Voltage Drop In Mobile Home

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  #41  
Old 04-28-15, 08:44 PM
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I checked. He is in Alabama. Not sure why he wrote RCD.
 
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  #42  
Old 04-28-15, 09:09 PM
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He did say this was a mobile home. Yuks.
 
  #43  
Old 04-29-15, 02:25 AM
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RCD means residual current device I don't know what else to call it.
Anyway scratch what I said earlier about the RCD it was not the problem. I went back today switched on the power and the problem was back again.
I thought maybe I missed something when I connected the rest of the neutrals back up so I pulled them off again, switched on the power and it was fine in that one room I left still connected so I started putting the neutrals back on checking the voltages each time like I did before. When I got to the 3rd or 4th one and switched on the power the lights were flickering like crazy, I said damn and switched it off and back on the lights were stable but dim. The voltage measured 80v on one hot 150v on the other.
I pulled that neutral back off switched on the power and the voltage was still the same.
I said this is crazy it was fine before I put that last neutral back on. Now I took it off again and it is still messed up.
Then it dawned on me. The main breaker I had been using to switch the power on and off is faulty!! arrrgghhhhhh !! all that time !!
I switched it on and off a few times and sure enough the voltage went back to normal. I switched it on and off a few more times it went crazy again. So at least now I know what is causing the problem but damn what a PIA.

I noticed another set of wires connected to a double pole breaker, black to one pole, white to another pole, ground to the neutral bus, just like the one that I disconnected the other day. I can't believe that is correct wiring, an uninsulated ground wire being used as a neutral ?

Aside from that the joints in the three main wires under the home are lap jointed in clamps that look like large split bolts with a nut that tightens down on the wires. The joint looks much stronger than a regular butt splice and as they are lapped the conductivity looks like it would be as good as any other terminal connection but the insulation is just black vinyl tape wrapped around it all several times, I'm not sure that is good enough considering they are laying on the ground what do you all think ?
 
  #44  
Old 04-29-15, 05:29 AM
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the insulation is just black vinyl tape wrapped around it all several times, I'm not sure that is good enough considering they are laying on the ground what do you all think ?
I think Ray mentioned this before but, all splices should be in a box, not just laying on the ground free air.

In the US we call a RCD (residual-current device) a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter)
 
  #45  
Old 04-29-15, 06:50 AM
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The black and white on a two pole breaker is a 240 circuit. There is no neutral. The ground is fine.
 
  #46  
Old 04-29-15, 07:47 AM
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If the main breaker were faulty you could get voltages less than 120 on 120 volt circuits but you should not get voltages well above 120 on 120 volt circuits. You still have a neutral problem somewhere.

When you have a cable with just black, white, and bare connected up to two breakers as a 240 volt circuit, you may not connect the neutral slot of a 120/240 volt receptacle to the bare wire. That cable will not support appliances that use 120 volts as well as 240 volts. Yes, you would connect the ground slot of a 240 volt receptacle to the bare wire. However a 120/240 volt circuit pre-existing from many years ago and using the bare wire as neutral may continue to exist although not be extended or modified.
 
  #47  
Old 04-29-15, 09:51 AM
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Please explain the purpose of this feed lying on the ground under the trailer.
 
  #48  
Old 04-29-15, 12:21 PM
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Please explain the purpose of this feed lying on the ground under the trailer.
It is the two #4 gauge hots and the neutral that go from the panel at the power pole outside to the panel inside the trailer.

AllanJ
If the main breaker were faulty you could get voltages less than 120 on 120 volt circuits but you should not get voltages well above 120 on 120 volt circuits. You still have a neutral problem somewhere.
I guess so but I don't understand how it can be fine one minute then go bad the next when I am not changing or touching anything except switching power on and off at the main panel breaker.

pcboss
The black and white on a two pole breaker is a 240 circuit. There is no neutral. The ground is fine.
Can you explain this a bit more I do not understand how that works. I know the two insulated wires are carrying 120v each, how can the appliance operate without a neutral ? Surely the bare ground wire is not being used as a neutral ?
 
