GE overflowing panel

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  #1  
Old 04-18-19, 07:52 AM
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GE overflowing panel

I have this GE 200A panel (CAT. NO. MB 3220) that was installed prior to me buying the house in 1986 (I'm near Montreal, Canada). I have added circuits since that time for pool pump, pool heat pump, air conditioning, whirlpool bath, induction cooktop and others.

I recently saw this placard on the backside of the cover that says that this panel is limited to 32 single pole circuits. There are 39 spaces occupied out of 40 and it looks like a rat's nest or spaghetti.

I was thinking of adding a subpanel feeded by an 100A or smaller breaker from the main panel and moving enough circuits so the main panel would not exceed the maximum of 32 circuits. I would at the same time clean up that spaghetti.

Should I go with a mains lug or a main breaker subpanel? What kind of cable should be feeding it and does it need to be in a conduit? The subpanel will be right beside the main one.

Any advice would be appreciated.
Robert

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  #2  
Old 04-18-19, 08:29 AM
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I don't think you have busted the 32 single pole breaker spec. Many of your breakers are double pole. So, I'm not seeing a compelling reason to do anything...
 
  #3  
Old 04-18-19, 09:15 AM
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Ask your electrician what he recommends. Since you are in Quebec you are not permitted to do your own electrical work.
 
  #4  
Old 04-18-19, 09:57 AM
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Hi, telecom guy. I'm also in telecom.

I thought double pole breakers counted as 2.
 
  #5  
Old 04-18-19, 10:00 AM
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Hi joed, I will check with an electrician but I wanted some input from you guys as to what are my options.
 
  #6  
Old 04-18-19, 10:20 AM
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Tandem breakers are not allowed by the manufacturer in positions 1 through 8, according to the panel diagram. However, all positions appear to have a tandem or half height breaker.
 
  #7  
Old 04-18-19, 12:34 PM
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Hi engr3000,

Top row from the left, positions 2-4-6-8 are single pole breakers.
Bottom row from the left, position 1 is a single pole, position 3 and 5 is a double pole and position 7 and 9 is a double pole.
 
  #8  
Old 04-18-19, 12:37 PM
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There are no tandems breakers in this panel, positions 1 through 8 were installed by the electrician who upgraded the panel.
 
  #9  
Old 04-18-19, 01:48 PM
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I have 11 single pole and 14 double pole breakers, according to telecom guy this would amount to only 25 circuits, I would be under the limit of 32 single pole circuits.

If I sell the house would this pass inspection? I wouldn't want to be told there are too many circuits in that panel.

 
  #10  
Old 04-18-19, 01:52 PM
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Well, I was in telecom; cellular and police/military radios. But, now I'm in the electrical transmission end of things. Worked with Hydro NL last year on a 345kV job in Avalon Peninsula.
 
  #11  
Old 04-18-19, 04:02 PM
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Your panel is overloaded. As 'engr3000' said, positions 1 through 8 are not allowed to have tandem. In fact, GE breakers don't have tandems instead they have half height models (TQP) and they are GE's equivalent of tandem breakers.

This is where 32 circuits comes from. Each 2 pole breakers count as 2 single pole circuits as far as I know.
You have 39 circuits.
 
  #12  
Old 04-18-19, 05:59 PM
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As 'engr3000' said, positions 1 through 8 are not allowed to have tandem. In fact, GE breakers don't have tandems instead they have half height models (TQP) and they are GE's equivalent of tandem breakers.

Agree. Look at the panel catalog number, 3220, this is a 32 circuit 20 space panel when using the Type TQP breakers. I don't know how the TQP thin breakers can even attach to the bus bars in spaces 1-8. What I would also be concerned with is that GE panels of this vintage all had aluminum bus bars and when using the Type TQP or THQP breakers they were known to sometimes catch on fire. I'd replace that old dog.
 
  #13  
Old 04-18-19, 07:43 PM
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Thanks to all who responded, I'll take a look tomorrow at how the breakers in spaces 1-8 are holding there and let you know.
What replacement panel would you use? Square D?
 
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Old 04-19-19, 08:09 AM
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Square D is a good choice, but choices in Canada aren't quite as broad as in the US. If using Square D I believe you would use the QO series as I don't think the Homeline series is approved to be sold in Canada. After Square D and Federal Pioneer I am not sure what other panels are available in Canada.
 
