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Electrical Question???


HiramDawg
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Thanks for the great comments and advice.

The planning is actually kind of fun and challenging for me. Sure, there's also a small dose of family inherited OCD (obsessive compusive disorder) driving it as well.

I've always wonder what the load for the entire house was. I know there are decide that be installed to show this at the panel, but its well over $100 I think.

Regarding the Quartz Hill sheet -- yes, I have pretty much re-done the entire 'light types' section and updated it with just my own stuff and actual readings. I also added a quantity field for each item. I've also taken the inventory tab and really made it include everything, not just the lights ... so I could really see everything there.

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So I had an electrician out today ... but I don't think he'll be getting the job, based on his 'could care less' attitude and non-ability to give me a quote (till forced to ... then a scribble on a card) on anything specific. he told me he turned down 1.5 million in work in the last year alone. I said it must be nice. Ok.

Here is a picture of my main panel (on the left) and the existing subpanel (on the right).

P1030296.jpg

He looked at my subpanel, with is fed off the main panel with a 50,50 double slot breaker [ connected together] ... (is that 50a or 100a to the sub then?).

Here is the main panel ... slots 2,4 have the 50,50 subpanel feed in it.

P1030297.jpg

So my subpanel is currently full ... one of those dinky 6 slot units by Square D.

P1030298.jpg

He reccomended that I just replace the 50,50 breaker (in the main panel) with a 100,100 or 125,125 and upgrade the subpanel to larger physical unit ... and move the 6 breakers (in the current subpanel) into the new subpanel.

I did like that idea, since it would give me room to expand wouldn't take anything out of the main panel (with its 4 free slots).

I could then (someday) use this little subpanel in the basement. I think I'd also have some room for a 60a hot tub expansion down the road, if that ever happens.

Any comments on this proposal?

He said it would be $800 for the 100a panel or $900 for the 120a panel. He seemed nebulous about the circuits I'd get for that ... which drove me crazy ... so finally I got him to agree to include (2) 20a and (4) 15a in the new panel ... he just seemed aloof whenever I tried to get him to reccomend anything specific. Having seen what all this costs at HD ... I wasn't impressed at that price. He mentioned the high cost of copper ... and I'm thinking ... what wire, your connecting a subpanel next to a main panel??

P1030295.jpg

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The LOR unit has cords to plug all the outputs into. All you need is a circuit to power the unit. You should use a circuit to match the output amp needs. OR you could do something like I did!

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=171427057

Check out my pictures and you can see my setup!:dude:

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Any comments on this proposal?

He said it would be $800 for the 100a panel or $900 for the 120a panel. He seemed nebulous about the circuits I'd get for that ... which drove me crazy ... so finally I got him to agree to include (2) 20a and (4) 15a in the new panel ... he just seemed aloof whenever I tried to get him to recommend anything specific. Having seen what all this costs at HD ... I wasn't impressed at that price. He mentioned the high cost of copper ... and I'm thinking ... what wire, your connecting a sub panel next to a main panel??




I would tell him to take a hike!

You should look somewhere else for an electrician. Ask your friends and family if they have someone they use. The price for a panel is cheep! I could do the work for around 400 max! As for the 100 amp vs 120amp, the panels are rated for 125 amps usually. This guy is looking to take you for a ride.

Check out craigslist.org and look for your state and local area if you don't have anyone recommended from F&F. If you were here in my area, I would do it for you.

Maybe you could go to home d-po and ask for someone there. Just don't take advise from them, they're not supposed to give it but usually do!

I don't see an inspection sticker in there, so my guess is someone did this illegally. Whoever does this should get you an inspection so your butt is covered if there is ever a problem.

And just so you know, I am an electrician, and I have been since 1980! It's all I know! PM me if you need more info.

Here is my youtube vids:

http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=dkrasley

Hope to see you on there next year!

Don


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Donald Puryear

I agree with Don send him packing!!!!! Since your service is completely outside I agree it would be easy to change the sub panel to a 125a panel (yes its only a 50a panel)I would figure the panel parts list should be around 125$. Around here an electrician would charge 400 to 500$ including a permit and Inspections. (For your peace of Mind)

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Yes, I forgot the permit and inspection costs. But don't get taken by these fools. There has to be someone that can do it cheaper. He turned down 1-1/2 million in work because he wants the big dollar jobs. Not smaller jobs like yours.


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Thanks everyone.

Obviously that guy won't be getting the job for $900 ... and I considered telling him to take a hike ... but he was pretty rough looking and told me he raised wolves on the side, so I politely thanked him for coming out to do the estimate.

There was a good guy (I found on craigslist) who was talking about doing a smaller 60a subpanel for around $250 ... but he never sent me the email quote I was asking for ... but he sounded much better. But I do think I'd rather do a 120a subpanel and replace the existing subpanel with a bigger one. Do you agree?

