Service feed mess in an old house

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  #1  
Old 05-26-15, 02:43 PM
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Service feed mess in an old house

Well, I bought a 100+ year old fixer-upper. I knew it was going to be a complete rewire coming in. I was told that my wife's uncle was a retired electrician... turns out he's retired, and for 2 years in the 60's he did some electrical work. So I'm doing the best I can and I think doing a good job, but I've run into some major issues on the service.

I have 200A that goes to a pole in the yard. It has a disconnect on the pole and it's buried to the house (there's a circuit off the pole going to the lights at the end of the driveway, but lets ignore that for now, unless it's found to be relevant later). The aluminum wire enters the house into a box and ends. It's spliced using a split nut to the wires that feed a 100A (I think, going off memory here) panel in the garage, that has a 60A(I think) sub panel going to the pole barn.
Immediately after that splice, is a spliced extension into the main panel for the house. That was about 3 feet, I replaced the old panel and extended it about 20 feet away as it was directly above the sump pump and I didn't like standing in/near water while working on electric.

There was another splice in the wires feeding the main panel that run upstairs to a 60A sub panel. It was old cloth wiring, and I did not reconnect it when I moved and installed the new panel this weekend. However, I would like to have it running the power upstairs (3 bedrooms, 1 bath) as a true sub panel off the main.

I know that sounds all sorts of messed up, and I would obviously like to correct it. Here's a quick sketch to help clear some of that up. I appreciate any help you can provide, even if it's "call a real electrician".

 
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Old 05-26-15, 04:00 PM
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The aluminum wire enters the house into a box and ends. It's spliced using a split nut to the wires that feed a 100A
Is this protected by a 100 amp breaker at the pole. Is it at least 1 or 1/0?
 
  #3  
Old 05-26-15, 04:48 PM
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Post back with wire lengths, material (aluminum or copper) and wire gauges.
 
  #4  
Old 05-26-15, 04:58 PM
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I think what I labeled as a disconnect is actually a 200A breaker. I'll take a few pics of it when I get home. I'll also try to get a better diagram that includes lengths/material/gauges.

Here's a couple of pics of inside the house:

Before I started. The panel on the left is for the house. The lower right box is where the main feed comes in and is spliced to the feed for the garage panel and goes up to the main on the house panel which routes through the top right box and inside the panel was spliced to the cloth wiring that runs upstairs to the 60A. (I was unaware of that cloth covered wire, outside of the house it is spliced into some THHN).
Bottom pic is new panel, which I extended 18' from where the main enters, I know that's 3/0 copper in 2" Sched 80 conduit.



 
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Old 05-26-15, 05:05 PM
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What I'm seeing may be tinned copper not aluminum.
 
  #6  
Old 05-26-15, 05:38 PM
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In looking at your main panel.....actually sub-panel..... you're going to need to separate your grounds off the neutral bar and install a dedicated ground block. I don't see four wires coming into your panel either....... no ground wire.

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  #7  
Old 05-26-15, 06:36 PM
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Pete, I actually have a bare 6 coming in the side and attached to the bar, I appreciate the heads up!

 
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Old 05-26-15, 06:44 PM
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The ground should also come from the main...... the ground goes to a grounding bar..... not the neutral bar. The whites and grounds are kept separated.
 
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Old 05-26-15, 08:11 PM
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Thanks, that's the way the old one was so I just mirrored it, I should have known that was a bad idea. I'll get a ground bar and fix it.

So here's a quick diagram, I used different colors to show different pieces of wire, since the first one goes through 2 split nuts.



Pole and 200A breaker:





Where it comes into the house. The large cables on the bottom are the mains from outside (I can't tell what gauge because they were painted long before I got here), the smaller green ones go out to the garage. The black above are the ones I just ran to the new panel. Each bundle has 2 split nuts wrapped in rubber tape and then vinyl.




Panel upstairs, this will turn into a sub panel off of the basement. I realize this is wired incorrectly, but it's not connected.



grounds as they come in the house



garage panel (obviously needs cleaned)



pole barn panel (had a mouse nest, will be replaced)




I really appreciate all of the quick responses. I guess when it comes down to it (dumb mistakes aside like ground bars, etc) my main question is this: How do I need to feed the basement and the garage at the same time?

by the way if you think this looks bad, it's about 10 times better than it was when we moved in the place. I'm amazed it didn't burn down before we bought it.
 

Last edited by cde1981; 05-26-15 at 08:54 PM.
  #10  
Old 05-27-15, 09:12 AM
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Looks like the long post I made last night is missing... did I screw up and delete it?
 
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Old 05-27-15, 02:28 PM
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Post was moderated because of the number of images and low number of posts you have made. It has now been approved.
 
