Open fault underground to Garage Sub Panel

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  #1  
Old 06-11-15, 10:51 AM
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Open fault underground to Garage Sub Panel

Hello everyone. First time posting. As the heading says, I've got a problem with an underground supply feed to a garage sub-panel. But it appears I have more than one problem. Here's what happened.
My garage is my wood working shop. As such, I have a pro Powermatic 240v table saw. A few days ago, I tried to start the saw, only to hear what sounded like a "pop". As I am in the process of wiring the shop, the 240 line to the saw, was a temporary solution, with the saw direct wired into a j-box, with wire nuts. I figured something had caused the 240 breaker to flip. I checked the breaker, and nothing had flipped. I thought that was odd, so I grabbed my multimeter, and checked across the breaker's two lugs, and to my surprize, I was only getting about 185 volts.

Ok, I flipped the breakers off, and then checked the voltage from each of the main "hot" conductor terminals to the ground buss. One side had a full 120v, but the other only had about 70v. This sub-panel, is fed by (2)#4 aluminum conductors and an aluminum ground wire, from a fuse box directly connected to a stand alone meter panel. See the attatched drawing.

I then went to the fuse box and opened it. What a mess. This is an old "diy" box, with (2) 60 amp fuses, directly fed by the meter. These fuses, are within an old bakelite box that has a "pull" handle, to remove both fuses which disconnect the meter from two sets of underground cables. One set to the house main breaker panel, and the other set to the garage sub-panel. Both sets are directly connected to the supply lugs below the fuses. Unfortunately, the "pull handle" on the removable fuse assembly, was completely broken. More on that later.

Ok, at this point, I measured the voltage across the two "hot" lugs from the meter before the fuses. It measured a full 248v. Then I measured from each hot lug to a small neutral buss, to which an aluminum #4 wire is connected to a ground rod below. Each measured 120v..give or take. Ok, now, I measured across the fuse output terminals. Again ..248v. And then, from each terminal to the neutral. Same as the pre-fuse measurement.

Ut oh. This is when I figured one of hot wires to the garage has developed a "partial" fault. The reason I say "partial", is because I still get around 70 volts at the sub-panel. But this is why I am here. I don't understand something. But before I explain...something else happened that completely caused havoc!!

Since there was no way to "pull" that bakelite fuse holder, I called my utility company, and had them come out and remove the meter. This is the only way I could "disconnect" power to the fuses. After they removed the meter, and while they waited, I used a screwdriver and "pried" the fuse holder out of it's retaining box. I also disconnected the two "hot" wires to the garage from the fuse output lugs. Then I had them re-install the meter so the house would have power. Then they left.

Ok, at this point, given there was a flower bed below the meter panel, the plants hid exactly where these two sets of cables went into the ground. As I was pulling some of these plants, I inadvertently moved the "neutral" wire of the house set, and all of a sudden I heard a "zap" and looked in the fuse box.

OMG! This neutral wire had disconnected from the neutral/ground buss bar, and had brushed up against the back of the panel. Well, at first, I couldn't understand why it "arched". I assumed the neutral was just that, and given this wire is also connected to the "ground" wire at the house service panel..I didn't understand what was going on. Well, I then "reconnected" this neutral back to the lug, and really tightened the lug. But I was in for some supprises. BAD ones.

Not being an electrician, and even though I know enough to get me in trouble, I didn't know what can happen if you "lose" your neutral. GAK. I soon found out. Two computers, a plug strip, two lights had completely FRIED!! I since have learned what it does. Ok, but now it's time to fix the first problem. The "fault" in the garage supply wires. Unfortunately..they are in 2" plastic conduit, underground. So this is why I am here. I need an opinion.

I started digging from the meter panel end, and found this conduit is only about 6" deep. I removed about 15 feet of dirt, following this conduit, which is about 60 feet long, thinking "maybe" I might see some discoloration or even some melted spot in the conduit. I originally thought if I found the spot, I might be able to cut away a section of conduit and splice whatever spot in this wire had a fault. But after reading up on underground ALUMINUM wire faults, it appears I might be better off just pulling the entire 3 cables out, and replacing the one with a fault in it. So.. any opinion? Anyone ever delt with this delima before?

Also, I don't understand another thing. The sub-panel is fed by two "hot" conductors, and a bare aluminum "ground". Or is this simply a "neautral". Another thing too. I looked at the diagrams here on sub-panels. I don't understand. All those diagrams, show two "hot" conductors, a neutral AND a ground wire. Most of them also show, the "ground buss" at the sub-panel, connected to it's OWN grounding bar!! Omg, after having a very long HEATED discussion on another forum 2 years ago, I was told in no uncertain terms, installing a seperate ground rod, bonded to the ground/neutral buss bar in a sub-panel..was an absolute NO NO! And they explained why. So what gives here????

Also, why would a wire, that has maybe a "partial" fault, measure at a lower voltage than the supply end? I always thought voltage would still be the same, as long as there remained a partial connection. Anyway, some answers would sure be of help for me understanding some of this stuff.
 
