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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, I'm new on here, and I have a few questions about an old 3 pole knife switch electrical panel. First off, why are there three "poles" instead of two? The hot, the neutral, then what? Second, why are all three fused? Shouldn't only the hot be fused? Third, is this still safe if it is sealed away from everyone with a panel cover? I know the bare metal parts are live and dangerous, but if you are careful around it, is there any other danger here in keeping this? I am pretty sure it is original to the building with the old Knob-and-Tube (C. 1892). Thanks for the help guys, I am mostly just curious about this old panel. Here is a link to an image of the old panel, it is the second pictue down on the page:

http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/Thompsonbuilding3.htm
 

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Too many scenarios to be accurate. There could be 2 hots and one neutral....or three hots. What does this switch control? Is it a main disconnect? Does it control one device? Electrical circuits and their wiring techniques have changed along with code. More info please...........
 

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Two options
1-three phase supply,
Used in early industrial applications.
In which case there would be three hots.
But the middle one doesnt look like its fused !
so
most likely its
2-Two hots and the middle one which looks like it's not fused
would be the neutral, the two outers would be hot lines @ 120v.

It sure looks nice !
Quality work !
If the panel had a clear perspex cover over it
and no one, could get any were near it,
Such as a see thru door on the room then you might
get away with it !
But I would contact the local electrical inspectors and
ask there advise.
Cause it could go either way, if you work with them
you have a better chance.

Please let us know how you go !
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Too many scenarios to be accurate. There could be 2 hots and one neutral....or three hots. What does this switch control? Is it a main disconnect? Does it control one device? Electrical circuits and their wiring techniques have changed along with code. More info please...........
Honestly, I am not sure weather it is the main or a sub panel, but I think it is the main for the back portion of the building. I just wanted to figure out how it works.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Two options
1-three phase supply,
Used in early industrial applications.
In which case there would be three hots.
But the middle one doesnt look like its fused !
so
most likely its
2-Two hots and the middle one which looks like it's not fused
would be the neutral, the two outers would be hot lines @ 120v.

It sure looks nice !
Quality work !
If the panel had a clear perspex cover over it
and no one, could get any were near it,
Such as a see thru door on the room then you might
get away with it !
But I would contact the local electrical inspectors and
ask there advise.
Cause it could go either way, if you work with them
you have a better chance.

Please let us know how you go !
I thought I saw a fuse on the middle, but I could be wrong. I do like the look of it, also. Unfortunately, I do not own the building, but I wish I did. I plan on touring it when the weather warms up. Very interesting old building. I have been looking up info on it, and I just wanted to find out more about this old electrical panel here that they photographed.
 

Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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Sure looks like 3-phase ungrounded to me. There's a fuse on all three poles of each of the branch circuits. There does not appear to be a fuse on the middle phase at the top of the panel, but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem! I wouldn't say it's necessarily an unsafe piece of equipment as long as it's inaccessible, but it could be unsafe if it's not in excellent condition or if the system has been modified. There are many safety issues that were simply not known at the time it was designed and installed.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Sure looks like 3-phase ungrounded to me. There's a fuse on all three poles of each of the branch circuits. There does not appear to be a fuse on the middle phase at the top of the panel, but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem! I wouldn't say it's necessarily an unsafe piece of equipment as long as it's inaccessible, but it could be unsafe if it's not in excellent condition or if the system has been modified. There are many safety issues that were simply not known at the time it was designed and installed.
I'd never noticed that copper bar, but I think I see it now. Are you talking about the very middle of the main top section, or the middle of the bottom right? Not the greatest quality picture on the historical society's part. Do you think the circuit was overloaded, and the fuse kept blowing, so they used it as an override? I'm sure it's a 15 amp circuit.

Not to mention, the top portion of this building has not been lived in in since the mid 50's. The back portion, where this panel is, was a truck drivers union, but it looks like it was vacated around the same era (or not long after), considering the time the main stairwell from street level was blocked up.
 

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I've seen panels like that in old electrical books. Amazing one is still in use!

Anyway if that is updated, you should try to cut the whole works out including the back board and the wires going to the sides. Then place it in a museum.

Following is an old electrical wiring book (1902 and contains the National Electrical Code of that time) which shows knife switches. A panel board is in the advertisements toward the end. Page 31 is interesting in that it seems to show using a tree to run outside wires! Shows how to mount insulators on trees!
http://books.google.com/books?id=zZFRAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
 

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In the U.S., such 3-pole knife switches were commonly used as residential service disconnects back in the day. I've encountered many of those
in old Seattle homes, commonly located on an exterior wall at a back porch. Then as now, homes were served with two hot phase conductors and
a neutral conductor. It was also the common practice in earlier days to fuse the neutrals as well as the hots.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I've seen panels like that in old electrical books. Amazing one is still in use!

Anyway if that is updated, you should try to cut the whole works out including the back board and the wires going to the sides. Then place it in a museum.