  #15  
Old 04-19-19, 08:56 AM
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Panels in Canada are a different design then USA. The main breaker section is isolated from the branch circuits by a metal divider and a split cover. No branch circuits are permitted to pass through that section.
 
  #16  
Old 04-19-19, 09:06 AM
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If your code authority will require AFCI breakers (as well as any GFCI ones) it could be prudent to get a plug-on neutral bus version of a Square-D QO panel.
This would eliminate the neutral pig-tails of standard AFCI/GFCI breakers and reduce the amount of crowding in the panel wiring.
It's also good to make sure that you get a panel with a copper bus.
 
  #17  
Old 04-19-19, 02:25 PM
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There is no difference between lugs 1-8 and others.
 
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  #18  
Old 04-19-19, 02:33 PM
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GE should have removed tabs that allow installing half size breakers on the spaces that you are not supposed to use, but apparently GE failed to do so.
It still is wrong since the manufacturer says so.
 
  #19  
Old 04-19-19, 02:57 PM
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CasualJoe and lambition: If positions 1-8 are not permitted for thin 1/2 inch breakers there is nothing to prevent them from going in.

engr3000: The new electrical code in Quebec went into effect October 1st 2018, all work done after April 1st 2019 must follow the new code. AFCI are included in the new code.

CasualJoe: A quick look at Home Depot in Canada shows Square D, Homeline, Siemens are available.

Joed: You are right, there is a separation for the line section of the panel.
 
  #20  
Old 04-19-19, 03:43 PM
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I not sure if there is a way to meet the manufacturer's specifications of this panel considering the number of existing circuits and the new 2018 code in Quebec, mandatory after April 1st 2019.

Like I wrote earlier if I sell the house I don't want an inspector to tell me that the panel is not up to code and then I need to have it done in a rush, jobs done in a hurry are a good way to spend too much.

It will probably end with the panel's replacement soon.







 
  #21  
Old 04-21-19, 07:28 AM
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CasualJoe and lambition: If positions 1-8 are not permitted for thin 1/2 inch breakers there is nothing to prevent them from going in.
The panel label indicates the thin TQP breakers should not go in spaces 1-8, but I can clearly see from the picture the little lugs that the TQP breakers attach to.


Like I wrote earlier if I sell the house I don't want an inspector to tell me that the panel is not up to code and then I need to have it done in a rush, jobs done in a hurry are a good way to spend too much.

I would go ahead and replace the panel to current code. Codes in the US change every 3 years and I am sure Canada is similar. I doubt any inspector would require a house or panel to meet the latest codes as long as it met all codes in force at the time it was installed.
 
  #22  
Old 04-21-19, 11:55 AM
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A major benefit of sub panels is reducing the lengths of home runs to main panel and providing a nearby local panel for many circuits.

Many year ago needed 50 amp circuit in garage, in split level at other end of house, for arc welder. Installed sub panel in garage fed by 50 amp breaker in main panel.

Over the years added breakers to garage panel for outlets in bathroom and other circuits. Each of those circuits would have needed additional 35 feet of wire, sneaked thru basement ceiling soffits to reach main panel.

Safety was also improved in 60 year old home by putting load of electric space heaters and the like on new 20 sub panel circuits.

Main panel instead of having to be replaced for added circuits still has 5 spare slots.
 
  #23  
Old 04-22-19, 04:41 AM
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The electrician who installed this panel didnít follow the manufacturerís specifications and I failed to see it and added circuits as the years went by.

This panel was installed when my mother, who I bought the house from in 1986, had the oil furnace removed and baseboard electrical heating put in.

On the other hand the panel has been operating without issues all this time even with pool pump, pool heat pump, air conditioning and other circuits that I added. Of course the pool, air conditioning doesnít work at the same time as
heating.

Apart from the installation not meeting the manufacturerís specifications as for slots 1 to 8 and having 39 circuits instead of the maximum 32, I intend to correct this situation, but what issues could I be facing in the future if I donít do anything?
 
  #24  
Old 04-22-19, 04:46 AM
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what issues could I be facing in the future if I donít do anything?
Worst case scenario is overheat and fire.

Since it is very unlikely to put a full load on the panel in residential uses, you may never have a problem. But, this installation is still wrong.
 
  #25  
Old 04-23-19, 01:36 PM
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what issues could I be facing in the future if I donít do anything?

GE's issues of aluminum bus loadcenters catching on fire didn't require a heavy load. On the contrary, a lightly loaded panel was just as susceptible to catching fire as a heavily loaded one when the thin breakers were used.
 
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