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Old 06-11-15, 12:03 PM
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Okay a few issues here. First, it sounds like you might have just blown one of the two fuses feeding the garage. The 70 volt reading is a phantom voltage introduced by a digital meter. Use an analog meter or a neon bulb tester to verify the real reading on that leg is zero. With all of the wires disconnected from the panels on each end, you can verify the integrity of the wires by grouping them into pairs and using the resistance/continuity setting of your meter.

Second issue. It is very unlikely for conductors in conduit to fail underground unless there was a backhoe involved. It's much more likely the problem is in the main service panel.

Third issue. Fuse panels are beyond obsolete at this age, especially given the poor condition of this one and the fact that the service neutral arced to a hot bus. That type of thing can kill a person standing in front and certainly could destroy the panel. I recommend you get an electrician in to look at replacement of the service and main panel. It could be the underlying problem at this point.

Fourth issue. Three wire feed to outbuilding used to be allowed, but is no longer approved by code. Four wire feeders are now required if you reinstall or repull this feeder. Since you have conduit, adding an insulated neutral would be a pretty straightforward process. Ideally you could do this in conjunction with a main panel upgrade. You would also separate grounds and neutrals in the outbuilding.
 
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Old 06-11-15, 05:02 PM
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quote"Okay a few issues here. First, it sounds like you might have just blown one of the two fuses feeding the garage. The 70 volt reading is a phantom voltage introduced by a digital meter."unquote

Hahaha! I only used a cheap digital meter cause one of the probes on my analog meter broke off the wire. Will fix and check. But, I'm curious. As I said, i checked the voltage at the fuse box, between the two hot terminals and each hot to neutral, both pre-fuse, and post fuse. All were normal. it was only at the sub panel that i got a lower than normal reading. But, I'll check it again with my analog meter. Oh, and about bringing this up to code, I'm on a minimum SS fixed income, and the house doesn't belong to me. It belongs to my son, who is also tight for money. But we will do what's right. Thank you so much for the insight. I'll be back.

btw..thank you again. i visit so many forums where NO body gets back to me.
 
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Old 06-11-15, 08:39 PM
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You mentioned bare aluminum conductor. I hope it's not bare in the underground conduit. The conduit is rarely 100% sealed from water and it may be in pretty bad shape.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 06:56 AM
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Ahh I missed the fact that you tested normal voltage post-fuses.

Next diagnostic test would be to completely disconnect both hot wires and the neutral wire from the main panel and from the garage panel. Then at the garage panel side temporarily join the hots together with tape or a clamp of some sort so there's a good connection. Then at the other end, set your multimeter to the resistance (ohms) setting and measure the value between the two hots.

Do this same procedure with H1 to H2, H1 to N and H2 to N to identify which wire is bad. It helps at this point to mark one of the hot wires with red tape or paint to keep them identified. A normal reading should be close to zero. An abnormal reading is exactly zero or something more than 5. Let us know what you find.

As far as that fuse panel -- you might be able to find a replacement for the broken fuse holder at an electrical scrap dealer or possibly eBay. Check the yellow pages to see if you have an electrical scrap dealer around. They often have old panels laying around you can part out. Replacement of the panel would be best, but you might be able to get by with a repair for now.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 07:05 AM
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Oops. My bad. I didn't mean "conductor". I meant bare aluminum "ground". Or is it a NEUTRAL??? I mean, there are two "conductors", each encased in a plastic or rubber insulator, and the bare aluminum wire which is bonded at each end to the ground buss. Or is it the "neutral buss"? or both?

btw, Not being an electrician, I've grappled with this conundrum on a few occasions in the past. Maybe you can explain. Since the "neutral" from the meter is bonded to a buss, that is in turn, bonded to a grounding rod by virtue of another bare aluminum wire, and the bare aluminum wire feeding the garage is also bonded to this buss..doesn't that make this wire a "neutral"..AND a ground? This has confused me for a long time. Not to mention what you said about upgrading this to a FOUR WIRE feed if I were to yank these wires out of the conduit. Why is this required, if BOTH the neutral and bare aluminum ground, are bonded to the same terminal buss at both ends?

Furthermore, after spending almost a month a few years ago, trying to get to the bottom of the concept of "neutral current".. I became exasperated, as the term "alternating current" suggests the neutral carries a "current", no? Don't answer that. Hahahaha. I spent too much time on that one already..to the point it led me to this

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newman%27s_energy_machine

..which completely destroyed my cognitive dissonance. I gave up. Ha!

Also, I'm still confused about the "sub panel" diagrams here showing the ground buss in the sub-panel should be bonded to it's own grounding rod. Should I install a grounding rod for my sub-panel??

Anyway, thanks for the help.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 07:24 AM
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Ahh I missed the fact that you tested normal voltage post-fuses.

Next diagnostic test would be to completely disconnect both hot wires and the neutral wire from the main panel and from the garage panel.
Hahaha...I completely missed this post too. Must have been writing at the same time.

Ok, I fixed my analog meter last night, but it's raining cats and dogs today. Ain't no way I'm messing around a panel today. I don't know why I didn't think of that though. Must be old age syndrome.

I have a question though. Wouldn't the fact that I measured 120v between H1 and N, but H2 measured 70v plus or minus, indicate that hot has a "partial" fault.. not the neutral(ground?

Still confused about what the correct label for this bare aluminum wire is . Maybe "grounded neutral"?
 
