What make/model box is this? Is it even a main or is it a sub panel?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by CanOfWorms, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I have two questions.
    1. Does anyone know what box this is? I need to get a cover.
    2. Is this a subpanel or is it a main with no main cut off switch installed?

    Two simple questions. I know its wrong on several levels.
    high street electical box.jpg
  2. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    it looks like an old split buss panel that is not wired correctly
  3. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    How old is old?
    Is split buss a brand or a style.
    Am I correct in thinking there should be a main shutoff above the breaker? Where the two large wires come into the box from top.?

    Obviously I don't expect you to make any difinitive comments since u can't see it in person, but just how wrong is it wired?
    Is it a total nightmare or Frankenstein?
  4. Scup

    Scup New Member

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    I am definitely not an electrical contractor, so my opinion is not worth beans, but I do not understand how you would not have a main breaker. Even for an old house, at some point way back when, a building inspector would have had to come in to inspect the electrical wiring. What the code was 35 years ago (likely it has changed) is if you had a very short run after your drop you would be allowed a main breaker in the electrical panel (it was pretty short in CT like something around 6 or 7 feet) from where your outside meter would be. If the electrical panel was placed say in a central location (to make shorter runs of the more heavy electrical appliance wiring), then one would have to have an outside main breaker located by the outside meter to protect the main run from the meter to your centralized panel.

    The only two things I can think of is if you have an outside main breaker, and the building inspector, assuming it was inspected, saw it and might have figured (incorrectly) that was good enough, and then passed it. I am in my seventies and the home I had lived in (Brooklyn NY) as a kid, still had remnants of gas lighting, and knob and tube wiring, and even that sucker had to be inspected when updated.

    The only other possibility that I can think of if the house is so old that it originally had say 60 ampere fused service, and a DIY replaced it with what you see and never had it inspected.

    Again do not take my advice because I am not a licensed electrical contractor but am curious as to the outcome of this thread.

    If you do not have main breaker somewhere, I do not even see how anyone could safely work on the panel since the busses would remain live.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
  5. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    It is an old split-buss panel.
    The top six 2-pole breaker spaces are the "main" breakers. Yup, all six of 'em.
    Right now there are non-compliantly twin breakers put in those spaces.

    You will NEVER find a cover for this. Sorry. At this point replacement is your only option.
  6. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    When I was 16 anyone over 30 was old but not that I am 62 anyone under my age is young. I think it is in the mind of the one making the statement “old”
    Style. The NEC says that we can have up to six main disconnects which this panel was designed to have but someone has altered this rule with tandem breakers which is non-compliant
    As it is set up now you are correct

    If I ran across this panel in my work I would post a correction with the owner of the home giving them 30 days to correct or they would lose power until corrections were effected.
    Both. I would say this is one of those installations that works but is far from safe. As a code enforcement official I would condemn the installation.

    As Pete pointed out finding a cover for this panel would be like finding a needle in a hay stack.
  7. Scup

    Scup New Member

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Stonington, CT
    Thanks guys for the explanations, as everything said makes good sense to me; I only responded out of curiosity. What may be a very stupid question, is I just could not even imagine how this could have happened in the first place? Where I live, a neighbor saw me digging a small hole with shovel for a rain gutter drain, and reported me. A town inspector showed up to investigate the hole a five gallon flower pot could have fit into. A roof replacement, or the installation of vinyl siding, change out of a heating system, must all be recorded with the town hall.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,811
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Right now there are non-compliantly twin breakers put in those spaces

    In the majority of cases, if the spot was NOT rated for a split breaker, it would be "rejected" and not go into the space.
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,811
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Where I live, a neighbor saw me digging a small hole with shovel for a rain gutter drain, and reported me.

    The neighbor must be the local "area marshal". We have HOAs that are policed by neighborhood "busybodies". One of my customers was reported because she replace the "milky" glass panels in he porch lights with clear ones, and was told to put the old ones back or face daily fines until they were. ANother one cleaned up his yard and trimmed the foliage. The "association" came out and took a picture of his work, then sent a mailing to ALL the residents stating that, "this in NOT how we want your properties to look. We want to maintain the appearance of a "natural" area, so do NOT clean up or trim ANYTHING".
  10. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    This association needs to be asked who the hell "we" are.
  11. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    There clearly is a master breaker, on the left, about half way down. It is mounted on the bottom of the top buss and feeds the lower buss.

    I have a large distributor across town who will fabricate covers for about $100. This would not be a good candidate, due to the various points offered regarding how the tandem breakers are installed on the top buss.

    Best would be to have a 200 amp, 40 circuit panel installed. Easy to say until the bid comes in for $2400.

    A possible compromise would be to have a sub panel installed, say 100 amp, and transfer all the tandem breakers and their circuits that currently are on the top buss to that. Install one 100 amp breaker on the top buss and move on.

