AFCI lead too short

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Old 03-19-17, 12:52 PM
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AFCI lead too short

I am installing an AFCI at the very top of the circuit box and the ground bar is on the bottom. The lead won't reach.

Is it safe and to code to extend the lead and connect the extension wire and factory lead w/a wirenut in the box?

Thanks guys!
 
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Old 03-19-17, 12:55 PM
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Yes................................................
 
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Old 03-19-17, 01:14 PM
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Thanks chandler.

Related question: (I have to find where I dropped the instructions) I believe the instructions state to put the neutral and ground lead for the AFCI circuit on the same screw terminal on the ground bar in the box.

Somewhere I was just reading that the neutral bus bar and ground bus bar must be separate in a box and then somewhere else I saw only in a sub box. We have only the main box and no sub. The neutrals and grounds are mixed in the old wiring and the two bus bars are connected by a heavy jumper wire. The literal ground wire from the service feed comes to one bar only.

Not clear. Is this correct or do we have an issue w/o separate ground and neutral bars?
 
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Old 03-19-17, 01:21 PM
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It is a main panel so grounds and neutrals are sometimes mixed. They should be under separate screws, although on the same bar.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 01:32 PM
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"separate screws" meaning one wire per screw?
 
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Old 03-19-17, 01:34 PM
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Neutrals to one screw and you can combine grounding wires to screws.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 01:38 PM
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In a 3 wire panel, you can land grounds on the neutral bar, but you can't land neutrals on the ground bar.. Reason being if the N-G jumper/bond were ever compromised, it would lead to a loose neutral situation on those circuits (especially if any are MWBC) and current on the EGC.

You can also land up to two grounds of the same size on each lug, but only one neutral.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 02:02 PM
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Here's what's in the box:

side ground bar (factory)
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bottom ground bar (added I believe at the time the box was installed)
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On the bottom bar, the two pigtails dropping down vertically are from me (adding two AFCI), all the rest were there from the electrician. The old stuff has neutrals and grounds on shared screws.

I'm more confused now.
  1. So the shared screws neutrals and grounds that were there are not safe?
  2. The bars need to be segregated?
 

Last edited by PJmax; 03-19-17 at 05:18 PM. Reason: reoriented pictures/added closeup
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Old 03-19-17, 02:39 PM
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Whoa. Ok first of all, what happened there? The rust on the bottom of the box is one thing, but you have serious issues due to those rusted terminals and breakers. Every one of them is a fire waiting to happen.

And yes, that bottom bar is for grounds only. You can put grounds on the neutral bar but you can't put neutrals on a ground bar. The neutrals and grounds under the same screw are illegal. The fact that there are so many extra neutrals in that bar leads me to believe the panel is overcircuited, because there is one neutral lug for every breaker the panel is listed for.. Are there any "twin" breakers? Not ones that have two breakers tied together with a bar on the handle, I mean "skinny" breakers or breakers with two little handles in one breaker?

I would have that panel replaced ASAP.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 03:06 PM
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Thanks taz420.

Here's the full box
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(The loose load wires at the bottom are new circuits I'm putting in.)

There are no twin breakers, just two pairs of two-pole breakers for 220.
It is 200A service. There are still open mounting lugs for the breakers, so how would it be over circuited?

As I mentioned, the second ground bar is how the electrician installed the box and with some neutral/grounds sharing screws. It has an inspection sticker, so I'm not disputing what you're saying, just surprised it passed.

The rust is an issue I was getting back to. I wondered about the rust in general but specifically the rust on screws and breakers. Is the rust an insulator and therefore a cause of resistance and heat?
 

Last edited by PJmax; 03-19-17 at 05:21 PM. Reason: reoriented picture
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Old 03-19-17, 03:34 PM
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The water entering the box is a problem and needs to be addressed. Neutrals need their own screw while grounds can be doubled. See if you can find the source of water entry and post a picture of it
 
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Old 03-19-17, 03:39 PM
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Hmm.. It didn't look like there were all that many grounds in the neutral bar but I guess it's due to the picture.

But yeah anyway, that's a 34 circuit panel, and there are 35 neutral screws (the extra one is for bonding it to the ground bar). I count 12 whites on the ground bar, which is why I though it was overcircuited.

