Weird old wiring.


Old 03-04-02, 09:00 PM
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Weird old wiring.

Hi guys. I own 1200 square foot house built in 1940. I have electricians coming a week from today to fix some overloaded circuit problems. One electrician that came to do an estimate spent a lot of time trying to figure out how things are currently broken up, and we came up with some puzzling questions. Forgive this for being in layman's terms, but it's the best I can do. My house has four "double" switches on the left side of the box and four "single" switches (15s and 20s) on the right. The left side is labeled MAIN, RANGE, DRYER, and AC. The right side is labeled LIGHTS, RECEPTS, RECEPTS, LIGHTS. What we found was, the MAIN was labeled correctly, but the RANGE and DRYER switches controlled nothing. We could flip them off and on all day and nothing happened. My range and dryer are both gas fired, so I don't know if that matters or not.
On the right side, the top switch (15) controls the two bedrooms, the bathroom, and the hallway between them. This is approximately 5 receptacles and 4 light fixtures.
The second switch (15 again), controls my garage (including washer, dryer(gas), HVAC blower, garage door opener, and alarm system), kitchen (three receptacles, which power a microwave, George Foreman grill, refrigerator, igniter on the stove and a light fixture), dining room (light fixture and one recep), living room (three receps), and porch light.
The third switch controls a room that was added on to be a laundry room, but due to plumbing issues, i'm not using it that way. It has two recepticles in it. I plan on leaving this one alone since I will be converting it someday when I figure out how to fix the plumbing problem.
The fourth switch controls nothing (15).
I have three additional blank spaces.

What the HECK is going on here? I chose to go with a different electrician than the one that did all the investigation (he was WAYYYYY higher). The one that will be doing the work plans on adding three circuits to relieve the kitchen/garage. He says it doesn't meet modern code, but would cost less since I won't have to get a bigger box. He will also be adding six can lights in the kitchen to replace the existing fluorescent fixture. But I'm wondering if he could actually create a fourth circuit using that third switch mentioned earlier? If it controls nothing, where does it go? And what about those range/dryer switches that don't do anything either? Can those be broken down into smaller circuits? I'm looking for easy ways to get more circuits. Thanks guys!

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Old 03-05-02, 04:58 AM
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Those switches are circuit breakers.

The first thing is to separate the kitchen from everything else and put in 12ga/20amp circuits. Looks like that's covered. The bathroom should also be separated from the bedrooms and hallway.

The range and dryer circuits could be abandoned. This may have been done properly or maybe not. Are there blank cover plates on the wall behind these appliances?
Typically, even gas appliances have a power requirement for 110volts. This runs the timers, light, etc. They may have used the old 220v wiring to supply 110v to the dryer and range, and swapped the 30 and 50 amp breakers with 15s or 20s.
This is very likely. Consider this: The previous homeowner's range needs replacing. He finds out that to replace an electric range with another electric, requires that he change the supply wire from a 2-wire-plus-ground to a 3-wire-plus-ground. Rather than do that, he switches to gas. The appliance can now use the existing wire for 110v, and he reduces the breaker size to comply. Same with the dryer.

Depending on when these circuits were installed, they are most likely inadequate for 220v today. There may actually be nothing connected to these breakers and the range and dryer are getting 110v from somewhere else. The same thing with the 4th breaker. It could be abandoned, or powering an outlet behind a wall unit. When the electrician opens the panel, he'll be able to figure out what's up. Over the course of 62 years, there are probaly a few anomalies to be found.
Old 03-05-02, 07:34 AM
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Shouldn't the electrician also put the AC blower on a dedicated circuit? I know forced air furnaces should be hooked up to a dedicated line. Somebody can probably shed some more light on this issue.
Old 03-05-02, 03:18 PM
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The heaviest load on a "central" AC system is the compressor motor in the condensing section of the system,located out-doors.This requires an individual motor branch-circuit.

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