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I got the new panel mounted today. Took a few tries: One, to measure where to drill the hole for the sub-panel conduit (going straight back from the panel, thru the siding to the outside); another for "final" install; and yet another, because I forgot that I couldn't fit the conduit to the panel from outside, since the hole wasn't large enough for the panel connector piece. Third time's a charm.
In the 2nd photo, you can see where the conduit exits the house, at the top fo the ladder. I attached a "LB" fixture (similar to the LB that currently connects the conduit into the side of the meter box). On the day I do the final swap, I'll cut the existing conduit, add a 90* turn upwards, and connect it to the LB. The tricky part will be cutting the conduit WITHOUT cutting the wires inside!
I've scheduled the power shutoff with the POCO for Thursday AM, with reconnection occuring Thurs PM (assuming I stay on schedule; otherwise, it's overnight without power). I'm a bit stressed now, because I HAVE to finish all my remaining prep tasks by tomorrow night. It shouldn't be a problem, but you never know what surprises or slowdowns you'll run into.
Getting close to completing this part of the adventure! More photos tomorrow...
Got everything done today for tomorrow's power-down. New panel is fully wired for circuits, with cables numbered and routed to junction box in attic. Panel is grounded. I temporarily shut off the old panel and numbered all the wires. Added separate ground bus bar to sub-panel, and moved all grounds to it (kept the bonding screw in, since it's not going to be a true sub-panel until rewired from the meter socket to the new main panel). Ran extension cords to neighbors to power fridge, freezer and battery charger.
Mission tomorrow: After power-down, pull wire feeds from old panel into attic and connect in junction box (for wires fed from bottom of panel, splice in old panel and feed to new panel directly). Finish routing EMT conduit to old panel, to feed service lines from meter, to old panel, through conduit to new panel. If time, also wire up sub-panel (or wait until next day; not critical for having POCO power back up).
Too tired to post photos today -- and I imagine it will be the same story tomorrow. I'll probably catch up with an update and photos on the weekend, after a few cold ones to celebrate a successful transition to the new panel. I hope...
Okay, the ordeal is substantially over! Electricity is restored, house didn't burn down, I still have all limbs and appendages, life is good.
Before sharing events of the past two days, here are some photos related to the previous posting. You can see the new panel was wired up as much as possible (everything excluding the sub-panel breaker/feed wires). Cables (with numbered labels on the end) were routed to the attic. Those to be spliced in the attic were fed into the mounted junction box. The remaining were left loose, awaiting feed down the wall to the old panel, where they'd be spliced when the way was cleared. Finally, I cut open the drywall above the old panel, and labeled all the wires in the panel.
Nothing more to be done until the power was cut the next morning.
How do they cut the power? Simple: They cut the wires! The POCO guy simply cut the wires feeding into the weatherhead (didn't bother turning them off at the transformer) with a big bolt cutter. He then clamped on some splice fittings, to make re-connection easier. He left the ground/neutral wire connected, since it wasn't carrying any current.
And, of course, he removed the meter.
Last edited by Itsdanf; 04-11-2010 at 12:43 AM.
One of my first tasks was to disconnect the wires from the meter socket. You can see how the sub-panel wires were double-lugged using split-bolt clamps -- except the neutral wire, which was just laid atop the main-house neutral and clamped (already removed in photo).
However, I had to really struggle to unscrew the clamp on the lower-left of the fixture. I was afraid the bolt would strip, but... the plastic gave out first! Gads, this was gonna really blow the timeline!
Called the POCO. They said I had to buy a new meter socket from them. Sent my wife to get it while I continued other work. The new box was about an inch taller than the last one. This meant I'd have to not only change the box, but also disconnect and relocate the mast and weatherhead!
However, I noticed the brands were the same, and the innerds looked almost the same -- just that the new socket had wire support clamps built into the socket, while the old one had supports built into the box. I took the new socket out of the box, took it apart to remove the supports, reassembled it and installed it into the old box. Voila! No problem.
