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Old 04-13-2010, 03:37 PM   #1
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


So... Couple outlets at my girlfriends house stopped working. Discovered an open neutral and a MESS. The panel looks like something a 5 year old did -- no cover, wires just running in from the celling, the floor, etc... some doubled up on breakers, several not even run through knockouts...

The service from the meter is tacked to the outside of the house, around a corner, punched through a wall, laying on the floor of a closet, then through some drywall and up into the panel.

A check of some other wiring throughout the house is a mess too -- hidden junctions, bare wire splices, etc... The only thing I haven't found yet is knob and tube... How the place hasn't burned to the ground is a mystery.

Obviously -- a full rewire of the house is needed.

Problem: I'm going to have to DIY, I won't be able to do it all in a weekend and the house cannot be without power to essentials.

I plan on putting in a new 100a panel in a couple stages and need a sanity check...
  • Run #6/3 from a 50a 2 pole on the old panel to the new panel.
  • Keep the new panel ground/neutral isolated.
  • Re-wire a couple of essential circuits over a few days...
  • Have the POCO disconnect service
  • Re-route the main service via crawlspace into the new panel
  • Ground and Bond new panel.
  • Have the POCO reconnect service
  • Take my sweet time rewiring the rest of the house.

A few concerns ...

I'm not sure the old panel is properly grounded. Can I just run a proper ground in the new panel @ step 1? If I do that, should I bond the panel?

I'm pretty confident with my electrical skills -- but I usually have the option of running temporary power to my projects while I re-do things... Sadly, this one has to be done on a minimal budget and I'll only have a couple hours a day to dedicate to it... Anyone spot any major flaws in my plan or have any suggestions?

Thanks in advanced!
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Old 04-13-2010, 04:28 PM   #2
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Do you have a place to put the new panel without removing the old panel first?

It would be nice if you could do this:

1. Install the new panel.
2. Install a new service entrance cable (probably a heavier one than on the old panel) from the new panel to a new meter box to a new weatherhead (where the overhead cable, or service drop, to the utility pole attaches).
3. Connect up a few circuits to the new panel.
4. Put a 50 amp. or so breaker pair in the new panel and also in the old panel.
5. Backfeed the new panel from the old panel using these two breaker pairs and a #6 or so cable.
6. Have the power company change over the service in one fell swoop, disconnecting the service drop from the old weatherhead and attaching it to the new weatherhead.
7. Bond ground and neutral at the new panel, and unbond ground and neutral at the old panel.
8. Change over the rest of the circuits to the new panel at your convenience.

Unfortunately there are some which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg issues. For example you have to schedule rough inspection for the new panel with all the wires ready to connect but not connected up yet. Or the backfeed between the panels might not be allowed.

Also in many cities you need a separate permit for a new main panel.

While installing the new panel you would of course put in an appropriate ground (grounding electrode system). You can also ground the old panel now.
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The average homeowner who lost his house in the Oklahoma tornadoes should move for good and not rebuild. Too much complexity watchdogging the contractor. Too much a chance to be defrauded.

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-13-2010 at 04:39 PM.
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flashingcursor (04-14-2010)
Old 04-13-2010, 05:18 PM   #3
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


It's really a small job,when yoiu step back and look at it.Wires are long enough,lots of wall space.Get an experienced mentor to help you out.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:59 AM   #4
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


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Originally Posted by bobelectric View Post
It's really a small job,when yoiu step back and look at it.Wires are long enough,lots of wall space.Get an experienced mentor to help you out.
Well, I'd agree it's a small job if I were just moving those circuits into a new panel ... but I'm actually going to have to re-run each circuit from end-to-end ...

Nothing here has been done right. It's been wired and re-wired by 2 generations of boilermakers who had no clue. What you're not seeing is the junctions in the attic and the crawl-space, the brittle cloth wrapped wires that seem to lead to no-where. #12 cloth wrapped going to a water heater, connected with a couple wirenuts on a 50a circuit; the list goes on.

I'm really quite comfortable wiring an entire house. I've done my own house (70 year old house) from top to bottom and a few other similar projects, but I didn't have to worry about the restrictions of having to do it myself while having to maintain some of the old stuff while doing the new stuff.
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Old 04-14-2010, 01:19 AM   #5
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Do you have a place to put the new panel without removing the old panel first?

It would be nice if you could do this:

1. Install the new panel.
2. Install a new service entrance cable (probably a heavier one than on the old panel) from the new panel to a new meter box to a new weatherhead (where the overhead cable, or service drop, to the utility pole attaches).
3. Connect up a few circuits to the new panel.
4. Put a 50 amp. or so breaker pair in the new panel and also in the old panel.
5. Backfeed the new panel from the old panel using these two breaker pairs and a #6 or so cable.
6. Have the power company change over the service in one fell swoop, disconnecting the service drop from the old weatherhead and attaching it to the new weatherhead.
7. Bond ground and neutral at the new panel, and unbond ground and neutral at the old panel.
8. Change over the rest of the circuits to the new panel at your convenience.

