Saw this in the attic...is this to code?

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  #1  
Old 05-13-15, 06:06 PM
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Saw this in the attic...is this to code?

I was roaming around in the attic and saw something that got me scratching my head.

The electric meter is on an exterior wall, about 60 feet from where the electric panel is on the inside. There is a big 2" PVC conduit that runs the three big wires from the meter to the panel, the conduit runs through the attic space, then drops down to the panel.

Now, when I was checking on one thing in the attic, I saw this. The conduit is not continuous. For some reason the horizontal part ended, but the big wires runs out of that then into the vertical conduit that's connected to the panel. It almost look like a 90 elbow is missing.



I went back to the inspection report they did when I bought the house, no mention of this. I don't want to be paranoid but this looks wrong to me...is it?
 
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  #2  
Old 05-13-15, 06:17 PM
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It's definetly wrong that conduit needs a 90* sweep,conductors should only be pulled through a completed pipe run! another miss from a home inspection.
Geo
 
  #3  
Old 05-13-15, 06:22 PM
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OK thanks...I can't believe they missed it. The picture is taken with my phone with me standing on a ladder at the attic hatch, so it's right there within 3 feet of the attic opening!

So I guess I need to call an electrician for this. I am handy but I am not touching these big wires. I know they need to turn the power off at the meter for this...unless there are PVC elbows that splits in two halves that can be installed with the wires undisturbed?

Any idea WHY the person running this would do this? Why leave out an elbow? An electrician found out he is one elbow short and say, I'll just skip it?

There is no way this is unpermitted so how can the original city inspector miss this, and the home owner missed this, and my own inspector missed this?
 
  #4  
Old 05-13-15, 06:29 PM
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There may not have been a permit pulled for the original job,as for why no 90, it's a lot easier for some one to install the conductors without the 90 especially if he may not have been an electrician.
I have little faith in HI's although there are some good ones out there.
It's hard telling ,No knowing!
Geo
 
  #5  
Old 05-13-15, 07:27 PM
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You have another problem.

The electric meter is on an exterior wall, about 60 feet from where the electric panel is on the inside.
This length of service entrance wiring cannot be run unprotected through the house regardless of it being in conduit. There MUST be a fusible or circuit breaker type disconnect after the meter. Next problem is that between that disconnect and your panel that you MUST have 4 wires and not just the 3 you said are running to the panel because the panel becomes a subpanel with the installation of the disconnect. Next, you need a separate ground bar in the panel and unbonded neutral bus and all the neutrals and grounds separated. The service grounding will also have to be brought up to code because the neutral must be grounded at the disconnect and not the panel. This is a serious code violation in addition to the conduit not being continuous. I think I'd be talking to an attorney and have him review the contract you had with the home inspection company. I'd also check to see if there was a permit on the service installation. Fixing this mess won't be cheap. Didn't you just buy this house?
 
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Old 05-13-15, 08:05 PM
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I think I'd be talking to an attorney and have him review the contract you had with the home inspection company
Sadly most home inspectors liability is only their fee.

On a side note, the local inspector may let this be grandfathered in to the code when the service was installed. You would still have to install a disconnect and change the grounds and neutrals as Joe mentioned, but he might let you slide on the 3 feeder wires.
 
  #7  
Old 05-14-15, 05:45 AM
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How long ago did the OP purchase the house ?

I don't know what the Statute of Limitations is on that kind of issue in Florida . . . . but it's probably only 3 years. Clarifying that alone might be reason enough to consult an Attorney.

Brought to his attention . . . . the Building Inspector might be more than happy to pay for the correction to the conduit, and not have this matter mushroom up into much more than an oversight.
 
  #8  
Old 05-14-15, 07:12 AM
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Wire Protection

In addition to the above, all wiring within 6 feet of the attic hatch need to be protected.
 