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Old 06-12-15, 07:42 AM
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In a 3 wire feeder the third conductor is the neutral. Installing a 3 wire feeder has been disallowed by later codes.

What type of cable was installed? I suspect SE cable which is not for use underground.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 07:55 AM
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Oops. My bad. I didn't mean "conductor".


Holy moly. Talk about confusing. First off...some one told me a long time ago, that calling a neutral or a ground.."a conductor" was wrong. That led to a month long discussion of the "neutral current" thing. And, advice from an electrical ENGINEER..DO NOT USE A SEPARATE GROUND ROD AT A SUB PANEL.

Now I find this:

As most inspectors know:
• A properly wired 120/240-volt subpanel includes a 4-conductor ductor feeder;
• Two of these lines are ungrounded conductors, commonly known as “hots;”
• One line is the grounded conductor, commonly knows as “the neutral;”
• And one line is the equipment grounding conductor, commonly known as “the


http://www3.ambest.com/DPSDirectoryS...shx?mmid=12761

Ok..now i understand..ie..
GROUNDED CONDUCTOR vs GROUNDING CONDUCTOR


Ok, sorry..I didn't intend to drag my thread into the ground...

I've got to read that entire PDF. I'll be back. In the meantime..I'm laying out my garage wiring in Sketchup for another thread. Looks like I may have to do some changes. But that's for another day.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 08:00 AM
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In a 3 wire feeder the third conductor is the neutral. Installing a 3 wire feeder has been disallowed by later codes.

What type of cable was installed? I suspect SE cable which is not for use underground.
Oh. Ok then. As what type cable...I don't know. I can't find any labels on the insulation either. Thing is, given the old fuse and meter boxes, it appears this may have been done by the original home owner. I can't imagine a contractor leaving those boxes in place. Nasty. I'm going to change them though. As for the wire.... what makes you think it's this "SE" cable? What does that mean? I mean..this has been working for over 10 years.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 08:04 AM
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In electrician lingo, conductor means wire. Could be bare or insulated.

The ground and neutral are connected together at one and only one point, which is in the first panel after the meter -- commonly called the main panel. From there on, the ground and neutral should be kept separate. The difference is that neutral wires normally have current in them and therefore you can shocked from a neutral. Ground wires do not normally have current in them. The ground wires are bonded to metal enclosures and boxes, neutrals are not.

In a standard 120V circuit, the neutral carries currently exactly equal to the hot. In a pure 240V circuit like a table saw, there is no neutral so it carries no current. In a 120V/240V circuit like an electric stove, the neutral carries current equal to the difference in current of the hots.

The Newman machine (and all other perpetual motion machines) are bunk, based either on deliberate fraud to cheat investors and/or the inventor's fundamental misunderstanding of physics.

Yes, all outbuildings should have at least one ground rod, connected to the ground bus in the panel. This is primarily for protection against lightning damage and is not really the same thing as a circuit "ground", even though similar words are often used to describe them.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 08:51 AM
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SE is called service entrance cable and is not for use underground. It has a bare concentric neutral wound around the hots. SER cable is similar but the ground is bare and the neutral is insulated.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 08:52 AM
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In electrician lingo, conductor means wire. Could be bare or insulated.
Ok, gottcha. Conductor it is.

The ground and neutral are connected together at one and only one point, which is in the first panel after the meter -- commonly called the main panel.
Ok. But this brings up the next question.

The meter feeds the two fuses, which in turn, are connected to two sets of feeders. One to the house. And one to the garage. The neutral and ground for the house panel are bonded at one buss bar. The garage "neutral" is also bonded to this buss bar.
In the house service panel, there are two master breakers. In the garage sub panel, there are none. Just the distribution breakers. So..is this legal to have both the house and garage panels fed from the same two fuses? Here's what it looks like..Name:  Meter Panel.jpg
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Ok, I researched a panel to replace this fuse box. Is this ok?

Eaton 60-Amp Double Pole AC Type NEMA 3RDisconnect Molded Case Switch-DPB222RP - The Home Depot

Or do I need one with separate breakers for house and garage? Like this...

Square D Homeline 100 Amp 6-Space 12-Circuit Outdoor Main Lug Load Center-HOM612L100RBCP - The Home Depot


Actually, now that you guys have explained some things,
now I'm thinking of completely biting the bullet, pulling this existing wire out, putting in a new disconnect box, pulling a new four wire set to the garage,

AND replacing the existing garage sub panel, as it does NOT have a separate GROUND BUSS AND NEUTRAL BUSS, nor enough breakers. Also, add the grounding rod.

It just seems that fixing this fault by virtue of a splice, isn't a great idea. Even if I could find it. Seems like either I have to pull a single wire, or all three, or dig up the rest of the conduit hoping to spot something in the conduit, and then cutting a portion of the conduit away and then repairing it...which digging the rest of this up isn't something I'm looking forward to, nor seems wise. Thing is though..money vs time. I've got lots of time. Little money.

