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Whole House Rewire. Service Panel Upgrade, Exterior Conduit, and More!

Whole House Rewire. Service Panel Upgrade, Exterior Conduit, and More!

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  #1  
Old 07-06-14, 09:58 PM
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Whole House Rewire. Service Panel Upgrade, Exterior Conduit, and More!

Hey everyone. Thanks for being a part of this forum. I really appreciate all the input from here, so... of course, I have more questions.

I've tried searching the forum to find definitive answers on a few questions, but I've only come up with a few partials. I assumed that piggybacking on those old threads wasn't the best idea, so I'll cram a few together here.

Situation:
I'm currently doing a whole-house rewire of my 70yr old home. There are at least 4 generations of work here, and very little of it equates to modern necessity/code (limited service & almost no grounding). Admittedly, I've been over-engineering a bit, but eh... better than pinching pennies or not allowing for greater [future] capacity. I'm looking to sell my home in the next few years.

#1-
Sealed exterior conduit. Painted steel(cast iron?) w/ single receptacle circuit. Run is bsmt to 2nd fl. 15a breaker, #14 wire, no ground. Circuit intended for window ac unit that pulls about 11-12a. The pipe has exterior access plates, and one splice inside a jbox, as it enters the building. When the unit's compressor kicks on, the whole house dims, slightly.

Questions:
Is this conduit acceptable, or should I run pvc? Is BX necessary inside the exterior conduit? (bx is currently run from panel to jbox, but I haven't taken apart the piping yet.) I will be replacing with a homerun #12, but I'm not sure romex is acceptable in exterior conduit. Is there a potentially larger problem with the dimming? Or is this likely just due to poor wiring? --Still dims with minimal load on service.

100a Service, which leads me to my next question....

#2-
Panel is a mess. (I'm sorting it out, slowly.)
Should I upgrade the service panel to 200a? I'll be re-running nearly every circuit, so I'm considering having someone replace the beaker box to handle the potential load & "make it more appealing". With only 2 of us, no elec range, heat/central air, etc, it's fine. I'm just focused on the appeal for the consumer, with the potential usage of *all* bedrooms, appliance upgrades, etc. I've been [unnecessarily] running all new #12, to this same end.

#3- Are arc-fault breakers now necessary for new construction? I've heard this is NEC now. --Really not interested in paying $40/breaker, if I don't have to....

#4- A few of the good runs/legs have a smaller gauge (#16?) ground wire. I've been told this is acceptable, although I don't know the limitations (or if it's true). I can save myself some fishing & frustration, if the smaller gauge ground is acceptable under NEC.

Thanks again for reading. I know this is a long list of dumb **** here. I really appreciate all input/ideas/reference.
 
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  #2  
Old 07-06-14, 10:56 PM
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The fact that it's BX connected to a metal junction box and then run up the side of the house in metal conduit.... that circuit would be considered grounded. It sounds like it's close to the edge of a 15A circuit breakers limit but it should be ok. Since that A/C is on its own breaker it sounds like the lights are dimming from maybe a long service drop from your house to the utility.

I have a 100A service and don't see the need to upgrade to 200A. All my appliances are natural gas except for the A/C so I don't have any major loads.

If it's a big house you may consider the upgrade but I don't see the need for it.

Arc fault breakers are required for NEW construction. They are optional if you are rewiring an existing structure. That may change in the current code cycle.

That is the old style cloth covered NM (romex) type cable. That smaller ground wire is acceptable. My house was built in 1958 and I have it too.
 
  #3  
Old 07-06-14, 11:45 PM
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PJmax: First...Thank you. You've quickly become one of my favorite people here. You make me feel like less of a bumbling idiot, except for when I *should* feel that way. --I've read a good bit of your work already.

I never even considered the everythingismetal ground. DUH. Since I have the wire/time/ability, I intend to homerun new 12/2 romex through the pipe anyway. I'm assuming I'll just have to ground the exterior pipe, with the new run. That should be code, right?

It's not a big house, nor should it be a very distant service drop. --It's suburban (New Jersey), closer to the urban.-- I have no concept of how provider service works, so I'm not even going to guess. If we're talking about distance to a transformer, I'd have to walk it out. You could be right.

