Safe Fix for my upstairs breaker box


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Old 06-14-15, 08:24 AM
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Safe Fix for my upstairs breaker box

I'm not an electrician, so the best possible fix is to hire a professional electrician. That being said, I found this problem in the middle of an insulation/sheetrock project that has just about sunk us, and I can't possibly afford to hire an electrician.

Our upstairs (where the children sleep) breaker box is fed by 10/3 wire that runs directly to the service connection in the top of our main breaker box downstairs. The 10/3 is actually in the same posts as the massive black service cables in the top of the box. It runs upstairs to a small breaker box where is is connected to a 100A "Main" breaker. My concern is that the 10G wire can't handle the potential current in normal use, much less in a dead-short situation.

Running new wire would be very difficult, most likely requiring me to break brick because it runs between the original exterior and the new brick. What I'm hoping is that the 10/3 can actually handle the current that may be used upstairs with just 2 bedrooms and no bathrooms or major appliances, and that I can drop the line in my main breaker box down to a breaker instead of the service connections. It sounds safe to me, but again I'm not an electrician. My first concern is running from one breaker to another isn't something I have seen done before. Also, I don't know how to calculate the breaker size I would need for that. As simple as the sum of all the breakers used in the upstairs box? Probably not.

Main Breaker box (the 10G in the top runs to the upstairs breaker box)
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Upstairs Breaker Box (Note the 2 30A breakers aren't used even though they are on and have always been on. And yes that is a galvanized nut on top of the breakers. It was in there when I opened the box.)
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Any help you guys can offer is appreciated.

Thanks
 
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Old 06-14-15, 08:39 AM
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EDIT:
I looked it up, and 10G wire is rated for 30A. We're lucky the house hasn't burned down. I guess the next question is, would it be ok if I installed a 30A breaker in the main box downstairs and connected the upstairs box to that breaker?
 
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Old 06-14-15, 08:43 AM
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What you have was never safe or code compliant. If you move the wires to a 30 amp breaker in the main box it will be safe. if you do not have a main disconnect ahead of the one on your main breaker box have the electric company kill the power to your house before removing the two #10 wires.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 08:45 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

would it be ok if I installed a 30A breaker in the main box downstairs and connected the upstairs box to that breaker?
Is it done yet ?

No breaker at the main panel is a disaster waiting to happen. That 10-3 isn't even protected by the main breaker as it's tapped on before it.

Here's a problem.... you can't shut off power to remove that wire from the lugs. The only way to turn power off there is to pull the meter.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 08:59 AM
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I do have a breaker under my meter that I can kill the power to the main box with. I would kill that and STILL check for voltage at the primaries (that the right word) in my main box before I touch anything.

So connecting the upstairs to a 30A breaker in the main box would be good? The next question becomes, if I don't have enough slack in the 10/3 downstairs, can I use wire nuts and add some wire to get down to the breaker?

Thanks for the responses.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 09:08 AM
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More cleanup - you need to add a ground bar to the upstairs box. If you have a disconnect under your meter then the grounds and neutrals should be separate in the main box as well.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 09:31 AM
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Yes.... you can use pieces of #10 and wirenuts to extend the wires to the breaker.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 09:35 AM
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I'm afraid you are talking over my head. Can you elaborate please?
 
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Old 06-14-15, 09:38 AM
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Thank you. That is a relief because I don't have the slack to pull to the breaker.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 10:31 AM
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If the wires in the downstairs panel are too short they can be extended.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 10:34 AM
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Astuff wrote:
you need to add a ground bar to the upstairs box
You replied:
I'm afraid you are talking over my head. Can you elaborate please?
From the picture it appears you have a ground wire from the main panel in the upstairs panel. A ground bar should be added to the panel and that ground wire and all other ground wires should go to the ground bar. If the neutral bar has a bonding screw (usually green) or a bonding strap it should be removed.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 01:30 PM
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Thank you for explaining that. And thank you Astuff for mentioning it. I had no idea. I'm assuming it has to do with the way a breaker works, and having that box coming off of a breaker. I haven't looked to see if I can separate the existing bar to make a ground/neutral, but I will definitely separate them somehow even if it means installing a separate bar. My main box may be more of a task to separate them because I probably won't have the slack in the wires. I'm going to try though because it does com off of a main breaker at the meter.

Thank you all for the help. I'm relieved to know that I can safely do it this way. Running proper gauge wire for that box would be best, but it is a huge job.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 02:23 PM
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So connecting the upstairs to a 30A breaker in the main box would be good?
Don't be too surprised if that 30 amp breaker trips.
 
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Old 06-14-15, 02:33 PM
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I haven't looked to see if I can separate the existing bar to make a ground/neutral,
You can't do that. The suggestion was to add a ground bar. They only cost a couple of dollars but be sure to get one made for your panel. There are usually raised bumps with threaded holes on the back of your panel that they screw too.

Joe wrote:
Don't be too surprised if that 30 amp breaker trips.
I was thinking the same think. How many breakers in the subpanel are actually connected to circuits? What is on those circuits?
 
 

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