Ok guys, I'll do the continuity check asap. Then make some decisions. I'll be back.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 09:03 AM
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SE is called service entrance cable and is not for use underground. It has a bare concentric neutral wound around the hots. SER cable is similar but the ground is bare and the neutral is insulated.
Ok, I see what you mean. SER is FOUR conductors then, right? And mine is 3 conductor with a bare neutral. Ok, now things are getting clearer. This makes a difference in my decisions. Looks like I might be ripping this whole fuse box, wire, AND sub panel out and replacing it.

Alright guys. I appreciate the info. It really has made a difference in my direction. Ok, time to start pricing this job.

At least it will be safe and legal. er...wait. Do i have to get a permit to do this?
 
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Old 06-12-15, 09:37 AM
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Do i have to get a permit to do this?
Only your AHJ can tell you that.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 09:47 AM
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ut oh.

uuum... after researching the cost of this SER cable.. Almost $300 for 60 feet of this...

Thing is..I'm semi retired on a fixed income, so...I may have to return to splicing this bad conductor with something like this:

4 0 4 0 2 0 Aluminum Underground URD Wire Heat Shrink Crimp Repair Splice Kit | eBay

Of course, I don't know what I'd use to crimp it though.

Unless I can do something like replace the bad conductor, and ADD one more #4. Something like this...

Southwire 4/0 Aluminum USE Wire (By-the-Foot)-27287290 - The Home Depot

Is that legal? This is listed under Service entry cable so I thought this might work. A heck of a lot cheaper than replacing the whole kit and kebutal. But you tell me. Can i do this?
 
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Old 06-12-15, 09:51 AM
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Do i have to get a permit to do this?
Only your AHJ can tell you that.
Umm..what is the AHJ? I'm not an electrician so i've never heard this acronym.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 10:02 AM
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Authority Having Jurisdiction, essentially the governmental office that issues permits for building things. May be at the city, county or state level.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 10:10 AM
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Authority Having Jurisdiction,
Ah yes...authority with jurisdiction. Ok, gottcha. Thanks. i thought it might have something to do with BID(Building Inspection Department). Alright, I'll check into it. Thanks again.
 
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Old 06-12-15, 12:37 PM
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The cable you were pricing was way too big for what you need, and the wrong one. SER is not for underground use -- pcboss was speculating that's what the previous owner might have installed because it's what they stock at home depot and home owners screw that up all the time.

You most likely would need USE-2 or XHHW-2 wire (underground service entrance). The size #4/0 means #0000, which is about a half inch diameter per conductor and good for 200A -- far too big. You probably have #4 which is good for 60A, and should run somewhere around $0.25 per foot per conductor.
 
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Old 06-13-15, 12:01 AM
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If I may add a bit...Fitz, I see in your diagram, the meter base, and below it, the Main Service Panel, with a breaker. This is the only location where neutral and ground is bonded. That is, the neutral and ground are connected at the same bus. Your house and garage electrical panels are sub panels. Sub panels have the neutral and ground separate, and each will have their own grounding rod (up here we use a grounding plate). Usually, when you buy a main BREAKER load center (has one breaker that disconnects all circuits), you have to take out a screw that bonds neutral to ground (brass screw?) when using as a subpanel. A main LUG loadcenter has no main breaker...just circuits. I'm no electrician, but up where I live we can use a main LUG loadcenter in garage/shed. For the house...I would use a main BREAKER load center there. Find an electrician and pick his brain for local variances.
Also, I'd get that conduit deeper...
BTW - I have a similar version of that main lug loadcenter in my well shed.
Name:  20150605_191440 (Large).jpg
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I got that box because it is outdoor rated...was going to have an outdoor kiosk as a temp measure, but I bit the bullet and built the shed. The problem is the main line (line side) has to come into the top of the panel, which isn't a big deal, but would have been nicer if I could have gone into bottom or side. Also, our code requires panels to be mounted on solid wood at least 3/4" thick (no thin ply)...I had some 1" ply lying about and used that.

Addition: I used 2/3 ACWU cable (aluminum armored cable for wet use and U means it can be underground - can be direct buried) ...it is used a lot up here. Since you have conduit, not needed. I agree with ipbrooks, that #4 is plenty. The /3 means there are 3 insulated conductors (2 hots and a neutral)...the bare ground wire is included, but not counted, except when buying flexible portable cable??? (had a electrical shop set me straight a while back).
 

Last edited by melliam; 06-13-15 at 12:19 AM.
  #22  
Old 06-13-15, 04:16 AM
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The cable you were pricing was way too big for what you need, and the wrong one. SER is not for underground use -- pcboss was speculating that's what the previous owner might have installed because it's what they stock at home depot and home owners screw that up all the time.
Holy moly!!. What a moron. Yeah, had I "ordered" this online, I would have screwed up alright.



You most likely would need USE-2 or XHHW-2 wire (underground service entrance). The size #4/0 means #0000, which is about a half inch diameter per conductor and good for 200A -- far too big. You probably have #4 which is good for 60A, and should run somewhere around $0.25 per foot per conductor.
Oh man. Ok.. so #4/0 is not the same as #4. Gottcha. Yeah, the guys from the electric company told me the existing is #4. But I didn't know #4/0 is different. It's hard to tell by pictures of the size. Thing is, had I seen the #4/0 in a store..I would have known something was amiss. I wouldn't really have ordered this stuff online though.