Following is an old electrical wiring book (1902 and contains the National Electrical Code of that time) which shows knife switches. A panel board is in the advertisements toward the end. Page 31 is interesting in that it seems to show using a tree to run outside wires! Shows how to mount insulators on trees!
http://books.google.com/books?id=zZFRAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
If I were to purchase this property, I would first try to save it. However, I haven't seen it in real life, and if it is not safe/feasable to use, I would then remove the whole shebang (probably the granite backer too) and put it on display with a glass door infront of it. I would love to keep it, but if it were anything much more than a lighting main, it might not be worth any fire hazard. This part of the building was last used as commercial offices, but it would probably be more feasable to use this portion as apartments at this point. So if it is in a public area, and it isn't locked-up, it might fry a renter that chooses to mess with it, and that would be an ugly lawsuit. Also, that book is very interesting. I will certainly have to flip through it one of these days. Tell me, which page has the panel board advertisement?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
In the U.S., such 3-pole knife switches were commonly used as residential service disconnects back in the day. I've encountered many of those
in old Seattle homes, commonly located on an exterior wall at a back porch. Then as now, homes were served with two hot phase conductors and
a neutral conductor. It was also the common practice in earlier days to fuse the neutrals as well as the hots.
What benefit did it serve to fuse the neutrals? Are you an electrician? Should these be uninstalled, or are they safe to keep in use, assuming they are sealed and out of the way?
 

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How many millions do you have access to ?

If you want the switch, make the owner an offer for it, and you pay the electrician.

Otherwise, go talk to the planning department about what upgrades they are going to insist on to reissue occupancy permits. Listen real carefully for the terms seismic reinforcement. If you don't hear it, ask about it. That is a multistory, un-reinforced masonry building.

Why do you think that building is for sale so cheap ?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
How many millions do you have access to ?

If you want the switch, make the owner an offer for it, and you pay the electrician.

Otherwise, go talk to the planning department about what upgrades they are going to insist on to reissue occupancy permits. Listen real carefully for the terms seismic reinforcement. If you don't hear it, ask about it. That is a multistory, un-reinforced masonry building.

Why do you think that building is for sale so cheap ?
How many millions of what do I have access to? I know why it is so cheap. You see, in East Liverpool, everything is cheap. Not to mention all of the work this building needs. Third floor is nothing but water-damaged plaster. There are crumbling buildings all around. This is, shockingly, one of the nicer practically-abandoned buildings. Are you from the west coast? I don't think they are worried about seismic reinforced anything here in Ohio, we really don't see any seismic activity. The area with that electrical panel has been unoccupied, probably since the 60's-70's. The upper level on the main portion of the building was used as depression era appartments, empty since the mid 50's.
 

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but it looks like there may be a copper bar in place of the fuse... which would be a problem!

I think that it was originally designed for three phase use,
But could have been adapted for use on two hots,
hence the middle fuse bypass.

Is it legal to have exposed gear like this ?
 

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Here is a link to what I believe is the applicable Ohio Code for you.
http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4101:1-34

Read it and Ask Planning which of the sections they will enforce on you if you buy the building and repair/change the Occupancy.
Note that 3401.5 (and sub paragraphs) are seismic evaluations/retrofits.
Other Killers can be fire exits, sprinklers, etc.

The bill to fix the electrical in that building will probably cost you more than the purchase price.
 

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From the pictures I saw, especially the full 50 gallon trash can upstairs serving as a collection bucket for a roof leak, and all the obvious water damaged plaster/lath walls and ceilings up there, it's obvious the roof has been leaking for YEARS in multiple locations, by now the water has done so much damage up there I'd bet if the plaster was removed they would find almost every roof rafter has rot, and the walls too.The top floor floor certainly as well.
Unfortunately once a building's roof is breached and left that way, it's pretty much the beginning of the end of the building, those softwood studs, lath, joists, rafters and floorboards start decaying amazingly fast and once it starts it proceeds rapidly.
I remember an abandoned building in NYC that had a fire which burned the roof off in one area, they cement blocked the windows and closed it up, but a tree grew up on the top floor that had a trunk that was 6" in diameter. The weight of a brick slid across the floor was enough for it to fall through the floorboards.
I don't see this building being renovated, the costs are too high and they could only fit a small number of say, apartments in there, and people will only pay so much for rent.
But if anyone wants to save it, someone had better deal with that roof ASAP and stop the water from coming in before it really is too late if it isn't already. Someone with a couple of 5 gallon cans of trowel consistancy tar and a roll of tar paper could probably temporarily patch most if not all of the obvious leaking spots and buy it some more time, another year or so maybe.

Once the roof deck and floors have rot it would likely have to be gutted to the bare brick shell and all the interior walls, floors, electrical, windows, plumbing, heating, stairs etc etc would all have to be replaced.
 

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But I would contact the local electrical inspectors and
ask there advise.
I wouldn't suggest inviting trouble by even contacting them! they get wind of all those roof leaks with the 50 gallon trashcan full of rainwater upstairs, live power to meters and boxes, celing plaster caving in along with apparantly occupied businesses on the ground floor and you are begging for an immediate vacate order.