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Old 05-27-15, 03:46 PM
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Referring to the sketch in post #6 I see at least one major problem. #2 copper wire is rated at either 95 or 115 ampere capacity depending on the insulation used. This drawing shows a 200 ampere circuit breaker with #2 taps along the way. These taps do not meet the rules for taps as defined in the NEC. This means that these #2 conductors do not have proper overload or short circuit protection. To be in co0mpliance and for safety any conductor downstream of the 200 ampere CB and before an additional circuit breaker MUST be at least 3/0 copper or 4/0 aluminum.

IF the existing aluminum from the 200 ampere circuit breaker is 4/0 size it is acceptable, if it is less than 4/0 it is undersized to both the load and the protection.

The two #2 taps off of the aluminum are simply not allowable. You need a circuit breakers or fuses of no no larger than either 100 or 125 amperes (depending on insulation type) where these split bolt connectors are located for EACH feeder.

The #2 feeder going to the garage panel would have a 3% voltage drop from the aluminum to the garage assuming a total load of 100 amperes including the pole barn. That is generally acceptable IF the supply voltage is within the 10% +/- variation from 240 volts. If the supply voltage at the point of connection (the split bolt now) is on the low side then this may be excessive voltage drop depending on usage in the garage and pole barn. Similarly, the additional 100 feet of #2 copper would mean less than 1% voltage from from the garage to the pole barn assuming a load at the pole barn of 50 amperes. All these voltage drops are, of course, dependent upon the actual amperage loads at the respective panels. If the existing aluminum wiring is less than 4/0 in size the voltage drops will be higher.
 
  #13  
Old 05-27-15, 04:50 PM
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Thanks gents, I really do appreciate your patience and knowledge.

First of all, I mislabeled my diagram, the copper wire going to the 200A panel in the basement is in fact 3/0.

So if I am correct, I would install a box with a 200A main breaker and connect the feed from the outside. In that box I would run a 200A circuit to the panel in the basement and a 100A to the garage. Which basically makes those two into subpanels, right? Could I also run the 100A panel upstairs off of that, or would it be best to make it a subpanel off of the basement?

Something like this?
Siemens 200-Amp 4-Space 8-Circuit Outdoor Mobile Home Main Breaker-W0404MB1200CT - The Home Depot

Wired like this?

 
  #14  
Old 05-27-15, 05:20 PM
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First off, every panel downstream of the 200 ampere circuit breaker on the pole is a "sub-panel" and must have a four-wire feeder. If the aluminum wiring (you haven't stated if it is a direct burial cable or individual conductors in conduit) is only three conductors then it is wrong. However, it may be grandfathered under some specific instances. If those aluminum conductors, at least the "hot" conductors, are less than 4/0 in size then either the 200 ampere circuit breaker needs to be downsized or the aluminum conductors replaced.

Rather than use the panel you linked to I would prefer to see one that had a minimum of four spaces to accommodate two-2 pole circuit breakers and also has "feed through" lugs. One 100 ampere 2 pole circuit breaker would serve the garage and pole barn and the other would be a spare. The feed through lugs would connect to the 3/0 copper going to the house. It is unlikely you would find a panel with feed through lugs at a mega-mart homecenter but would need to go to an electrical supply house. It is also unlikely that you can find a panel that will accept a 200 ampere branch circuit breaker (for the house) at any price that you would be willing to pay.

The "100 ampere upstairs" panel MUST be supplied from the main house panel. This is because the NEC is very strict about having a single point where all electricity in a building may shut off. While there are some specific exceptions to this rule none of them apply in your situation.
 
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Old 05-27-15, 05:26 PM
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Just a few changes.....

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Old 05-27-15, 05:32 PM
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PJ, he already stated the drawing was in error where it said a #2 to the house, it is really 3/0. The #2 to the garage and pole barn may be entirely suitable DEPENDING on the load of those two buildings. The upstairs panel in the house MUST come from the house panel.
 
  #17  
Old 05-27-15, 08:08 PM
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Thanks again guys.

The AL wiring is individual in a conduit. I believe it to be 4/0 based on the size but I'll try to find some markings.

Understood on feeding the upstairs panel from the basement, that should be easy enough.

I'm having a hard time finding a 200A pass through panel with 4 slots. I assume this is what is needed, however it looks to be similar to the one I posted earlier, so I'm unsure.

http://www.amazon.com/SIEMENS-W0404M.../dp/B004HIHMGG
 
  #18  
Old 05-27-15, 08:27 PM
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That panel will certainly work but you don't need the main circuit breaker. All you need is a panel with main lugs, feed through lugs and the ability to hold at least one 2-pole 100 ampere circuit breaker for the garage/pole barn. It may be that you won't find one that accepts just a single 2-pole CB and will have to use one that will accept two, 2-pole CBs or a combination of one, 2-pole and two, single pole breakers. The added circuit breaker capacity is only for future use and may never be used.