  #9  
Old 05-14-15, 08:14 AM
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Joe hit it right. This is the tip of the iceberg on a really bad service job. Inspectors rarely look at anything that requires them to climb or crawl, so no surprise this was missed. The unfused three wire feed might have been grandfathered at that time by the inspector, but certainly not something I would have done whether the inspector allowed it or not.
 
  #10  
Old 05-14-15, 07:27 PM
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Sadly most home inspectors liability is only their fee.
This is true, but considering the severity of the work that was missed it could be construed in court that the home inspector defrauded the potential buyer of the property. Of course, taking it to court would cost a lot more than the necessary rework and will never happen. If the home inspection company is concerned about their reputation, they might be willing to contribute toward the cost of the repairs. I'd be interested in what the home inspection report cost. A lowest cost home inspection is rarely worth it.

The unfused three wire feed might have been grandfathered at that time by the inspector
I might agree with this were it not a new feeder by someone who obviously knows little about the code. I am not convinced this hack job was ever inspected.
 
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Old 05-14-15, 08:09 PM
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I am not convinced this hack job was ever inspected.
I agree.

In addition to the above, all wiring within 6 feet of the attic hatch need to be protected.
The EMT if fine. The NM should be protected.
 
  #12  
Old 05-14-15, 08:37 PM
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OK, I have more new information about this. Let me load up some pictures and explain...THE PLOT THICKENS.

Casual Joe you asked about the home inspection report, it cost about $600. Unfortunately every observation made by the inspector is followed by a out clause "consult a professional plumber for further analysis...", "consult a professional electrician for further analysis...", "consult a professional roofer for further analysis..."
 
  #13  
Old 05-14-15, 08:42 PM
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OK I did some digging on the permit front.

I bought this place about 10 months ago. There has been no electrical work done with permits in the last 10 years. There were fence permits, roofing permits...etc but no electrical.

House was built in 1965, but the city doesn't keep permit records older than 10 years...so they don't know. They transferred all the paper plans and permit records some years back into microfilms due to some paper work reduction act, then the microfilms all got eaten up by bugs and turned into Swiss cheese, so the city has NOTHING older than 10 years.

Previous owner lost the house to the bank foreclosure and thus NOT HELPFUL.
 
  #14  
Old 05-14-15, 08:57 PM
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Now, I dug around a bit more in the attic, and I found something!

I didn't see this before, because the air conditioning duct was hiding it. Parallel to the 2" PVC conduit that feeds the panel, is another large pipe, looks 1.5" EMT or rigid conduit, not sure which but it is metal. This pipe is abandoned. It was just laying there, not connected to anything. See the picture below. That pipe had an elbow.



So my thinking is, this was the ORIGINAL conduit that fed this panel. It was removed and abandoned for some reason. That original metal conduit served as ground to the meter box previously. There are also three conductors inside the abandoned conduit, they are not live, I tested them.

Now I went outside and looked at the meter. This is a two unit duplex with two meters and two electrical panels. The service comes in to the weatherhead mounted to the outside wall.



I opened up the cover of the box in the middle.



Now from there it does go to a disconnect and up the wall into the attic.



So I could disconnect the service to the panel.



This look original work, there are multiple layers of paint over these pipes. These pipes are all metal.

So my thinking is, some time back, they removed the old metal conduit inside the attic and switched to a PVC conduit. Why? I have no clue. What I think I need to do next is to crawl all the way back to find the exact spot where they switched from the metal conduit to PVC and see how that's done. May be it's also an "open ended" gap there as well.

This is a nightmare.
 
  #15  
Old 05-14-15, 10:48 PM
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This is a nightmare.
Got that right!

The metallic conduit in the attic is either rigid or intermediate conduit, definitely not EMT.

The box between the meters should have been sealed by the electric utility. Having it "accessible" makes it fairly easy to steal electricity.

The conduit coming out of the right side of the single circuit breaker panel looks to be PVC. Can you tell us what nominal size that conduit is and what the wire sizes are?

What is the ampere rating on that circuit breaker?

Can you post some pictures of the "main" panel inside with the inner cover removed?