So you mean something like this then?

Southwire 4 Aluminum USE Wire (By-the-Foot)-27280790 - The Home Depot

I couldn't find any of the XHHW-2 stuff.

So, how can i tell if the existing wire is SER or this #4 USE-2 stuff?

Reason I ask is, I'm still wondering if I can simply replace the conductor with a fault, with this #4 USE-2 wire and add another of same as the neutral? This would give me the 4 wire feed.

In other words, can i still use the one good insulated wire if it's #4 USE-2, and re-purpose the existing bare wire as a ground instead of neutral? I mean, I understand i need to upgrade the sub-panel to a 4 wire system(separate ground and and neutral buss')if I pull the existing wires out of the conduit. I was just hoping I could reuse the good insulated conductor and the bare ground. But if this existing wire is different, and not supposed to be underground, even in conduit, I'll change the whole set. At least..now that I know it's cheaper.

Btw..what's the difference between the SER and the other stuff you mentioned?

Anyway, THANK YOU so much. This is exactly why I came here.
 
  #23  
Old 06-13-15, 04:22 AM
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Can you post a picture of the existing cable?
This might help.
Aluminum SE Cable
 
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Old 06-13-15, 05:05 AM
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If I may add a bit...Fitz,...
Hey..by all means, please do melliam!! I need all the help I can get.
I see in your diagram, the meter base, and below it, the Main Service Panel, with a breaker.
Actually, no. It's a fuse box. Old and screwed up. i should have taken time to lable things with call-outs, but I was in a hurry. I'm really fast with Sketchup and use it all the time for illustration purposes. i would have used a camera but my wife's computer that we use for uploading pics to ebay, got FRIED because of the "disconnected neutral" thing. Man, was that a learning experience.

But yeah, I'm going to replace it with a loadcenter box with 60amp breakers. The question is if i need one with separate breakers for the house and garage, or can both feeds be connected to the breakers, just like they are now at the fuses? The house panel already has main breakers though, so i guess this would be redundant. But I don't see any other way.

This is the only location where neutral and ground is bonded. That is, the neutral and ground are connected at the same bus
Gottcha. I'm learning.

Usually, when you buy a main BREAKER load center (has one breaker that disconnects all circuits), you have to take out a screw that bonds neutral to ground (brass screw?) when using as a subpanel.
Yeah, i read about that. That's why i have to change my sub-panel in the garage too.


A main LUG loadcenter has no main breaker...just circuits. I'm no electrician, but up where I live we can use a main LUG loadcenter in garage/shed.
Ah so. I'm learning. I'd never heard the term LUG loadcenter before. Thanks. That's what's in the garage now.

I got that box because it is outdoor rated...was going to have an outdoor kiosk as a temp measure, but I bit the bullet and built the shed.
Yeah, i need an outdoor rated one too, as you can tell from the illustration. The existing fuse box is a joke. And so is the kiosk.

Also, our code requires panels to be mounted on solid wood at least 3/4" thick (no thin ply)...I had some 1" ply lying about and used that.

Oh man, if you saw what this whole existing "kiosk" looks like you'd freak out. I did. Hahahaha. it's totally deteriorated. The plywood is de-laminating and the post is rotton. That's another thing i have to rebuild. Sheeeezus. Add it to my "to do list" as #463 before summer ends. Actually, I'm surprised the guys from the electric company didn't refuse to even remove the meter. The whole box looked like it was coming loose from the plywood. Thing is, I live in a part of Michigan that you'd swear time forgot. Everything around here is dilapidated. And the electric service kiosks are no exception.



Addition: I used 2/3 ACWU cable (aluminum armored cable for wet use and U means it can be underground - can be direct buried) ...it is used a lot up here. Since you have conduit, not needed. I agree with ipbrooks, that #4 is plenty. The /3 means there are 3 insulated conductors (2 hots and a neutral)...the bare ground wire is included, but not counted, except when buying flexible portable cable??? (had a electrical shop set me straight a while back).
Ahhhh..now I'm beginning to understand. Ok, the question still remains whether or not I can simply replace the wire with a fault, add one more new wire and reuse the good insulated wire and the bare wire, or do i have to replace the whole set. At this point, I still need to do some calculations..money wise. The answer will determine if i have to wait till I have more.

Ok, thanks so much melliam. I'll be back.
 
  #25  
Old 06-13-15, 05:19 AM
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Can you post a picture of the existing cable?

hi pcboss! Yeah, as soon as I can. However, it doesn't look like that SE in the picture you linked to. It's 2 separate wires with black insulation, and one separate bare wire. They are not encased or sheathed together in anything. Does that tell you anything? I'll look and see if I can see any labeling on the insulation though.
 
  #26  
Old 06-13-15, 02:49 PM
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You said, "But yeah, I'm going to replace it with a loadcenter box with 60amp breakers. The question is if i need one with separate breakers for the house and garage, or can both feeds be connected to the breakers, just like they are now at the fuses? The house panel already has main breakers though, so i guess this would be redundant. But I don't see any other way."