OR, you can replace that #2 feeder going to the garage/pole barn with a 3/0 feeder and entirely do away with the feed through panel and CB. That, however, will be a mighty costly endeavor.

Here's a third possibility: Depending on the total load in the house and the total load in the garage/pole barn you might be able to move that #2 feeder to connect up in the house's main panel. That would mean that the aluminum from the 200 ampere CB at the distant pole would be spliced to the 3/0 coming into the house (in an approved manner, of course) and then have a 100 ampere CB connecting to the #2 feeder for the garage. This would be the simplest but whether or not it is feasible depends on the total loads. Since the total supply is only 200 amperes I think that this third option is the definitely doable.
 
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Old 05-27-15, 09:05 PM
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I think if I grab that panel with a main CB, then I can put it at the point of entry for the main feed at the house and run the basement (via feed through), the garage and upstairs (both via 2-pole 100A CBs) and still satisfy the need to have a single point of shutoff for the building, correct? This would be the easiest, as the conduit for all 3 runs are right there in that immediate area.
 
  #20  
Old 05-27-15, 09:24 PM
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That may very well be the best answer. However, you will need to get a permit and inspection for this work. The local authority (inspector) may not see the same way and may insist that the upstairs panel be fed from the house panel. You may be able to argue the point and get (in writing) special permission.

I do not know what your LOCAL code might have to say regarding any of this and it is the local code that needs to be obeyed. Before buying any more supplies you need to draw up a plan and get it approved by the local inspection office. I am all but certain that they are going to require that the feeder to the upstairs panel and the feeder to the garage/pole barn be four-wire circuits.

Based upon the mishmash you have right now I suspect you have only three wires going to the garage and three going from the garage to the pole barn. All these panels probably have combined neutral and equipment ground buses. Probably the same for the upstairs panel. Hopefully you will be able to tell me I am wrong and the various panels do indeed have four-wire feeders with isolated neutrals and bonded equipment grounding.
 
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Old 05-27-15, 09:39 PM
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I've had a permit for about the last 9 months, had to pull it before we could get insured to buy the house. This is one of the last big things I need to do before inspection. I spoke to the inspector when I pulled it, and he seemed to be very friendly and helpful. Understood on the local code, I'll make sure to talk to them about what my plan is.

Unfortunately, I think you may be wrong, BUT I'm not 100% sure that all of the grounds are not tied together. Now that we've got the main part of my issues headed down the right path, grounding is something I need to look at. I'm still at work (going on 16 hours now) so I'll have to do some investigating tommorrow night and get back to you.
 
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Old 05-27-15, 11:41 PM
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All equipment grounding conductors should be tied together as well as the equipment grounds be "bonded" to any metallic enclosures. All neutral conductors should be isolated from metallic enclosures as well as from equipment grounds. The only place where neutral and earth ground should be bonded is at the first overcurrent protective device, the 200 ampere circuit breaker and enclosure on the pole. Each separate building needs at least one, and maybe two (ask your inspector) grounding electrodes, also known as ground rods. The grounding electrode must be connected to the panel(s) in a single building by no less than a #6 copper conductor. The Service Disconnect (the 200 ampere CB at the pole) must also have a grounding electrode connected to the bonding point of the the neutral and equipment grounding conductors.
 
  #23  
Old 05-29-15, 08:32 AM
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I ended up pulling a 24 hour shift at work and spent yesterday sleeping it off (and working some more later in the day), so I didn't get a chance to dig into the issues with the ground.

Getting ready to head to the electrical supply store, but had a quick question that I'm having a hard time finding info on. The 2/0 that I have running to my upstairs panel is spliced using split nuts and rubber tape in a work box on the side of the house. I'm guessing this doesn't fall under the "approved method". What type of connector should I go with?
 
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Old 05-29-15, 10:11 AM
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Split bolts are okay but if it is aluminum to copper they must be split bolts rated for that purpose. They have a separator so the aluminum doesn't touch the copper. When re-insulating use rubber tape first followed by PVC electrical tape. Sometimes pros wrap the first layer of rubber tape sticky side out then continue sticky side in. That makes it easier to remove if you ever need to.
 
  #25  
Old 05-29-15, 10:57 AM
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Thanks Ray. Is there a good way to test and see if that is actually AL or tinned copper?

I went to the local supply store and talked through a few different issues with their top guy. I have a call in with my county inspector to go over my plans, his secretary said I should get a call back this afternoon.
 