Do you see any sign of a "ground rod" and/or conductor in the earth immediately below the meters?
 
  #16  
Old 05-15-15, 06:05 AM
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Unfortunately every observation made by the inspector is followed by a out clause "consult a professional plumber for further analysis...", "consult a professional electrician for further analysis...", "consult a professional roofer for further analysis..."
May be "unfortunate" for you, but that's the way home inspections work. Most places, it borders on a scam. But at least the honest ones will tell you up front (and make you sign a confirmation) that they are NOT engineers, code experts, or anything other than a semi-informed pair of eyes. All they will really do, as you noted, is recommend that you consult an applicable professional to further investigate whatever they find. And they generally will not open panels, climb ladders, or even move furniture to better inspect something.

Inspectors do, I suppose, provide some measure of warm fuzzy assurance for totally ignorant home buyers. But I'll never waste my money on another one.
 
  #17  
Old 05-15-15, 07:08 AM
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The box between the meters should have been sealed by the electric utility. Having it "accessible" makes it fairly easy to steal electricity.
Agree, it should be sealed. What confuses me, because of the lack of light, is why the service entrance wiring from the conduit service riser isn't terminated in the center section. Generally power is bussed from the center section to the line side of each meter socket.
 
  #18  
Old 05-15-15, 07:58 AM
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What confuses me, because of the lack of light, is why the service entrance wiring from the conduit service riser isn't terminated in the center section. Generally power is bussed from the center section to the line side of each meter socket.
I'm pretty sure it IS wired to the center, the shadows where the conductors are looped back make it difficult to see.
 
  #19  
Old 05-15-15, 07:13 PM
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Maybe so, Furd, you might be right. Normally the service entrance conductors from the conduit riser would go straight down into the lugs, it's just easier to do it that way. A loop in the conductors isn't a code violation, but a bit unusual.
 
  #20  
Old 05-15-15, 09:39 PM
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Casual Joe here is a better picture showing the loop, but it's hard to take a picture in bright day light and the box is a bit dark.

 
  #21  
Old 05-15-15, 09:52 PM
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Furd, here are some additional information.

You are right, the pipes outside are indeed PVC. The marking says CANTEX 1-1/2". It does have several layers of paint, so I think this means it has been there a while. I just could not believe this wasn't permitted work, it is outside where everyone can see, and requires the power company to come connect and disconnect which that alone requires a permit.

As for the grounding, here is a picture of the lower part of the box, there is a conduit that comes out from the bottom.



This conduit then runs along the wall, then a green conductor goes into the ground, and comes back up and runs over to the water shutoff valve, and attached to a clamp there.







Here is again a picture of the PVC conduit right above the panel. You can see the PVC conduit and the abandoned metal conduit runs deep into the attic.



So today I went up to the attic again, to trace these two lines, and I got all the way to where the two services entered the building, inside the attic.



There are a few more abandoned metal conduits, I have no idea why. But the two PVC conduits run to their respective panels, I didn't see any "GAP" in the conduit, other than that one I showed in post #1.

So I need to feed a green conductor along side the existing three conductors?

Here is a picture of the panel, the wiring looks like spagetti inside.
 
  #22  
Old 05-16-15, 08:18 AM
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Casual Joe here is a better picture showing the loop, but it's hard to take a picture in bright day light and the box is a bit dark.
Your picture in post #20 clears up a lot, but raises another question. In that picture it appears that there are only two conductors coming into the 2-gang meter socket from the conduit riser. Is that right or are there actually 3 conductors?

I see many conduits in the attic that appear to be branch circuits. Is there, or has there ever been, a requirement in your area for all branch circuits to be in conduit? I just find it highly unusual for anyone to use conduits for branch circuits if the use of NM cable is allowed.
 
  #23  
Old 05-16-15, 08:50 AM
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Three conductors, it's just the angle. Here is an earlier picture with the brightness adjusted.