  #49  
Old 04-29-15, 01:12 PM
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A straight 240 circuit uses the opposite hot to return the current. Black flows to red and red flows to black. They are out of phase by 180 degrees.
 
  #50  
Old 04-29-15, 01:32 PM
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It is the two #4 gauge hots and the neutral that go from the panel at the power pole outside to the panel inside the trailer.
That is why I'm a bit frustrated because in all likelihood this is the cause of all you problems and strange readings but you ignored the question when in post #2 I asked:
How does power come to the mobile home? Do you have a breaker box on a pole that feeds a a breaker box in the MH? If so what is the breaker size at the pole that feeds the MH. What size and type of cable is used. Do any of the connections look corroded?
It needs to be replaced not fixed because nothing in the description indicates it is correct.

Even under obsolete code there were probably metallic pathways which required 4 wires, two hot, one neutral, one ground. You do not have that from what you have written.

Code for several decades has require the entire run to be in continuous conduit from one panel to the other or sutible cable be used properly secured to the underside of the MH.

Even the wire size is questionable depending on the breaker size.

Correctly connect the power pole to the trailer and that may clear all your problems. Certainly no testing till that is done is likely to serve any purpose.
 
  #51  
Old 04-29-15, 02:49 PM
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That is why I'm a bit frustrated because in all likelihood this is the cause of all you problems and strange readings but you ignored the question when in post #2 I asked:
How does power come to the mobile home? Do you have a breaker box on a pole that feeds a a breaker box in the MH? If so what is the breaker size at the pole that feeds the MH. What size and type of cable is used. Do any of the connections look corroded?
I'm sorry I thought I had replied to all those questions.
The power comes in at a power pole outside which has a panel attached to it with a 200amp breaker. There is no obvious corrosion inside that panel the wires from it to the mobile home look like #4 gauge.

ray2047
Even under obsolete code there were probably metallic pathways which required 4 wires, two hot, one neutral, one ground. You do not have that from what you have written.
Code for several decades has require the entire run to be in continuous conduit from one panel to the other or sutible cable be used properly secured to the underside of the MH.
Yes there are only 3 wires going between the power pole outside and the panel inside the trailer. There is no ground connecting the two, only two hots and the neutral.
The ground connection in the panel inside the trailer is connected to the steel frame under the trailer. The steel frame is connected by metal straps to tie down rods buried in the ground.
The wires are not in any kind of conduit they are laying on the ground but I could fix conduit to the underside of the trailer and put them in it.
The panel inside the trailer is 20 years old it has a label on it that says something about 4 wires I am going to read it again when I go back.
The panel on the power pole may be older. I did not notice a terminal in the one on the power pole without a wire connected but I will check it.
 
  #52  
Old 04-29-15, 03:22 PM
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I'm sorry I thought I had replied to all those questions.
The power comes in at a power pole outside which has a panel attached to it with a 200amp breaker. There is no obvious corrosion inside that panel the wires from it to the mobile home look like #4 gauge.
That is a major problem. #4 can't be on a 200amp breaker. It is only rated for 85 amps. Please post a picture of the breaker panel on the pole with the dead front removed.
I'm sorry I thought I had replied to all those questions.
And I'm sorry if I missed the reply.
 
  #53  
Old 04-30-15, 09:38 AM
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A straight 240 circuit uses the opposite hot to return the current. Black flows to red and red flows to black. They are out of phase by 180 degrees.
OK yeah that makes sense to me now, thanks.

ray2047
That is a major problem. #4 can't be on a 200amp breaker. It is only rated for 85 amps. Please post a picture of the breaker panel on the pole with the dead front removed.
I think when I said #4 gauge I used the wrong terminology I looked it up and I think what I meant was 4/0, I thought that meant 4 gauge. In other words it looks like the same size aluminum cable they sell in Lowes for service connections.... anyway I am going to try and swing by there this afternoon with a camera and take pictures of everything.
 
  #54  
Old 04-30-15, 07:12 PM
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Aluminum? That could have become severely corroded sitting in the dirt that might have gotten wet from time to time. Those solid U bolt connections could have degenerated into masses of aluminum oxide that would make for a very bad connection even though they look solid. If you jiggle those fat wires under the house do the lights flicker more or less or differently?
 
