Adding outlets to a 60 amp breaker circuit

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  #1  
Old 04-05-14, 08:07 AM
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Adding outlets to a 60 amp breaker circuit

My unfinished basement has several lights, but virtually no outlets to plug anything in. I made an unplanned trip to Menard's yesterday after work to get some supplies to do the job. I called my wife while there and she indicated that one of the existing basement outlets had a perpendicular line coming off one of the receptacle holes, indicating it was most likely a 20A circuit, so I bought 12G wire. After getting home, I realized that a breaker listed as "basement lights" on the breaker board did not control anything in the basement. Another breaker listed as East Bedroom controlled the lights controlled them, as well as several outlets on the first floor. I've never done much more than add outlets or install ceiling fans, so this is where I get real confused. The basement lights all have 14G wire run to them and the breaker that controls them (east bedroom) is 60A (dual 30A). I didn't know you could use small gauge wire on a breaker that large. I have a generator that was likely installed after the house was built, which I think may have led to some rewiring. My question is: Can I use the 12G wire to branch off of a 14G wire outlet? Ideally, I'd like to be able to run two treadmills at the same time. Any insight is welcome. Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-05-14, 08:40 AM
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the breaker that controls them is 60A (dual 30A)
This is a two pole 30 amp breaker, not a 60. You do not add up the poles.

I didn't know you could use small gauge wire on a breaker that large.
You can't. This is very wrong and needs to be addressed right away! Maximum sized breaker for #14 is 15 amp. Are you sure there isn't another sub panel someplace? Or maybe this two pole 30 is feeding the generator panel and the basement circuit is fed off the generator panel?
 
  #3  
Old 04-05-14, 08:49 AM
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The basement lights all have 14G wire run to them and the breaker that controls them (east bedroom) is 60A (dual 30A).
That's a 2-pole 240V 30A breaker. It may have originally fed a dryer or a water heater.

I didn't know you could use small gauge wire on a breaker that large.
You can't. The conductors protected by a 30A breaker must be no smaller than #10AWG. In addition, 120V devices and fixtures can't be fed with a 240V circuit.

The 240V 30A breaker should feed a second panel that has single-pole breakers in it that supply and protect the 120V receptacle and lighting circuits in the basement. It may be in your utility room.

I have a generator that was likely installed after the house was built, which I think may have led to some rewiring.
Not sure how that would come into this issue.

My question is: Can I use the 12G wire to branch off of a 14G wire outlet? Ideally, I'd like to be able to run two treadmills at the same time.
Yes. It's always allowable to use conductors that are larger than the minimum required.

Since there is #14 wire there now, it's reasonable to assume that those are 15A circuits. Finding the breakers for them will clarify that.

Is a 15A circuit enough for your treadmills? How much power does each one draw? Are you planning to plug both of them into the same circuit? Usually receptacle circuits are 20A. 15A is more commonly used for lighting.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 09:31 AM
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I think the circuits got juggled when the generator was installed and the legend was never updated.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 09:34 AM
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Hm. Yes, that makes sense. Still, the OP says that 30A 2-pole turns off the power to the circuits he wants to work on.
 
  #6  
Old 04-05-14, 09:47 AM
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It may actually be 2 60A coupled breakers. Like I said, I'm not knowledgeable past installing basic outlets. I figured that the wiring was messed with because I saw two 15A breakers sitting on top of the circuit box and they looked used. There is a breaker panel on the generator box, but the breaker listed as "basement" doesn't do anything when i switch it. Anyway, I thought that pictures would be much more helpful:



 
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Old 04-05-14, 09:49 AM
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The 60 is probably feeding utility power to the transfer panel. Look for your basement circuits in the generator panel.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 10:07 AM
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BTW - That Square D Homeline breaker should not be in your GE panel.
 
  #9  
Old 04-05-14, 10:14 AM
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Okay, I found the 15A breaker on the generator panel for the basement lights, it's just mislabeled. I guess I have to better understand how the generator works. There are several things that look like they can be shut off directly at the main box and at the generator. I don't understand why the smaller circuits had to be combined to a single large breaker on the main panel and then separated at the generator. Last question: Should I run a new 20A circuit from the breaker box or just branch the 15A? One treadmill pulls 12A, so I assume I couldn't run two with the 20A anyway. I would like to have the TV and some lights running on the same circuit, at the same time, though.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 10:34 AM
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The transfer panel needs power from the utility to power the circuits in that box. The circuits in the Carrier panel are also available when the power is out if the generator is running. What has happened is the circuits were just effectively moved from one panel to the other. You may find the original breakers in the service panel are now empty.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 10:38 AM
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The 60 amp is what feeds the generator panel. The smaller breakers are the branch circuits that are split up in the generator panel.

