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Old 01-30-2011, 04:46 PM   #16
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Can someone help me understand this?


What you failed to do was identify where the source of the power came from, and then didn't check it. You are assuming the breaker killed the power, and it didn't. The picture leads me to believe that the big panel in not supplying the source.

Good move on getting an electrician involved - no offense, but I think you need it. (and yes I hate the Steelers, not their fans!)

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Old 01-30-2011, 04:51 PM   #17
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Can someone help me understand this?


Jack, I'm sorry, the white wire at the top left appears to go straight to the meter above

Perhaps it's not a knife switch....I'm not an expert obviously, I could be wrong on the correct terminology.

Regarding the panel box, I don't get into panel boxes...I'm not an electrician, so I don't venture into areas like that. I'll do what I feel is simple modifications...or when installing new service, I run everything myself and then get a pro to check it and make the final connections.

And yes, the wire size is definitely going to be changed....but I'm glad it was mentioned, I'm learning more and more by the minute here. I'm not sure I want to change it now being that this happened and I can't seem to get a definite answer as to why.

Like I said, I know I was pushing the black wire up through the slot in the threads of the fuse...so that I could then pull it down under the open screw without completely removing the screw. When the wire went up into the threaded area, I believe it made contact with where the right fuse would contact once screwed in....creating a connection from the center of the fuse, through the wire, down the screwdriver, to the bar...and then so on. But as I said, I would think with the fuses out and bar open, then I should have been fine being I was working below it at all times
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Old 01-30-2011, 04:51 PM   #18
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Can someone help me understand this?


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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Probably hidden in shadow but the wire handle is connected to the knife blades using plastic insulating pivoting linkages.

The water heater may have originally been fed with a separate meter for a lower cost per kilowatt hour, hence it (via the little fuse box) was not connected to the main panel.
Man I copied this picture to my computer and blew it up, and I can't see any isolation on that switch, I know it should be there, the knifes don't look like copper either.
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:00 PM   #19
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I'm not sure I want to change it now being that this happened and I can't seem to get a definite answer as to why.
I hope this is a typo and you meant to say I AM sure I want to, etc....
The reason has been stated, it is undersized for the circuit and therefore can easily overheat and is dangerous.

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Old 01-30-2011, 05:02 PM   #20
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Can someone help me understand this?


With the fuses out what did the bottom of the fuse socket look like?

Any chance there was a penny wedged in there, don't laugh, its happened many times.

Maybe it would be a good excuse to go and get a inexpensive multimeter, you will never be sorry for buying one.
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:03 PM   #21
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Man I copied this picture to my computer and blew it up, and I can't see any isolation on that switch, I know it should be there, the knifes don't look like copper either.
Thank you to everyone that's been chiming in, I really appreciate it. I've been thinking about this constantly since it happened, as this wasn't a simple 110 spark or something like that...it was a blast with a ton of sparks and intense heat, in less than a second of course. Makes you contemplate things when every other electrical job I've done has went incredibly smoothly. Over confidence probably played a part in this.

Having said that, now I'm sure I'm going to call a pro being that there's many that seem to reiterate that everthing should have been dead. I have no idea why that set up is even there with it not being wired to the panel box...my guess is a diy owner or simply the age of the house coupled with many additions over the years. I was told that hot water tank was original to the additions over 40-50 years ago...idk if I believe that or not.

Anyway, raising the question of insulators on the switch...lack of copper in the knife part of the switch, wrong wire size, and the fact that I'm not sure where the power's coming from and also unsure how I could have possibly made a connection in the manner I did.....all equal up to too many unknowns for me to try to figure out on my own. Now I guess my question would be is ... is it necessary to go kill that switch now and leave them without hot water for a day or two? It's probably not worth the risk of leaving it on, but I'm curious to hear the responses
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:05 PM   #22
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Can someone help me understand this?


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I hope this is a typo and you meant to say I AM sure I want to, etc....
The reason has been stated, it is undersized for the circuit and therefore can easily overheat and is dangerous.

DM

What I meant was that I'm not sure that I want to be the one that changes the wire being that there's so many unknowns with this.
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:11 PM   #23
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Steeler99 - If you really want to understand what happened you will need a meter, with a meter open the alledged switch and check for voltage on the load (lower) side, with the fuses in.