  #55  
Old 04-30-15, 10:43 PM
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Aluminum? That could have become severely corroded sitting in the dirt that might have gotten wet from time to time. Those solid U bolt connections could have degenerated into masses of aluminum oxide that would make for a very bad connection even though they look solid. If you jiggle those fat wires under the house do the lights flicker more or less or differently?
I did not notice anything change when I moved the wires beneath the trailer, I went by there today and I took a closer look at the panel on the inside to examine the main breaker because remember I said it appeared to be faulty? I disconnected the main feeds and took it off. There has been a problem with the breaker on one of the poles the contacts on that side of the breaker were very oxidized, the plastic on the breaker is discolored from heat on that side and the plastic on the panel where the main feed connection sits is a bit melted.
The lug that connects that side of the breaker to the panel was blackened and pitted from arcing where it connects into those two contacts in the breaker.
I sanded the contacts in the breaker to clean them and applied dielectric grease to them for now until I get a new one.
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Breaker Panel left side little bit melted where main wire connector sits just above the breaker.
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I applied dielectric grease to the contacts I also applied some to the wires before I put them back in.
Here is a picture of the entire panel.
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Here is a picture of the outside panel on the power pole. I'm not sure what all is connected to that 20 amp breaker one set of wires goes to an outlet below the panel I don't know about the others.
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Here is a picture of the wires under the trailer you can see the connection on one of them I pulled the vinyl tape off.
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So what do you think ? Nice job huh ...lol
 

Last edited by ScareCrow2000; 04-30-15 at 11:34 PM.
  #56  
Old 04-30-15, 10:50 PM
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This is absolutely incorrect. Is that connection corroded or does it just look like it ?

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What concerns me even more is the complete lack of ground at the main panel or the sub panel and in between.
 
  #57  
Old 05-01-15, 05:47 AM
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"So what do you think ? Nice job huh ...lol "

Did you just take that connection apart and clean it and redo it so it is at least clean on the inside even though it still looks dirty on the outside?

Do not work on connections for which there is no switch or breaker upstream. You need to turn off the power and verify using a voltmeter that you have zero volts between every combination of terminals or connections taken two at a time.

Are those fat wires buried further on for part of their runs?

While you are at it you might as well get a junction box to put those wires in as you redo the connections.
 
  #58  
Old 05-01-15, 09:22 AM
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This is absolutely incorrect. Is that connection corroded or does it just look like it?
It doesn't really look corroded, it has sticky stuff from the black tape on it and some kind of residue, perhaps flux ? The wires look like they have solder embedded in them. I cropped the picture to a close up so you can see it better.
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PJmax
What concerns me even more is the complete lack of ground at the main panel or the sub panel and in between.
Yes the only ground I have seen is one from the sub panel to the steel sub structure of the trailer.
How should the ground be run though ? If I run one between the two panels it wont be doing much because there is no incoming ground from the power company to connect it to.
Perhaps I should install a ground rod and connect both panels to it ?

AllanJ
Did you just take that connection apart and clean it and redo it so it is at least clean on the inside even though it still looks dirty on the outside?
No I just removed the black tape.

AllanJ
Are those fat wires buried further on for part of their runs?
They go down into the ground below the power pole in a plastic pipe, they emerge about twenty feet further on under the trailer, they run the rest of the way (about 50ft) laying on the ground under the trailer.

AllanJ
Do not work on connections for which there is no switch or breaker upstream. You need to turn off the power and verify using a voltmeter that you have zero volts between every combination of terminals or connections taken two at a time.
Trust me I do, fat wires make me nervous. I test them with a meter even when I am sure I already flipped the breaker and if I do not start working on it right away I test them again before I do, even when I am sure I already did. I also avoid touching the bare ends even when I know I have tested them. In fact if I do need to work on bare ends to strip them or something, I hold the wire by the insulation and touch it to one of the other wires first, I would rather a big blue flash than an electrocution. I always do that even on small wires. I used to work for electricians on site, pulling wires etc. I watched and learned from them.
 
