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Old 08-29-2008, 05:37 PM   #1
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Installing RV outlet.


I am installing a 30 amp breaker in my main panel for an RV outlet that will sit next to the panel. I have two issues... one, I'm using 14-2 wire instead of 10-2 since that's what I had "in stock", and two, there is no master breaker on the panel. This house was built in '91, so I guess they didn't require them in those days.

What are the problems with using the smaller wire? Also, I'm nervous about putting a breaker into a live panel. Should I just call an electrician, or just put the breaker in and not worry about it?

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Old 08-29-2008, 06:04 PM   #2
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NO, you are NOT going to use the #14 wire. What do think the reason is that certain wires require certain size breakers?
You tell us what you think the "problem" is with using wire that is WAY too small for the application.....

If you home was built in '91 you DO have a main breaker somewhere.

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Old 08-29-2008, 06:07 PM   #3
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I know I need to use 10-2, but I was hoping there would be some exception so I didn't have to go buy a roll of the stuff and have 24 feet of extra wire I'll never use.

Re: main breaker, if it's around I don't know where it is. The main panel has no main breaker in it, and the main wires go straight from the panel to the meter. I'll go take some pix and post them.
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Old 08-29-2008, 06:12 PM   #4
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Pics would be awesome.

I guess there is an outside chance that they installed a split-buss panel in '91. That would be totally out of "age character" though.
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Old 08-29-2008, 06:17 PM   #5
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You can buy wire by the foot at most home centres.
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Old 08-29-2008, 06:27 PM   #6
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Old 08-29-2008, 08:02 PM   #7
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That is what we like to call a non-compliant installation.

That panel is a twelve space outdoor panel. IF, and only IF, there were six two pole breakers in there it would be legal.
Considering the amount of breakers installed that service should most definitely have a main disconnect ahead of the panel.
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:14 PM   #8
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I see some serious stuff wrong with that panel, or my eyes deceive me.
The ground wire with the hose clamp.
What is up with the white wires on the tandems? Did they use the ground for the neutral?
I see nothing connected to the neutral bars.
Is anyone else seeing what I'm seeing?
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:56 PM   #9
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It looks to me as though this was originally intended to be a 6 handle main panel. The breaker on the top left looks like it might feed a sub-panel. The minis look like they have handle ties, likely baseboard heat. That would explain no neutrals and white connected to breakers. Note no mini on the top, each one is connected to both busses, hence 240 volts.

I would have said that this was a compliant installation when it was new, but the breaker labeled 'dryer' has a black and a white. As far as I know it has never been legal to use 10/2 NM for a dryer. The spa and surge protector were obviously added on later, resulting in more than 6 handles to disconnect the service. I also don't see any grounds at all.

Using 14/2 to power an RV receptacle with a 30 amp breaker is pretty unsafe. If it's hot outside, and the A/C is running in the RV, the 14/2 is maxed out. Any additional load will cause it to overheat. Meltdown, possibly fire. The 30 amp breaker will think it's protecting 30 amp wire, when in reality the wire is good for only 15 amps. It'll trip only after the meltdown/fire.

Electrical stuff needs to be installed based on safety, not availability of material. Yesterday I hooked up a 750KVA 480 volt 3 phase generator to a 1200 amp transfer switch. I used 3 parallel 500MCM (about 3/4" diameter) copper runs (12 wires total). I had plenty of #6 around, should I have used that, just because I had it in stock? Only if I wanted to see some spectacular fireworks!!

All code is written to provide a reasonable degree of safety, if it's not followed, safety is compromised. Even a whole roll of 10/2 is relatively cheap compared to a fire repair.

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Old 08-29-2008, 10:08 PM   #10
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I will change to 10-2 for the RV outlet... I figured I was going to have to do that anyway, but I guess I was looking for an easy out. I definitely wasn't going to hook it up without talking to someone first. You're right, wire is cheaper than fire. What I know about this panel: The spa circuit was added six months ago when I bought the house. I hired an electrician to do that one. The rest of the panel was as you see it when we moved in. I do know that the top left breaker goes to a sub-panel in the garage.

I had several contractors come out to quote the spa circuit, and one of them told me about needing a main breaker and also to change out the ground. Apparently code is to have a big metal plate buried in the ground, while I have some kind of metal rod instead.

So when I get 10-2 wire for that RV plug, what about installing the breaker? I've installed breakers before but never on a live panel.
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:42 PM   #11
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Wow. When I first looked at this, I thought it was originally set up as taking 5 throws of the hand to shut down. A 2 pole upper left, and 4 tandems upper right. Possibly as few as 3. I can't tell if those upper, right breakers are tied together. I'm basing that on only seeing 3 stickers, that appear to be 'more original' and the writing added later. Still, with a 12 space panel (and probably capable of 24 circuits) it would have been a wise idea to have a main.

JB...I don't know if that's a hose clamp or not. Left one looks like a clamp supplied by the phone co. I see a lot of. I think the right hand one is too, but I can't see it clearly enough.

I don't see any grounds either, except by the hots for the spa.

Is that a neut/gnd busbar tie running dangerously close to the main lugs?? It's probably factory and all, but from the angle it sure looks like it's sitting right by the lugs.

When did we have to stop putting white tape on the neutral wire?? Maybe they were out of white that day, but made sure to tape the hot leg red.

Anyone see a grounding electrode conductor??

What's up with the bracket screwed to the meter box??

I think others have covered the 'no-no' about using 14 ga on a 30 A, so I won't beat that dead horse. Ok..I'll kick the horse once...NO!

Personally, I wouldn't even think about adding on this panel until it was brought up to a satisfactory condition. I would even think of taking things out until it was.
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:25 PM   #12
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Installing RV outlet.


I tried taking some closer pix from different angles in the hopes of answering more questions. It looks like those hose clamps hold on other wires that happen to pass by the box. There is some kind of lightning arrest attached to the bottom right breakers, which is that gray thing at the bottom of the box. The yellow coiled wire is the 14-2 that I am going to swap for 10-2. If you would like to see larger versions of all these pix, go to http://s173.photobucket.com/albums/w...0/Panel%20Pix/


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Old 08-30-2008, 10:16 AM   #13
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Installing RV outlet.


I think Micromind pretty well summed up what is going on with this panel. The panel now needs a main breaker to be compliant. The grounding electrode system may need some looking into and verify the main bonding jumper as installed. I believe the mbj its there but it is hard to tell. The link to photo bucket shows the equipment grounds. Unfortunately without a main breaker installation or panel change it would not be a acceptable installation to continue adding breakers to this panel. I think the best course of action is to get a contracter to bid a new panel with main breaker or installation of a main disconnect. then have him get everything else up to code if needed.

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