The neutrals on the ground bar and the double lugging of neutrals with grounds leads me to believe that inspection sticker was paid for..... Or the inspector and electrician are related in some way.....

Yes, the rust on terminals leads to high resistance connections, which can heat up without tripping the breaker. The rust on the breakers themselves means the internal mechanism can be compromised - if the mechanism rusts, there's a chance it won't trip when it's supposed to.

If you were to look at your panel with a thermal camera you'll probably see at least one of these:

 
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Old 03-19-17, 04:42 PM
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Guys - I appreciate all the input very much.

I haven't found the source of the water, I don't know if it's coming from the meter box, above it, or below it.

I can't replace the box myself because my limit is 110V and I can't imagine sorting the old spaghetti in a new box. Aside from the water issue needing to be stopped. Is this box salvageable with new ground bars and the old breakers being replaced (and switched to AFCI's) or does this need a new box entirely? A new box would be great but I have a feeling the labor is very $$$.

I have some new plain breakers. I imagine for the moment it's worth popping them in where I have rusted ones - yes?
 
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Old 03-19-17, 05:24 PM
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Water travels downhill so there's a good chance it's getting in your service and following the cable in. The service cable is like a hollow tube and carries water easily.

If you have an overhead service with service cable up the side of the house....
a typical water entry point is the seal/putty at the top of the meter pan.

You can post a picture of your service too.

It looks like most of the water traveled down the neutral bar.
Look at the cable where it enters the main breaker for corrosion.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 05:38 PM
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I can't replace the box myself because my limit is 110V and I can't imagine sorting the old spaghetti in a new box.
It's actually not that bad. If you label everything before you disconnect it, it's just a matter of hooking everything back up (almost) the way it was before. It shouldn't take you more than a couple hours. Your main issue (literally) is that you don't have a main service disconnect upstream of the panel (the fact that your neutrals and grounds are together shows us this). So basically you'll need to have the POCO pull the meter before you start. Depending on your AHJ you may or may not have to pull a homeowner's permit and coordinate an inspection/reconnect with the POCO when you're done. In my city I'm not required to pull a permit as long as I do all the work myself, but your mileage definitely might vary. You also need to know what code cycle your AHJ is using, because if you have to pull a permit, you will be expected to meet those requirements, including AFCI protection.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 05:38 PM
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Do not use the same electrician that installed the ground bar. They obviously do not know the dangers of what they did.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 06:01 PM
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Thanks again guys.

The ground cable is stranded aluminum and looks like it's around the other two cables in the shield and then is twisted together where it comes out so it can go on the ground bar lug. It's hard to say if there's corrosion there or not, but it loops vertically above the edge of the breakers, so drips might come off of there.

It's dark now, so I can't see anything outside until tomorrow.

What is "Depending on your AHJ'?"

It will need a permit here. We have one now for construction including the new circuits I'm running. Not sure how it works with the power company and if I can get them to come back same or next day to replace the meter.

But is it necessary to replace the box or can just the ground bars and breakers be replaced?

Also, I turned off the two 220 breakers for A/C - still have snow here. Would they need to go to AHCI if the others do?

BTW - this box is now 30 years old and I don't know which electrician put it in or if he's even alive.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 06:08 PM
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If only 3 conductors feed that panel the bare is your neutral.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 06:09 PM
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"AHJ" is the Authority Having Jurisdiction, which is usually your inspection department. In NJ, it could be a different entity. Once we are able to see the entrance, we may can help stop the water entry. Ideally you would want to replace the panel, but we, likewise, can't see the buss bar, which could be compromised, or could be clean. If the water traveled down the neutral/ground path it could be just at your lugs.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 07:45 PM
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It will need a permit here. We have one now for construction including the new circuits I'm running. Not sure how it works with the power company and if I can get them to come back same or next day to replace the meter.
Hmm... If you're already working on a permit, then in all honesty the inspector might red tag that panel and tell you to replace it because it's hazardous. He will definitely call out the double lugged neutrals and the neutrals on the ground bar...

Where in NJ are you? Are you on PSE&G, JCP&L, or Rockland?

