Electrical box mess/questions

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by chel_in_IL, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    Hi all,
    I own a 38 year old home that I am in the midst of remodeling. Almost done with the bathroom gut/remodel, and am going to work on the kitchen next.

    My question is with the electrical box. Fiance' does electrical work, but didn't know the answers to my questions.

    The pic is a Square D QON12M. The box cover itself has 20 knockouts for breakers. Some of the breakers have been replaced with double-pole. I have 100 amp service.

    When I moved into this house 3 years ago, it had one 220 breaker that both the stove and a/c unit were on. I wanted an electric clothes dryer, so my dad (who used to be a union electrician) added another 220 breaker. Unfortunately, he's 80+ years old and has developed alot of medical problems, so he is no longer able to help me.

    The wiring is such a mess - the upstairs bathroom outlet is on the same circuit as the downstairs bedroom. I've traced some of the breakers to what they are for, but usually I just have to plug in a radio and start turning off breakers to find out which one it is. When I tore the bathroom down to the studs, I found abandoned wiring and electrical boxes that were drywalled over, as the kitchen used to be on the other side of the wall. What a mess...

    In addition, the switch knob for the main breaker is broken off.

    So, questions...

    What do I need to replace the main breaker? I didn't see anything at Home Depot; only entire load centers with a main breaker as part of the package.

    Is there a way to expand this box internally, so more breakers can be installed for the kitchen remodel? The former owner added an addition on the house that is 10x9, which is where the kitchen currently is (cramped!), and I'm expanding it out into the original part of the house.

    Any helpful information welcomed.. At least if I need to hire an electrician for work we can't do ourselves, I'll be somewhat versed.

    Michelle in Northern IL

    [​IMG]
  2. 480sparky

    480sparky In the Trades

    Messages:
    149
    Replacing the main breaker isn't a DIY project, it's best left to a licensed pro. It will involve disconnecting the power to the house, and that means your local electric utility will need to get involved.

    As for adding more circuits, it depends on the panel itself. It may be the bottom 5 busbars are designed to take half-size, or piggy-back, breakers. Look at the panel door to see if it lists a maximum number of circuits. If you have a 20-space panel, and the label says you can have 30 circuits, then it's permissable to add the piggy-back breakers.

    Another option would be to remove a 240-volt circuit from this panel, and use the space to feed a small sub-panel next to this one. Relocate the old circuit into the new panel.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2007
  3. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    The panel door only says QOC-20 Series E6. There's something after the "20" but it's covered up by a label.
  4. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    The pair of breakers at the lower left of the panel are "Tandem" breakers that each contain two circuits. They apparently fit but they may not be "per code" for that panel. You could probably put more tandem breakers in the panel but it is so full that I would not do it.

    The cover with 20 slots appears to not be the correct cover for that panel because the panel has only 12 positions.

    I assume that you want to "Do it yourself" (or with help from a knowledgeable friend).

    I installed a new 200 Amp QO panel to replace an old 100 Amp QO a few months ago. It went easily and quickly with the process described below, but here is a general description of what I suggest:

    1. Decide what size new panel you are going to want. At least 150 Amp but probably 200 Amp. They will cost about the same.
    2. Buy a 40-breaker Load Center at HD or some place where they cost about the same. I installed a QO because I had a lot of QO breakers, but you could use the Square D HomeLine or some other model. HD usually has panels with "Value Packs" that contain a lot of breakers.
    3. Install the new panel nearby as a "subpanel" and connect circuits as described in Steps 3 through 5 of the tasks Replacing the Electrical Service.

    Now you have all of the circuits you need. The new load center will be used when you get around to replacing the service and meter.

    Following is the description of how I did mine:

    Replacing the Electrical Service:
    1. Called the power company and got a number assigned.
    2. Got a permit from the electrical inspector.
    3. Installed the new panel adjacent to the old panel.
    4. Ran temporary lines from the old panel using lugs on the load side of the original panel. You can do that safely by disconnecting the main. The temporary lines were protected by the main on the old panel. You could also do it by installing a 100 Amp QO breaker in the old panel if you can find one to fit.
    5. Connected all of the branch circuits to the new panel through the breakers in the new panel.
    6. Preassembled the new meter pan, conduit, and weatherhead, and ran the wires from meter pan through weatherhead. I now had an assembly that I could fasten into place in one piece.
    7. Installed new (larger) Grounding Electrode Conductor.
    8. Installed PVC conduit inside to go from the new panel to the point where the back of the new meter pan would be installed. You could also use SE cable.
    9. Called the electric company and the inspector and scheduled the change-over. They told me since I had a service number I could disconnect the service without waiting.