Remove the fuses (very carefully) and with the meter check again, something is just not adding up here.

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Old 01-30-2011, 05:12 PM   #24
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I believe OUR confusion was we thought the panel on the right powered the sub-panel and you simply had turned off the breaker there. THAT would have been a mystery. Since the wires are coming from above straight from your meter, then yes, there would be power to that panel unless disconnected from above... Very dangerous to work on it live.

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Old 01-30-2011, 05:16 PM   #25
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I believe OUR confusion was we thought the panel on the right powered the sub-panel and you simply had turned off the breaker there. THAT would have been a mystery. Since the wires are coming from above straight from your meter, then yes, there would be power to that panel unless disconnected from above... Very dangerous to work on it live.

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But wouldn't everything below the removed fuses and the bar being being open mean that everything below that would be dead?
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:18 PM   #26
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Can someone help me understand this?


Yes normally, this is where I am also confused, the only way to sort this out is get a meter, and do some testing. Like I said earlier, good reason to buy one.

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Old 01-30-2011, 05:19 PM   #27
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Can someone help me understand this?


With the fuses removed and the correct double pole breaker in the off position there is no way the panel could be energized unless something really weird is going on.

However, obviously the panel was energized. So there are a few possibilities.

1.) You did not have the correct double pole breaker off in the panel to the right of the fused disconnect.
2.) Or a double pole breaker is not being used and two single pole breakers are being used that are not handle tied .. one of which you did not have turned off.

Making the assumption that the breaker was on when you thought it was off leaves you with a fault to the metal disconnect box. If that is the case that probably is occurring at the cable clamp where the white feeder cable enters the disconnect box. Clamp likely way too tight damaging the cable and a hot conductor is in contact with the metal box. There does not appear to be a equipment ground wire in the white cable.

Also the attachment of the bare equipment ground in the yellow cable to the electrical systems grounding electrode conductor as you did leaves the metal box of the fused disconnect not bonded correctly to the ground fault path that will open a circuit breaker. If there is a phase fault to the metal and it is not part of the ground fault path the metal will come to line voltage and a breaker will not open to clear the fault.

What you need to do ....

1.) Replace the white cable with a #10 awg cable that contains a bare equipment ground and black and white conductors more commonly called 10/2 with ground. Same with the yellow cable.

The only way you will not use wire smaller than 10 awg is if this is a small electric hot water tank ( usually 20 gallon) that only needs 12 awg for a branch circuit.

Second you do not need the disconnect if you are close to the main panel in your photo and in sight of the hot water tank in which case you can use the circuit breaker as the disconnect.

If you keep the disconnect the equipment grounds in the cables terminate to the grounding point in the disconnect box not the house grounding electrode conductor.
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Last edited by Stubbie; 01-30-2011 at 05:34 PM. Reason: add word cable
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:22 PM   #28
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I believe Steeler99 understands the top lugs were hot, the question is in relation to the bottom lugs.
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:23 PM   #29
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(off topic)

Took a closer look at the little fuse box picture.

The pivoting knife blade assemblies are rigidly T shaped with the plastic part as the stem of the T. The plastic part is most prominent, connected to the switch handle and the top (metal part) of the T is hard to see because from the vantage point of the picture is sort of standing on end (pointing almost directly out from the box).
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Last edited by AllanJ; 01-30-2011 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 01-30-2011, 05:30 PM   #30
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Hey Jack, the stupid thing is that I already have a meter....i didn't bring it with me as I assumed I was just going to help replace a hot water heater...I had no intention of doing any electrical work. And yes, I definitely knew the upper screws were hot, I assumed that everything after the open switch would be dead....including the center of where the fuses would screw in...which is what I believe I touched with the tip of the black wire.

Stubbie, thank you for the detailed response...that really helps alot.

I didn't turn anything off in the panel box, so it had to be option two.

Yes, I noticed that the incoming white wire at the top left didn't have a ground...which surprised me too. And I'm not even going to screw with that wire being that I believe that goes directly to the meter above. I'm not entirely sure about that, but I believe thats the way it goes.

It's a forty gallon tank I believe, or perhaps fifty...but definitely not less than forty

The tank is about twenty feet away, and in sight..well, somewhat obscurred, but generally in sight

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