/should I do for wiring the basement? I still think it's a good idea to get those lights on a different circuit than the outlets so things don't go black when dealing with power tools.

Other question; can someone direct me where to look to try to fix the saw?

Thank you,
 
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  #2  
Old 12-26-13, 06:55 AM
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There is a good possiblility that you are just trying to do too much with the 15 amp circuit. Motor startup current is several times higher than run current and can trip breakers on overload.

Receptacles in an unfinished basement will require GFI protection.

I would install a new 20 amp circuit for the workroom. There is either a disconnect outside or the top 6 breakers will turn off the panel except for the incoming lugs.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 12-26-13 at 08:41 AM.
  #3  
Old 12-26-13, 07:04 AM
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Thank you, pcboss.

I honestly do not know if the basement is considered finished. Half is carpeted and has an office, other half is concrete and has the work room and washer/dryer. Mostly drywalled, ceiling is unfinished. But I digress. I see no reason to not use GFCI.

The breaker box is set up with several breakers in an upper level, then a thick red and a thick black wiring going down to another set of breakers. The two open spots are in the upper section. I saw no disconnect outside, except for pulling off the meter.

I should have taken photos.
 
  #4  
Old 12-26-13, 07:39 AM
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The breaker box is set up with several breakers in an upper level, then a thick red and a thick black wiring going down to another set of breakers.
Split bus breaker box.
The two open spots are in the upper section
That section is really intended for 240 breakers. Probably not a code violation to put one 120v breaker* there but I'd suggest using that space to add a 30 amp 240 breaker to a subpanel. It will give you more flexibility for future 120v needs.

Split bus panels are obsolete so you may want to plan on eventually replacing it.

*Two 120 volt breaker in the upper half might be a technical violation because of the six throw rule.
 
  #5  
Old 12-26-13, 08:05 AM
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Posternine,
Thank you for providing me with a search term.

I know my parents don't want to spend too much to get relatively unnecessary work done, but maybe that will add some more strength to my suggestion that they get a new panel. Then I can do the rest of the work (assuming an electrician is allowed to just walk in, change a panel, and leave).

Does upgrading a panel require that the rest of the house be brought up to code? Their house was built in the late 60's and I'm almost certain that their kitchen does not have the minimum nine receptacles per square foot that seems to be required these days.

Any idea on what it would cost to have an electrician come in to just put in a new panel?
 
  #6  
Old 12-26-13, 08:41 AM
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A panel change out does not require the rest of the house to be brought up to current code.

Cost estimates vary too much around the coiuntry to give any sort of reasonable estimate. The job conditions will dicate the prices also. Not every panel change is the same.

I would consider the part of the basement with the concrete floors to be unfinished.
 
  #7  
Old 12-26-13, 09:18 AM
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One of the (double wide) breakers in the top half of the panel is the submaster kill switch for all the breakers in the bottom half.

When you change out the entire panel, you will need to coordinate with the power company to pull the meter just before the electrician starts and put the meter back when the electrician is done.

If you just find and put in a 30 or 40 amp 240 volt double breaker in the remaining top half double position for now for starters then you probably do not need to cut power to the house or coordinate with the power company. Then you can work from there at your leisure.
 
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Old 12-26-13, 10:48 AM
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I think the first thing for you to do is to go to the public library and check out several DIY-type electrical books. Also, buy the book Wiring Simplified and read it cover to cover. Wiring Simplified is the best book for the beginner as it tells you the WHY behind the how. It is available from on-line booksellers as well as local hardware and home improvement centers and the cost is less than ten dollars. It has been in continuous print for more than fifty years and is revised every three years to coincide with the cycles of the National Electrical Code.

After reading you will have a better understanding of the system installed in your parent's house and will be able to ask the important questions. From what little information you have posted I think that a sub-panel and a couple of new circuits is the best way for you to go.
 
  #9  
Old 12-26-13, 01:20 PM
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I think the first thing for you to do is to go to the public library and check out several DIY-type electrical books. Also, buy the book Wiring Simplified and read it cover to cover.
I did so in the past. I agree, it is a great resource. But people like me need a lot of information from sites like this to fully understand the book. Or the book needs more pictures and diagrams.

Physically, there isn't any room for a sub panel without some major changes there.

From what I have since read of code, I even more want them to get a new panel. I don't think that six-throw is being followed at all.
 
  #10  
Old 12-26-13, 01:36 PM
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Physically, there isn't any room for a sub panel without some major changes there.
It doesn't have to be right there.
 
  #11  
Old 12-26-13, 04:01 PM
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The panel has six double-wide slots in the top half specifically to meet the six throw rule. Each breaker you insert in the top half just needs to have its two handles tied together or have just one handle sticking out that operates both poles (if you want to use all 6 slots).

Because there is no supra breaker (grand master breaker) upstream, the sum of the amperages of the six top breakers may not exceed the service amperage and the panel rating.

Generally, panels have their rating printed on a paper label. If this has fallen off long ago then you would need to search the Internet for information about the same or similar panels.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 12-26-13 at 04:20 PM.
  #12  
Old 12-27-13, 06:54 AM
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It doesn't have to be right there.
True. But given the layout of the basement, there is no other good spot to put it. Any place other than the work room would be illogical and putting it in the work room would involve redesigning the entire room.

The panel has six double-wide slots in the top half specifically to meet the six throw rule. Each breaker you insert in the top half just needs to have its two handles tied together or have just one handle sticking out that operates both poles (if you want to use all 6 slots).
Let's just assume that 1)there are already multiple single breakers in the upper section that are not tied together, 2)the lower section is full of single breakers, 3)they really need more breakers.
 
  #13  
Old 12-27-13, 07:13 AM
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Let's just assume that 1)there are already multiple single breakers in the upper section that are not tied together
That would be a code violation if it takes more then six throws to turn off all the breakers. The design to meet code was five throws (maximum) to turn off all 240 volt breakers and a sixth throw to turn off all the breakers in the lower half. That code requirement hasn't changed.
 
  #14  
Old 12-27-13, 07:29 AM
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That would be a code violation if it takes more then six throws to turn off all the breakers. The design to meet code was five throws (maximum) to turn off all 240 volt breakers and a sixth throw to turn off all the breakers in the lower half. That code requirement hasn't changed.
Yep. That's why I'm doing this intellectual experiment based purely on a hypothetical situation that is absolutely not occurring in any location that I know about in this country or any other.

But, assuming that the above listed situation has occurred (hypothetically, of course), what would be the best options to remedy it?
 
  #15  
Old 12-27-13, 08:12 AM
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But, assuming that the above listed situation has occurred (hypothetically, of course), what would be the best options to remedy it?
Change the service. Since you have a split bus panel, The entire service is probably at least 30 years old and could be closer to 50 years old. I'd replace it all, panel, meter socket, all service entrance wiring and bring grounding to today's code.
 
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