I would suggest running a 14/3 for two dedicated circuits for the treadmills. Then run a separate circuit for the TV's and lights.

I would suspect many of the breakers in your main panel might be unused as circuits have been moved to the generator panel. You can find that out by carefully removing the main panel cover.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 10:42 AM
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Echo Echo. I beat you to the same conclusion by 4 minutes. You need to step up your game. Grin.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 10:52 AM
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What runs through the cable between the Carrier panel and the larger panel?

If there are some 15 or 20 amp breakers in the main panel without a wire attached, then you may use them for additional circuits. Run your new #12 cable directly into the panel (through an approved clamp in one of the prepunched holes).

It is very common for a pair of higher amperage breakers say 30/30 or 60/60 in a "main" panel to serve a heavy, say #6 gauge, cable as a "combined" feed to a smaller panel (subpanel) where the power is split up among several smaller amperage breakers serving #12, #14, etc. size cables. This frees up breaker slots in the main panel for more circuits.

When a generator powers a smaller panel with some small amperage circuits, a single heavier cable running between the smaller panel and a "main" panel may serve one but not both of these functions:

1. Provide utility power from the main panel to the circuits in the smaller panel where there is a submaster switch (transfer switch) perhaps built into the small panel that does not allow both the main panel feed and the generator feed to energize the small panel at the same time. Without this cable functionality, small circuits in the small panel stay dead when the generator is turned off and utilty power is back on.

2. Provide generator power from the subpanel to the main panel, there being a mechanical or physical interlock on the main panel that does not allow both the top main breaker and the breaker that serves that subpanel to be flipped on at the same time. Without this cable functionality, circuits not represented in the small panel are not eligible to receive generator power.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-05-14 at 11:46 AM.
  #14  
Old 04-05-14, 10:53 AM
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So, is it safe to say that all breakers on the generator panel are powered by the 60A on the main panel or are some of the larger circuits powered by their equivalent main board circuits? For example, the AC main panel breaker powers the AC gen panel breaker. Picture of gen panel breakers below. Tolyn - So you're suggesting two 15A dedicated circuits for the treadmills?

 
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Old 04-05-14, 11:06 AM
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So, is it safe to say that all breakers on the generator panel are powered by the 60A on the main panel
Correct, or from the generator during a power loss. The generator is basically a sub panel.

Tolyn - So you're suggesting two 15A dedicated circuits for the treadmills?
Yes. Your treadmills are 12 amps each so 2 15A dedicated circuits will work fine. I suggested running 14/3 because you can run just one cable for the two circuits. You just need to put the two hots (black and red) on a two pole 15A breaker and they will share the neutral. You can also pull two 14/2's if you want and use two single pole 15A breakers if you want.

The other items (lights, TV, etc) should be on another circuit.

I beat you to the same conclusion by 4 minutes. You need to step up your game. Grin.
 
  #16  
Old 04-05-14, 11:06 AM
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"AC" in the above picture suggests to me "air conditioner." More correctly the two breakers for a 240 volt air conditioner should have their handles tied to each other which means the breakers in the panel have to have their handles side by side (and also you still have 240 volts between them lacking which the breakers have to stay where they are).

The second row of breakers, 30 amps each, may not serve ordinary lights and receptacles (here, on the first and second floors) without #10 or larger cables going out to yet another subpanel (sub-subpanel inf you insist) for each where there are 15 and/or 20 amp breakers for the individual subcircuits serving the lights and receptacles. Or you could replace those 30 amp breakers with 20 or 15 amp breakers depending on the cable sizes.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-05-14 at 11:22 AM.
  #17  
Old 04-05-14, 11:18 AM
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All the circuits in the emergency panel are fed from the 60A breaker in your main panel under normal conditions. The 20A 240V breaker at the top left is for your 2nd floor AC unit.

For some reason the existing basement circuits seem to be fed from that emergency panel. I would run new circuits from the main panel for the treadmills.
 
  #18  
Old 04-05-14, 07:02 PM
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I like!me the idea of the multi-wire branch circuit for the treadmills, but would use #12 and 20 amp breakers just to have some more headroom.
 
  #19  
Old 04-05-14, 07:03 PM
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I would actually use 20A circuits and use a 20A receptacle for the treadmills. Reason being, I have seen treadmills with 5-20 plugs multiple times. You may never need the extra capacity, but it will save you a headache later.
 
  #20  
Old 04-05-14, 09:56 PM
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Thanks for all the help. I ended up adding two 20A breakers, one for each treadmill. So far, so good. Thanks again.
 
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