I'm beginning to think I may want wire up the outdoor GFCI outlets myself ... in advance of adding the new circuits. This way, I could have things more or less ready for new circuits when I get them added. I love the setups I'm seeing here with all those nice outdoor connections ... my town requires we use those big ugly outdoor outlet boxes, not the flap open (spring loaded) types, which are more attractive (to me).

The existing subpanel on my house was done by the electrician that my home builder subcontracted. I didn't know it was supposed to have a name on it somewhere.

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You can get the subpanel yourself and wire it up. All you really need a electrican for is to tie it hot if you are not comfortable with doing that. HD and lowes both have what are called contractor packs which is GE 125 amp panel that come with 6 20 amp breakers and a couple of other breakers of different sizes. So I think a total of like 8 or 9 breakers. They have 32 slots or 16 slots for double. For all that it is only $85 which is a good deal. The additional breakers for it are only like $5-6. I upgraded a couple of my 15's in my main to 20 this year and I didn't pay much for them.

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The code for the 'in use' covers is national. The only thing for my set up is that it is a temporary set up. I removed it from the side of the house. It also is not GFCI protected. I got a lot of flak from a co-worker about this, but he looked it up and approved of it later.
When you install the LOR panel, it will not be a permanent set up either, but your receptacle's will be. Thats why you need a GFCI and the 'in use' cover on it.
I have an 'in use' cover on my data hook up coming out of the house and one going into the control panel as well. I don't want to have water getting into these connections.

You can get the subpanel yourself and wire it up. All you really need a electrican for is to tie it hot if you are not comfortable with doing that.

If you decide to get the equipment and install it yourself. you better know someone. Most electricians will not finish the job for you. It's a liability issue for them. If you go that far, kill the main and do it yourself. It's not a tough thing to do, just keep your fingers and tools out of the main breaker's lug area. Just get the permit (if required in your area) and an inspector to inspect the finished work. You can look at the one already installed in there and follow the way it was done. Take close up pictures. You MUST remove any neutral bonding installed in the panel, and run a separate ground and neutral. So make sure your panel has an isolated neutral bar in the panel. If not, you must buy one. I don't do much residentual work, so I can't say for sure, but I don't think you can get a 120 amp breaker for that panel. So go with 100amps. Anyone know of a 120amp SQD Homeline breaker? If there is, you probibly need 4 spaces I would guess. I'm an industrial electrician, so I can't say for sure. But the panels interior is rated for 125Amps. I know that for sure.
I hope this helps you a little. I am around here or you can email me. I think my address is on my profile. I will be glad to guide you along the way.
Don


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Thanks so much for all the generous help and guidance. I was looking at what I had in the existing subpanel last night ... and quite a bit of it is already christmas lights related dedicated circuits. It seemed like a lot of high-use rooms were part of the subpanel.

I'm liking the idea of doing it myself then getting it inspected. I've dealt with the city inspectors before ... and even had them living at my house for a couple months when they put an huge drainage project under and through my yard.

I'm wonding if adding a new panel (and leaving the existing subpanel 'as is') would be better ... or if I should move it all into a new (larger) subpanel. I think I could live with a 100a subpanel (instead of 120/150) ... I mainly just need more slots.

When you say 'kill the main' ... does that just mean shutting off the 200a at the top of the main panel? Also, does upgrading a 15a to a 20a involve a wiring change, or just pulling out the 15a breaker and replacing it with a 20a breaker?

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First, I would change the whole box. It would be a better look than having 3 boxes there. It's your choice though. As long as you don't reach the rating on the main. Don't know, but it looks like you have some room in the main box already. Maybe you could move something out of the sub to it. Make sure you get the rainproof type 3R enclosure like is already there. You should use 2 gauge (#2) wire. I would go with copper. It will be a little pricey, but less problems with heat, IE: expansion and contraction. Make sure the terminals are tight when you are finished. Loose conections breed fires! There are torque ratings on everything. Usually in inch pounds. It would be nice if you had a torque on the screw terminals, but most people don't have that kind of tools at their disposal. If there is a rental place, inquire about renting one.

The 100 amp sub panel should give you sufficent power to control your lights. If your in doubt, add up the wattage ratings on your lights. You should try to limit the lights to around 2000 watts per 20 amp circuit. 2400 is maxing out the 20 amp breaker. You should try to stay at 80% of the rating. Add your watts together and divide them by 120. That will be the amperage of the load. Your total wattage on your 100 amp sub should be around 19200 max, and 38400 on your main. You can walk around and look to see what the total load is, but it's more of a continious use that you should be worried about.

Yes, kill=shutoff the main 200 amp breaker, I just like to say kill!