Perhaps an electrician can chime in on that. My understanding is that you need a means to disconnect the works in that main service panel. That is, it shuts down the works on the line side via one main breaker. One the load side, where you have two lines going to the house and garage respectively, they have their own breaker (actually, this is what was done by electricians at my place, as the power company insisted on it - past the main service panel, it is all me). The thing is, the main breaker at main service panel cannot be powering more than it can handle for obvious reasons. So, whatever you put below the meter base has to be large enough to power both the house and garage. I assume wire going into main service panel (fuse box) is large enough for your plans.
I 'think' habitable quarters either require a main breaker or it is wise do so. Either way, you are good as you have it.
You'll have to factor in the cost of having power company disconnect meter base so you can replace main service panel. $500 up here...we have monopoly money here, so it may be cheaper where you live.

Aside: my Dad has a cottage property with a power mast that rotted into two, and was only standing because of two support wires and the line from street (like a broken twig). That was interesting. He cajoled a carpenter to replace it without taking out meter base...How he did that is a mystery.
 
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Old 06-13-15, 05:20 PM
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Perhaps an electrician can chime in on that. My understanding is that you need a means to disconnect the works in that main service panel. That is, it shuts down the works on the line side via one main breaker. One the load side, where you have two lines going to the house and garage respectively, they have their own breaker (actually, this is what was done by electricians at my place, as the power company insisted on it - past the main service panel, it is all me). The thing is, the main breaker at main service panel cannot be powering more than it can handle for obvious reasons. So, whatever you put below the meter base has to be large enough to power both the house and garage. I assume wire going into main service panel (fuse box) is large enough for your plans.
Ok melliam, this is why I said I "may" need a main service panel with TWO double breakers. What I don't understand, and never have understood, how the "load" is determined in the first place. As it is..if you add up all the "amperage" of the breakers in my HOUSE panel..it's WAY more than the existing 60 amp fuses, not to mention the sub-panel. I understand, that the total breaker amperage is more than what the fuses would handle, but that is where I get lost. Anyway, I'll be back. Time for bed.
 
  #28  
Old 06-13-15, 05:51 PM
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What I don't understand, and never have understood, how the "load" is determined
Since none of the breakers in the box ever carry their full rating for more then a short time and most never reach anywhere near their rating the breaker size is not a valid method, Instead you do a load calculation based on actual expected loads. Here is one example and you can Google for others. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/97696973...lt-Enterprises
 
  #29  
Old 06-14-15, 08:46 AM
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Since none of the breakers in the box ever carry their full rating for more then a short time and most never reach anywhere near their rating the breaker size is not a valid method,
That's good to hear. My cognitive dissonance was working overtime. Thing is, the only reason I was even thinking about that, was caused by the possibility of having to replace the existing sub-panel due to possibly upgrading the existing SE cable.

Which brings me to last night. Holy mother of cheap digital multimeters!!!

WARNING: LONG UPDATE!!

Like I said earlier, I fixed the probe on my cheap analog multimeter, but didn't want to mess around the fuse panel as it was raining cats and dogs yesterday. Instead, I finished up wiring some outlets. And that was what got me to thinking about adding more circuit breakers if i had to change the sub-panel. As it is, this existing panel only has room for (1)240v circuit breaker, and 4) 120v breakers. But more on that later.

i finished up the wiring about 7 last night, and it was still raining, so, at the last minute, i figured I'd just re-measure the voltage at the sub-panel, just to make sure my original suspicions /diagnosis was still valid.


ut oh. OMG. WTF??? 120v between both H1 & H2 to neutral!!! 240v across the hots. OMG.

Guys, this whole scenario may turn out a lesson in Great Moments in Stupidity. Not to mention wasting your time by virtue of a series of misguided judgements on my behalf. A comedy of errors if you will.

Ok, here's the deal. At that moment, something occurred to me. Two days ago, after a moment of contemplation of this whole scenario, and out of curiosity, I tried to start the table saw again..just for drill. It didn't start, but I could hear the magnetic assembly in the switch "click". Twice. But the third time..nothing. That should have clued me in right there that something was amiss. But it didn't.

Anyway, this problem now boils down to 4 possibilities.

a. The brand new 10/2 circuit to the saw developed a fault. i give this zero possibility.

b. The bonding of one of the two hot saw wires to the 10/2 by wire nuts has failed or is not tight. I had this happen on a water heater connection one time, to the point, I just happened to smell plastic burning in my utility room. OMG..one wire nut must have been loose, causing resistance to the point it had totally melted the plastic and the metal part was RED HOT!! Of course, the water heater comes on automatically and may heat for 15-30 minutes. The table saw only runs when I turn it on. I give this a 30% possibility.

c. The magnetic switch momentarily failed until total failure.
At this point..I'm guessing this is a 99.9% possibility.

d. The saw motor failed. Given this is a Powermatic, I'm hoping this isn't the problem. BIG BUCKS. But I'm thinking this has about a 2% possibility as these are very heavy duty motors.

Well, last night, I was so tired,(at 70 I get tired early), I didn't feel like messing with this anymore. Tiredness and electricity do not mix. Anyway, so there you have it. I'm just getting dressed to go out and pin this thing down.

Guys, I feel like an idiot. But what can you do? Certain sets of circumstances can lead you down a totally wrong path. I'm sure you've been there. So..........I'll be back. At least, the good news is...at this point, the whole idea of replacing the SE and panel is moot. I think.