Assuming the service drop isn't long/problem, is there any other simple answer to why it dims the house? I've heard a brief & rapid buzz coming form the breaker box, when the compressor kicks on. There's no way I'm pulling 100a, so I'm guessing this is the circuit breaker *almost* tripping. I'll replace/upgrade the breaker to 20a anyway, then listen again. Silence is Freon, in this instance. ;-)

I can't describe how thrilled I am about my stupidity over the term "new construction". I just assumed that meant "new replacements". I'm quite happy to be dumb today. Hopefully this code cycle doesn't take that away.

I do have a similar situation as you. Natural gas & steam boiler, oil heat. I'm just out-thinking myself. Thanks again for your insight & help. I'm really starting to love this stuff.
 
  #4  
Old 07-07-14, 05:21 AM
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Questions:
Is this conduit acceptable, or should I run pvc? Is BX necessary inside the exterior conduit? (bx is currently run from panel to jbox, but I haven't taken apart the piping yet.) I will be replacing with a homerun #12, but I'm not sure romex is acceptable in exterior conduit. Is there a potentially larger problem with the dimming? Or is this likely just due to poor wiring? --Still dims with minimal load on service.
Contact your local jurisdiction to see what they allow for outside conduit. Theres a chance PVC would not be allowed. You don't need to run bx or romex inside conduit... you'll want to use THWN with your new raceway whether its Rigid or PVC.

There are many factors that could contribute to dimming so its impossible really to get an answer on an internet forum without troubleshooting. However, keep in mind with the inrush current of that compressor slight dimming is very normal and should be expected. Upon startup, that compressor draws many times its normal amperage .



Should I upgrade the service panel to 200a? I'll be re-running nearly every circuit, so I'm considering having someone replace the beaker box to handle the potential load & "make it more appealing".
Its my opinion, notice I say opinion... that I would not go to the expense and trouble of a 'heavy-up' if your intentions are to move soon. Some jurisdictions will expect the branch circuits to come up to modern code in some respects with an service upgrade. I don't think what you will gain in resale from an amature rewire will be worth the expense and effort if your a short timer at that property.

On the other hand, if 100A service doesn't safely provide you power with your current demands you may have no choice.

#3- Are arc-fault breakers now necessary for new construction? I've heard this is NEC now. --Really not interested in paying $40/breaker, if I don't have to....
If your opening up walls and upgrading the service etc it might be very likely your AHJ will want AFCI's.... 40 dollar breaker is the least of your worries though with the project your proposing. Contact your local jurisdiction and ask him what the local requirement is for AFCI and your proposed project.


#4- A few of the good runs/legs have a smaller gauge (#16?) ground wire. I've been told this is acceptable, although I don't know the limitations (or if it's true). I can save myself some fishing & frustration, if the smaller gauge ground is acceptable under NEC.

No that's not acceptable.

You are proposing a whole house rewire but want to save yourself the expense of "fishing and frustration"?.... You should have plenty of both on your plate if your rewiring a 70 year old house.

Sounds like you have a major project to consider. You'll need more help than just a "do it yerselfer" internet forum though. Just my opinion, I wish you luck brother.
 
  #5  
Old 07-07-14, 07:44 AM
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Since I have the wire/time/ability, I intend to homerun new 12/2 romex through the pipe anyway. I'm assuming I'll just have to ground the exterior pipe, with the new run. That should be code, right?
Best practice is to not run NM-B cable (aka romex) in conduit inside the house although the NEC does not prohibit it. Outside the house, NM-B cable cannot be used even in conduit as outside conduit is considered a wet area. Use THHN/THWN individual conductors instead.

I assume you are getting permits and will be calling for inspections. I'd suggest discussing your plans with your local building office (AHJ) before purchasing materials and getting started. Find out what code cycle they are on and ask if they have adopted any amendments to the NEC.
 
  #6  
Old 07-07-14, 10:57 AM
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Awesome, guys. Thanks again.

I'm already well into the project, but I haven't had local AHJ survey it. I haven't attacked anything out of my league or unfamiliar yet. (Being extra cautious & certain I understand first.) What I have done is remove & replace lots of existing bad wire [some hackwork], which has led me to address other circuits [ungrounded, damaged, etc].

I did not obtain permits, as this project initially began with a do-it-yourself bathroom remodel. Since I have additional access points, I figured it was time to tackle the electric. I knew what I was in for, and the cost to hire professionals was going to be too much at once. My assumption was that I could call the inspector upon completion, and if everything is done properly, all is well. I realize that's not best practice, but it's what I've got.

