Major Wiring Concerns in 1900 House


  #1  
Old 11-01-15, 12:18 PM
Brandon Schwank's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Major Wiring Concerns in 1900 House

Hey all,

So major wiring issues from my standpoint in a house built in 1900. I'm eventually going to inherit this property and would like to begin work on it now. The 100amp service panel was never labeled so we did that yesterday. What we found was well, kind of nerve wracking.

First off, the service panel doesn't appear to have a grounding bus bar. It also does not appear to have any ground wires running out of it to bond it to the earth or ground to water meter etc.. An electrician stated it's most likely grounded at the electrical meter on the porch. Is that a possibility?

Next, there is one circuit, I'm assuming the original first one installed with most of the property loaded on it. The entire second and third floors, half of the first floor. This includes both receptacles and switched lighting. Some of the things running on here are a 3-way light, toaster (kitchen outlets), computer, kitchen lighting, and the entire second and third floors (currently not in use, but will be upon inheritance) This circuit is on a slimline breaker with an outlet upstairs. Both switches read 20a.

The next circuit has the fridge, microwave, a water cooler, television, and the cellar lights plus a few other living room receptacles. The washing machine is also plugged into this circuit. (Both of these first two concern me greatly).

The front and back porch both have their own independent breakers with the back porch being split with a slimline breaker going to an outlet upstairs. Both switches read 15a. There is what seems to be a dedicated circuit just for the cellar receptacles that were installed around 1990. There are 2 240v circuits, one for the dryer, and one for the oven.

We had an electrician come in a while back to install lighting for a powder room on the first floor. He wired the lighting into the circuit that runs the oil burner. Is this safe? Should it be changed? The oil burner has an emergency shut off switch in the circuit.

Lastly, there are two other circuits that I could not find what they are used for. I will have to go around and double check and really test each individual outlet in each room when I have more time. I am guessing they run to a few receptacles somewhere in the building (possibly the attic)?

Either way, where should I start with this? It is completely overwhelming and I'm not sure what I need to do to bring this place into the 21st century and make it safe. I need some serious advice here. The 100amp service panel appears to be full as the bus bars inside do not extend any further past the already installed breakers (even though the square D panel has more punch out slots).

Any and all help is appreciated!

Thanks!
 
  #2  
Old 11-01-15, 12:44 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 65,746
Received 4,117 Upvotes on 3,697 Posts
The main service panel would only be required to have a combination neutral/ground bar. A sub panel after that needs separate ground and neutral bars. There should at least be a ground connection to the water service. You may want to consider a ground rod.

When that house was wired there was little need for electricity. They ran a few circuits to run a few lights. Now we live on electricity. You will be needing to run new circuits throughout the house..... especially today's power hungry kitchen.

If you aren't experienced at pulling wiring thru the house then you'll either need to find someone that is or hire an electrician. You'll need to pull new wiring throughout the house. It will require cutting and patching old plaster walls.
 
  #3  
Old 11-01-15, 12:55 PM
Brandon Schwank's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I feel comfortable running new lines through the house. I just don't feel comfortable as far as running 240v lines or subpanels/etc.. Since the main panel is out of available slots, would you recommend upgrading to a 200 amp panel?
 
  #4  
Old 11-01-15, 12:56 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
First off, the service panel doesn't appear to have a grounding bus bar.
No ground bar is needed if this is the first panel with a breaker or fuse. Ground and neutral are tied together at the first breaker or fuse. (There is a rare exception at the meter instead of the first panel but that is not usual.)
I'm assuming the original first one installed with most of the property loaded on it. This circuit is on a slimline breaker with an outlet upstairs. Both switches read 20a.
(Breakers not switches.) If it is #14 wire it should be a 15 amp breaker.
We had an electrician come in a while back to install lighting for a powder room on the first floor. He wired the lighting into the circuit that runs the oil burner. Is this safe?
Probably not unsafe but needs to be separated. The bath requires a dedicated GFCI protected receptacle under current code but you are grandfathered.
Either way, where should I start with this?
First replace any 20 amp breakers on circuits wired with #14 with 15 amp breakers. Next run dedicated circuits for the receptacles in the baths and kitchens. After that as needed add new circuits where you need a ground or the breaker is tripping frequently.
 
