Exisiting electrical to barn and help to rectify

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by backwaterdogs, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    Hey,

    I have cabin near our primary residence that has electrical service. :
    Here you see the meter head and a 'sub panel on the pole outside of cabin. the breaker in this panel is 200a
    barn8.jpg

    A close up shows two conductors and a neutral out one knockout and two conductors (but no neutral) out another knockout(right side)
    barn9.jpg

    On the indoor main panel of the cabin, things appear ok, two conductors and a neutral on 100a main breaker:
    barn7.jpg

    Now, out in the barn, which is approx 100f from the pole with meter head and 'sub panel' (first pic) things aren;t so great:
    barn3.jpg
    This is a 100a main with two conductors and a neutral, though the quality of workmanship and materials leaves much to be desired. The two conductors do indeed originate from the 'sub panel' under meter head on pole near cabin. The two conductors are trenched and run through pvc conduit:
    barn2.jpg
    Note the two conductors in conduit, and the #4 on the left is the neutral in the panel in pic above. The problem, this neutral does not originate from the 'sub panel' below the meter head, nor does it originate from the main panel inside the cabin! I really don't know where the neutral is coming from, but perhaps it's tied to a ground rod somewhere.?.

    My questions are:
    -Are the two #4 conductors ran in conduit from 'sub panel' on pole sufficient for the new 100a panel I plan on puttting in the barn.
    - Should I pull a new #4 neutral (or smaller?) from sub panel on pole to my new box in the barn?
    - Should I put a ground rod at barn and ground panel in the barn?

    I am having trouble w/ power in barn. if I run a good inductive load (my good circular saw), the saw is slow to start, never reaches max speed and is easy to stall out. compressor seems to run fine though on 220 in barn.

    thanks!
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,896
    Location:
    New England
    Ground and neutral at subpanels must be separate. The only place they are combined is at the main panel. If you don't have a proper neutral, then 120vac circuits are trying to return (complete) their circuit through ground, which is never allowed. If you don't have a proper neutral, you won't have a proper 120vac circuit, and anything hooked up ther eis unlikely to work well, if at all.

    You should have ground rods at the outbuilding, properly installed. If there isn't one at the pole by the meter, you probably need them there, too (I'm not sure). It's my understanding that you're required to have two rods, interconnected everywhere there's a panel at a building.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  3. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    There are several issues with your set up, enough to cause a repair order from the inspection department or lose power.

    First the panel under the meter is not a sub panel it is the service disconnect. The service disconnect (the 200 amp breaker) is double lugged and the conductors are not sized to 200 amps. A #4 copper is only good for 85 amps and can have a 90 amp max breaker.

    The RDP (remote distribution panel or sub panel as most will call it) on the inside of the cabin requires a disconnect to open all ungrounded (hot) conductors at the same time or a main for that panel.

    The feeders at for the barn defies all explanations known to anyone in the electrical trade. Even if not needed a neutral must be installed with the other conductors and a grounding electrode system installed for this panel.

    On a side note; as an electrical inspector when I came to do the inspection I would require the entire electrical system to conform to the code in effect at the time of the last permit. If there was no record of a permit being issued then the entire system would be required to conform to the code in effect at the time of my inspection.
  4. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    Thanks for both replies! Again, this is how I found situation and am trying to rectify it. jwelectric, im certain the county I live would enforce all codes as well as I doubt the previous owner has applied for any permits, ever. Quite frankly, I am concerned about the level of scrutiny this would bring should I bring to an inspector's attention. Although this is my property now and use my uses only, not selling, renting or anything like that.

    There is a neutral wire in the panel in the barn(call it rdp or subpanel). It's a #4 copper. Problem is I cant tell where it originates from. Its not in the panel from inside the cabin, nor is it from the service disconnect box. I have no idea where that neutral comes from.

    There is a ground rod at the pole and the meter base and the service disconnect seem to properly attached. I dug down and found the ground electrode.

