Need some electrical help!

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Thread: Need some electrical help!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
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    Need some electrical help!

    This is a bit off-topic, but I bet there is somebody here who can help me as we have a lot of bright people on here..

    I am having 4 rooms added to my home and I paid a contractor to do the foundation, framing, siding, roofing, etc.. Just to get it "into the dry." I was going to do everything else myself. Well, they finished that 2 days ago and so yesterday I began working on the electrical. I have some experience, I have installed extra outlets and lights and ran new drops to breaker boxes before. However, I've run into some unexpected problems and I can't find the answers through a google search.

    First of all, I needed to cut a few wires going to other parts of the home in order to get this built. So yesterday I went to run completely new drops from the breaker box to those areas. When I went to remove the old cable, I was able to remove the hot wires from the breakers, but not the ground and neutrals. Those are attached to little ground blocks. The screws on those suckers just wouldn't move. In fact, I broke the top of one of them off attempting to loosen it. I considered heating it up with a small torch to see if that would help loosen, but was kind of afraid to try that. FYI - this house is only 15 years old.

    Second problem. I see now that I'm probably not going to have enough space in my box for all of the new breakers I'm going to need. I thought I was, but I had forgotten about an additional HVAC which will require at least 4 slots (240V breakers are twice as big and need one for heat and one for A/C). So now I realize it just won't all fit. So I was thinking maybe I should install another breaker box somewhere. But if I do that, can I put that box anywhere (such as in the new addition) or does it have to be next to the old breaker box? Also, do I just put a large 240V breaker in there somewhere and then run from that breaker to the new box? or do I need to tap off of the main lines coming in from the utility company?

    I need to make sure everything is in code. I even tried calling the City but they are closed today for holiday and I need an answer ASAP because i need to get to work on this ASAP but can't go any further until I know where I'm running the wires to. Hopefully somebody here can help!
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato

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  3. #2
    Member Array thephanatik's Avatar
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    If you need a sub panel, I would not worry about loosening up the the neutral bar. Theoretically, a sub panel can go anywhere, but who knows what your local code says.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    Take the "cowards" way out and hire a licensed electrician. When the work is done it will be inspected and you will know that it is at code.

    The issue which comes to my mind and has nothing to do with what you were struggling with is whether or not
    your lines to the house, the meter and the main box have the basic capacity to serve the power needs of the new addition including AC and heat.

    I recently had an old (1940s vintage) 60 amp system upgraded to 100 amps so I could use an electric hot water heater and install some AC. The electrician had to have the electric company come out to look at the transformer, the wires from the transformer to the house, and OK the upgrade. In the process we found some stuff left over from the 40s that simply needed
    modernization to meet code. One issue was a rather long run of wire which was too thin for the load. It had been that way for 65 years, but what was OK then isn't OK today.

    I do some of my own electrical work from time to time; my Uncle was into that stuff and taught me. However, I really like the idea of not waking up as a broiled crispy critter, so if I am not 100% sure I hire a pro.
    If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled in the halls of legislation will then be tried in fields of battle and determined by the sword.
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    Distinguished Member Array claude clay's Avatar
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    there is a time & place to save money---electrical work ain't it!!!

    taking what you said re your abilities, id recommend (as i did years ago)
    run the new wires and mount the new boxes/switches and than have a licensed electrician
    do the connections.

    even the smallest electrical fire will negate all that you saved and insurance may disallow coverage. and as Hopyard said about crispy critters, you don't want that for your family.
    msgt/ret likes this.
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    Member Array Eaglebeak's Avatar
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    Other than recommending you hire a licensed electrician, you might also check with your city's building codes since many of them prohibit any electrical work to be done by anyone other than a licensed electrician, house can be prevented from being sold with non-licensed electrical installations, and (as already mentioned) most insurance companies will deny payment of a claim for any electrical-related fire or other damage.

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    You hit a couple of "hot" buttons that say call for a professional.
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  9. #8
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    If you are comfortable doing the work yourself try to get "duplex breakers" for the extra circuits you need. They are the same size as the original ones but have 2 separate breakers in the same space. You should be able to install a number of these and make room for your other double pole breakerss you need. If there are enough empty spaces in the neutral and ground bars for your new connections just cut the old ones as close a possible to the bars and reconnect them in another vacant spot on the bar. Try to balance the loads and not position all the double pole breakers on the same buss. Put them on opposites sides L to R. If this seems too much, follow the advice of the smart folks above and have a professional do it. Good luck on your project.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopyard View Post
    Take the "cowards" way out and hire a licensed electrician. When the work is done it will be inspected and you will know that it is at code.

    The issue which comes to my mind and has nothing to do with what you were struggling with is whether or not
    your lines to the house, the meter and the main box have the basic capacity to serve the power needs of the new addition including AC and heat.

    I recently had an old (1940s vintage) 60 amp system upgraded to 100 amps so I could use an electric hot water heater and install some AC. The electrician had to have the electric company come out to look at the transformer, the wires from the transformer to the house, and OK the upgrade. In the process we found some stuff left over from the 40s that simply needed
    modernization to meet code. One issue was a rather long run of wire which was too thin for the load. It had been that way for 65 years, but what was OK then isn't OK today.