Hey, one more tidbit of unbelievable, out of the blue, stroke of luck events happened. As i mentioned earlier, the only reason I called the utility company to pull the meter, was the "pull handle" on that bakelite fuse holder had broken at some point, and the only way I could "pull" it out, was pry it with screwdrivers, which I did. Ok, after the elect company guys left, I improvised a pull handle by prepping this bakelite assembly to JB-Weld a short piece of CPVC tubing as a pull. It worked perfect.

However, yesterday, while looking through a ton of unpacked boxes of junk and hardware for some screws, down in the bottom of one, I spotted what appeared to be a "copper bonding flange" that looked suspiciously like the ones on that bakelite assembly. OMG. I moved some stuff..low and behold. A perfect replacement. I haven't got a clue where that came from. Never seen it before. You can't even buy one. I tried. All i know is.. this is a 1 in a quadrillion occurrence.

Ok guys. Sorry for the long bla bla bla. i'll be back with an update asap.
 
  #30  
Old 06-14-15, 09:30 AM
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Don't be sorry. We have all been there.
 
  #31  
Old 06-14-15, 11:36 AM
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quote"Don't be sorry. "unquote

Ok, but you haven't heard what just happened yet.

We have all been there.
Good. Then tell me where the Electrical Roller Coaster from Hell EXIT is.

ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!! I HATE ELECTRICAL!!! I'm so exasperated I could scream.

Latest update. Again..WARNING.. long post.

Ok guys, before I went out to solve this nightmare, I decided to have a little something to eat. Namely, some warmed up biscuits and sausage gravy. Yuuuuum. So, i put the container of gravy in the microwave and hit start.

All of a sudden..half the house power went out. WTF? I go to the breaker panel. Nothing. Everything is good. ut ohh. This means only one thing. A fuse has blown. All of a sudden..this comes to mind...

quote"Okay a few issues here. First, it sounds like you might have just blown one of the two fuses feeding the garage. The 70 volt reading is a phantom voltage introduced by a digital meter."unquote

Indeed. Crap. It's raining though. And my wife needs her "new" computer to connect with ebay customers..immediately. So, I get prepared to work in the rain. Gloves, rubber soled shoes, rubber knee pads and a rubber pad for the ground. i'm dreading this. At least I have my ANALOG meter fixed.

Ok, I go out and open the fuse box. First thing i check is both hot terminals voltage from the meter..pre-fuses. All is good. Then I check post-fuses. WTF? Both are at 120v. All of a sudden, my dads favorite mechanics axiom comes to mind..LOOK LOOK AND THEN LOOK AGAIN. Something is amiss here. i decide to pull the fuse holder. Before I do I shut the master breakers off in the house and any that were on in the garage. Just so there wasn't anything drawing power.


Thank god i fixed the fuse holder too. Unfortunately, this thing is really hard to pull out. I grab some insulated pliers, grab it by the new handle i epoxied on..and pulled. Out comes the assembly. Now for some examination. First thing I do is check continuity on both fuses. Hmmm...they're good. WTF. Time to look closer. I pull the fuses from the grasping terminals and look. Holy moly.

Hmmm, on one end of one fuse, where the bar that melts in the fuse is soldered to the copper end terminals, the solder has melted and is all black around the little rectangular hole. More over, as I'm handling the fuse, some white powder begins to fall out the hole. WTF. I look closer. Hmmm, I grasp the copper end terminal and rotate it. WOW. It rotates. So i pull on it and it comes off. Well I'll be a monkeys uncle.

I theorize there was a partial connection, enough to get continuity and measure 120v..but not enough to allow current to the house to flow. All of a sudden..it occurs to me..maybe this has been the problem all along. My fingers are crossed.

Ok, the local TruValue is open on Sundays till 2. Its a half mile away. So, I jam over real quick, find a set of 2 60amp for $18. Dang, this store is always expensive. Oh well, I go to the check out and they ring it up. $5.99. My lucky day. I don't say a word. Cool. About time I get a break.

Ok, I get home thinking I just might solve this whole thing. I immediately grab the good fuse holder assembly i found last night, get a piece of emery cloth and clean all the terminals. This thing looked new, but still there was air corrosion on them. Ok, i insert the new fuses, and then insert the fuse block in it's retaining box and push. Time to test the fix.

I go in the house and flip the master breakers on. VOILA!!! The entire house lights up. Thank god. My wife kisses me.

Now for the garage. I flip on the breakers. The same lights that worked on half of the breakers come on. Time for the table saw. I hit the on button........ nothing. My heart sinks.

I get the meter and check both hots to neutral. Again, one hot has only about 70 volts.

Well guys. Back to square one. I'm tired. Enough of this for today. There's nothing I can do till tomorrow. So.. back to the original theory. One hot conductor with a partial fault. i mean..at this point..what else could it be??? I'm still getting SOME voltage on it, so that means it's not totally open. Right?
Tomorrow, I'll disconnect the sub panel wires at the fuses and the sub panel, and tie them together for continuity tests. As for today..I'm going to watch movies. Hahahahahaha!

I'll be back.
 