  #26  
Old 05-29-15, 12:15 PM
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I can wire them parallel but right now they are all directly connected to the main wire
If you follow these forums for long you will be amazed at the BS that comes from those guys. Look at a cross section of cut wire. If aluminum you sill see silver color all the way through solid wire are each strand of stranded wire. If tinned you will see copper color.
 
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Old 05-29-15, 03:51 PM
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Sometimes pros wrap the first layer of rubber tape sticky side out then continue sticky side in. That makes it easier to remove if you ever need to.
Uhm, no. Self-vulcanizing rubber tape doesn't really have a non-sticky side. The first layer is plastic tape wound with the sticky side out and then followed by about three layers of the rubber tape and then finished off with a half-lapped layer of plastic tape. The first layer of plastic protects the split bolt from the self-vulcanizing rubber and the last layer of plastic protects the rubber from the atmosphere. After a short period of time the rubber becomes one homogenous gob of rubber.

Anytime you come across wire that has "cloth" insulation it is most likely tinned copper. The insulation is really rubber with a tarred cotton or linen thread tightly wound around the rubber. The individual copper conductor are tinned because rubber is somewhat corrosive to copper. The rubber is wrapped with the tarred thread to exclude oxygen from the rubber as natural rubber will deteriorate from contact with oxygen.
 
  #28  
Old 06-01-15, 07:18 AM
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Got a call back from the County Inspector, and he was very happy with my plan to use a panel similar to the one linked above. He said it wasn't necessary to have a breaker on it, but that it was a good idea, so I'm going to go with it.

He did ask me about the grounding, and I told him that was something I was still looking at. He told me to call back if I had any questions, that was something he was currently doing some more reading on and gave me some advice.

I'll look at everything tonight and post back how the ground situation looks. Oh and if the run from the pole to the house is actually aluminum or tinned copper. Thanks again everyone.
 
  #29  
Old 06-04-15, 06:05 PM
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Ok, so finally got a chance to look at the grounding situation... there's a bare ground from the meter going to... well nowhere. It looks like the cable company cut it to ground their splitter and didn't hook it back up. I will fix that.

The ground doesn't appear to go to the house. There's a rod outside of the house where the main service comes in and that goes into the house. All the runs between buildings are 3 wires only. On every panel on the property the neutrals and grounds are on the same bars.

Thoughts?
 
  #30  
Old 06-04-15, 07:46 PM
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...there's a bare ground from the meter going to... well nowhere. It looks like the cable company cut it to ground their splitter and didn't hook it back up. I will fix that.
It will need at the very least to be repaired using a "non-reversible" method, meaning no split bolts are allowed. It would be best to replace it in its entirety. Is this "Grounding Electrode Conductor (GEC)" at the meter pole or at the house. You should have a GEC at each separate building as well as at the meter pole where the 200 ampere CB disconnect is located.

The ground doesn't appear to go to the house. There's a rod outside of the house where the main service comes in and that goes into the house. All the runs between buildings are 3 wires only. On every panel on the property the neutrals and grounds are on the same bars.
This was once acceptable IF there were no "metallic paths" between the buildings. A metallic path was defined as any electrical cable such as telephone or cable TV or any metallic water piping. This exception has been removed from the NEC, think, as of the 2008 edition. Your system is probably grandfathered however the proposed changes would likely remove that allowance. Code now requires that all "sub-panels" (that term does not exist in the NEC) be fed with separate neutral and grounding conductors and that the panels must have an isolated (from the enclosure) neutral AND a bonded (to the enclosure) equipment ground.

You need to talk with your inspector to see if he/she will allow this condition to exist after your changes.
 
  #31  
Old 06-05-15, 06:57 AM
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So, I just got off the phone with the inspector, he said that he didn't see a problem with me having 3 wire between the buildings as long as I run a grounding rod for each. He said even with making the changes I am with that 200A panel in the basement he would still consider me grandfathered in. The buildings do not have a continuous metallic paths between them.

As far as the grounds/neutrals being on the same bar, we decided that separating them would be the best route to go. So I think all I need to do now is run a bare 6 ground to each ground bar in the panels, and move the neutrals to a separate bar that's not grounded, correct?

Thanks again for all your time!
 

Last edited by cde1981; 06-05-15 at 09:12 AM.
  #32  
Old 06-05-15, 07:10 AM
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If your inspector has approved a three-wire feed to the outbuildings, then you do not need to separate grounds and neutrals in those panels. In fact, you should have a bonding screw or wire that makes a connection between the neutral bar and the steel box or the ground bar to guarantee a solid connection between them.

This is the "old" way of doing an outbuilding as of about 10 years ago, but plenty of places still allow it.
 
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