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RichyL 11-17-2007 02:45 AM

Rough in wiring for sub-panel
I recently did a rough in for someone who was finishing his basement. He did not have enough breaker space in his existing panel for the circuits he needed to add, so i ran a 2/2/2/4 SE cable from the main to the future sub panel. I moved the wires out of the way, so i could take out the knockout and added my connector to the panel. Once i had the connector in I started to move the wires around on the opposite side of the panel to make room for the cable that I was about to put in. I noticed when i started jiggling the neutral and ground wires around, it was emmitting sparks on corners of the inside of the panel and up around where the connectors on the top of the panel were connected.The panel was also making a light humming noise. The circuit breakers did not appear to be warm to the touch. Im not sure exactly what was causing it. The neutrals appeared to be tight on the bus. I was getting 245 volts between the 2 phases which i thought was a little high? The neutrals and grounds were bonded together.

Any insight would be appreciated :)

jwhite 11-17-2007 09:28 AM

Doing electrical work in someone elses home is not a DIY project. It is a hazzard. Leave Electrical contracting to the electrical professionals.

RichyL 11-17-2007 11:30 AM

The HO happens to be a family member of mine that is fixing up a room, that could not afford a licensed electrician because of money problems, if you must know. He is doing the project himself he asked me to help him with the electric. I have never encountered this problem before. I have seen the busbar emit sparks from a loose neutral on the bar before but not on the frame of the panel, all the connections seemed to be pretty tight. The panel frame had no voltage running through it while this was happening, just some sparks from moving the wires around

Andy in ATL 11-17-2007 11:36 AM

What kind of panel? It might be time to call somebody if it is a defective panel.

RichyL 11-17-2007 12:04 PM

It was a Siemans panel

Andy in ATL 11-17-2007 12:08 PM

By the way... 245V between legs is within the normal range.

RichyL 11-17-2007 12:19 PM

On a side note i noticed that there was a washing machine running while this was happening, it was spliced to another circuit and put on 1 side of a piggyback 20a breaker, there was also one of those 2 headed drop lights running that was on the same circuit. Shaking those wires around was causing lights to dim and brighten upstairs like there was a lost neutral or something. I turned off some of the breakers one at a time till i got to the washer/light circuit. When i turned that off the arcing on the frame died down, then it eventually stopped all together when i started up the washer circuit again and unplugged the drop light, but there was still a light humming noise. Hope this helps?

Andy in ATL 11-17-2007 12:35 PM

You never really had a lost neutral. Definitely a loose neutral though. Is the main neutral lug tight? CAUTION...CAUTION...CAUTION... You should only tighten ANYTHING in a panel with the main breaker off. I'm sure you knew that.


J. V. 11-17-2007 12:44 PM

Loose connection for sure. Tighten everything you can see with the power turned off. Tighten EVERYTHING

RichyL 11-17-2007 12:50 PM

Thanks for the advice Andy. Ill shut down the main and tighten all the connections, i did not try to tighten the main neutral yet which very well could be the problem. THanks again

Andy in ATL 11-17-2007 12:54 PM

While the main is off go ahead and check all the wires under the breakers. Caution again, if the main breaker is in the panel, those two big-ass wires at the top of the panel will still be hot.

Edit to add: In other words... what JV said.:laughing: :whistling2:

220/221 11-17-2007 06:09 PM


could not afford a licensed electrician because of money problems,

Can he aford to bury his family?

Sparks like that are not good. Seek professional help.

RichyL 11-17-2007 07:30 PM

Their panel has been wired this way for 20 years. All i did was add a connector and push some wires back out of the way when i noticed it. Other than that i did not alter the panel in anway. Apparently the way the panel was wired was that when they ran the circuits to the panel they put the grounds and neutrals from the branch circuits on the same terminals on the busbar, so i think what was happening was they were not making full contact like they should, I think this is why there is a one neutral by itself per terminal rule today. When i jiggled the wires, maybe the neutral loosened and was diverted to the ground and the unbalanced load was grounding out on the panel frame.
Anyways I dont know for sure, just a theory,does this make sense?

Andy in ATL 11-17-2007 07:51 PM

Does the panel have a main breaker? If so, the neutrals and grounds SHOULD be bonded together. Not all of us are in attack mode.:no:

RichyL 11-17-2007 09:55 PM

yeah it has a breaker and the neutral and ground are bonded together. It is the first means of disconnect for the service. When i went back to check it again it was not doing it anymore, I shutoff the main and tightened all the connections anyway. I have seen this once before if you loosen the screw to the neutral on a circuit with a load it will make sparks on the bus, but i have never seen it makes sparks outside of that area. Anyhow it is not doing it anymore so I am happy. Thanks for the advice :thumbsup:

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