The only time to call them is when the owner wants to do a renovation and needs to get permits and all that.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Here is a link to what I believe is the applicable Ohio Code for you.
http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4101:1-34

Read it and Ask Planning which of the sections they will enforce on you if you buy the building and repair/change the Occupancy.
Note that 3401.5 (and sub paragraphs) are seismic evaluations/retrofits.
Other Killers can be fire exits, sprinklers, etc.

The bill to fix the electrical in that building will probably cost you more than the purchase price.
I would assume that alot of the outdated things like electrical and seismic withstandability (If that is a word) would be grandfathered in a historical building like this (1892). If not, I'd imagine alot more of East Liverpool would be abandoned. There is a fire escape attached to the building next door, which is included and is attached on the upper levels. Again, I have never even seen this building in real life to evaluate it.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
From the pictures I saw, especially the full 50 gallon trash can upstairs serving as a collection bucket for a roof leak, and all the obvious water damaged plaster/lath walls and ceilings up there, it's obvious the roof has been leaking for YEARS in multiple locations, by now the water has done so much damage up there I'd bet if the plaster was removed they would find almost every roof rafter has rot, and the walls too.The top floor floor certainly as well.
Unfortunately once a building's roof is breached and left that way, it's pretty much the beginning of the end of the building, those softwood studs, lath, joists, rafters and floorboards start decaying amazingly fast and once it starts it proceeds rapidly.
I remember an abandoned building in NYC that had a fire which burned the roof off in one area, they cement blocked the windows and closed it up, but a tree grew up on the top floor that had a trunk that was 6" in diameter. The weight of a brick slid across the floor was enough for it to fall through the floorboards.
I don't see this building being renovated, the costs are too high and they could only fit a small number of say, apartments in there, and people will only pay so much for rent.
But if anyone wants to save it, someone had better deal with that roof ASAP and stop the water from coming in before it really is too late if it isn't already. Someone with a couple of 5 gallon cans of trowel consistancy tar and a roll of tar paper could probably temporarily patch most if not all of the obvious leaking spots and buy it some more time, another year or so maybe.

Once the roof deck and floors have rot it would likely have to be gutted to the bare brick shell and all the interior walls, floors, electrical, windows, plumbing, heating, stairs etc etc would all have to be replaced.
The topic is getting a little bit off of electrical here. First, I read through and looked at all 8 pages of pictures (multiple times), and I can say that the picture with the trash can collecting rainwater is in the Lowe building next door (fire escape outside window). The Lowe building needs most work, and certainly a new roof over it; it is included in the sale and attached on the upper levels. The main building is pretty solid from what I've seen. I know the plaster damage is bad, but this is an amazing old building with beautiful archetecture, and I can't bear the thought that it might be left to fully rot away. It has been a centerpiece in the historical Diamond area in downtown East Liverpool since it was built. I know no one else plans to save it, that's why I'd love to. Maybe I'm trying to jump into this too fast, and maybe I'll get in over my head, but I think it is still saveable.

I'm sure the electrical, plumbing, and all will need work. One of the first things that I would do would be to tar and patch the roof. Looks like the roof access (Small pink steps in one picture, I think) has been blocked off. If the rafters are too bad, they could be sprayed for mold/mildew and piggy-backed to new rafters for extra support. The sheathing is probably rotted too. One thing, I must qoute www.oldhouseguy.com in saying, never, ever, ever, replace historical wooden windows. If this building is ever mine, those will be restored with new glazing, wood putty/epoxy, and paint. New windows would kill the look of the building. I'd try to save the Plaster and Lathe, but I'm sure the exterior walls would need gutted for plumbing/electrical, and I am willing to be there is little to no insulation in any exterior walls, or even the roof.

Sorry for the long responce, please bear with my ranting :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I wouldn't suggest inviting trouble by even contacting them! they get wind of all those roof leaks with the 50 gallon trashcan full of rainwater upstairs, live power to meters and boxes, celing plaster caving in along with apparantly occupied businesses on the ground floor and you are begging for an immediate vacate order.

The only time to call them is when the owner wants to do a renovation and needs to get permits and all that.
The current owner will never renovate it, he will leave it to rot. I wouldn't contact in inspector either, because they would tell me everything I already know. The building has a total of four storefronts currently, liberty tax occupying the main store front. The two on the side are empty, and the Lowe building store front was an attorneys office until 2010 or so. So all that is left is liberty tax. The rent from any businesses would generate some repair money, but not alot. The back section of the building could be divided into two or three apartments (It's seperate). The Lowe building repairs would be years down the road, because it probably needs new floor joists on the fourth, maybe even the third floor (Third floor had the Trash bucket full of water). I always imagined living in the large area above the main portion of the building (above Liberty Tax and one of the empty store fronts), but I always dream big.
 
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