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Old 02-10-2011, 12:36 AM   #1
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Tract Home Wiring GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!


The home my wife and I bought was built in 1981 and is part of a housing tract. In the 5 years we have lived here, we occasionally run across something that causes us to

When we replaced the kitchen cabinets, countertops and floors, we didn't touch anything else. We installed a new stove, a microwave, and have a toaster oven. While preparing a holiday dinner we had everything going, and pop. Found out the hard way that 2 of the 3 counter top receptacles, the stove (gas), microwave, and fridge were all on the same circuit. FAIL! So now when cooking a holiday meal I have to not use the bottom oven drawer (which is one reason we bought this oven), and have to stagger using the microwave and toaster oven. Granted when the house was built, there were no microwaves, computer controlled ovens, and such, but I don't think this was code even then.

My job as facility manager requires me to have some basic understanding of wiring including 240 split phase (residential) I decided to have a look in my panel and look into adding a kitchen circuit or two. When I saw what was in the panel . ...

The builder LOVED Multi Wire Branch Circuits. So much so that 8 out of 9 of the single pole breakers (4 3wire cables) circuits are part of MWBC!! And here is the kicker, I have 4 space saver twin breakers.... and .... you guesed it, 3 of the cables have the black and red going to the same space saver breaker which of course means they are on the same leg of 120, and the neutral can very easily be overloaded. EPIC FAIL How this passed inspection is beyond me, it was not difficult to see.

So now before I do anything else I need to swap wires with adjecent breakers so the black and red of each MWBC are on opposite legs. THEN I need to start looking at splitting circuits.

The kitchen needs some help, the microwave needs it's own, and I need to reconfigure the countertop circuits so they are evenly distributed and don't have the dinning room outlets on them.

The bathrooms receptecals currently share a circuit with a bunch of other lighting and an otside receptecal, and are on a 15A breaker.

The other 2 external receptecals are sistered off internal ones and are not GFI

Fortunately I have 5 spaces left and it uses Bryant BR breakers, so I can get materials easily. I also have full access to the attic, so running is relatively easy.

Thanks for letting me vent a little. This isn't the only issue, but I think potentially the most dangerous.

Daniel

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Old 02-10-2011, 01:21 AM   #2
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Wow. Was there an inspection before purchase?

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Old 02-10-2011, 01:33 AM   #3
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Yes, we had it inspected before we bought it 5 years ago. No indicated issues. The inspector was so thorough that he also missed the fact that the hot water had been repiped and no hot water was supplied to the washing machine. I have learned a lot about homes and home ownership in 5 years
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Old 02-10-2011, 07:58 AM   #4
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MWBC's are not a shortcut or a sign of lesser quality. Wiring them wrong IS. Don't expect an inspector to find this either. That is an issue unto itself.

70's and early 80's wired homes used much better material than previous generations, but the "quality" code had not caught up. Such as your bathroom sharing with other spaces. My 1975 home had/has two baths and two outside receptacle sharing a circuit. Back then it was no big deal. Now it is.
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Old 02-10-2011, 08:03 AM   #5
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Tract Home Wiring GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!


You said you want to split off the dining room receptacles. By code they are supposed to be a 20 amp small appliance branch circuit. Typically they are part of the kitchen receptacle circuit. You can make them an additional 20 amp circuit.

Having the refrigerator and/or a gas stove on one of the small appliance circuits is also allowed.

As you know the MWBC on the same leg is an issue and needs to be corrected.

The exterior or bathroom receptacles may be downstream of a GFI device.
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Old 02-10-2011, 08:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlmran View Post
Wow. Was there an inspection before purchase?
Majority of the HI's could not punch their way out of a paper sack, due to the fact, that they have not been in the trades, or worked in the trades for a very short time, and decided that they could make better money inspecting properties. When we got our home, the HI was better than others here in our town.
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Old 02-10-2011, 08:59 AM   #7
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You might not need to add that many new circuits. Are you able to string any more cables?

You can break up a circuit in ways such as this:
power - A - B - C - D
into
power - A - B - (break) C - D - power

In breaking the daisy chain, the loose ends can be taped one at a time and curled up at the side of the box. For example the connection from B to C that was decommissioned in the above example.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 02-10-2011 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:34 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
Majority of the HI's could not punch their way out of a paper sack, due to the fact, that they have not been in the trades, or worked in the trades for a very short time, and decided that they could make better money inspecting properties. When we got our home, the HI was better than others here in our town.
Yet there have been dozens of posts on this forum warning of the ills associated with non-inspected purchases.
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Old 02-10-2011, 10:36 AM   #9
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Thanks for your inputs

I realize some of this is that home electrical demands of 30 years ago are not what they are now. The MWBC concept by itself is ok, but in my opinion this builders application is lacking. Even once corrected so the black/red are on opposite legs, only maybe two of them are in my opinion acceptable.

1 - Dishwasher and disposal split receptacle has a 3 wire 12AWG cable, each on 20A. No other receptacles. This one is fine

2 - Washer/Dryer in the garage (Black) is one leg, the other (red) has two receptacles, one in the garage which the Air Handler is plugged into and one in the dining room wall that shares the garage. Again 3 wire 12AWG, and 20A breakers. This one is ok too.