But is it necessary to replace the box or can just the ground bars and breakers be replaced?
If the central stab bars are not rusted/corroded, then you could just replace the neutral bar and breakers. HOWEVER.. Being a 30 year old panel, you're probably not going to find replacement parts for it. What's the brand/part number?

Also, I turned off the two 220 breakers for A/C - still have snow here. Would they need to go to AHCI if the others do?
240V circuits currently do not require AFCI.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 08:25 PM
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The NEC does not call for afci protection simply if the panel is changed.
 
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Old 03-19-17, 09:24 PM
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The NEC does not call for afci protection simply if the panel is changed.
Yeah but the inspector might. The extent of grandfathering is up to the AHJ, and they can require it, as service replacement is a "modification".
 
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Old 03-19-17, 11:08 PM
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That looks like an old Murray/Crouse-Hinds or Bryant panel. If it is then be wary of the 200 amp main breaker as lots of failures reported - people always looking for replacements.

Surprisingly the two level neutral bar is still available - Siemens Insulated Neutral Bar Kit 34 Positions-ECLX230M - The Home Depot - Replacing is straight forward but tedious.

Unless you do it yourself the cost and time involved for replacing everything in the panel is probably not much less than having the entire panel replaced. Even doing this assumes the bus bar is still good and you would still have a rusty old box in the end. Also most electricians would not want to "fix" that box.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 06:08 AM
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The inspector needs to be citing the requirement, not just saying what they want. I don't think many consider a panel change a modification to a circuit.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 02:01 PM
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PSEG is the power company.

It is a Crouse Hinds from 1987.

Here are photos of the service coming in (also 1987):

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Old 03-20-17, 03:04 PM
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That is SE cable. The bare is the neutral.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 04:24 PM
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The inspector needs to be citing the requirement, not just saying what they want. I don't think many consider a panel change a modification to a circuit.
I know that, but NEC leaves the extent of grandfathering up to the AHJ. If the AHJ has adopted a policy that panel replacement requires compliance with AFCI/GFCI under their adopted code cycle, then that's what the inspector will cite.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 04:51 PM
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The cracks in the service cable jacket are letting the water enter the cable and run into the panel. The cable needs to be replaced.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 04:55 PM
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There's no drip loop on the cable entering the house, so it could also simply be running off the meter pan and following along the cable into the panel.

Where is the panel in relation to the meter? On the inside of that wall or is it somewhere else?

At this point it really wouldn't be much more costly to install a new meter pan and proper mast. The advantage to that is if you have space on the wall, you can actually install the new mast, meter pan, and panel yourself in a location further over (so the mast goes straight up to the drop rather than angling it), move the circuits over, get it inspected, and then the power company can come move the lines to the new mast and put your meter on the new pan. That way you're only having them come once and you're not under time constraints to get the majority of it done.
 
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Old 03-20-17, 08:25 PM
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I appreciate all the help everyone!

The circuit box is directly in-line with the cable.

I like the idea of running everything new to the right side and then switching over to the new service, but there is a window directly where the box would have to be. Even that might not be an issue - we might be willing to take out the window and block it up, but there's maybe 10 circuits coming from the left that would be too short. Wouldn't I have to splice all those cables in J boxes to extend them or something else inelegant?

Also:

I now have a good investment in Type MP AFCI's. What type of new box would accept MP's? Siemens?
 
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Old 03-21-17, 02:59 PM
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UPDATE:

I had an electrician come by today. He disputes the issue of the shared ground and neutral. He said that they only have to be separated on a sub-panel, but not on the primary circuit box.

He said he would use conduit from where the power cables come to the peak of the roof down to the meter, then from there, cable down and through the siding and not the foundation. He also will not put any of my new circuits back into the box (they haven't been inspected yet, to avoid liability for him.

Make sense?
 
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Old 03-21-17, 04:15 PM
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He disputes the issue of the shared ground and neutral
It's not the "sharing" of the ground and neutral at issue, it's the use of a ground bar as an "expansion" of the neutral bar. Again, you can land grounds on the neutral bar, but you can not land neutrals on a ground bar. It's the neutrals being on that bottom bar that's the problem (well, one of them, the other is the neutrals and grounds under the same lug).

There's no reason for him to go through the siding unless the basement ceiling height is above it and he doesn't want to put wear on his core bit. The hole in block/concrete is going to be much easier (and better looking) to seal than a hole in siding. He CAN'T use exposed cable, anything lower than 10(?) feet from ground level requires protection/sleeving anyway.