  #59  
Old 05-01-15, 10:03 AM
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Not to be discouraging, but you have some work ahead of you.

The grounding should come from the disconnect near the meter and also connect to the frame of the home.

I too think someone soldered the split bolt.
 
  #60  
Old 05-01-15, 10:18 AM
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Those are not individual wires from what I see. It is mobile home cable. That does not necessarily need to be in conduit except for short section for protection however that is three wire and needs to be replaced with 4-wire. I suspect the mobile home subpanel may be only a 100 amp panel. In that case you shouldn't be running from the lugs a the bottom of the power pole. Tell us about the panel in the mobile home and what loads such as as electric heat or electric stove you might have.
 
  #61  
Old 05-01-15, 11:15 AM
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Solder makes the best connections except solder does not work on aluminum.
 
  #62  
Old 05-01-15, 04:26 PM
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The grounding should come from the disconnect near the meter and also connect to the frame of the home.
I'm not sure what you mean by "the disconnect near the meter" do you mean the ground bus in the breaker panel on the power pole ?
 
  #63  
Old 05-01-15, 04:40 PM
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All grounding should take place at the first means of disconnect after the meter.
 
  #64  
Old 05-01-15, 05:35 PM
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There should be a ground rod where your main disconnect is by the meter. It should go into that panel and connect to the neutral buss bar.

Then there should be a four wire cable between the panels.

Have you tried a wire brush on that bug ?
 
  #65  
Old 05-01-15, 06:21 PM
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Solder makes the best connections except solder does not work on aluminum.
Solder is not an approved method of splicing wire under the NEC. Soldered wires are required to also be spliced with a mechanical connection. Solder melts if the connection gets too hot.
 
  #66  
Old 05-01-15, 07:57 PM
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I disconnected the main feeds and took it off. There has been a problem with the breaker on one of the poles the contacts on that side of the breaker were very oxidized, the plastic on the breaker is discolored from heat on that side and the plastic on the panel where the main feed connection sits is a bit melted.
In addition to your numerous other problems, that breaker needs to be replaced.
 
  #67  
Old 05-01-15, 10:04 PM
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But you can not change the breaker with out having the power turned off by the power company.
I can turn the power off myself at the main panel outside on the power pole, the breaker in question is on the sub panel inside, I have already taken it off to inspect it you can see it in the above pictures.
I found the same breaker at Lowes the regular single pole breakers are about 4 bucks a piece so I thought the main breaker would be maybe 15-20. It was 70. ugghhhh.
 

Last edited by ScareCrow2000; 05-01-15 at 10:20 PM.
  #68  
Old 05-01-15, 10:23 PM
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the breaker in question is on the sub panel inside
Sorry I misunderstood. What size is the sub panel main breaker?
 
  #69  
Old 05-02-15, 10:11 AM
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What size is the sub panel main breaker?
Both panels have a 200amp breaker
 
  #70  
Old 05-11-15, 03:17 AM
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Service wire broken.

I actually had the exact same thing happen to me about 10 years ago. It turned out that the service wire was only buried until it went under the skirting, then came out of the ground and traveled about 20 feet before entering the mobile home from underneath. Apparently, when it was very cold outside (happenstance?), and due to repeated movement of the wire (critters? wind? unknown?) caused the aluminum wire to actually break/crack beneath the insulation (you couldn't tell it was broken by just looking at it.) Every strand had broken at the same exact spot. The wire wasn't your traditional service entrance cable, it was simply three wire aluminum triflex (untwisted) <sp> with a bare aluminum ground, like the wire the electric company uses between poles. At any rate one of the hot wires was varying from 40 to 80 volts instead of 120, so I replaced it with the same guage of copper/stranded wire. Then about an hour later the same thing happened to the other hot, which also had a splice, so I replaced it as well and then put it all in 2" conduit from the main service panel inside all the way to the outside panel. Everything worked perfectly after that. I put more time into diags then it took to actually effect the repair.