  #32  
Old 06-14-15, 12:00 PM
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Hang in there I feel your pain. I went to wash today and the washing machine crapped out, the yard needs mowing but its raining out, the back door jamb fell apart from rot two weeks ago but while trying to fix it I discovered the main house beam had rotted out too. Me, I'm 67 and it takes me about 45 minutes of work before I'm so out of breath I need the rest of the day to rest.
 
  #33  
Old 06-14-15, 12:50 PM
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I went to wash today and the washing machine crapped out, the yard needs mowing but its raining out, the back door jamb fell apart from rot two weeks ago but while trying to fix it ...
OMG. I feel your pain too. The EXACT same thing happened here 6 weeks ago. STILL haven't fixed the door jamb. But thank god for rich sister-in-laws. She bought us a new washer and had it delivered. Of course, that was after joining a forum just like here, and spending two weeks trying to fix something that is impossible to fix. So yeah, I've been there too.

Btw, thanks for the encouragement too.

Ps..you must live in the same area of Michigan i do. Rot County.
 
  #34  
Old 06-14-15, 02:20 PM
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I turn 65 this coming Wednesday and I can't stand for more than a few minutes at a time. I have TWO work chairs in the garage/shop. I also have more projects than I suspect I will ever finish and between the back room and the garage being as junked up as they are it is a wonder I can find anything.

As for your problem...I think that you may have already found the solution with replacing the fuses on the house disconnect. Do the same on the garage disconnect, clean the fuse clips and replace the fuses and see what happens.

Oh, the grass in my back yard is two feet high in places and the blackberries on the south-east side are up to the gutter.
 
  #35  
Old 06-14-15, 05:56 PM
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I turn 65 this coming Wednesday and I can't stand for more than a few minutes at a time. I have TWO work chairs in the garage/shop. I also have more projects than I suspect I will ever finish and between the back room and the garage being as junked up as they are it is a wonder I can find anything.
OMG. hello furd! Hey..thanks for getting back to me. It's always nice to connect to another old fart. And yeah, I understand. I moved here two years ago, and am still trying to get my shop and life reorganized. But somehow,..there is always something to keep daily progress two steps backwards.
As for your problem...I think that you may have already found the solution with replacing the fuses on the house disconnect. Do the same on the garage disconnect, clean the fuse clips and replace the fuses and see what happens.
As for the disconnects..there is only ONE disconnect. This is what I've been saying all along. BOTH the house service feeds, and the garage service feeds are fed by ONE set of fuses. Both hot lines for the house and garage are connected to the two output terminals from the fuses. This is why I've been asking if each should be on their own service box breakers if I decide to replace the fuse box with an updated master breaker box.

And hey...I know what you mean about 1/2 hour work and then having to rest. Damn. Getting old sucks. Plain and simple
 
  #36  
Old 06-14-15, 06:04 PM
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Both hot lines for the house and garage are connected to the two output terminals from the fuses. This is why I've been asking if each should be on their own service box breakers if I decide to replace the fuse box with an updated master breaker box.
Yes. You need separate over current protection for each. Many connections are one wire only so if your fuse holder is double tapped and not rated for two wire you may not be getting a good connection.
 
  #37  
Old 06-14-15, 06:04 PM
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Most lugs are only listed for one conductor. Do you have pictures of the panel box insides?
 
  #38  
Old 06-14-15, 06:11 PM
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Oh, the grass in my back yard is two feet high in places and the blackberries on the south-east side are up to the gutter.
oh man. blackberrys. yuuuuuuuuuuum. hahahahaha. pickem and forget about the plants. unless you own a backhoe. Blackberrys are the worst. In my last place I lived along the coast of Oregon..they took over almost the entire property. Impossible to keep at bay. It was one of the reasons I abandoned my home. Although..the thieving Wall Street bankers were on top of the list. But their due will come.
 
  #39  
Old 06-14-15, 06:22 PM
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Holy moly. 3 replys in 15 minutes.

Yes. You need separate over current protection for each. Many connections are one wire only so if your fuse holder is double tapped and not rated for two wire you may not be getting a good connection.
That's what I thought. However, these lugs do accommodate two #4 wires, regardless of current code. And the mere fact they do, and the voltage measurements I just did, suggest that it doesn't matter what current code requires. It is what it is. I have 120v between both hot terminals post fuses and neutral in the fuse box..but only about 70v across one of the hot to neutrals at the sub panel. This is now after replacing fuses, tightening all terminal lugs, multiple measurements and days of frustrating coincidence's and comedy of errors. I am now at the point that I am absolutely convinced I have a "partial" meltdown fault in one of the aluminum service feed conductors to the sub panel. Tomorrow, I am going to stop ****ing around, and pull the entire three wire service feed to the sub panel, out of the conduit and fix it. PERIOD.
 
  #40  
Old 06-14-15, 06:54 PM
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I am now at the point that I am absolutely convinced I have a "partial" meltdown fault in one of the aluminum service feed conductors to the sub panel.
You are dealing with aluminum conductors. I'd put money down that you have a hot conductor that has a fault in the inslation and the moisture that has entered through the insulation has oxidized the aluminum wire into white powder, aluminum oxide. My guess is that IF you can pull the three conductors, only part of the wire with the fault will come out.
 
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