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Old 05-19-2010, 02:35 PM   #1
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Old house, mostly no ground


I'm in an old house (> 50 years) and most of outlets are not grounded. I tested with a tester and only the ones for my washer in the garage and some of the kitchen outlets are grounded. Most of the wires to the receptacles only have two wires. I have added GFCI protection to most of the ungrounded outlets.

The panel is only 100A, outdated Square-D, which also feeds a sub-panel for my pool (but I'm using variable speed pump, so the total draw isn't that high). There are no available slots in the panel, as each obsolete breaker style (XO) takes up two slots (double width). Having traced the wiring, I often find wiring from a breaker going from room to room with very little consistency, and some of them, I am uncomfortable with driving so many outlets (I found one particular circuit with 8, although all of them are just driving CFL lights).

However, ultimately, I think I will need to upgrade and redo the wiring. Most of the existing wiring currently runs in the attic (I have traced a couple of them) where there is a lot of fiberglass insulation, and at a number of places, the wires are covered by nailed down plywood boxes. This means it is probably a lot easier and cosmetically less destructive than breaking down walls.

Since changing the panel or the circuits involves upgrading the entire thing.

A few questions:
1. is running wiring through the attic up to code? Anything in particular to watch out for if I have them replaced?
2. Because of the lack of empty slots on the panel, I can't break up a circuit into two to reduce the load in the meantime. Therefore it seems to me that upgrading the panel and the wiring has to be done together. Is that correct? But since changing the panel involves turning power off by the power company, I'll be without power for a while as everything gets upgraded, and then an inspection after that. Can it be done in stages? If so, how is this planned?

thanks
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Old 05-19-2010, 02:50 PM   #2
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The very First step is replacing the panel, and while you are at it look into replacing the meter box and upgrading the service wire to 150 or 200A. A qualified person (licensed electrician) can do this in a day AND rehook to the utility temporarily until the utility comes out to make the permanent connection. This aspect would be the advantage of having this part contracted out rather than DIY. Then from that point you can take your sweet time repulling and replacing the wiring in the house.

What is the location of the panel in relation to the meter?
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Old 05-19-2010, 05:38 PM   #3
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If it is a panel replacement, I will be hiring someone to do it.

The panel is right next to the meter, on the stucco wall. The subpanel is nearby (2-3 feet), strangely, on a board held by two iron poles next to the pool pump, exposed to the rain, at half my height. I never like that location, and I intend to either build another cover for it or move the subpanel next to the main panel.

You said that I can take my time to redo the indoor wiring, but doesn't turning on the power again require an inspection? And that won't do until the wiring is up to code?
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Old 05-20-2010, 05:42 AM   #4
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The inspector will only inspect the upgraded service part of the project, since that is all your subcontractor will have permitted. Since it is an older house, i assume it is an overhead service. Here (in GA) when i change an overhead service i disconnect and temporarily reconnect. The inspector inspects and the POCO comes out and makes the permanent connection. I would recommend your electrician installing your main disconnect OUTSIDE in the new meter box even though, based on you panel location, it is not requirred. This way you can shut off ALL power going into your new panel while working on it adding circuits.
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:01 AM   #5
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Sorry, 50 yrs is not old for a house, and there is probably a ground in the wiring. It is, however, undersized for todays code(but still legal). It is usually wrapped around the cable where it enters the box, and clamped with the box clamp. The ground can be unwrapped and brought into the box for better bonding. I agree with the others that a service upgrade should be done, and some new wiring may be needed.
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Old 05-20-2010, 12:22 PM   #6
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Here is how I did my new panel install/cutover:

1. Find out how your local jurisdiction approves panel placement. My code officials wanted to see the sticker that said "This place is OK for a service panel, Love, POCO" on the wall next to my service panel. The POCO will just want to make sure you are not putting it anywhere stupid, like next to a window or door.

2. Buy a big panel with the meter hole on it and mount it where you need it to go. Run the feeder wire to wherever your POCO expects it to be (for me it was 36" beyond the new weatherhead)

2. Somewhere near and conveinient to all your old wires and your new service panel, you will mount a junction box, or J box. This is where all your old wiring will meet all your new wiring. You will run the BIGGEST conduit you can manage to this J box... if you keep the conduit run to 24" or less, you don't have to worry about derating wires due to fill restrictions... this keeps things simple!

3. Take the biggest breaker in the original panel and connect it directly (through your J box) with a same size breaker in your new panel. This is your temporary feeder line. In your new panel, label it as TEMP FEEDER DISCONNECT. Put another new breaker in of the same size for that original device and connect up to the original circuit (through the J box).

4. Place new breakers and wire for each circuit you are cutting over from the new panel up to your J box. Turn the circuit off in your old box, pull the wire out and feed it to the J box. Connect the old circuit to the new box wire. Power on the circuit and test out. Repeat until the only circuit left in the old box in the one powering the new box

5. Call the POCO for the cutover. They may take that moment to give you new feeder lines off the pole to your feeders. The will pull the old meter off the old panel, and put a new meter on the new one, then lock it down. When you flip the main breaker on, you will be fully cut over.

6. You can use your old panel as a subpanel if you want, leaving your feeder bridge circuit intact, remember to remove your old feeder lines first. Or you can simply remove the circuit and gut out the old panel.
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Old 05-20-2010, 02:49 PM   #7
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Where are you from? It really helps us to answer everyones questions if we knew at least what state....or North or South of the equator?
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:22 PM   #8
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I'm in Bay area, CA.

The meter is recently installed, that new wireless type that has been getting a lot of complaints.
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