    It seems I have 3 urgent items to address: 1) neutral in the barn, 2) lack of ground electrode in the barn and 3) undersized conductors from the 200a breaker in service disconnect. I will be picking up a new square d panel w/ 100a main and several breakers tomorrow.
    Here's a little better look at panel in barn
    barna1.jpg

    Questions:
    A)Should I run a new neutral from new panel in barn to panel in cabin or to service disconnect on pole
    B) If there is a proper 100a main on the service panel/rdp in barn, are the #4 conductors still undersized since fed from a 200a breaker - obvious Im sure since #4 is only good for 85a.
    c) should I install a ground rod at barn and ground sub panel/rdp in barn?
  5. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    In order for this set up to be compliant with today’s codes you will need to do several things.

    The service disconnect on the pole will need to have two breakers, one for the cabin and another for the barn or the barn will need to be fed from the cabin.

    I would use either #4 copper or #2 aluminum and protect it with a 90 amp breaker. I would also use four conductors, two hot, one neutral and one equipment grounding conductor #8 copper or #6 aluminum.

    The cabin will also need to have a main breaker in its panel or a disconnect installed that opens all hot conductors and it also will need four conductors, two hot, one neutral, and one EGC. Two 4/0, one 2/0, and a #4 aluminum or two 3/0, one 1/0, and one #6 copper.

    The main breakers in both the barn and cabin will need to have a retaining clip of some kind to prevent it from being pulled out while on. Each RDP will need to have a grounding electrode installed. The neutral of both panels at the barn and cabin will need to be isolated from the panel and the EGC. The grounding electrodes bonded to the same terminal bar as the EGC.

    If you contact the building inspection department and ask for advice I am sure they will help you in any way they can. It is possible that they will allow some of what is there to remain and not be changed but if they do keep your records.

    The neutral at the barn now is not ran with the same conductors that are supplying the breaker so I assume that it is not even a neutral. In any case it must be in the same pipe as the other conductors.
  6. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    Thanks very much! I will do as you suggest to get things up to code and like you say, there's a couple options...so if I may, I'd like your advice on that too.

    Option 1: replace service disconnect at pole with one that has two breakers (one for cabin and one barn)
    Space at pole is kind of limited and this would require a couple of calls from power co to turn off/on. Not a problem, but a delay potentially. Upside, all I need to do is pull the neutral and #6 ground from service disconnect thru existing conduit.

    Option 2: move conductors to barn from the service disconnect to the panel in the cabin. The feeds from the service disconnect to the cabin are larger and for the moment I'm assuming for now are large enough to carry 200a as sized from the breaker in the disconnect. The rdp in the cabin does have 100a main:
    barn7.jpg
    So, my second option would be to reroute existing #4 conductors from disconnect to originate from the rdp in the cabin. There I should be able to get neutrals tied together correctly and ensure proper ground.

    Question for option 2:
    Would I just put the feeders to barn from a 220 breaker or double lug on the line side?

    My questions for both options:
    -Will #4 suffice to power barn (apprx 100ft) from both pole and rdp in cabin? I only plan on having lights, outlets, 200v compressor and a small welder (220v).
    -Can I have a 100a main breaker in the rdp in barn supplied with these #4 conductors?

    thanks again!!!!
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,488
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Even if not needed a neutral must be installed with the other conductors

    Why would a "pure" 220/240 volt system need a neutral?
  8. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    These feeders are supplying a 120/240 volt single phase panel therefore the code will require a neutral to be installed.

    If these were branch circuit conductors such as for a water heater or AC unit or any other 240 volt appliance then the neutral would not be required to be installed.

    It is what the feeders are supplying that invokes the requirement
  9. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Double lugging is out of the question.

    Pull the meter and wait until the final and let the inspector call the power company to replace the seal.
  10. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    Ok, np. I can pull the meter. I am interested in knowing the best way to supply power to this barn, if there is a diff.

    It appears to me, I have a couple options:
    - add another service disconnect at pole with proper size breaker (85a or less for the existing #4)
    - reroute feeders to barn to inside cabin and properly tap off the 100a service panel there(wont double lug!)

    Any thoughts on the preferred path?

    thanks!
  11. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    If you are asking how I would fix what is there the answer would be simple.
    Change the service at the pole.
  12. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    thanks...can you help with a little more specifics?

    I would think I need a new service disconnect of some sort with two breakers (200a for cabin and 85a for barn). does that sound right, can you recommend a disconnect that would work?
  13. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Have you done a load calculation for anything?