    Of course, you are still looking for a cover plate. Shops that fabricate metal for HVAC installations MIGHT be able to help,

    Look at the two pole breaker feeding the lower buss. It almost certainly is original. It should have a brand name on it and that should tell you who made the panel. Be warry warry careful around electricity! It can give you the shock of your life!
    Or find an old wholesaler in your area that has an old guy at the counter, take him a photo. He might recognize it.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  12. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    OK. I hear what you are all saying.
    So the top six should be the main.
    This was absolutely done without permits.
    But... I don't own the house yet and the seller will be fixing this and he is a liar in general.
    That being said.
    A few questions:
    Can the breakers be shifted down to open up the top six for a main?
    Can a separate main be added? Maybe outside?
    It looks to me that the top left breaker is being used as the main. I see two big wires coming off of it.
    Or is that the 220 going to the oven.
    I see three empty slots, but it looks like there are jumpers coming off that. I put a few arrows and ? in the pic.
    If we could find a cover for this could it be salvaged?
    Can we add a separate main?
    I see all the double breakers... What exactly does that mean?
    From what I hear the seller's are beyond reasoning with.
    high street electical box.jpg
  13. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    NO, the top six should not be the main. That is not the concept.

    "Fixing this" really means replacing it with a modern panel rated to carry 40 circuits. I see 33 circuits at first glance at what you have. Installed by a licensed electrical contractor using a permit with an inspection. It could easily cost $2400.

    A "Main" needs only two slots, but the rest of the panel is unlikely to be sufficient.

    The breaker on the top left is serving a heavy load like air conditioning or a stove, it is not the main. The main feed is coming down from the top.

    Those two short black loops coming from the breaker on the left near the middle are the feed to the lower buss. The breaker serves the lower buss.

    A cover could be fabricated, but would it be worth it? Not to my mind.

    Again, a main breaker could be added outside this box at the top, but you would not be addressing the fact that this box is almost certainly not rated for 33 circuits.

    Those are not double breakers. They are tandems. They allow two circuits to come off one space. These spaces are 1", which is typical. They mean that the box is substantially over loaded. Especially considering that there is NO main breaker.

    People selling a home are not infrequently pretty stressed. They might be forced to sell due to financial circumstances. They could be pretty aggrieved. The world is out to get them. It is none of it fair. How dare you insist that the home have a safe electrical installation? Just who do you think you are?

    Seriously. Get an electrical contractor in there to look the whole house over. This panel is not a good indicator of how sound your home's electrical system is. Your agent must have someone he or she calls on a regular basis. I'm that guy to several agents, god bless them.
  14. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
  15. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Oh, and look out for a new code requirement: Arc Fault breakers. It is possible that your local authority will require that the vast majority of the breakers be Arc Fault.

    1) Arc Fault breakers are ten time the cost of conventional breakers. Your breakers could cost $1500 alone.

    2) Arc Fault breakers are not friendly on three wire circuits, which I don't think I see in your panel.

    3) Arc Fault breakers are only available in 1", not tandems, a strong argument for a 40 space panel.

    4) Arc Fault breakers can be finicky, especially if the existing wiring was installed poorly.

    We are going to have a rocky few years as the Arc Fault rules come into force. Much learning to do.
  16. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    If I need to replace the panel I will. It looks like I'm going to have to.
    It sounds like I may be able to do it for little less if I am willing to get a second panel.
    The house is zoned two family, but is currently a single family.
    So, maybe I can get two panels installed so if I ever change back to a two family I won't have to rewire, but if I did a two family I would just knock it down and build a 2 fam McMansion.
    maybe there were two older panels in there and he shoved them all into this single panel.
    That would make some sense, but no justification.
    I just don't get it.... I mean I understand wanting to save money, but this would straight up kill someone.
    I really just want to get this to close and I can get the panel replaced once I am in it.
    The sellers are pretty moody and think they can get away with anything and everything.
    Frankly I would rather he just give me a credit of $2500 rather than have him replace it himself.
  17. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Thanks for scaring me.
  18. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Do you mean to imply that he would DO the work himself, or hire a licensed contractor to pull the permit and get an inspection?

    Your agent is utterly incompetent if he cannot make perfectly clear that only the second is acceptable.

    That is what agents get paid for.
  19. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    Not necessarily. A non-CTL twin will pop right in.
  20. CanOfWorms

    CanOfWorms Member

    Messages:
    178
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I am the agent and the buyer. I guess I should just quit.
    The seller is a shady temperamental person.
    He will do whatever he wants and if pressed he will kill the deal and sell the house to someone else even for less. Yes, he will cut off his own nose to spite his face.
    Does that answer your question?
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