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Old 06-18-2009, 01:58 PM   #1
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Cutler Hammer Retrofit Panels


Anybody have any experience installing a Cutler Hammer Retrofit panel:

http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/CHRetrofitGuide.pdf

Home built in 1960, 400 amp service, wired in conduit. All good but Federal Pacific panels . I think the retrofit is a good option here because of how the panels are tied into the conduit:


We haven't had any issues, but I don't want it to be an issue when it's time to sell the house.

I would have an electrician do the install, but I'm in the process of determining which circuits have shared neutrals. I was able to examine one of two pull boxes to determine some of the circuits, but the other one is far back in a low attic & hard to reach. What would be the best way to discover shared neutrals? I'm thinking a clamp-on ammeter -- is there a better way?

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Old 06-18-2009, 02:17 PM   #2
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That is a rare, professional, quality, stock installation. I never see that kind of stuff.

I'd leave it alone.

I might loose the wire tags though. Make a list and clip them off.

If there were real issues I'd just adapt to flex on the top conduits and replace the panel. In this case, before I took anything apart I would mark the existing circuit numbers, A/B phasing and keep positioning close to the same.. I would bet that it was done right upon installation.

Oh crap...this panel is outside, isn't it? That's not a NEMA 3R enclosure.

I'd just replace it. Dealing with the bottom conduits is nothing. The top ones can be manipulated if there is enough pipe above or can be adapted to flex.


Last edited by 220/221; 06-18-2009 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 06-18-2009, 02:29 PM   #3
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Cutler Hammer Retrofit Panels


I'll agree that whomever did this panel had pride in their work. BUT, I would also loose those tags with the metal rings. Finding another electrician with that much pride IMO will be hard. Finding an electrician who can do this work should not be too difficult. I would definitely check for their license and insurance before hiring them, not someone who works under another's license.
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Old 06-18-2009, 02:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thurman View Post
Finding another electrician with that much pride IMO will be hard.
HUH??? Really?



220/221, that panel looks to me like it is in a basement on a block wall. I see pegboard and a standard receptacle.

Sorry Keith, I have never used those retrofit panel guts. Looks real cool though.
Try to find a CH dealer near you and ask them about it.
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Old 06-18-2009, 03:18 PM   #5
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Cutler Hammer Retrofit Panels


In such cases like this one, I try to find a new panel with about the same size enclosure as the old one. Then I only change out the "Guts" and leave the enclosure and conduits intact. Sometimes when doing this, you can also leave the old neutral and grounding bars intact as well.

From counting the white wires, it appears that maybe ˝ of your circuits are multi-wire, sharing a neutral conductor.

Edit to add: You will have to remove that neutral-to-ground jumper wire, and ensure your grounds are continuous through the conduits, or add an EGC to the feeders.

Last edited by kbsparky; 06-18-2009 at 03:20 PM. Reason: Afterthought on illegal bonding jumper.
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Old 06-18-2009, 04:06 PM   #6
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The box is located in an attached garage -- does that require NEMA 3R?

I was thinking the tags should come off as well -- I've copied all the info into a spreadsheet.

I was amazed myself at the neatness of the layout when I took the cover off. My parents had the house built in 1960 and my grandpa, a master electrician, did the wiring. He did industrial/commercial work -- I think this is the only residence he ever did.

I still want to map shared neutrals. I got zapped by one years ago changing the dining room chandelier. And I know some are currently on non-adjacent breakers (but opposite legs) based on what I found in the one pull box.

Original outlets were two-wire, but on every outlet I've swapped out, testing has shown that the conduit is functioning as the EGC.
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Old 06-18-2009, 04:47 PM   #7
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Cutler Hammer Retrofit Panels


I don't believe this generation of Federal Pacific panels in the source of so much trouble. I think those are from the 70's and 80s. They have the black handles with red faces. This looks like a good install and I would leave it alone. Besides, if you swap it out, you may be required to put those multi-wire circuits on double pole breakers, which is a pain in the butt, in my humble opinion.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

P.S.: You say it's a 400 A service. How did you come to that conclusion? The service conductors don't look large enough for 400 A.