I have owned about a dozen homes in South Florida and they were all with EMT conduits and metal boxes. Now the homes I bought tend to be older homes built in the 60s, 70s and I really don't see any NM cables unless the home has been remodeled at a later time. I kind of like it as it is easier in many cases to run new conductors and I can ground the devices to the metal boxes as long as they didn't break the continuity...which goes back to the question which is I need to run a ground wire to the meter box right?

There are those abandoned metal conduits. That one is almost 60' long and there are three abandoned conductors in them I think #2 or #4. I wonder if I can pull them out and scrap them for a pitcher of beer LOL.
 
  #24  
Old 05-18-15, 11:27 AM
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I am wondering, since I am missing a ground between the meter and the panel, and I do have a continuous run of this metal conduit all the way but disconnected on both ends.

Would it be easier to feed a green conductor through the existing 1.5" PVC conduit or to try and extend the metal conduit on both ends to bond to the panel and meter box?
 
  #25  
Old 05-18-15, 12:22 PM
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You need to show a picture of the circuit breaker (disconnect) next the the meter with the inner cover removed. Based upon the green wire in the center box your neutral IS bonded to ground (earth) and the green wire going off to the right suggests that a grounding conductor does pass through the meter enclosure to the circuit breaker enclosure. By rights, that grounding conductor should pass through the circuit breaker enclosure (also bonded to the enclosure) and continue through the PVC conduit to the main circuit breaker panel where it would be connected to a bonded equipment grounding bus. Also, there should be yet another green wire going to the left to the other meter and beyond. Further, I do believe that you need a multi-tap lug where the two green wires are linked.

Please also show the main circuit breaker panel with the inner cover removed as I suspect there are discrepancies in the way it is wired as well.
 
  #26  
Old 05-18-15, 03:09 PM
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Hi MiamiCuse,

You wrote: ''...unless there are PVC elbows that splits in two halves that can be installed with the wires undisturbed?'' Well, I found that those splitted elbows do actually exist; however, I CAN'T guarantee that using one of them will be up to the code in your particular case, and I don't know if they are available at National Hardware Stores in the US, etc... But they do exist.

Aliexpress.com : Buy Top sales! 2014 new fashion Splitted type 50mm PVC bend pipe connector, definately popular with electrician from Reliable connector m12 suppliers on Gvader World | Alibaba Group
 
  #27  
Old 05-18-15, 07:02 PM
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I highly doubt that elbow is UL listed nor does it appear to be for electrical. You could never pull in wires in the 90. I have seen split repair pipes, just not 90's.

IMO - This doesn't appear to be that tough of a repair. Since you can shut it off all you need to do is pull back the wires and install a PVC J box (which would likely be easier) or cut in a 90. Then pull the wires back in.
 
  #28  
Old 05-18-15, 10:50 PM
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Tolyn Ironhand, if I need to run a ground conductor from the disconnect to the panel it might be tough with such a long run and I guess I need a big green conductor like a #4?
 
  #29  
Old 05-18-15, 10:56 PM
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Furd here are some more pictures. I didn't open the meter box because that one has a lock on it.

But here is what the disconnect box look like without the cover:





Close up:





On the panel side, with the cover removed...it looks a bit messy because once the cover is off I started to pull and tuck individual conductors to see what's what. But you should be able to see where the three conductors go.

 
  #30  
Old 05-19-15, 06:20 PM
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You need a #6 copper or #4 aluminum ground. The ground wire in not required to be installed in the pipe. You could run it alone on the outside. If it was me, I would use #6 solid for a ground.
 

Last edited by Tolyn Ironhand; 05-20-15 at 06:52 AM. Reason: typo
  #31  
Old 05-19-15, 11:22 PM
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If those are 1/0 conductors or smaller in an 1-1/2 inch PVC conduit it should be no problem running a #6 equipment grounding conductor through the conduit.

You would also need to add a bonded equipment grounding bus to the circuit breaker panel, remove any bonding screws or straps from the neutral bus(es) and move any equipment grounding conductors from the neutral bus(es) to the new equipment grounding bus.
 
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