[By the way: The POCO guy who re-initiated power said that, if I'd just left the busted socket there, he would have swapped it out for me -- for free! Rats....]
While awaiting the new socket box, I disconneted everything in the old panel, gutted the box, and went into the attic to pull the cables up.
Went back downstairs and looked closer. Where the cables went up through the wall top plates, someone had filled all the holes with caulk! I mean, this stuff was rock-hard, and about 3 inches deep.
Another time buster. We (by which, I mean primarily my dear wife) spent hours chiseling out caulk, pinch by pinch, until each cable could finally be yanked up into the attic. While she did this, I worked on splicing the cables already released.
When all the cables were finally liberated and spliced into the junction box, it was time to drill a hole in the top plate for the EMT conduit that would contain the new service wires. Once done, I then needed to drop EMT conduit down the wall and connect it to the pieces I'd previously cut and connected to the bottom of the new panel.
The piece I'd previously cut and fit between the two walls was about 6 inches too short!
(Yeah, I know: Measure twice, blah, blah, blah...)
So I took the remaining length of EMT I had, drove to the muffler shop, caught them just before they closed, and they put a 20˚ bend on the end (just like they'd graciously done before; no way to bend 1 1/2" EMT without the right machinery).
Long story short: After much struggling and grunting, we got the EMT put together, with everything fitting!
Next step was to route the 2/0 wires through the EMT, with two countering 90˚ bends. I'm here to tell you: 2/0 wires don't like to go through pipe! Thank goodness that I decided, after the muffler shop, to drop by a big box store and get some cable lubricant. I just had a feeling... -- and I was right! I don't think we'd have made it without the slippery stuff!
[By the way: I mentioned the muffler shop was closing -- at 5pm. The timeline was officially shot, and there was no way to get the power restored that day -- even if I did want to pay for an after-hours service call; I could only do this until 9:30pm, and there was still too much to do. That night, we dined by candlelight.]
I continued working throughout the evening/night, mostly splicing wires. If I never see a wing nut again, my aching fingers will be very happy!
However, when I finally dropped the cables from the attic to the old panel, one was too short, by a foot! ARGH, here we go again!!!!
This 10/2 cable was one of the last ones I had routed. You can see in the photo that I didn't use the most economical path for the routing through the wall. Fortunately I had one unused hole at the top of the left-most stud. I disconnected the wires from the panel, re-fed the cable through the unused hole, and reconnected everything. I pulled the extra slack into the attic, and.....JUST had enough length to enter the box and make the splice!
I finished all the splices, except for two: A 60A circuit with #6 NM, and a #6 ground wire (connecting the old panel's ground to the new panel; this was to assure all hidden grounds within the wall, like to plumbing, A/C, etc., were kept sound). I'd bought the wrong split-bolt clamps for these, and needed bigger sizes. Would have to wait until morning, as nobody was open at 1am.
Up in the morning of the 2nd day, breakfast at McD's, hit the big box on the way home for the splice clamps, and back to work!
After completing the splices and calling the POCO to come re-start power ("we should have someone there sometime this afternoon"), I started working on the sub-panel re-wiring. I managed to cut the existing PVC conduit without damaging the wires. Before I could add the new PVC sections, I had to route a #6 green ground wire through the existing tube. Okay, we experienced the standard challenges of trying to fish anything, but no serious problems.
The ground wire was 3 feet too short! I'm beginning to see an uncomfortable trend here, but this was going to be the last wire or cable run, so this "short" thing (which can give a guy a complex; just sayin') shouldn't recur again.
Meanwhile, a quick trip to the electrical supply shop. Guy brought me 4 feet (nope, I wasn't going to be short again), and started ringing it up. Then he shook his head and said "Here, just take it. It'd cost me more to ring it up than just give it to you." Yipee! (Hey, two bucks is two bucks...)
