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Old 01-26-2013, 12:02 AM   #1
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Hey guys, I'm new on here, and I have a few questions about an old 3 pole knife switch electrical panel. First off, why are there three "poles" instead of two? The hot, the neutral, then what? Second, why are all three fused? Shouldn't only the hot be fused? Third, is this still safe if it is sealed away from everyone with a panel cover? I know the bare metal parts are live and dangerous, but if you are careful around it, is there any other danger here in keeping this? I am pretty sure it is original to the building with the old Knob-and-Tube (C. 1892). Thanks for the help guys, I am mostly just curious about this old panel. Here is a link to an image of the old panel, it is the second pictue down on the page:

http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalso...nbuilding3.htm

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Old 01-26-2013, 12:11 AM   #2
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Too many scenarios to be accurate. There could be 2 hots and one neutral....or three hots. What does this switch control? Is it a main disconnect? Does it control one device? Electrical circuits and their wiring techniques have changed along with code. More info please...........

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Old 01-26-2013, 12:14 AM   #3
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Two options
1-three phase supply,
Used in early industrial applications.
In which case there would be three hots.
But the middle one doesnt look like its fused !
so
most likely its
2-Two hots and the middle one which looks like it's not fused
would be the neutral, the two outers would be hot lines @ 120v.

It sure looks nice !
Quality work !
If the panel had a clear perspex cover over it
and no one, could get any were near it,
Such as a see thru door on the room then you might
get away with it !
But I would contact the local electrical inspectors and
ask there advise.
Cause it could go either way, if you work with them
you have a better chance.

Please let us know how you go !

Last edited by dmxtothemax; 01-26-2013 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 01-26-2013, 01:08 AM   #4
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by Missouri Bound View Post
Too many scenarios to be accurate. There could be 2 hots and one neutral....or three hots. What does this switch control? Is it a main disconnect? Does it control one device? Electrical circuits and their wiring techniques have changed along with code. More info please...........
Honestly, I am not sure weather it is the main or a sub panel, but I think it is the main for the back portion of the building. I just wanted to figure out how it works.
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Old 01-26-2013, 01:10 AM   #5
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
Two options
1-three phase supply,
Used in early industrial applications.
In which case there would be three hots.
But the middle one doesnt look like its fused !
so
most likely its
2-Two hots and the middle one which looks like it's not fused
would be the neutral, the two outers would be hot lines @ 120v.

It sure looks nice !
Quality work !
If the panel had a clear perspex cover over it
and no one, could get any were near it,
Such as a see thru door on the room then you might
get away with it !
But I would contact the local electrical inspectors and
ask there advise.
Cause it could go either way, if you work with them
you have a better chance.

Please let us know how you go !
I thought I saw a fuse on the middle, but I could be wrong. I do like the look of it, also. Unfortunately, I do not own the building, but I wish I did. I plan on touring it when the weather warms up. Very interesting old building. I have been looking up info on it, and I just wanted to find out more about this old electrical panel here that they photographed.
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Old 01-26-2013, 01:56 AM   #6
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Sure looks like 3-phase ungrounded to me. There's a fuse on all three poles of each of the branch circuits. There does not appear to be a fuse on the middle phase at the top of the panel, but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem! I wouldn't say it's necessarily an unsafe piece of equipment as long as it's inaccessible, but it could be unsafe if it's not in excellent condition or if the system has been modified. There are many safety issues that were simply not known at the time it was designed and installed.
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Old 01-26-2013, 10:38 AM   #7
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
Sure looks like 3-phase ungrounded to me. There's a fuse on all three poles of each of the branch circuits. There does not appear to be a fuse on the middle phase at the top of the panel, but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem! I wouldn't say it's necessarily an unsafe piece of equipment as long as it's inaccessible, but it could be unsafe if it's not in excellent condition or if the system has been modified. There are many safety issues that were simply not known at the time it was designed and installed.
I'd never noticed that copper bar, but I think I see it now. Are you talking about the very middle of the main top section, or the middle of the bottom right? Not the greatest quality picture on the historical society's part. Do you think the circuit was overloaded, and the fuse kept blowing, so they used it as an override? I'm sure it's a 15 amp circuit.

Not to mention, the top portion of this building has not been lived in in since the mid 50's. The back portion, where this panel is, was a truck drivers union, but it looks like it was vacated around the same era (or not long after), considering the time the main stairwell from street level was blocked up.
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Old 01-26-2013, 03:06 PM   #8
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


I've seen panels like that in old electrical books. Amazing one is still in use!

Anyway if that is updated, you should try to cut the whole works out including the back board and the wires going to the sides. Then place it in a museum.