3. - Black is on a 15A and feeds master receptacles and both bath lights. Red feeds the two small bedrooms, the living room, and two exterior outlets and is on 20A. This one is actually on different legs but the breakers are not the same capacity.

4. - Black feeds 2 counter top receptacles (one has the toaster oven), the gas stove receptacle (our stove as an electric 120V drawer oven on the bottom), the microwave receptacle, and the fridge. Red feeds one counter top receptacle and all the dinning room receptacles. This one gives me the most trouble. I will likely split one so it feeds one counter top, the stove and fridge, the other feed the other two counter top. Add a dedicated microwave circuit. Move the lighting that is currently on the bathroom receptacle circuit to a new one with the dinning room receptacles, and dedicate the bathroom receptacles (each bathroom only has one duplex) on a 20A.

I have quite a bit of space in the attic where all the electrical is run, and the panel is in the garage so running new cables is pretty easy, I am in the process of mapping the circuits now.

The other thing that bugs me, that I am correcting as I go, is the junk receptacles used. Minimum quality, and all were wired with the back stabs, these receptacles don't even have lugs. Of course on the MWBC the neutrals are tied through the device back stabs, not wire nutted together with a tail to the receptacle. I notice when I plug in high draw devices (like a vacuum) near the end of a circuit (the living room) I get some light dimming voltage drop which is symptomatic of lots of these back stab connections daisy chained getting old.

I guess the inspectors are supposed to catch the real big obvious stuff. If he had turned on the washing machine valves he would have caught the hot wate problem. If he had pulled the cover off the electrical panel, he would have seen the MWBC issue (it is pretty obvious with the black and red both going to the same space saver breaker severl times) What surprised me was the county inspector did not catch the electrical issue when the home was being built, but then again, it is part of a tract and the inspector may have looked at a sample or two and not every home, who knows. Anyway, I am going to make things better.
Daniel

Last edited by FixitDragon; 02-10-2011 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Move the lighting that is currently on the bathroom receptacle circuit to a new one with the dinning room receptacles,
Doing so would be a code violation. Lighting cannot be included with the dining room receptacle circuit.

Quote:
3. - Black is on a 15A and feeds master receptacles and both bath lights. Red feeds the two small bedrooms, the living room, and two exterior outlets and is on 20A. This one is actually on different legs but the breakers are not the same capacity.
Is the cable sized appropriately for the breaker?
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:52 AM   #11
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Doing so would be a code violation. Lighting cannot be included with the dining room receptacle circuit.

Is the cable sized appropriately for the breaker?
Thanks, I didn't know that. I'll just leave the dinning room on it's own then. Can you tell me why the dinning room receptacles can't have lighting where other rooms can? I am always trying to learn. From your above post it sounds like it is ok for dinning room receptacles to be on a kitchen countertop branch, which would be why you can't have lighting? I was under the impression these had to be only countertop and appliance like fridge and stove.

Yes 3 wire 12AWG. One leg is fed from a single 20A breaker, the other leg is fed one half of a space saver that is 15A, the other 15A half of the space saver feeds the bathroom receptacles, and exterior, and the kitchen lights. So while the cable is ok, and the red and black on different legs, it is in my non-professional opinion sloppy. I am going to have to change it eventually anyway to put the bathroom receptacles on a dedicated 20A

Daniel

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Old 02-10-2011, 12:06 PM   #12
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The NEC has a prohibition against having lighting loads on some circuits. The kitchen and dining room receptacles are one of these. The idea is so that the ability to use toasters and other high draw appliances is not reduced by having the additional load of the lighting.
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Old 02-10-2011, 01:30 PM   #13
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Let me clarify my question, I am still not quite understanding. Does the NEC allow dinning room receptacles on a kitchen counter top circuit? If it does then I can certainly understand why no lighting is allowed. If it does not allow for dinning room receptacles to be part of a kitchen countertop circuit, then what high draw devices are expected to be used in the dinning room?

Thanks for your patience!
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Old 02-10-2011, 01:32 PM   #14
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The dining room receptacles are allowed to be part of the kitchen small appliance branch circuits.
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Old 02-10-2011, 08:01 PM   #15
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The way that I redid my Kitchen is the following, due to in the middle of a remodel that is not done on a Bungalow built in 1937:

Kitchen counter & counter by stove on a 20 amp GFCI breaker.
Microwave & Portable Dishwasher GCFI protected outlet (20 amp).
Baseboard outlets in Kitchen, Dining on a 20 amp circuit (electric for gas stove & refrigerator are on this circuit).
Disposal by itself on a 15 amp.
Lighting for Kitchen & Dining (3 fixtures) on 15 amp circuit).

When we moved in, the original wiring was set up with 4 lighting/outlet circuits wired with BX from original build, a single outlet for the washer added in the past 30 or so years, circuit for garage, a couple of other circuits for a total of around 8. Broke it out, and ended up filling the 100 amp panel which needs to be upgraded in the near future, or broken down to a sub (would like one sub for lighting, and one for loads, with the orig. 100 amp for only breakers for the two subs & garage circuit breaker).

See attachment for SABC wiring in Kitchen & Dining. Scalped off of the web through a search on Yahoo.com:
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