    I do some of my own electrical work from time to time; my Uncle was into that stuff and taught me. However, I really like the idea of not waking up as a broiled crispy critter, so if I am not 100% sure I hire a pro.
    This mirrors my exact experience, except new lines from the street to the "weatherhead" (= service entrance) were required.

    It's one thing to run a line to add an outlet, but adding a 240V subpanel without knowing what your local codes are is an invitation to wasting money because you did it wrong. I'm real comfortable with electrical stuff from instrumentation up to 480v 3-phase, but my knowledge of the NFPA 70 requirements falls short of what is actually required. I think you'd be better off trying to save money elsewhere on your project.
    Smitty
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    Member Array PoLockNLoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldnfat View Post
    If you are comfortable doing the work yourself try to get "duplex breakers" for the extra circuits you need. They are the same size as the original ones but have 2 separate breakers in the same space. You should be able to install a number of these and make room for your other double pole breakerss you need. If there are enough empty spaces in the neutral and ground bars for your new connections just cut the old ones as close a possible to the bars and reconnect them in another vacant spot on the bar. Try to balance the loads and not position all the double pole breakers on the same buss. Put them on opposites sides L to R. If this seems too much, follow the advice of the smart folks above and have a professional do it. Good luck on your project.
    One downside to running duplex breakers to free up space is that you have to make sure you don't add so much draw that you overload the buss bars or mains.

    I've had to do this in the past in my old garage. I just made sure that I flipped off the breakers for the stove, hot water heater, and A/C BEFORE I flipped on the breakers for the welder and compressor. When I was done working I reversed the process.

    When I moved I pulled the breakers and wiring for my additions, as I wouldn't want anyone to unknowingly have all the circuits running at the same time.

    Its much cheaper to have the power company and a licensed electrician add another service line than it is to rebuild the whole house from the ground up because you made a mistake and overloaded the main lines.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    This mirrors my exact experience, except new lines from the street to the "weatherhead" (= service entrance) were required.

    It's one thing to run a line to add an outlet, but adding a 240V subpanel
    Without knowing what he has there is no way to know if the present power to the main box and the lines leading to it will be adequate for the additional load. Adding one 15 or 20 amp 120 v line is one thing; adding a whole 3 wire 240 to the addition and taking the power off the original box, without consideration of what is leading to the box could become a cause for excitement; especially if one is foolish enough to up the main breaker size and then just assume the lines to the house and meter will handle it.
    gasmitty likes this.
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    New Member Array poleclimber9's Avatar
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    I work for a power company and this is a large part of what I do, meet with homeowners regarding upgrades. Just like the guys above have said, you should call your power supplier just to make sure our end is strong enough to handle the additional load. Depending on the company, there may or may not be a charge for this (We charge $50). Most of the time I end up making some changes to upgrade the service either because of the additional load or because it's been 30 years since we've been there! You said the house was only 15 years old so more then likely your fine, but it's still good to make sure.

    While the rep is there, ask him about electricians. See if you can get him to recommend a few good ones in the area. He should know, we work together with them all the time to do these upgrades. You learn the good from the bad real quick.

    I see very few do-it-yourself electric projects that turn out well. (I don't know your electric experience so don't be offended here!) I just hate to see people spend too much money trying to save money. I am notorious for trying do-it-yourself stuff that I should have never started, so I know exactly where you are with this! Just think hard about hiring an electrician, at least to get you far enough along so you can take over with confidence.

    Good Luck!

  14. #13
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    Having just fought a running battle (a very long boring story) with some Code Enforcement folks, specifically electrical, I would consider a professional. I learned a lot of numb-knuckling mind-bending details about distances between duplexes, duplexes to doors, numbers needed, lights in certain areas, service panels and the like. I didn't do any of the work. I was merely trying to close a permit on some prior work. It was very frustrating, and the electrician I hired to fix everything earned his "keep". I even learned about brands of breakers allowed in certain panels and the like.

    The other reason I don't do electrical, is I don't work on crap that can kill me.

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    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    You need a pro.

    You probably don't need a new panel. Some tandem breakers will probably work.

    What you need is an electrician with an amp meter. He can determine your loads, where you can make room for other stuff.

    If you've busted neutral and/or ground screws on a buss, then a new buss or drill and tap is on order.

    It is important to know what exactly you've cut and re-routed from existing circuits, another reason for a pro. He can use a toner or continuity tester and find out exactly what's going on.

    Your A/C and heat are two separate units? Solely electrical, or is your heater gas? Your a/c and heat aren't used at the same time, so there are demand calculations that can be shared, based on conditions.

    Licensed electrician since '95. I can't help you a lot via internet, sorry. Not unless you can be a lot more specific about what's going on. Even then, to be safe with a remodel, you really need to know what your existing loads are.
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

    "A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government." -source

  16. #15
    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    A sub panel can be put anywhere, except behind a door, in a closet, or any other space that doesn't leave at least 30" working space in front. Local codes may vary.

    ETA: if you can tell me what type of panel you have, I can help you find the right tandem breakers.

    If you can post a pic of your panel, and/or list your breakers, and identify the load types, I can help you rearrange them to fit... maybe.
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

    "A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government." -source

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