Him disavowing liability for uninspected new work is normal.

When all is said and done, if you go that route the new panel technically SHOULD be a subpanel, because it is good practice (though not required) to install new service with a main disconnect outside the house. This is either a meter pan with a main breaker installed or a separate main disconnect switch underneath the meter.





You should call a few other electricians and not call this one back. Always good to have multiple bids anyway.
 
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Old 03-21-17, 06:01 PM
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Thanks taz420.

I've got calls out to others. The next is coming in the morning.

I like the idea of a main disconnect outside so that if I'm working in the box and I know that's off, that I'm safe.

So he said SE cable from the meter down. You're saying that it must be conduit?

Also, I can padlock an external disconnect right?
 
  #34  
Old 03-21-17, 07:59 PM
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It is a Crouse Hinds from 1987.
I thought it looked like a Crouse-Hinds. There appear to be some Square D Homeline breakers in it that are not UL Listed for use in anything except a Homeline panel, another code violation, but not an issue if you are replacing the entire service anyway.

the new panel technically SHOULD be a subpanel, because it is good practice (though not required) to install new service with a main disconnect outside the house. This is either a meter pan with a main breaker installed or a separate main disconnect switch underneath the meter.
Is this a NJ requirement? I have never seen a disconnect installed at the meter as a good practice. My preference is to not have a disconnect out there at all unless it is required by code.
 
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Old 03-21-17, 10:25 PM
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Boy from the last couple replies you've made to my posts it seems your only preference is to do things half-assed.

No, it's not an NJ requirement. It's common friggin sense. If there were an outside disconnect, the OP wouldn't be in the situation of having to get the power company involved. It's pretty much standard on new construction.
 
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Old 03-21-17, 11:10 PM
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Disconnect ot standard here nor is putting the breaker box in the house. Here the breaker box is often outside under the meter socket. I'm sure others in other states could cite other ways of doing things. Bottom line there are different ways of normally doing it depending on where you are. Even here you can practically gage the age of the house. Inside the house pre 1960. Outside the house most common when they stopped using 60 amp main panels. Some here actually now put the breaker box in a semi detached garage and use a breezeway to carry the NM-b into the house but no disconnect.
 
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Old 03-23-17, 11:45 AM
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No, it's not an NJ requirement. It's common friggin sense. If there were an outside disconnect, the OP wouldn't be in the situation of having to get the power company involved. It's pretty much standard on new construction.
Common sense to me is not placing an important disconnect in an unprotected location that anyone can access outside one's home and leaving yourself vulnerable. How many emergency calls have you had in the middle of the night when a prankster decided to just turn off the power just for a few kicks? Believe me, it happens. Yes, the OP would be in a situation of not having to involve the power company, but that also allows the OP to not get the proper permits/inspections for the work.
 
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Old 03-23-17, 01:52 PM
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How many emergency calls have you had in the middle of the night when a prankster decided to just turn off the power just for a few kicks?
The same amount as for "pranksters" pulling the meter for kicks. You watch WAYYYY too many movies. Every place I've ever lived has had a disconnect outside. In this place my main breaker panel is outside. Know how many times I've ever been "pranked"? That's right. None.

If this absolutely non-existent "problem" is so important, put a padlock on it.
 
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Old 03-23-17, 04:12 PM
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He CAN'T use exposed cable, anything lower than 10(?) feet from ground level requires protection/sleeving anyway.
Not according to the NEC. Subject to damage is entirely subjective. It is common here to have SE cable coming out of an underground pedestal 18" above grade. I have yet to see damage to them.

When all is said and done, if you go that route the new panel technically SHOULD be a subpanel, because it is good practice (though not required) to install new service with a main disconnect outside the house. This is either a meter pan with a main breaker installed or a separate main disconnect switch underneath the meter.
There is no need for this as long as the unfused cable is as short as practical. You really need to stick to quoting accepted national codes vs personal opinions or local requirements.
 
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Old 03-23-17, 04:49 PM
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Ok since nobody seems to see it, I will draw your attention to the (THOUGH NOT REQUIRED) part of what you quoted.
 
 

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