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Old 07-02-2007, 09:56 PM   #1
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Noob question for basement finish electrical


I have a basic question concerning running electricity down to an unfinished basement. Our total basement is @ 1400 sq. feet, and we are currently finishing just one room and a hallway, which will amount to about 220 square feet. I plan to finish the whole basement later on... This is what i believe we will be installing for the current project;

14 outlets
2 Wall sconces
A low voltage accent light
10 recessed Can lights of various size

From my initial research, i was planning on hiring an electrician to come in and install a sub panel in the basement, and run a main line (forgive my ignorance on terminology)back to the main breaker panel. I was then going to wire up the rest of the stuff myself, all to the new sub panel. On our main breaker panel, there doesn't look to be much room, and also, as far as i can tell, there's only one circuit going down there right now that is a double pole circuit(again, excuse my ignorance if this terminology isn't correct) with a 15 amp fuse in each pole. One 15 amp fuse covers 4 basement lights, and 4 outlets, 3 of which are on the exterior. The other one is for the sump.

Is this a good way to go? Are there any alternatives? Also, how much demolition needs to happen to run a power line from our garage to the basement sub panel? The main is in the garage right now, which is drywalled. Here's what it looks like, i can't tell if it's 200 or 100amp...




Thanks in advance for any replies.

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Old 07-02-2007, 10:34 PM   #2
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Is this a good way to go? Are there any alternatives? Also, how much demolition needs to happen to run a power line from our garage to the basement sub panel? The main is in the garage right now, which is drywalled. Here's what it looks like, i can't tell if it's 200 or 100amp...
Yes, We do many basements and your plan is good.

To figure out how much demo, you should find the circuits currently in the basement and follow their path back to the main box. This is usually the same general path you will take when adding the sub-panel.

I cannot tell from your picture if you have 100 or 200. Looks like it should be 200 but not sure. Look for the main breaker that shuts off this entire panel. It will usually say 100 or 200...easiest way to tell.

You have open slots on your main panel. This is where your sub-panel will be added in. After you add your sub-panel in the basement, you can convert your existing basement circuits over to the sub-panel. Be sure to install a sub-panel large enough to handle all of your future basement needs, then you can add new circuits to your sub-panel as you need them. Good luck with your project and Let me know how it all turns out.

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Old 07-02-2007, 11:05 PM   #3
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Noob question for basement finish electrical


Thanks for the reply, Dan101.

There's no actual circuit breaker labeled MAIN... Except at the top of the box, where there's a breakaway peice of metal that has 'main' enrgaved on it. You can see this little sqaure at the top of the picture i posted. I just pried this piece upward (veeeery carefully) enough to peek inside, and i can't see anything directly behind it, other than two, very fat cables coming down from above. Is it a bad idea to pull off the whole front of the panel? There's 4 screws on the outside that look like they'll release the outside cover... I feel like im starting to tinker a little too much, and the whole idea of 120 volts of juice is making my 'safe than sorry' instinct come alive...

I went back into our basement crawl space, and found where the one circuit comes from. It looks like they go straight into the back of our tandem garage, so It'll be a pretty long run. I'm hoping it won't cost an arm and a leg. I'm going to try to get an estimate on it within the next week, so i'll report back on it.

Anyone else's input or comments much appreciated.
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Old 07-02-2007, 11:19 PM   #4
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Don't pull the cover off until after you figure out how to shut down power to the main. The tab at the top is where an optional main breaker could have been installed. You can look on the other side of your garage or try to find out where the main electrical power comes into your house. You may have a main breaker there that shuts down the entire house.

Electrical work is never cheap. I always tell homeowners to get as many estimates as you can and ask every electrician as many questions as you can think of while they are there. This will give you an idea if the electrician is a contractor you can work with.
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Old 07-02-2007, 11:31 PM   #5
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Don't take the knockout off and don't pry on it. What you have is a convertible mains panel....Murray I think... there is no main breaker in it because you have a main disconnect located elsewhere, probably out by the meter. The knock out is removed if a main breaker is to be installed in the panel. Go out to the meter and see if the is a main disconnect closeby. This will denergize the entire panel so don't switch it off. Your panel is a 30/40 200 amp Murray panel. Not sure about the Murray but it sure looks like one. Do not take the cover off unless you are confident of your abilities inside a service panel. In your case things are much safer as you are able to remove power from the panel by switching off your main disconnect and then lock it out.
30/40 means you have 30 1 inch slots and 30 circuits using 1 inch breakers. Or you have 40 circuits possible if you install tandem single pole breakers in the bottom half of the panel just like has been done with yours. You have several multiwire circuits going on in that panel so best let a pro fool with it as you don't sound like your up on electrical.

If your wanting to do this work yourself... you need to bone up on residential electrical by getting yourself a good book at the homecenter and spending sometime reading it and more importantly understanding what you read.

Yes a sub-panel is what you want, you will have a lot of questions so keep asking.

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Old 07-02-2007, 11:49 PM   #6
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Is the redish colored label toward the bottom left of the panel the circuit to the basement?
You barely have room for a double pole breaker in the bottom right of the service panel for the sub-panel feed.

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Old 07-03-2007, 12:23 AM   #7
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Is the redish colored label toward the bottom left of the panel the circuit to the basement?
Stubbie
Yes, that little pink sticky note was put there by me,a nd yes, it's the one that goes to the basement, the exterior GFI's, and the sump.

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You barely have room for a double pole breaker in the bottom right of the service panel for the sub-panel feed.
Stubbie
I know... I was thinking from my limited knowledge that it looks almost like they didn't 'plan' very well for basement expansion on this breaker. But this house was built in 2005, and i would've thought maybe they'd already have thought of this? I probably should've asked them to install a sub-panel from the get-go.