Also, I had to address several immediate problems on old circuits, which effectively nullified those "grandfathered" lines. This is what has led to the whole house being done. It will give me peace of mind, and I figure it's a good selling point.

So, I'm a little concerned with contacting any AHJ right now, since there are still major problems (former/existing) and I'm only about half way through the work. Is it possible I'm looking at fines? Could I get my service shut down until it's all repaired? No use crying about it, if that's the case. I'd prefer to finish the work first, but if it comes to it, I'll bite the bullet. I know I've already put my insurance in jeopardy, but it was more hazardous to not address it right away. I'm confident in all the work I've done so far at least.

bigboypete: I was just being lazy about the #16 ground legs. Trying to avoid cutting holes in that wall to fish/secure. I've done plenty of tough work already, so a little more won't hurt. Just looking for late-nite excuses, I suppose.

Joe/Pete: This THHN/THWN does seem a little out of my league. It's possible I'll have a pro run this line.

I know my limitations, so ultimately I'll have a pro come inspect all my work. I just wanted to get enough done, so it was worth the visit. Doing all this alone has been quite a trying experience.

Don't hesitate to tell me I'm a dumba**. I could use the motivation.
 
  #7  
Old 07-07-14, 11:59 AM
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If this work isn't permitted and inspected, I would not be using your project as a 'selling point'. It will bite you in the ass.
 
  #8  
Old 07-07-14, 12:53 PM
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My assumption was that I could call the inspector upon completion, and if everything is done properly, all is well.
I don't think so. You could be in for a fine for not having taken out a permit and gotten progress inspections. Worse case I have ever heard of would require ripping out the unpermitted work and replacing it with the use of a licensed contractor who will take out the necessary permit. Don't get youorself in a situation like that, contact the AHJ now about your project and see if you are even allowed to do the work yourself under a homeowner's permit. Some municipalities allow this and some don't.
 
  #9  
Old 07-07-14, 10:18 PM
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I'm an over-zealous idiot. That's quite clear to me now. I come from a long line of home remodel idiots, so I assumed my ability would outweigh the negative effects. Knowing how to do the work & being allowed to use that knowledge are clearly different things. Fortunately, I can respect this.

I'm certain my current work is up to code, so I called the AHJ to find out what trouble I'm in. I was told to just come apply for the permit & all should be fine. I'll be doing that tomorrow.

As a precaution, I'll be disconnecting all work that I've done from the panel, prior to survey. My township isn't cheap on inspection/permit costs, but I had this coming either way. At least I might be able to speak intelligently to the inspector when they arrive (some thanks go to you guys there).

My biggest concern isn't even the electric at this point. I had to sister in joists for the bathroom remodel. I'm 99% on those, but my stress level is equatable.

I'll keep the thread updated on my stupidity, as it might be some time til I can advance the work now.
 
  #10  
Old 07-09-14, 05:23 PM
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Arc fault breakers are required for NEW construction. They are optional if you are rewiring an existing structure. That may change in the current code cycle.
Wouldn't replacing an entire circuit require the installation of the AFCI?

I'm renovating my house. Stripped it back to the studs and ran ran new circuits to replace the old wiring. They are requiring me to have the AFCI. That's from 2 different inspectors.
 
  #11  
Old 07-09-14, 05:32 PM
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Wouldn't replacing an entire circuit require the installation of the AFCI?
I think that would be a question for the AHJ. They may let you slide if it was just one circuit, but on a complete rehab or full rewire, my opinion is they will go by the book of the adopted version of the NEC. It's always up to the AHJ in the end.
 
  #12  
Old 07-09-14, 05:56 PM
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If the cables are fished in they are not required to be stapled.
 
  #13  
Old 07-09-14, 07:29 PM
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I recently completely rewired a house with a new complete master suite addition done. The inspector did not request arc fault breakers except in the new master suite addition.

He did request ALL tamper proof devices throughout the house.
 
  #14  
Old 07-10-14, 07:21 AM
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I recently completely rewired a house with a new complete master suite addition done. The inspector did not request arc fault breakers except in the new master suite addition.

He did request ALL tamper proof devices throughout the house.
To me that makes no sense at all, but I am familiar with enough rural communities to know that the code is often cherry picked by the AHJ to require what they feel is important....OR....they have local amendments to the NEC. More often I have found that the inspectors don't really know the code well enough to enforce everything in it.
 
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