Wiring help needed for garage

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Old 07-27-15, 11:18 PM
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Wiring help needed for garage

I have a detached garage with remnants of knob-and-tube that I would like to rewire. There is a newer NM line coming out of the attic running exposed to the garage that has been cut at the house. The stub that has been taped off is dead according to my voltage sensor. There is a working motion sensor light near the stubbed NM.

At the house - there is a panel by the meter in the crawl space with only one 15-amp breaker. I cannot tell what it services – as nothing seems to die when I kill it. It looks like this:

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There is another panel in the house with individual breakers. The main breaker for all is only 40-amps. The motion sensor light is on a 15-amp breaker along with the lights for several rooms. There is a free 40-amp and 15-amp breaker.

Only one receptacle in the house appears to be grounded (how is that?).

I would like to tear out the old knob-and-tube in the garage and put in several interior receptacles, one exterior receptacle, two interior lights, and one exterior light.

Questions:

1) Can I just extend a line from the live motion sensor (on the 15 amp breaker) at the side of the house to serve the garage? If that is not big enough – how do I tap the unused 40-amp breaker?

2) I imagine I should use conduit to bring the line to the garage below-grade – is PVC ok for that?

3) I would like to put in GFCI receptacles that are grounded. Is it possible to ground the garage if the rest of the house isn’t grounded? How do I do that?

4) What is the small 15-amp breaker in the crawl-space? Am I safe to work on the house if the “main” breaker is off on the interior panel

Thank you in advance for your help!!
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-28-15 at 07:32 AM. Reason: Rotate image.
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  #2  
Old 07-28-15, 08:05 AM
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There is a newer NM line coming out of the attic running exposed to the garage that has been cut at the house.
You wrote the garage is detached. NM can not be used to run a cable to a detached garage.
The stub that has been taped off is dead according to my voltage sensor.
If you mean non contact tester you don't reallt know for sure. Anymore testing should be done with a multimeter, preferably an analog (or neon test light or solenoid tester).
Only one receptacle in the house appears to be grounded (how is that?).
Was that determined using a multimeter?
I would like to tear out the old knob-and-tube in the garage
No need to tear out. Just disconnect both ends and abandon in place.

It would be best to start from scratch to wire the garage. It can be direct burial using UF-b or in PVC conduit using individual conductors.
I would like to put in GFCI receptacles that are grounded. Is it possible to ground the garage if the rest of the house isn’t grounded? How do I do that?
Yes. You will be running a new feed that feed will be grounded. The fact the house receptacles are not grounded doesn't mean you can't ground at the panel. It just means they didn't run a ground.
What is the small 15-amp breaker in the crawl-space?
I don't understand. You won't have a breaker outside of a panel. Post a picture.
 
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Old 07-28-15, 08:30 PM
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Thank you and follow up.......

thank you ray2047.

To clarify: there is a panel in the house that looks like this:
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#1(15amp) is lights for 5 rooms and exterior and outlets for 2 beds.
#2 (30 amp) is outlets for kitchen, bath and dining.
#3 (20 amp) is lights and outlets for living and 1 bed

The panel below the house looks like this:
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I think there is the supply coming from the box marked "120V main" going through the meter to the panel, and then going to the box marked "120V house". Its only a 15 amp breaker - and when I kill it nothing seems to happen in the house....... What is this breaker for??

Where should I tap the house??

Thank you very much for your help.
 
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Old 07-28-15, 08:55 PM
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I don't see anything worth salvaging. Even the feed into and out of the meter is wrong.
 
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Old 07-28-15, 09:03 PM
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#2 (30 amp) is outlets for kitchen, bath and dining.
That is a code violation and fire hazard. General purpose 120v receptacles and lights can not be on circuits larger then 20 amps. If this is K&T wiring it is almost certainly #14 wire. The breaker for # 14 can not be greater than 15 amps.
#3 (20 amp) is lights and outlets for living and 1 bed
Also a code violation and fire hazard if there is any #14 wire which is likely with K&T.

The garage is the least of your worries. Your wiring is very dangerous and repair is really beyond DIY work. You need an electrician stat.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 07:36 AM
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Are the panels pictured all the panels in the entire house?

You could start by replacing the 30 and 20 amp breakers for lights and receptacles and rooms with 15 amp breakers. That will greatly (although not thoroughly) improve safety until you can get the house wiring properly upgraded.

The project will probably start with a new service drop from the utility pole, a new meter, and a new main panel of perhaps 150 amps x 240 volts.