Your experience with inspectors should help. Call them ask ask for their help. Ask what they want to see and any tips or advise for doing it to to comply with your local codes. Some towns ammend the code to make it "their own". They may have something goofy that we don't have here. IE: I don't need a permit for electrical in my township. Also some places are hell bent on the new arc fault breakers. Good for protection, but they suck for electricians who have to go explain the problems all the time. It will just make the inspection go smoother if you know what they expect. Ask if you need to use "no-alox", or whatever they call it there. It is for lessining the possibility of having the connections oxidize on you. It is usually used outside.

A circuit breaker has to be installed on the proper size wire. If you have a 14 gauge wire, you usually install a 15 amp breaker. A 20 amp breaker requires a 12 gauge wire. So if it has a 12 gauge wire already (not likely though) you can go ahead with it. But if not, two words, FIRE HAZZARD!

No questons are dumb ones when it comes to your safety, so don't be afraid to ask! I hope this information is not too much to take in. Most of it is technical. Who would have ever thought Christmas lights would be this technical!

Have a nice day!

Don

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Don,

Thanks so much. I'll be absorbing your technical advice for awhile here. I understood it, to my amazement.

I also have read this pretty interesting 'how to' on adding a sub panel.

http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/elect/panel/sub_panel/01/new.htm

Do you reccomend using a mian breaker or a main lug for the (new) subpanel? I know the main lug is the normal variety for a subpanel. I read in a electrical wiring book that the auther preferred the main lug variety (even in subs) for safety reasons, so nobody would get lazy or forget to shut it off in the main panel. For me, lazyness would be much of an issue, since the panels will be co-located next to each other.

I'm leaning towards the main lug variety, since it seems a little simpler and safer to work on initially. I would replace the 50a double pole in the main panel with a 100a double pole and change the wire and run to the new 100a subpanel. Thats kind of option .

Option ... your right, I do have 4 emply slots in the main panel. I was thinking the cheapest and perhaps simplest thing I could do would be to: <1> convert an existing 15a (dedicated already) to a twin 15a (single) breaker and <2> add two more 20a twin breakers ... thus leaving 2 slots in the main panel for a subpanel ... 'down the road'. This seems simpler, because I would just leave the existing subpanel alone. Its probably the cheapest and easiest to do, but I do run the additional risk of working in the main panel where there are always live (main feed) wires. But I'd be down at the bottom of the panel, and these are on the top, I believe.

Option b takes me from having (3) 15a dedicateds [ currently] ... to having (4) 15a dedicateds and (4) 20a dedicateds. Should be plenty for (2) 30a controllers and (2) 40a controllers ... all LOR types.

I'd be interested in your opinion of option

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Don Krasley wrote:

A circuit breaker has to be installed on the proper size wire. If you have a 14 gauge wire, you usually install a 15 amp breaker. A 20 amp breaker requires a 12 gauge wire. So if it has a 12 gauge wire already (not likely though) you can go ahead with it. But if not, two words, FIRE HAZZARD!


This is true. If you go from a 15 amp to a 20 amp breaker the wire MUST be 12 gauge. BUT you might want to check your wire first because in most cases now in newer homes. The builders will wire the entire house in 12 gauge no matter what breaker is on the end because it is easier and cheaper in most cases for them to install it this way. So if you house was built in the 90s or eariler you wire might already have 12 gauge even on the 15s. They also do this in case you need to upgrade to a larger amp in the future so you don't have to run new wire through your house. In your case it is a small run and it is outdoors so it is not so much of a big deal. I found this out when I upgraded my 15 amps to 20 amps my Unlce who use to be an electrican was telling me that the exisiting wire is probably already 12 gauge and it was. If you don't have a wire gauge then just look at the wire in your exisiting 20 amp breakers compared to your 15. If the wire is all the same size then you have 12 gauge. Any little bit can help since copper is pricey.
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Scott Blessing

taybrynn wrote:


I also have read this pretty interesting 'how to' on adding a sub panel.

http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/elect/panel/sub_panel/01/new.htm




THIS ELECTRICAL HOW TO ENDS WITH: " I AM NOT AN ELECTRICIAN"

KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! or DON'T DO IT!

Somebody is really going to get hurt hanging christmas lights... ( How sad is that?)
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The website your looking at does make some good points. Especially with the need for a separate ground and neutral.

If you change the box, the main lug is cheaper. For that reason, I would go with the main lug. But if you feel better with a main breaker, do what makes you feel safe.

The mini breakers are OK as long as you don't generate a lot of heat. Basically, the amperage your drawing, the warmer the breaker will get. I've seen the damage these can do over the years in this trade. That is the draw back with them. They are supposed to be for replacement use only. It is stated on the breakers. I understand that, but never got to liking them myself because of the heat. Ask 10 people, you'll get 10 different reasons for using them. Nothing beats a full size breaker. But again, it has to be your choice. If I were doing it, I would look for something using less power to group together on a mini. Just personal preference.