Fortunately I had one properly-sized split-bolt clamp left over from the 4 I bought in the morning. Had to do a bit of fishing to route the ground wire to the sub-panel box (no, they didn't route the conduit all the way to the box like they should have), but got 'er done!
Routed the feed lines through the new PVC (again, thank goodness for the lube!), and fed it into the new panel.
In the middle of dealing with the sub-panel wiring/conduit, the POCO showed up to re-connect the power. Once wired up, I went to the main panel to start flipping breakers. Started with the main, then worked my way down the panel with individual breakers.
Worked fine until I got to my 2nd 30A breaker. When I flipped it on, I saw a flash off to the right, and the breaker engaged (turned off).
...uh, that wasn't good.
After a bit of investigation, I was able to trace to the problem: I'd tightened a clamp too much for the attic junction box, shorting the cable. When I flipped on the breaker, the short was powerful enough to burn through the clamp strap! Fortunately nothing caught fire!!
I had enough slack in the cable, so I disconnected it, cut it off before the short, re-fed it into the junction box (without tightening the clamp so much this time ), and re-connected the splice.
2nd time's a charm! Started the power-up again, and all the breakers engaged fine -- except for one 20A AFCI breaker, which wouldn't stay on. Had to leave that one for later, and get back to work finishing the sub wiring.
So, when it was time to hook up the sub-panel wires into the main panel, I discovered another problem: My white tape I'd put on the neutral wire had apparently been removed during the process of pulling the wires through the new conduit (had to tape on a pull rope, and removing that tape apparently removed my marker tape).
I pulled out a long piece of spare Romex cable, and ran it from the main panel to the sub. While my wife held one wire against the neutral wire at the sub, I used my multimeter to determine which wire on my side completed a circuit and was the neutral at the main panel. Once ID'd, clamping the two hots to the 100A breaker was a relative breeze, as was clamping the neutral onto the lug I'd previously installed on the neutral/ground bus bar.
The sub-panel powered up just fine -- and my panel wiring was finished!
Actually, I haven't figured this one out yet. There's nothing wrong with the new lines/splices I made (tested that thoroughly), so the problem's in the original wiring along the circuit. There's no way to tell whether the breaker's breaking due to an AFCI problem or a short. The circuit contains two light switches and 7 outlets -- all of which were unengaged when I tried to start up. Taking apart the outlets and switches has been interesting (saw some weird wiring --one definitely NOT to code!), but haven't figured out the problem yet. There's wiring between both sides of a wall, and I have to trace how things are routing. May end up having to break open the wall (one side is a HVAC utility closet, so might not be too
But overall, I'm quite pleased with the way things turned out.
- Finish trouble-shooting the AFCI circut
- Secure all the cables in the attic (should be stapled a ways out before entering the junction box)
- Run some extra 12/2 cable from the panel to the attic, in preparation for future additional circuits (best do that now, before the walls are closed)
- Drywall all the wall openings
- Add the panel cover to the new panel
- Lots of misc clean-up
Then later, after a few celebratory brews (and maybe a round of golf), start thinking again about getting back to the kitchen!!
Very impressive, Itsdanf. I hadn't noticed this thread before and came across it just now. You do good work and I am learning a lot of practical what to do and what not to do for when I do my much simpler sub-panel (if i ever have the time).
I made special note not to overtighen any box clamps about NM.
Question. On another thread you asked about how much material could be bored out of the wall studs and there was some discussion about doubling them or using a metal shoe.
a. From what I can see you haven't drilled that close to the edge of the studs, but is there a problem caused by the number of holes bored vertically above each other?
b. I doubt that any is "required" but are you going to protect the nm where it passes through those studs with nails shields (not what they are called but I think you will know what I mean) on the outside of the studs?
c. Is there some requirement that those cables are supposed to be fastened within X inches of the panel, usually stapled to a stud or a board on which the panel is mounted? If you have them clamped to the panel that may fill the bill. Just asking.
Anyway, congratulations. You seem to be nearing the end of a tough job.