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Old 08-09-2020, 07:58 PM   #1
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In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker box?


I have an old house, ca 1928.
A lot of the wiring is old. A lot has been replaced over the years.
I'm not an electrician but I am very comfortable doing wiring. But I don't have the experience of an electrician to be able to answer what's up with this particular wiring.
Into my breaker box, one of the sets of wires is a large, multi-wire, metal-sheathed cable.
This cable has 3 Red, 3 Black, and 3 White wires.
This is 14 gauge wire.
2 of the Red are not in use -- they are each coiled and capped with wire nut.
The remaining "hot" wires -- three Black and one Red -- are set into 15 Amp breakers.
The whites all go to the common return.
Is this typical? Using a huge, multi-wire cable, to feed the rest of the house?
I'm not sure why there aren't 4 white returns. Or, rather, an equal number of hot wires and return wires. Is that also normal? (It's possible I mis-counted, though, the wires are a mess)
Should I treat this bundle any differently than any other wiring?
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:20 PM   #2
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Quote:
Originally Posted by jsilve1 View Post
I have an old house, ca 1928.
A lot of the wiring is old. A lot has been replaced over the years.
I'm not an electrician but I am very comfortable doing wiring. But I don't have the experience of an electrician to be able to answer what's up with this particular wiring.
Into my breaker box, one of the sets of wires is a large, multi-wire, metal-sheathed cable.
This cable has 3 Red, 3 Black, and 3 White wires.
This is 14 gauge wire.
2 of the Red are not in use -- they are each coiled and capped with wire nut.
The remaining "hot" wires -- three Black and one Red -- are set into 15 Amp breakers.
The whites all go to the common return.
Is this typical? Using a huge, multi-wire cable, to feed the rest of the house?
I'm not sure why there aren't 4 white returns. Or, rather, an equal number of hot wires and return wires. Is that also normal? (It's possible I mis-counted, though, the wires are a mess)
Should I treat this bundle any differently than any other wiring?
A picture would be nice if you can provide one. First you mention all the white wires are going to "common"? They should all be going to what is called Neutral wiring bar inside the load center (breaker box).

Newer setups allow you to run 2 hots for every neutral and this is usually done on lighting and it sounds that way based on your description of them being on 15 AMP and 14 AWG Wire. It's also not uncommon that 6 wires etc are coming in from a single line. It is split up inside your ceiling/attic to other locations in the house.


Cheers!

TRI0N

Last edited by TRI0N; 08-09-2020 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:28 PM   #3
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Yes. Sorry, I used the wrong term. The white wires all go to the netural bus
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:30 PM   #4
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


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Originally Posted by TRI0N View Post
Newer setups allow you to run 2 hots for every neutral and this is usually done on lighting and it sounds that way based on your description of them being on 15 AMP and 14 AWG Wire. It's also not uncommon that 6 wires etc are coming in from a single line. It is split up inside your ceiling/attic to other locations in the house.

Great. Thanks! It just looked weird and old-timey to me, I just wanted to make sure it seemed normal.
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:38 PM   #5
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Any of the colored wires go to a dbl pole breaker?
Each hot wire should have it's own neutral. You have a hot wire unaccounted for.
This IS allowed if you have a MWBC but your description doesn't really indicate that this is the case.
If two of the hot wires share a neutral then the two breakers of that circuit need to be tied together or they need to be on a db. pole breaker.
You will need to investigate further to make sure you have a safe installation.
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Old 08-09-2020, 10:10 PM   #6
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Thanks. I will investigate further tomorrow.


I'm pretty sure it is safe; the wiring overall is old but this breaker box was a major upgrade and was installed by a licensed electrician and passed my county's inspection shortly after we moved in.


Prior to the upgrade, the wiring in this house was bonkers. But probably no more or less bonkers than anyone else's 90+ year old house. Now the wiring is just mildly nuts.
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Old 08-09-2020, 10:18 PM   #7
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Owning a 90 year old home must be a challenge. So much investigating to do before you figure everything out. I can see it being fun and frustrating.
But then so is home ownership overall. As long as it is safe look at it as an adventure.
But let me clarify why the issue may be of concern. Lets say that you have two circuits sharing a neutral, each on different breakers.
If you turned off the breaker to a circuit that you may be working on the neutral in that circuit would still be carrying current. That is something to be concerned about. I did commercial work on building with 3 phase panels....3 circuits sharing one neutral, albeit mostly general lighting circuits. When working on one of the lighing circuits you naturally turn off the breaker for that circuit.
But two other circuits are also using that neutral so it is still part of an energized circuit. It is no different with a MWBC.
So be careful as you proceed.
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Old 08-09-2020, 10:37 PM   #8
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Thanks for the advice. This actually explains a lot about the behavior I've noticed in the home's wiring in some circuits when I shut off breakers.


Every new line I've installed has been a single cable to a single breaker, then split across multiple outlets. I don't know how to run MWBC line; Keep It Simple seems like a good policy for me to follow.
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Old 08-09-2020, 10:44 PM   #9
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Re: In old houses is it normal to use multi wire wiring bundles out of the breaker bo


Quote:
Originally Posted by jsilve1 View Post
. I don't know how to run MWBC line; .
It is simply two circuits that share a common neutral.
Your panel has 220 volts available and the most common panels have staggered 120 volt feeds. A 220 breaker taps into both of the 120 lines.
A MWBC is two 120 volt circuits which connect to the two "sides" of the panel.
That way the neutral isn't overloaded because it actually has less amperage on it when opposing "sides" are energized.
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