When I first got in the trade, I worked for a cheap ?*&%@! He installed mini's in everything he did. He saved money on the panels and loaded them with mini's. I decided being a resi was not for me when I got into the industrial end. Running conduit and the massive gear really impressed me. So I never looked back. I still do some side work for people, but I always want to go over board with things! I wired my Mom's house in 99 and all the people in the development loved the way things were done.

So anyway, I would use up the spaces you have available and use as few mini's as possible. If you need more spaces down the road, I would go with a larger sub panel.

As for Texan78's post, it sounds good, but if things there are as cut throat as they are here in the electrical trade, you can bet whoever wired the house was under the gun to keep the costs down. An exceptional electrician may still use 12 gauge wire. But it would be more likely in a custom home where money is not an issue. Get a pair of strippers with the different sizes in them and use it for your gauge. It sounds like you'll be using them anyway! If the wire fits in the 14 gauge slot, it's 14. If it puts a nice nick in it, it is probably 12 gauge. I still doubt it. Most of the time when someone used a 12 gauge and installed a 15 amp breaker, it was because of the length of the wire. But who knows, you might get lucky!

Unless you are well seasoned in electric work, ALWAYS protect your self buy killing the main. One wrong move and you could have an arc flash that will make you look like a different person. It could burn your eyes or even blind you if it's bad enough. For your own safety, I recommend wearing safety glasses. You only have 2 eyes! Here is something on an acr flash I copied from a web site:

ARC FLASH


[align=left]arc_flash.gifAn Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in an arc-plasma fireball. Temperatures may exceed 35,000° F (the surface of the sun is 9000° F). These high temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc blast will likely vaporize all solid copper conductors which will expand up to 67,000 times its original volume when it is vaporized. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to any nearby people.[/align]

[align=left]WHY ARC FLASHES HAPPEN
There are a variety of reasons why an Arc Flash can occur, but most of them are preventable. Most arc flashes occur when maintenance workers are manipulating live equipment for testing or repair and accidentally cause a fault. Improper tools, improper electrical equipment, corrosion of equipment, improper work techniques and lack of training are just some of the events that can lead to a devastating arc flash or arc blast.
[/align]

[align=left]It's pretty amazing, and nothing to take lightly. OSHA says about 5 to 10 of these occur every day! I'm not trying to scare you, just keep you safe!

One more tid bit for you, spend the extra couple of bucks and buy a 20 amp GFCI receptacle. In the long run they pay off. Less nuisance trips and longevity is the best point I can make on them. [/align]
Good luck man!

Don

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Don and Tex ... thanks again.

I actually replied twice to this TWICE ... and each time, near the end of the post ... I hit some darn key on the laptop which unloaded the page (like when 'back') ... losing my entire post. So I finally gave up for the night after the second time.

But anyways, I have been reading and re-reading your posts ... and really appreciate all the thought, consideration and safety warnings contained in them. I can really relate to your comments related to the use of the "minis", or twin breakers as I was calling them.

I've got a couple guys who are still going to give me bids and probably more ideas ... but the more I think about it, the more I become tempted to do this (or some things) myself. With the cost of the breakers so low, I could just add (4) full sized 20a breakers to the main panel for now and utilize the (3) 15a I already have and 4th 15a (I've been using for lights that seems to be pretty free of load). That 4th one is for the front foyer lights, which are rarely ever on ... and I've thinking of converting the incandescents in them to CFL chandalier bulbs. Are there any CFL's for chandaliers (sp?) or spotlights which are really 'instant on' ... or pretty close to it?

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Update.

So. I got a quote from an electrician I found on CL (craigslist) ... and he agreed to do all these things ... and hookup my new wires into these circuits [ I'll install the 12/3 wires and run the wires and GFCI outlets myself] ... for $400.

It ends up upgrading my subpanel from 50a to 100a ... and adding (1) 15a and (4) 20a circuits into my main panel.

Does this sound reasonable?

I'm thinking I'll run the [12/3] ... (4) 20a circuits to the S. side of the house via the crawlspace and unfinished basement ... and then throw the additional 15a circuit into an outlet below the panel. This will supplement my existing (3) 15a dedicated circuits.

My goals are to run (4) controllers in 12/2008. I haven't decide how many 40A units and how many PC (30A) units to buy ... but (4) controllers total.

Any comments on the best way to run the conduit from the main panel to the crawlspace?

Here are my ideas thus far:

Idea#1 (below)

i1.jpg

Idea#2 (below)

i2.jpg

Idea#3 (below)

i3.jpg

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