Unfortunately there are some which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg issues. For example you have to schedule rough inspection for the new panel with all the wires ready to connect but not connected up yet. Or the backfeed between the panels might not be allowed.

Also in many cities you need a separate permit for a new main panel.

While installing the new panel you would of course put in an appropriate ground (grounding electrode system). You can also ground the old panel now.
I wish I could do those things ... But, the service entrance cable is #4, the meter box is relatively new and rated from 100a service. The masthead is in great shape. Looks like it was done less than 5 years ago, so I can't justify the extra couple hundred bucks to do it.

Unbonding ground and neutral on the old box isn't an option -- everything is mixed on a single bar... It's just too much trouble to try and isolate everything.

Which I guess brings me to a variation of my first question... Can I just bond ground and neutral on the new (properly grounded) panel, and perhaps ground the old box to the new box? I mean, if I'm backfeeding one box to the other, and grounding them together, wouldn't I be effectively creating a "single" box?
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:48 AM   #6
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by flashingcursor View Post
Which I guess brings me to a variation of my first question... Can I just bond ground and neutral on the new (properly grounded) panel, and perhaps ground the old box to the new box? I mean, if I'm backfeeding one box to the other, and grounding them together, wouldn't I be effectively creating a "single" box?
No, new box as you install it will be a sub-panel...a 2nd box is a 2nd box
Even if it is installed right next to the Main panel
So until it becomes the Main panel all grounds & neutrals must not be bonded & remain on seperate bars
Neutral bar must be isolated & not grounded to the case

Once it becomes the main then bond the neutral & ground back together
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Old 04-14-2010, 09:35 AM   #7
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Given the fairly new meter box and masthead, another way to do the changeover first and get it done quickly would be to run a new service cable from the new panel to the meter box only and the changeover consists of disconnecting the old service cable to the old panel and attaching the new service cable there.

There are still some logistical issues such as getting the new cable into the meter box at the moment of changeover.

There may be minor inconveniences in getting the rough and finish inspections done for a few circuits at a time moved from the old panel to the new panel.

Legally, once you changed over to the new panel, you would have to leave the old panel dead and connect refrigerator, lamps, TV, etc. to the newly wired receptacles using extension cords. (The act of putting the old panel on line as a subpanel might not pass inspection)

Come to think of it, if you did the changeover to the new panel early, trying to put the old panel back on line would not need a backfeed; its main breaker is now free to be fed by the new panel.
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The average homeowner who lost his house in the Oklahoma tornadoes should move for good and not rebuild. Too much complexity watchdogging the contractor. Too much a chance to be defrauded.

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-14-2010 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 04-14-2010, 09:49 AM   #8
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
No, new box as you install it will be a sub-panel...a 2nd box is a 2nd box
Even if it is installed right next to the Main panel
So until it becomes the Main panel all grounds & neutrals must not be bonded & remain on seperate bars
Neutral bar must be isolated & not grounded to the case

Once it becomes the main then bond the neutral & ground back together
Thanks for the sanity check ... work starts tonight.
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Old 04-14-2010, 05:19 PM   #9
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Given the fairly new meter box and masthead, another way to do the changeover first and get it done quickly would be to run a new service cable from the new panel to the meter box only and the changeover consists of disconnecting the old service cable to the old panel and attaching the new service cable there.

There are still some logistical issues such as getting the new cable into the meter box at the moment of changeover.

There may be minor inconveniences in getting the rough and finish inspections done for a few circuits at a time moved from the old panel to the new panel.

Legally, once you changed over to the new panel, you would have to leave the old panel dead and connect refrigerator, lamps, TV, etc. to the newly wired receptacles using extension cords. (The act of putting the old panel on line as a subpanel might not pass inspection)

Come to think of it, if you did the changeover to the new panel early, trying to put the old panel back on line would not need a backfeed; its main breaker is now free to be fed by the new panel.
I'm not entirely sure your understanding the OP...the service size is staying the same. the cable is staying the same. There's no need to run a new feed anywhere. Just take it out of one panel and put it in the other once the he's ready to switch from one panel to the other. Until then feeding it off the old panel is the easiest way to go following the steps that scuba dave laid out.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:48 PM   #10
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Big electrical mess -- need a sanity check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew79 View Post
There's no need to run a new feed anywhere. .
There will be a longer period of no power by reusing the existing cable which needs to be rerun more neatly as the OP mentioned. Namely it will take two appointments from the power company most likely with a couple of days in between. The idea behind running a new cable is to get the new panel ready for the inspector and the power company while the old panel is still operating. Power might then be off for only about one hour while the new panel cable is connected to the meter and the old cable taken out.
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The average homeowner who lost his house in the Oklahoma tornadoes should move for good and not rebuild. Too much complexity watchdogging the contractor. Too much a chance to be defrauded.

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-14-2010 at 08:52 PM.
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