    How big is your cabin and what do you have in the cabin as far as range, heat, AC, ect…………..

    A 200 amp feed through 6 circuit panel would be my guess without knowing what you have.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,488
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Pull the meter and wait until the final and let the inspector call the power company to replace the seal.

    Do that here and you would be eligible for a $10,000.00 fine. ONLY the power company can break the seal and remove the meter. If you do it, they would assume you did it with the intention of installing jumpers and "stealing" power, regardless of your real intentions. I once tapped into a system after the meter for temporary power to a new meter socket, and at first the power company thought I was ahead of the meter and was preparing a citation. I was NOT referring to this installation, I was asking about your statement that "even if not needed a neutral must be installed", which is NOT true. If there is a 110/120 volt application then it IS NEEDED.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  15. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    If the proper procedures are followed then there is no fine.
    First step is to obtain a permit. The permit will outline the work to be done and in this case it is a service change. Now that the permit is obtained then the seal can be cut to de-energize the service panel without any thoughts of being fined or let me say this is true for my state.
  16. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    The cabin is pretty lightly loaded and no one lives there any longer, just used on occassions. I have done some quick load calculations.
    There is already a 100a services in the cabin. It's 1 bed, 1 bath, and a utility lower level, all seldom used. It has: 220v range/oven, 110v refer, 220v well pump, 10 light fixtures(no more than 100w ea) and 10 110v outlets....if everything was full load running, I'd estimate less than 65a total.

    The barn will have 10, 150w light fixtures (halogen) 1 30a 220v circuit for compressor and 1 for welder and 10 20a outlets. I was given a square D main breaker panel w/ several breakers and would like to utilize this in the barn.

    Not sure I follow, 200a feed through 6 circuit panel...don't I jut need to replace the service disconnect at pole with a device that has two circuits...1 to feed the house and another to feed the barn?
  17. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Those black wires coming into the barn certainly look like 200 amp sized, but then we see these crazy blue wires out in the air with cement in the pipe? whats that?

    You dont have to pull the meter. Shut off the service disconnect, mount a panel with a few spaces on a post and board next to the service disconnect and put in 2 100 amp breakers to feed cabin and barn. Then run a neutral to the barn.

    I dont see a reason to disturb that 200a service disconnect. do all your changes downstream of it.

    the only place that you need the monster wire is the short jump from the existing double lugged disconnect to your new box where you will split into the 2 100 amp services.

    The hillbilly "electrician" ran out of pipe and fittings when he got to the barn and just ran it in air thu that big hole? Sad. That area is your biggest danger.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  18. backwaterdogs

    backwaterdogs New Member

    Messages:
    51
    Location:
    Illinois
    Thanks ballvalve! That makes good sense!

    blue wires? if you are referring to the 3 #4 conductors...two coming out of the conduit and the other w/out conduit. The two in conduit, I've traced back to the service disconnect on pole. These are the two 110v conductors that are supplying the 100a breaker in the pos sub panel....where you are correct, dude ran out of conduit or something. The 3rd conductor just coming up out of the gravel there is tied to the neutral in that same crappy box. For life of me, I can't find where the other end of that neutral is...not in service disconnect and not in subpanel in cabin. I suspect there it is tied to a ground rod somwhere in the yard.

    Perhaps that would explain poor performance of higher powered saws and such (slow to start, easy to stall)...everything is trying to return to ground?
  19. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,488
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    ONLY the utility can cut the seal and remove the meter. THen they install a "blocked face" WITH a new seal, so there is no possibility for you to install "jumpers" and reactivate the system without a meter, or contact the live lugs and die. After the inspection and approval, they remove the blank face and reinsall the meter. IF there is any time that the meter is removed and you COULD tie into the hot lugs, you are eligible for a fine, regardless of whether you did it or not. Perception is the key thing, whether you COULD have done it or not.
  20. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,531
    Location:
    North Carolina
    So how would someone replace the service disconnect under the meter?
    The conductors that supply that disconnect are attached to the bottom of the meter. How could these be changed? every thing from the point of attachment at the top of the pole including the meter can belongs to the home owner. Everything from the point of attachment at the top of the pole including the meter can will be inspected by the electrical inspector so how do they do their inspection?
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