Wiring inside a panel

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Old 06-14-14, 06:53 PM
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Wiring inside a panel

Every time I looked inside a panel I have always seen the hot wires do long loops from the entry point to almost the edge of the box and back to the breaker. Whenever I had to bring a new wire into a panel, I would do the same figuring the electrician knew best. Most of the time, the commons and the grounds don't do the loop thing. I've been looking at pictures of panel wiring and most of them have clean wiring with no loops for the hot wire, just the wire following the outside wall of the box and bending in front of the breaker feeding it and... into the breaker -- you can clearly see which cable is connected to which breaker.

Right now I'm trying to figure out which wire goes to which breaker in my panel and it's a mess. Is it (was it) considered good practice to do the loop thing? I read somewhere that it was to allow changing the position of the breaker. How often and in what situation do you need to change a breaker from one position to another? Wouldn't it be better to leave some slack in the cable outside the panel box (still supporting the cable within 12" of the box) so that if you do need to stretch the hot wire you can do so by pulling in more cable from outside the box?

I also have this big 4-2 cable coming in at the bottom of the box. Both hot wires do the loop -- a lot of tight bending there. Wouldn't it be better for the wires to go directly from the cable's entry point to the nearest breaker?

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Old 06-14-14, 07:03 PM
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Some sixty plus years ago it was considered good form to allow enough wire inside the panel to reach any fuse, that thinking has not been common for at least twenty, and more likely, thirty years. Way back then there was more room and less circuits in a panel and to use the old method would make an incredibly messy and overfilled panel. Plus, there is absolutely no reason for it.
 
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Old 06-14-14, 09:20 PM
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Thank you Furd.

I think I'm going to do a little clean-up. This 200A panel was installed just before I purchased my house in 1996. From the number of original wires (14-2 with no ground), I wouldn't be surprised if the original panel was less than 100A (House built in 1957). All the wires (some new wires were run at the time the panel was upgraded) are doing the loop thing and so is that 4-2 that was also run just before I bought the house. Obviously, some electricians were still doing it 18 years ago. From your comments, I take it that it would not be a bad thing to do away with the loop in the 4-2 wire also.
 
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Old 06-15-14, 12:48 AM
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Old habits die hard. There are many tradespeople that do things as they were taught and they and their teachers may have never thought about why they do things the way they do. The looping of excess wire in a panel is one of these. Ask any old time (or modern) electrician how often he or she has gone to an existing panel and re-arranged the circuits and 99% of the time the answer is never. Pretty much the only time moving circuits is necessary is to free up two adjacent CB slots to allow for the installation of a sub-panel.

You can leave the extra wiring in your panel or you can cut it out and re-terminate, your choice. The extra wire does not really hurt anything but it IS messy and does make it more difficult to add new circuits or trace existing circuits.
 
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Old 06-15-14, 06:31 AM
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It's personal opinion of course, but I tend to like keeping wires a bit longer. Meaning, if the wire comes in the top of the box and goes to position 1, I'll add a bit of a service loop. But if it comes in the top and terminates towards the bottom of the box, I'll keep it going straight there.

Not really planning on moving circuits around, just more for planning for the future of whatever is coming next. After having replaced a few old fuse boxes with zero slack on anything, I figure a few extra inches is worthwhile while keeping the box looking neat.
 
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