I'm calling a few electricians tomorrow to try to get some estimates. I'm also going to call the head construction manager for the company who built the house.

As far as my reading is going, i'm reading the black n decker 'complete guide to home wiring'. It's been great, and the one thing i DIDN'T have to shell out money for. (LIBRARY CARD )

Thanks again everyone for your help. And don't worry, im not going anywhere near the insides of the main breaker panel again!
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Old 07-03-2007, 01:09 AM   #8
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Noob question for basement finish electrical


Glad you are studying. That is a very good book. Also learn how to use a voltage detector.
Reason I asked about the basement circuit is because it is what we call a multiwire circuit. Notice how they put a little metal handle tie between two toggles of the circuit breakers. Notice that the handle tie is on the bottom toggle of one tandem and the top toggle of the tandem below it. This circuit shares one neutral wire and there are things you need to understand about what is going on with these type circuits. If you were to look in the panel you would notice a red wire connected to one of the toggles breaker and a black wire to the other toggles breaker. If you follow these two wires you will notice that they come from the same nm-b cable and share the white neutral wire. This will always be the case when nm-b type cable is used. The reason the red is on one breaker and the black on another is so that the hot wires (red and black) will be on different busses in the panel. This is very critical. There is a little diagram on the spec. sheet inside the panel door that shows the breakers and busses. You might be able to see what is going on by studying that diagram a little. They are handle tied so that you kill both hot wires when the breaker is tripped.
As for a tandem breaker (the ones you see in the lower half of your panel) these are single pole breakers not double pole. They occupy a 1 inch space but provide 2 circuits at 120 volts from the same buss. A multiwire has to connect to both busses. The way you would look at this is each one inch space belongs to one pole on a buss. So looking at the left column every other one inch space going from top to bottom are alternating buss stabs....ie.... buss A, buss B, buss A ...etc. In order to make a multiwire work you have to connect to the bottom of one tandem and the top of the other tandem below it (buss A & buss B) They have done this several times in your panel.
Your panel is very typical and quite adequate if the demand load for the house was done correctly. The contractor is not required to provide for future expansion only what loads are in the house plans. You have spaces left so I see no problem doing what you want. Put a 100 amp rated 6/12 sub panel in the basement then determine what the load requirement will be and feed the sub the appropriate amperage. Reason I say 100 amp is so you will have enough spaces to run your required branch circuits. 60 amp subs usually only have 2 one inch spaces that will provide 4 120 volt branch circuits using tandem breakers. So it will depend on what you need for the basement. A 60 amp sub may be fine as long as you dont have any 240 volt needs. Just food for thought.

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Last edited by Stubbie; 07-03-2007 at 01:12 AM.
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Old 07-03-2007, 09:36 PM   #9
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Noob question for basement finish electrical


Thanks for the detailed reply, Stubbie.

I have an electrician coming out on Friday for an estimate, so until then, i am just going to read thru the book i have, and explore where the current wiring goes. I didn't think i was going to need that would need to run on 240volts, but now that i think of it, we may put in a small Sauna down there some day, so that may require more power. Im going to write everything down, and try to take a stab at the # of lights, outlets, and everything else for the whole basement, even tho it won't be finished for 12-24 months.

I'm also trying to plan out/diagram the layout for the area i am finishing now, and im trying to figure out how to get all of it hooked up in the simplest way. The main thing i'm confused about is how many recepticles/swtiches, and lights can i get all hooked up on the same circuit? NM-B 2 wire? or 3? etc, etc. (I plan on reading and reasearching this a lot more so i can verbalize my questions without sounding like too much of a dummy! )

Thanks again!!

Happy 4th of July to everyone.
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:02 PM   #10
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When you get your layout design finished, send it over to Rubio Rubio@Basements101.com He will look over it and let you know if load calculations all check out and if he sees any potential problems. Rubio has been doing this for years and he will be happy to check it all for no-charge.
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Old 07-06-2007, 08:51 PM   #11
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Does $1685 sounds unreasonable to put in a sub-panel in a finished house? That was the qutoe i got today, and it pretty much made me think holy s!@t that's a lot...
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Old 07-06-2007, 09:01 PM   #12
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Noob question for basement finish electrical


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Does $1685 sounds unreasonable to put in a sub-panel in a finished house? That was the qutoe i got today, and it pretty much made me think holy s!@t that's a lot...
Depends.

What area of the country are you?
What size/amperage panel?
What length of wire, and what has to be done to run that wire?
What brand of panel and breakers? How many breakers?
Licenced and insured electrician?

Lots of variables.
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:07 PM   #13
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Sounds steep, what area are you in?
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Old 07-07-2007, 03:26 PM   #14
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Sounds steep, what area are you in?
Castle Rock, CO. (Outside Denver)

I thought so too...
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Old 07-07-2007, 04:17 PM   #15
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Depends.

What area of the country are you?
What size/amperage panel?
What length of wire, and what has to be done to run that wire?
What brand of panel and breakers? How many breakers?
Licenced and insured electrician?

Lots of variables.
South of Denver, CO

80-100 Amp sub panel

Wire will be running quite a ways, @ 20-30yds length wise, not counting going up/down to the attic area, or down to the basement. They'll have to go through a few walls...

I made it clear i only wanted the sub panel installed, and that i'd be adding the breakers, but i think he said 6 breakers. Didn't say what brand. I've seen 100 amp panels at Lowes with 24 breakers for $65 tho???

Yes, they were licensed and insured. I got them through www.troubleshooter.com

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