Following is an old electrical wiring book (1902 and contains the National Electrical Code of that time) which shows knife switches. A panel board is in the advertisements toward the end. Page 31 is interesting in that it seems to show using a tree to run outside wires! Shows how to mount insulators on trees!
http://books.google.com/books?id=zZF...page&q&f=false
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Old 01-26-2013, 03:35 PM   #9
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


In the U.S., such 3-pole knife switches were commonly used as residential service disconnects back in the day. I've encountered many of those
in old Seattle homes, commonly located on an exterior wall at a back porch. Then as now, homes were served with two hot phase conductors and
a neutral conductor. It was also the common practice in earlier days to fuse the neutrals as well as the hots.
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Old 01-26-2013, 06:45 PM   #10
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
I've seen panels like that in old electrical books. Amazing one is still in use!

Anyway if that is updated, you should try to cut the whole works out including the back board and the wires going to the sides. Then place it in a museum.

Following is an old electrical wiring book (1902 and contains the National Electrical Code of that time) which shows knife switches. A panel board is in the advertisements toward the end. Page 31 is interesting in that it seems to show using a tree to run outside wires! Shows how to mount insulators on trees!
http://books.google.com/books?id=zZF...page&q&f=false
If I were to purchase this property, I would first try to save it. However, I haven't seen it in real life, and if it is not safe/feasable to use, I would then remove the whole shebang (probably the granite backer too) and put it on display with a glass door infront of it. I would love to keep it, but if it were anything much more than a lighting main, it might not be worth any fire hazard. This part of the building was last used as commercial offices, but it would probably be more feasable to use this portion as apartments at this point. So if it is in a public area, and it isn't locked-up, it might fry a renter that chooses to mess with it, and that would be an ugly lawsuit. Also, that book is very interesting. I will certainly have to flip through it one of these days. Tell me, which page has the panel board advertisement?
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Old 01-26-2013, 06:49 PM   #11
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by kreemoweet View Post
In the U.S., such 3-pole knife switches were commonly used as residential service disconnects back in the day. I've encountered many of those
in old Seattle homes, commonly located on an exterior wall at a back porch. Then as now, homes were served with two hot phase conductors and
a neutral conductor. It was also the common practice in earlier days to fuse the neutrals as well as the hots.
What benefit did it serve to fuse the neutrals? Are you an electrician? Should these be uninstalled, or are they safe to keep in use, assuming they are sealed and out of the way?
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Old 01-26-2013, 07:42 PM   #12
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


How many millions do you have access to ?

If you want the switch, make the owner an offer for it, and you pay the electrician.

Otherwise, go talk to the planning department about what upgrades they are going to insist on to reissue occupancy permits. Listen real carefully for the terms seismic reinforcement. If you don't hear it, ask about it. That is a multistory, un-reinforced masonry building.

Why do you think that building is for sale so cheap ?
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Old 01-26-2013, 09:47 PM   #13
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How many millions do you have access to ?

If you want the switch, make the owner an offer for it, and you pay the electrician.

Otherwise, go talk to the planning department about what upgrades they are going to insist on to reissue occupancy permits. Listen real carefully for the terms seismic reinforcement. If you don't hear it, ask about it. That is a multistory, un-reinforced masonry building.

Why do you think that building is for sale so cheap ?
How many millions of what do I have access to? I know why it is so cheap. You see, in East Liverpool, everything is cheap. Not to mention all of the work this building needs. Third floor is nothing but water-damaged plaster. There are crumbling buildings all around. This is, shockingly, one of the nicer practically-abandoned buildings. Are you from the west coast? I don't think they are worried about seismic reinforced anything here in Ohio, we really don't see any seismic activity. The area with that electrical panel has been unoccupied, probably since the 60's-70's. The upper level on the main portion of the building was used as depression era appartments, empty since the mid 50's.
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Old 01-27-2013, 12:57 AM   #14
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


[QUOTE=mpoulton;1102307] but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem!

I think that it was originally designed for three phase use,
But could have been adapted for use on two hots,
hence the middle fuse bypass.

Is it legal to have exposed gear like this ?
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:21 AM   #15
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Residential Knife Switch Electrical Panel


Here is a link to what I believe is the applicable Ohio Code for you.
http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4101%3A1-34

Read it and Ask Planning which of the sections they will enforce on you if you buy the building and repair/change the Occupancy.
Note that 3401.5 (and sub paragraphs) are seismic evaluations/retrofits.
Other Killers can be fire exits, sprinklers, etc.

The bill to fix the electrical in that building will probably cost you more than the purchase price.

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