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Old 11-29-2008, 08:43 PM   #1
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


I need to replace my panel box. It does not have a main disconnect. It is wired hot, straight from the meter base. Is this unusal or common. The house was built in the 70's. Does the power company have to pull the meter or can I disconnect the power somewhere else

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Old 11-29-2008, 09:01 PM   #2
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


the power company would disconnect the line at the pole, not the meter, generally.

as to unusual or uncommon; No, as long as you have a main breaker in your panel.

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Old 11-29-2008, 09:06 PM   #3
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


That is what I meant, there is no main disconnect in my electrical box (panel).
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Old 11-29-2008, 09:25 PM   #4
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


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That is what I meant, there is no main disconnect in my electrical box (panel).

There are some older panels with no main disconnect.

They usually cut at the street, when you update an electrical panel you replace the meterbase, etc.

You will most likely need to get a permit pulled and have an inspection.

Are you really up to the job? How experienced are you with electrical?

I really recommend having an electrician do this.
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Old 11-29-2008, 11:00 PM   #5
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


I do not know when a main breaker was first required per code but I cannot remember a time when they weren;t.

In reality, it really doesn;t make any diff as to a main or not in your case because you need the power disconnected before the panel. Power company work there.



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rgsgww: There are some older panels with no main disconnect.
House built in the '70's. Never seen one that new (legally installed) without a main. Dang, I can't remember ever seeing one not required in the code.


shadetree: you need to check into the legality of you doing this work, to begin with. You also need to really think about this and your abilities as well. A bad install can mean more than no power. Fire and death come to mind.
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Old 11-30-2008, 03:57 AM   #6
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


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I do not know when a main breaker was first required per code but I cannot remember a time when they weren;t.



shadetree: you need to check into the legality of you doing this work, to begin with. You also need to really think about this and your abilities as well. A bad install can mean more than no power. Fire and death come to mind.

Nap, have you every seen a split-bus panel? These were installed in an untold number of houses. And a main is still not required where the number of disconnects in the panel doesn't exceed 6. The split bus worked by having one bus that could accept six double pole breakers. Five of the spaces were used for things like the range, and dryer, water heater etc. And the last was used to feed a second bus that contained the branch breakers.

This was a lousy idea then and now, but I have made a fortune replacing them, so I can't complain much!
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Old 11-30-2008, 02:03 PM   #7
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


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Nap, have you every seen a split-bus panel?
What was the point of split bus anyway? Avoiding the cost of a big main?
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Old 11-30-2008, 04:08 PM   #8
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Nap, have you every seen a split-bus panel? These were installed in an untold number of houses. And a main is still not required where the number of disconnects in the panel doesn't exceed 6. The split bus worked by having one bus that could accept six double pole breakers. Five of the spaces were used for things like the range, and dryer, water heater etc. And the last was used to feed a second bus that contained the branch breakers.

This was a lousy idea then and now, but I have made a fortune replacing them, so I can't complain much!
yes and that does fall under a panel having a main breaker, or at least the rule of 6 disconnects. I was referring to a panel with absolutely no means to disco the power from the panel (MLO style panel). I just wasn't specific enough, I guess. I would still consider a split buss panel as having "a main" although it was actually up to 6 "mains".

Actually I do not see a big problem with split mains per se (other than the 1 situation below). It was the manufacture and their problems that was the real problem. I deal with services that have up to 6 "main" breakers all the time.


The only problem I see with it is you have a hot bus (double pole section) all the time. There would be a lack of protection if the bus itself shorted out or the line side feed as it would take out the POCO disconnect rather than a panel main.

the other problem is they confuse homeowners that are trying DIY and do not understand how they work.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:43 PM   #9
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Actually I do not see a big problem with split mains per se (other than the 1 situation below). It was the manufacture and their problems that was the real problem. I deal with services that have up to 6 "main" breakers all the time.


the other problem is they confuse homeowners that are trying DIY and do not understand how they work.
The panel itself isn't the big problem I have. What I think is lousy is that almost every one I have replaced had no means whatsoever to disconnect the power except pulling the meter. And many many many of them had the service drop and meter at one end of the house and the panel at the other end. This means that dozens of feet of un-fused service conductor runs through the house. I don't like that at all.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:47 PM   #10
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What was the point of split bus anyway? Avoiding the cost of a big main?

I really don't know, but it may have been a preference of the poco. All the ones I replaced in Georgia had a sticker on them that says "Property of Georgia Power Company". Apparently, the poco, at one time, was responsible for providing the entire service including the panel.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:55 PM   #11
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=InPhase277;191929]The panel itself isn't the big problem I have. What I think is lousy is that almost every one I have replaced had no means whatsoever to disconnect the power except pulling the meter.
no difference than any other panel with a main except the bus stays hot. In a typical MB panel, you still have hot conductors on the line side of the main unless the meter or cut outs are pulled.

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And many many many of them had the service drop and meter at one end of the house and the panel at the other end. This means that dozens of feet of un-fused service conductor runs through the house. I don't like that at all.
Through the house? Obviously, even without a defined distance in the code, this would be a violation of the current code.

Simply not a smart electrician on those jobs. A disco back by the meter would have been quite reasonable in those situations.
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Old 11-30-2008, 06:01 PM   #12
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


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Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
The panel itself isn't the big problem I have. What I think is lousy is that almost every one I have replaced had no means whatsoever to disconnect the power except pulling the meter. And many many many of them had the service drop and meter at one end of the house and the panel at the other end. This means that dozens of feet of un-fused service conductor runs through the house. I don't like that at all.
I bet it was all NM SE style cable without a conduit? Sounds really dangerous. If someone was driving a screw / nail into the ceiling / floor and went into that cable... Bad situation.

I assume you install one of the combo meters or other external disconnects than run from that to the panel? Oh and if you do, then the "sub-panel" inside needs the neutral and grounds seperated. Ahh, I see why you are making a fortune on these.

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Old 11-30-2008, 07:23 PM   #13
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no difference than any other panel with a main except the bus stays hot. In a typical MB panel, you still have hot conductors on the line side of the main unless the meter or cut outs are pulled.

Through the house? Obviously, even without a defined distance in the code, this would be a violation of the current code.

Simply not a smart electrician on those jobs. A disco back by the meter would have been quite reasonable in those situations.
Apparently it was quite common. Several services I have replaced have had the service drop come in at some point like the peak of the roof at the end of the house, then travel inside the house to the meter base at another location. And from there onto the panel at yet another location within the house. I do not install a service without a disconnect on the exterior, except in Alabama. One EMC specs a meter base only. They would not allow me to use a meter/main. And the GEC had to terminate inside their base, instead of the main breaker panel or separate disco, which is usually the case due to accessibility reasons.
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Old 11-30-2008, 10:26 PM   #14
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Replacing an exterior electrical panel


up here in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, nodody installs an exterior disco. Just not done that way. We also do not run yardage of SE cable inside either though.

If you run service entrance conductors inside, it should either be in conduit (metal is my pref) or it should be SE style U cable. That way if a nail does hit it, it will short out. Big bang but the alternative can be mush worse.

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