Cables would be run from 15 amp breakers in the new panel to the old panel to re-energize the old circuits.

Over a period of a few weeks to a few months new circuits would be run throughout the house back to the new panel to replace the existing wiring connected to the old panel.

Your house looks to have a 120 volt only service with perhaps 30 to 60 amps total capacity. I have seen this kind of service upgraded to modern standards in the way I have described, both with a professional doing the entire job and with the homeowner doing DIY for the individual branch circuits over a period of years.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 07-29-15 at 07:53 AM.
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Old 07-29-15, 07:44 AM
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Agreed. This looks too convoluted and dangerous to give appropriate advice over the Internet. An electrician should check this out in person. I wouldn't feel comfortable even making a guess as to how to de-energize and open those boxes safely.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 08:15 AM
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Thanks everyone. My weekend goal is no longer getting power to the garage - but getting the landlord to fix the house......

So california law says [the rental unit must "substantially comply" with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety].

Is this an obvious case of "substantial" non-compliance or a gray area? We have been living for a couple months now without any fire........

I appreciate all your help.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 08:27 AM
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In my opinion, it is substantial and deliberate non-compliance. Obviously the house is old, but the items pictured are reasonably new and could not have been installed to code or with permits. Even the old stuff doesn't look to have ever been in compliance.

BTW, is that small panel box just sitting on the concrete slab floor? You would have to kneel or lie flat to read the meter? There's no way that can be the power company's meter, right? Is the landlord using that meter to charge you for utilities? If so, that is almost certainly illegal. Here in MI landlord/tenet meters have to be calibrated and certified if not provided directly by the utility company; California has to be at least as strict on that.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 10:29 AM
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For reason of liability you shouldn't touch the electric or make any changes. Send him a e-mail and a certified return requested letter outlining the dangers that need immediate attention.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 11:43 AM
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The main breaker for all is only 40-amps
It's a backfed main breaker, but not a legal installation because it has no main breaker hold down. In the Cutler-Hammer BR series, only 60 amp and above breakers will accept the main breaker hold down screw.
 
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Old 07-29-15, 12:02 PM
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I was thinking that too, except it looks like two 40A single pole breakers with no handle tie. Maybe it's a BR240 with the handle tie pried off for some reason. I suppose it could be a hacked together way to support an ancient 110V service, but the breaker spacing in the panel doesn't support that either unless there's a jumper between the legs.
 
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Old 07-30-15, 10:47 AM
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It can't be two single pole breakers because each pole would have a label printed on it. Two pole breakers have the label printed on only one of the pole's molded case as is the case in the picture. Also, the pole with no label has the words "Common Trip" printed near the handle. The tie has been removed, but I have no idea why.
 
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Old 07-30-15, 11:47 AM
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Good point, I didn't notice that. It is probably a 40A backfed main, lacking a retention screw.
 
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Old 07-30-15, 08:18 PM
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what does that all mean casualJoe and ibpooks? is it safe to touch??
 
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Old 07-30-15, 09:42 PM
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next step

So my goal right now is to understand just how dangerous this house is - i.e if the landlord does not want to fix it do we want to move out? Our rental market is stupid where we live - over 100 applications on every opening.

What is the risk with these two funky panels?

As I understand it one big risk is the high current through those large breakers. I dont know what gauge wire is connected to the 30 and 20 amp breakers - but I suspect it is old KT - because that is what is exposed in the attic. Is there another way to tell? Is the risk just fire or is there an elevated risk of electrocution somehow? The last family supposedly lived here for 30 years with no accidents.

The 30amp breaker is for the kitchen outlets which includes a gas heater, fridge, etc. Is that still overkill? Is it still dangerous regardless of what the supply wire is?

The KT in the attic is wired with the supply and return separate. I found a new charming detail up there - curious what y'all opinion is. Looks like they spliced into the old knob-and-tube. I know nothing of these things - but it looks like the splice connects the hot to the neutral and vice-versa. From the box the three lines go to motion sensor lights.

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Again - I appreciate all the wisdom you guys offer.
 
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Old 07-31-15, 08:11 AM
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what does that all mean casualJoe and ibpooks? is it safe to touch??
It means it wouldn't pass an electrical inspection and was probably installed by the owner without a permit or inspection. Is it safe to touch? Who knows. The 30 amp breaker on the kitchen receptacle circuit represents a serious fire hazard. I can assure you the only reason it has a 30 amp breaker is because a 15 or 20 amp breaker was tripping when it did it's job and shut down the circuit. That place is a fire trap as it is now.
 
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