If you've exhausted all other possibilities then I'd bet my 1992 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor that the service wire(s) from your service panel (circuit breaker box) to the next junction box/pole are broken inside the insulation at some point(s) and you do not have continuity, except when the break occaisonally closes, which apparently causes more damage and the problem gets progressively worse to the point where you can't fully light a christmas tree bulb from that leg.

This was a very elusive problem and I subconciously didn't want to swap out the main service wire because it didn't "look" defective, but it obviously was. In this case I would recommend replacing all of it and not just the single defective lead. If not you will probably be back under there in the near future... Make it better than it was, use corrosion inhibitor at connections and/or where your wire touches any other metal and use conduit, its cheap. I don't recommend splicing if you can avoid it.

On a side note: It was really cold outside and I became impatient and very cold. I could have sworn the outside cutoff was switched off. I was switching it on and off frequently while diagnosing. At any rate when I went to put the new wire into the socket, when it touched the actual lug, it liquified the very end of the wire and threw molten copper explosively into the air, with a blinding, blue/purple flash. I was wearing safety glasses, leather gloves and working totally alone. The glasses weren't damaged and I was uninjured. I've been working with electrical for some thirty years and thankfully thats the only log-worthy mishap I've ever had, but I would consider it to be a lesson well learned and am thankful to be alive (I suppose I'm down to 7 or 8 lives left at this point). I've always been very respectful of electricity (so I thought) and since then have been even more so. Its easy to become complacent and hence careless. Always triple check yourself, wear proper safety gear, don't work alone and never assume anything. Give electricity the respect that it deserves! If you become impatient or in any way impaired, then walk away and come back the next day. And of course never work on live equipment.

My very best regards.

PS I sold the place a month later and actually tripled my money (not necessarily because of the repair or anything, of course).
 

Last edited by Solarsails; 05-11-15 at 03:47 AM.
  #71  
Old 05-11-15, 06:40 AM
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If you start using a hair dryer in the house (imposes a significant although far from maximum load) and you measure a significant hot to neutral drop back at the panel then that can uncover a problem such as the aforementioned upstream from there (or a problem in the panel).

Every now and then I mention "big lugs" and suggest that you only have someone with a lot of experience touch them. A slip of the meter probe or screwdriver or a wire end could result in touching nearby metal items or other terminals by mistake and a short circuit with tremendous current flow results with the results you described (sometimes called an arc flash).
 
  #72  
Old 05-11-15, 10:32 AM
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It turned out that the service wire was only buried until it went under the skirting, then came out of the ground and traveled about 20 feet before entering the mobile home from underneath.
And that was wrong. Mobile Home Feeder cannot be run as open conductors under the moblie home, but I would guess it's somewhat common in many areas.
 
  #73  
Old 05-14-15, 08:12 PM
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I met an electrician in Lowes he told me it is probably a broken neutral under the home he said but, before you replace the service, switch out one of the phases with the neutral to be sure that is the cause. I did that and found a single pole circuit now worked correctly on one pole while it was dead when connected to the other indicating the neutral wire is broken somewhere under the home.
He said the reason the system appeared to be working some of the time is probably because someone has grounded the neutrals in the home so the system is using ground instead of the neutral and/or they have run a length of romex from a breaker in the main panel into one of the circuits in the home both of which are dangerous rigged up solutions that he has seen.

Like some of you said already the original installation was all wrong to start with, the service is protected by a 200amp breaker and the service wires are not rated anywhere near that, there is no ground between the panels even though the labeling on the sub panel explicitly says this panel must be connected to a 4 wire feed and none of the grounds in the panels have insulating sleeve on them. I am quite sure whoever did it was not an electrician.

I don't know if any of the above is what caused the neutral to fail or if it was like solarsail said, due to freezing above ground, my service was also only underground until it reached the trailer skirting and above ground the rest of the way but it is a pretty big multi stranded wire to just break by itself.

I am also not sure my panels are correct, the labeling on my sub panel says the neutral is isolated from the ground yet with everything disconnected I detect continuity between the neutral bus and the ground bus.
On the main panel the ground bus is insulated from panel base, the neutral bus is connected to the panel base by a little lug connected to the neutral bus and screwed to the panel base.
 