    I didn't have to work anything hot. Only briefly without power during changeover from one panel to the other.

    On the morning of the service changeover, started at 7 AM:
    1. Power company comes and disconnects wire and removes the meter. (I actually did this a little differently but I was severly castigated when I described that on this forum so will not repeat it here.):)
    2. Removed meter socket and old panel.
    3. Installed the new meter socket, conduit and weatherhead assembly with 4/0 aluminum conductors.
    4. Ran 4/0 aluminum from the meter socket to the new panel.
    5. Called inspector for inspection. About 9 AM
    6. Waited for inspector. (about 3 hours)
    7. POCO hooked up the power about 30 minutes after the inspector called.
  5. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    The pair of tandem breakers at the lower left were put in by my dad when he installed the 220 breaker for the electric dryer. There is also another tandem at the top right of the box. And I agree, it's so full that I'm really hesitant to add any more circuits, and I'm having problems with breakers being overloaded with the way things are wired now in this house.

    My fiance' has done several changeovers from the old fuse type boxes to breaker boxes, so he has no issue with replacing the main breaker. But, if I can't expand this box to add more circuits, then replacing the main is a waste of money.

    Regarding the 20 slot cover, the load center has a sticker on the inside that states the model - QON12M, and also says "Use in boxes QOBW20M100-1." So, perhaps it's just how it was sold back then . (The cover is labeled properly per this sticker.)

    (Pic of cover when I took it off the box.)

    [​IMG]
  6. 480sparky

    480sparky In the Trades

    Messages:
    149
    Personally, I'd say your due for an entire new 200a service.

    Install a 40-space panel, and you'll never have any problems.
  7. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Have you done a load calculation on this service?
  8. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689

    Get his ass over ther to clean up that mess ;)

    If you are not going to upgrade to 200 amps just get a panel with enough spaces to use full sized breakers.
  9. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    No, I haven't... I'd assume I'd have to check the requirements for stuff such as the satellite boxes, televisions, computers, and whatever else.. correct?

    It's a small house - I imagine at the time it was built, the service was adequate. There's no dishwasher, never has been, but I will be putting one in when I remodel the kitchen.
  10. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    Hahaha.. maybe that's why he hesitates in moving in with me. ;) My service can't handle his welder or air compressor!

    I think ultimately moving to 200 amp would be the best decision - I discussed it with the fiance', and he agrees. Although he's replaced fuse-type boxes with breaker-style, he's never done this type of switchover. He wondered if the inspector would require a licensed electrician to do this. (I would think that if they did, they would require it for a fuse to breaker switchover to, yah think?)

    Now that the snow is flying (ugh), I think this will be a good spring project.

    Michelle in Northern IL (2 inches of snow last night, but probably be gone by noon.)
  11. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    991
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    No, the small stuff you use and plug in is of no consequence. A demand load calc takes all that into consideration.
  12. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Many jurisdictions permit the homeowner to get a permit, so you might have to be the one to get it. They probably aren't going to come out to watch who is doing the work.

    In my case it made it easier and quicker by doing the pre-changeover work that I described above so the power was not off overnight. That is especially important in the winter. You may want to have a generator or an arrangement with a neighbor to get temporary power.

    By putting in the new panel next to the old panel and powering it as a temporary subpanel you can do a lot of changeover work before the power is disconnected.
  13. chel_in_IL

    chel_in_IL New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Northern IL (bbrrrr!!!)
    Bob,
    Thanks for your detailed info on the changeover - I'll be sure to refer back to it when I get to that point. With the way I do projects around here, I'm sure it will be at least spring before I get to that point. ;) But, at least now I can more of a plan.

    Michelle in Northern IL
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