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Old 06-10-2011, 03:07 PM   #1
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


Hi,
For awhile, we've been trying to figure out our house circuits and how they relate to our breaker panel. A lot of it just doesn't make sense - there's several circuits that are way overloaded. (For example circuit #8 has 13 outlets/3 lights on a 15 amp or #6 which has 11 outlets, 4 lights) or way underloaded (circuit #12 has 1 measly light on a 20 amp or #17 which has only a bathroom fan).

We're pondering on what we could do to balance the load. Two of the circuits I mentioned above #8 (13 outlets, 3 lights) and #12 (1 light) happens to be very close to each other. In fact the room that has the end of the #8 circuit shares a wall with the closet with #12 (a light). We've wondered if it was possible to split the #8 circuit and put half of the load on the #12 circuit.

Today after our electrician fixed our neutral problem, I showed him what we were thinking and he thought it looked like a good solution and that it wouldn't be that hard to do. He didn't have time to really investigate so he couldn't say for sure.

Now before we proceed with this idea, I'm thinking we should be absolutely sure what's on #12. I guess there's a part of me that just can't believe there is only one thing on it (or on #17). Through the years, SO & I have spent many hours flipping each breaker in turn and running around the house searching for outlets/lights/appliances/etc. without power. Sometimes it took several tries to finally find what a particular breaker powered. And in one case (#14), we have never found anything.

So any ideas on what we could be missing in our searches for loads?

OK dumb question: about half the houses in our neighborhood have sump pumps but our house doesn't. Our basement is dry and completely finished. We've lived here for nearly 10 years. Sump pumps are noisy aren't they? If we had one, we would've heard it or seen discharge, right?

We have wired smoke detectors in the basement and haven't figure out which circuit they belong to. They have built in battery packs and so will stay on no matter what. Do we even bother trying to figure out which circuit they go to? I don't think they pull much of a load.

I've mapped out what we know on our floor plans and I maybe my biggest question is what were the electricians smoking back in '67?


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Old 06-10-2011, 03:25 PM   #2
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


You need to be carefull of things like bathrooms. Current code requires 20 amp circuits that only serve the bathroom.
Just because a circuit has 13 receptacles doesn't mean it's overloaded. A receptacle doesn't use any power. It's the stuff you plug into them that uses power. You could overload a single duplex receptacle by plugging in two heaters. You could also plug in 20 clocks and probably not be close to overloading a circuit.
Also bedrooms require AFCI protection. So if you remove stuff from the bedroom circuit to another circuit that other circuit better be AFCI.
Are you having issues with breakers tripping?

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Old 06-10-2011, 04:37 PM   #3
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


Not sure what is up with the one light circuit but for dining rooms they require the lighting to be on it's own circuit, so that could be your casem, unless you're saying it's a closet light and not referring to the closet of the room which has the one light circuit (if that makes sense).

I agree with joed about the loading. But to clarify, code requires bathrooms to have their receptacles on their own circuit and lighting on their own (minding the load limit).

You can split #8 and #12 up but you'll just have to figure out where the circuit starts and ends and see that you can split the chain in the right place.
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Old 06-10-2011, 04:50 PM   #4
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by joed View Post
You need to be carefull of things like bathrooms. Current code requires 20 amp circuits that only serve the bathroom.
Just because a circuit has 13 receptacles doesn't mean it's overloaded. A receptacle doesn't use any power. It's the stuff you plug into them that uses power. You could overload a single duplex receptacle by plugging in two heaters. You could also plug in 20 clocks and probably not be close to overloading a circuit.
Also bedrooms require AFCI protection. So if you remove stuff from the bedroom circuit to another circuit that other circuit better be AFCI.
Are you having issues with breakers tripping?
Yes, the #8 circuit (the one with the 13 outlets/3 lights) is our worrisome circuit. It has tripped breakers many times, burned out two outlets, and we feel we have to do something about it. Moving some of the load to circuit #12 might be well worth it even if we have to make some changes to bring it up to code.

The idea of splitting #8 and moving some of it's load to #12 seems like a great solution but - well it's too dang perfect - there must be a catch somewhere. The mystery of circuit #12 has puzzled my SO & I for years - what is so dang special about this closet light that it gets it's own 15 amp circuit? It's only last week that we came up with the splitting #8 idea.

I just looked up AFCI and see that they have to go in the breaker box. Dang that could be a problem as our breaker box is tight with some breakers being twins. Doesn't look like they make AFCI in twin size. Shoot, I thought an AFCI would be a receptacle like a GFCI.

Circuit #8 goes to a family room & two bedrooms. And so if we make changes in those two circuits, I understand code would require AFCI for both #8 & #12, right? Would the code officer require us to put AFCI in the other circuits that are not being modified?

Last edited by ChrisJJ; 06-10-2011 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 06-10-2011, 05:07 PM   #5
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by autx790 View Post
Not sure what is up with the one light circuit but for dining rooms they require the lighting to be on it's own circuit, so that could be your casem, unless you're saying it's a closet light and not referring to the closet of the room which has the one light circuit (if that makes sense).

I agree with joed about the loading. But to clarify, code requires bathrooms to have their receptacles on their own circuit and lighting on their own (minding the load limit).

You can split #8 and #12 up but you'll just have to figure out where the circuit starts and ends and see that you can split the chain in the right place.
Circuit #12 powers a light in an odd shaped basement hallway closet (the back of it is under our split entrance front door foyer). The "why" of it is one of the great mysteries of life.

I don't think the code was very strict back in '67 because I know not much agrees with the current code. Lights & outlets on separate circuits? Surely you jest.

Fortunately we do know where #8 starts, its general path and where it ends. The electrician thought it should be split so that the family room is on #8 and the two bedrooms are on #12.
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Old 06-10-2011, 05:31 PM   #6
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Mapping out house circuits (were our house's builders unusually crazy?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by autx790 View Post
Not sure what is up with the one light circuit but for dining rooms they require the lighting to be on it's own circuit, so that could be your casem, unless you're saying it's a closet light and not referring to the closet of the room which has the one light circuit (if that makes sense).

I agree with joed about the loading. But to clarify, code requires bathrooms to have their receptacles on their own circuit and lighting on their own (minding the load limit).

You can split #8 and #12 up but you'll just have to figure out where the circuit starts and ends and see that you can split the chain in the right place.
You are stating todays requirements for a house that was built in 1967. The code is not retroactive and changes every three years.

The code does not require the lighting to be on its own circuit. The current requirement is that it cannot share the dining/kitchen receptacle small appliance branch circuits. It also cannot share the laundry or bathroom receptacle circuit.

Well into the later 80s the bathroom did not even require a 20 amp circuit or that it be dedicated only to bathrooms.

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