  #74  
Old 05-15-15, 06:39 AM
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The correct connection (bonding) between neutral and ground in the panel with the first master disconnect will result in continuity between neutral and ground if measured anywhere in an up to date correct to code system.

(If A is bonded to B and B is bonded to C then A is bonded to C. For example, bedroom receptacle ground pin hole to Romex cable bare wire to panel ground bus to panel rear to green neutral bus bonding screw to neutral bus to circuit Romex white conductor to bedroom receptacle wide slot.)

Additional, incorrect, neutral to ground bondings will not cause the abnormal voltage problems the OP has but rather can hide or partially mask those problems.
 
  #75  
Old 05-15-15, 09:18 AM
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Additional, incorrect, neutral to ground bondings will not cause the abnormal voltage problems the OP has but rather can hide or partially mask those problems.
I must not have made that clear, he told me additional neutral to ground bondings will make the system appear to work while masking the real problem, not causing it.
I addressed that by disconnecting everything from the sub panel and then testing.
Lowes says their 4/0 4/0 2/0 aluminum is rated for at least 240 amps is that correct ?
If I use that I will use one of the old hots as a ground between the panels.
 

Last edited by ScareCrow2000; 05-15-15 at 09:47 AM.
  #76  
Old 05-15-15, 10:39 AM
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If I use that I will use one of the old hots as a ground between the panels.
No. You should use the correct cable which is 4-conductor not the 3-conductor cable you posted. http://www.lowes.com/pd_70263-295-30...ductId=3129331
 
  #77  
Old 05-15-15, 07:27 PM
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Lowes says their 4/0 4/0 2/0 aluminum is rated for at least 240 amps is that correct ?
No! Try 180 amps, who told you that? 4/0 copper comes close, but still not rated for 240 amps. I suspect that maybe they meant at least 240 volts.
 
  #78  
Old 05-16-15, 10:32 AM
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No! Try 180 amps, who told you that? 4/0 copper comes close, but still not rated for 240 amps. I suspect that maybe they meant at least 240 volts.
It says that on the description on the Lowes site, for their 4/0 4/0 2/0 Aluminum
If you click on the description tab it says,

4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum URD Service Entrance Cable (By-the-Foot)

Used for secondary-distribution and underground-service applications at 600 volts or less
Can be directly buried or installed in ducts
Insulated with vulcanized, cross-linked polyethylene
Rated for 240 amps if used in ducts and 315 amps if direct buried
Sold by-the-foot

I was trying to save $200 by using it and one of the old conductors because the 4 conductor version is almost double the price.
Do I need to tell them their description is wrong ?

EDIT: I think Lowes description is probably correct. Looking at the same size URD aluminum cable on the Nassau electrical site, they also rate theirs at 240 ducted and 315 buried
 

Last edited by ScareCrow2000; 05-16-15 at 11:12 AM.
  #79  
Old 05-16-15, 07:31 PM
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The cable that was used before was the same as that, 4/0 4/0 2/0 so the neutral was only half the size of the phases and there was no ground.
I figured if I bought the same cable, I could use both the new size 4/0 phases and the new size 2/0 as a ground.
I would then use one of the old phases as the neutral. The old phases seem to be good and they are size 4/0 so double the size of the old neutral.
I spent all day today digging a trench to bury it in so it wont be run above ground under the trailer like it was before, it will be buried and run alongside the trailer skirting as close to 2ft deep as I could get it.
 
  #80  
Old 05-17-15, 07:56 PM
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4/0-4/0-2/0 Aluminum URD Service Entrance Cable (By-the-Foot)

Used for secondary-distribution and underground-service applications at 600 volts or less
Can be directly buried or installed in ducts
Insulated with vulcanized, cross-linked polyethylene
Rated for 240 amps if used in ducts and 315 amps if direct buried
Sold by-the-foot
Lowes has a lot of errors on their descriptions, it isn't rated for 240 amps or 315 amps if it is direct buried regardless of what it says.
 
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