Last edited by InPhase277; 06-18-2009 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 06-18-2009, 07:02 PM   #8
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WOW!! that something I don't see very often on resdential side a super neat panel set up.

IMO I will just leave it alone.

I don't think that is a true 400 amp service due the main conductor is not quite that big it will be either 240mm˛{ 500KCM } or 2X 120mm˛ { 4/0 } for 400 amp service.

The other question is where is the main breaker is located and take a photo of main breaker that will give us more idea.

Merci,Marc
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Old 06-18-2009, 10:40 PM   #9
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The panel in the pic is only 'half' of our electric. Here's the meter & the disconnects diirectly inside the garage opposite the meter:



The disco on the right feeds the panel shown in my first post. The disco on the left feeds a panel in the basement that supplies all the 240 volt circuits for baseboard resistive heat, central air, hot water heater (not in use as there is a gas one as well), in-wall oven, etc:



(Pay no attention to the washing machine beneath the panel )

The double-pole breaker in the first panel feeds the basement subpanel for lights & outlets:





So we actually have a total of 3 FPE panels (I wanted to gauge the general reaction to their very presence because I've seen varying opinions out there)

As you can see, these basement panels have some red-handled breakers -- should I be checking out the bus & wire on those?
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:21 PM   #10
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Double wow .,,, a transsocket metering device that something we don't see that on resdentail area very often at all normally in Wisconsin area useally a class 320 push on socket or 400/600amp bolt on meter socket but few caset CT's will show up.

the red handle breaker that may have issue but for black handled verison I doubt have any issue with it so I will leave that comment open in case someone else chime in little better details on this.

But for the rest of the system IMO I will just leave it alone look like someone really took their time to do the job right.

Speaking of retrofit guts some can able fit in there and some not that something the CH may know what can fit and what not.

Myself I haven't try the retrofit load center aka remodel load centre but what I know they did put the netural bussbar up higher than standard format plus IIRC there were few connector block you can use as well.

Merci,Marc
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:14 AM   #11
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Keith,

Sorry, don't have any advice for you but... Wow. Your grandpa did a damn good job. I'm very jealous of your setup. 2x 200A service, each with separate disconnects upstream of the main panels. Everything neatly run. Phew.
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Old 06-21-2009, 04:28 AM   #12
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Except for cringe factor of the metal rings on the tags, that's really a nice installation.

I was going to say to be double-sure every circuit ends up on the same phase it was originally on, but it looks like you know that. good luck.
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Old 06-21-2009, 11:32 PM   #13
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Looks much better with the tags gone:



I got into all this because of a freak storm (100 mph winds) that we had at the beginning of May. I'm here as caregiver for my mom, she's 85, limited mobility & Alzheimer's. Power, phone & cable were knocked out over a wide area on a Friday afternoon. Mom couldn't remember that we'd had a storm & I had to keep re-explaining why she couldn't turn on a light. Sunday I broke down & bought a generator. I was able to get an L14-30 plug & canibalized a 12-3 extension cord to hot wire this panel (after throwing the disconnects)

Having power throughout the house was nice, so I got to thinking about a putting in an L14-30 outlet so I could backfeed in the future ( I know that isn't a kosher setup, but the cost of a proper transfer switch setup isn't justifiable -- the house will be sold when mom is gone).

So that got me looking for FPE breakers, which is when I found out about their questionable status. With the exception of the countertop outlets, no individual circuit is ever near capacity -- so I don't think we have a safety concern. But I noticed in many of the discussions I found that the issue was raised by a 'home inspector' as part of a real estate transaction. So frankly, I don't want the breakers to be a bargaining chip against us when it's time to sell the house, especially given that the overall quality of the electrical should be a selling point. Anybody know how common that is?
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Old 08-02-2009, 11:39 AM   #14
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Cutler Hammer Retrofit Panels


I wouldn't be worried about shared neutrals.. You can have shared neutrals as long as they're not sharing the same phase with another. If i was you i would be more worried about having a Federal breaker system then anything else. Around here we call the "fire pacific" panels due to the problem of not tripping when they're suppose to trip. I have been to houses for electrical problems when an outlet is glowing red hot in a metal box and the breaker never tripped. All have been b/c of the old federal style breakers.

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