  #5  
Old 11-01-15, 01:41 PM
Brandon Schwank's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thank you Ray for all this advice! I will definitely inspect to see what type wiring we have on those 20 amp breakers. You mentioned that I'd be grandfathered in. This powder room (water closet) only contains a toilet. Is that enough for it to be required to have it's own GFCI? If so I'm going to be mad at this guy since he was the one who installed the toilet. (this was all done a few months back, both plumbing and electric work)

My last question is being the current first main panel is overcrowded, and I do plan to utilize more circuits in the future, in your opinion should I upgrade? Is it worth the 1-2 thousand dollar bill? I also ask this since it doesn't appear to be grounded to the water meter or with a stake. I didn't quite understand your first answer with talking about the meter.

Thanks again for all your help!
 
  #6  
Old 11-01-15, 01:55 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 65,746
Received 4,117 Upvotes on 3,697 Posts
If you have a metal piped city water service...... then at the very least you should have a ground wire from that pipe to your main panel.
 
  #7  
Old 11-01-15, 01:58 PM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Ct.,USA
Posts: 3,342
Received 315 Upvotes on 278 Posts
I would finish identifying the loads on all the circuit breakers. As you have already discovered, some breakers feed loads on three levels in the house. My belief is the original power box was fuses with a limited number of fuses, hence when another outlet or light was needed, it was connected to the nearest source of power because all fuses were used. Sometime after the fifties, the fuse panel was replaced with a breaker panel with more circuits, but each original load was just tranferred to a single breaker in the new panel. This was because it is extremely difficult to find a physical location to isolate the loads on the other floors and repower them as discussed below. New breakers were added for the porch lights, electric stove, etc. My first cut at changing the wiring is to determine how difficult it is to separate the loads on multiple floors for the same breaker and move the loads to breakers already feeding that floor or add a new breaker if the existing breaker is at capacity. I have no idea how the common wires were run as I don't think there was wire color codes back when the house was wired. An electrician would be needed to do this and meet the local building code. This is not a task for the do-it-yourselfer. Good luck.
 
  #8  
Old 11-01-15, 02:30 PM
Brandon Schwank's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
This can be done with the existing panel? I'm assuming it would need be done by an electrician?
 
  #9  
Old 11-01-15, 02:36 PM
Brandon Schwank's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Yes, I plan within the week to continue labeling those other circuits. Who knows where they run if to anything. You are exactly right, when my grandparents moved in there was a fuse box, which they had replaced with the circuit breaker they brought from their other home (how I have no idea, but that's on them). What you are saying makes sense. One circuit powers the entire 2nd and 3rd floors so there's no way to separate the loads and plug them into different circuits (if this is what you mean). My plan was to pull the most important safety concerns first (GFCI's outside and in bathrooms/kitchen) and replace them with new wiring that meets local building code. From there I planned to replace the other circuits as needed. I don't have funds sitting around to rewire my house in one go. Although when hiring an electrician that would be the cheapest route.

This is also why I wanted to upgrade the panel so that I can add new lines that run upstairs and plan them out according to what will be in each room. In the current set up, I would need to cut power to the entire upstairs for weeks on end while working on this. I cannot add new breakers since the panel is at capacity.
 
  #10  
Old 11-01-15, 03:44 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 13,998
Received 205 Upvotes on 179 Posts
If you just need more breaker spaces without adding load a subpanel is a viable option.
 
  #11  
Old 11-01-15, 05:46 PM
M
Member
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: USA
Posts: 95
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Watch for the following:

- Old types of wiring: Knob-and-tube or open wiring on insulators

- Splices made without electrical boxes

- Failing insulation (cracked or holes)

- Wires not color coded (all black)

- Conductors not protected from nails

- Fixtures without electrical boxes

- Only 120 V service
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: