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Old 04-17-2009, 09:36 PM   #1
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Is my breaker panel "full"?




I need to add a line for shop tools.
There seemed to be enough space for 5 of these "skinny" breakers, or two of the "fat" style.

I started with a new "fat" I'd bought long ago and while it went in, I immediately realized there was no busbar tab for it to grab & contact. That is, the breaker's supposed to contact a tab parallel to its length, right? What's in these slots is some kind of stub.

The "skinny" style I saw grabs onto a busbar running perpendicular to its length, and again, these's nothing in these slots to grab.

Was this box designed with these slots not intended for use? Is my box "full" and I'm screwed for expansion?
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:46 PM   #2
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


from what we can see in the pic, you are indeed "full"

Can you back away a bit, and let us see all the breakers? And possibly the label on the panel cover?
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:51 PM   #3
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Is my breaker panel "full"?




It's a GE panel.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:55 PM   #4
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


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Originally Posted by Oznog View Post
...It's a GE panel.
Yeah, but it's a split-bus GE panel.

And those blank spots are there due to design considerations and UL requirements.

The best thing I could recommend is to change out that panel for a "main breaker" type, with sufficient spaces to hold all your desired circuits.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:00 PM   #5
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


GE skinnies...they were not the "best" breakers.

I agree, the best idea is to swap out the panel with a new main breaker type.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:48 PM   #6
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Well, how far will $20 get me? I mean, after buying lunch?
Basically replacing the panel ain't possible at all. I do try to be very careful on DIY projects and this is "big" and the parts alone are way out of my price range right now. (plus, once I start, I can't ask for advice to get over the problems that show up, because, no power for the computer)

I need an outlet for a milling machine. The geniuses who did my house put ONE outlet in the whole garage and it's the GFI that goes to the bathroom and elsewhere.

I've put in a small 110v desktop milling machine, had to run it on an extension cord because the outlet's on the other side of the garage. On tough work the motor slowed and the desklamp actually dimmed, which is obviously due to the crappy extension cord idea.

I really just need to reduce the voltage drop, and I've already run 10/2 wire from the panel to a new outlet (with no small amount of time spent fishing that cable), silly me just assumed the panel had 5 skinny slots open because they were "open".

I could always fish it into another outlet somewhere, but seeing as the wire already goes into the breaker box... is there any way to just connect it into an existing breaker, parallel with an existing line? Or any kind of replacement breaker that can handle this?

What's the amp rating on this panel, anyways?

Last edited by Oznog; 04-17-2009 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 04-17-2009, 11:03 PM   #7
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Now, I'm a bit short on terms and my camera didn't want to focus on the close-ups but...

On the upper half of the left side, there's a horizontal tab of the busbar right up against the side of the breaker on the inside end, and there's one above and below the breakers on the top left section. In fact the breakers have a cutout for it.

That type of breaker with the contact for a tab that runs parallel to the body (yeah I don't know the term)- is it intended to grip that part? Because as it is, the current breakers don't grip it, it's in between the breakers.

I was just wondering if changing all the breakers in this area with the parallel-tab-contact type, and moved all the breakers up the width of one "skinny", would it expose one more slot for a breaker?
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Old 04-17-2009, 11:13 PM   #8
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Its probably 60 or 100 amp, I dont have much experience with these panels.

Yes, you could splice in the panel. Tap off a not maxed out circuit (1875 watts for 15 amp, 2400 for 20amp) I don't recommend doing a messy install like this though. I don't know if they make tandem (two breakers in one) for your panel. They might.
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Old 04-17-2009, 11:45 PM   #9
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Huh. Well, at the hardware store I saw where one 1"dual breaker carried two unganged 20A circuit breakers. But since the "skinny" type already in there is 1/2" this saves nothing.

Do they really make tandems in 1/2" skinny? What type of breaker and I looking for, anyways? I mean I'm not certain what the bottoms look like and how it connects to the busbar. I saw some tiny-looking Zinsco breakers that may be 1/2" for example, but that's not a Zinsco bus (and from what Google says, I should consider myself very lucky I don't have a Zinsco box). Should I pull a breaker just to check the bottom, or should knowing it's a GE split panel tell me- and if so, could someone link a pic of what bottom type it has?

Edit: OK, says "TQHP" on it... and Googling shows that there are no tandems in the 1/2" TQHP size. The 1/2" already IS the space-doubling tandem over the common 1" size.

Last edited by Oznog; 04-18-2009 at 12:07 AM.
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Old 04-18-2009, 12:54 AM   #10
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


So would a sub-panel make sense? Are there any limitations from this GE split-bus panel that would be a problem? Or is it nonsense to add a panel instead of replacing this crappy one?

It's not only the cost of parts but the problems involved seem huge. I tell ya, they didn't leave an inch of slack in those wires. Ran some of them diagonally across the beams and it made it very difficult to deck the garage attic for storage. If they don't reach where they need to in the new box then I've got a whole new problem.

Is there supposed to be a main breaker here? It looks like the wires from the meter go straight onto the buses. Or is one of the breakers up top separate from the bus, being that it's called a "split bus"?
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Old 04-18-2009, 01:09 AM   #11
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Its called split bus because, well, flip that "lightning main" breaker off. All your lights and outlets go out. Except for your 240v appliances. The whole idea of split bus was to save money, all of your double poles go on the top and all of your single poles go on the bottom controlled by a sort of "main" breaker.

It would be a good idea to ditch that panel. Not the best breakers and a split bus design.

For slack, a large j-box can be installed to increase slack.

If you replace the panel you will need to update the current grounding situation. If your water is connected to panel ground, you may need to sink two rods 6 ft apart and connect them to your panel ground, depends on your states code cycle.

Gas may need to be "bonded" to your electrical ground system.

Its not that complicated as it may seem. Maybe some of the experts who do this stuff for a living can pitch in.
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Old 04-18-2009, 02:16 AM   #12
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


OK I pulled off some breakers to peek under them to see how they're connected- ok I see there's no moving them up 1/2" or any weird ideas like that. I did trip them off while disconnecting and reconnecting of course.

Which breaker connects all the 120v stuff? The dual-ganged 50A or the dual-ganged 60A?

Sorry to pull this desperate I'll-just-keep-asking-until-you-tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear routine (just trying to go through the options), but what about this: I have 220v outlets to the dryer and to the stove. Both are gas and I don't use either outlet. Can I disconnect one and install a non-ganged breaker for 110v service in its place?
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Old 04-18-2009, 07:17 AM   #13
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


You could disconnect the stove and wire it to a sub panel. Most of your current worries will be over then.
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Old 04-18-2009, 09:51 AM   #14
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Oznog View Post
Edit: OK, says "TQHP" on it... and Googling shows that there are no tandems in the 1/2" TQHP size. The 1/2" already IS the space-doubling tandem over the common 1" size.
Correct, I have the same panel (non-split bus style) at my parents house and the 1/2" breakers are just as you found, the only solution to a "tandem" breaker.

As for the 220volt breaker option, you must make sure that you have no more than 6 breaker handles above that split. I already see one single pole breaker up there that shouldn't be there, but counting the breakers and its only at 6 right now. The rule of 6 simply put is you must be able to disconnect all power service to the home with 6 throws/movement of the hand. So in this panel you can only have 5 additional breakers above that split.

I would disconnect the breaker for the stove, and install a sub panel for your additional circuits connecting to the stove breaker; you could even re-route the stove circuit to the sub panel in the event you actually need it later.

Personally I would replace it, but then again I have the dreaded FPE StabLok/Zinsco panel in my new house, where cutting through a wire with a sawszall doesn't trip the breaker, but cutting a believed to be dead wire with the wire cutters does. What a flash!
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Old 04-18-2009, 10:17 AM   #15
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Is my breaker panel "full"?


IF you are not using either the dryer or range circuits, then disconnect one or both of those, and voilą! You have your needed spaces!

No subpanel needed
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