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A remodel was done in the kitchen, and now half the house is on the same two 60 amp breakers. When too many items get turned on, the lights flicker and sparks fly but the breaker do not kick off. I have never seen this done during 42 years in construction in homes. What is the solution?

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    Where do the sparks fly? (That said, you should be addressing this immediately rather than waiting for an answer here.) – Daniel Griscom Dec 24 '16 at 16:28
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    If the electrician put in a 2-pole 60-A breaker in a main panel in the space formerly occupied by two 15-A breakers and then go from the 60-A breaker to a subpanel which has 15-A breakers protecting the two original circuits formerly protected by the two 15-A breakers in the main panel, then this would be OK, I think. You don't mention a subpanel so I assume there is not one. What is the arrangement? – Jim Stewart Dec 24 '16 at 17:04
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    Whoever did this remodel should never be trusted with such jobs again. This is bad (fire hazard) and needs to be fixed as soon as possible. – Mast Dec 24 '16 at 23:44
  • It does not matter one bit what was in the panel before. You do not "replace" breakers generally. Breakers do not have specific places in a panel. It's that he simply used the space where the 15 was before. What matters is what does the breaker feed and what size wire was run. – Speedy Petey Dec 25 '16 at 19:33
  • Something I don't understand--how could an oversize breaker cause sparking? It means it will deliver more power before tripping but how could that make it spark? – Loren Pechtel Dec 25 '16 at 19:43
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Assuming this description is correct, The solution is to fire that electrician, get another to fix it (I wouldn't trust this guy), report him, and possibly ask a lawyer whether it's worth suing.

What other answer did you expect?

  • Didn't pull the cover but I didn't see any new wiring going into the box the existing wires are 12g. I didn't see the sparks check the plug where grandson said they came from but it was not burnt or smelt burnt. I will push her to get a different electrician. Thank you for your responce – user64202 Dec 24 '16 at 18:03
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    Swapping in the right double would be fine. Are you sure they installed a 60A unit? Photo might be worth adding to the question. – keshlam Dec 24 '16 at 19:05
  • Why would you want to put in a 2-pole breaker even if it was a 20-A breaker? Why would you want to trip both breakers if only one was overloaded? – Jim Stewart Dec 24 '16 at 19:19
  • Double breaker is not always two-pole breaker. Sometimes it's a matter if squeezing two breakers into one slot when otherwise there would be no room for another circuit. That's what I assumed we were dealing with here. Unless a full-size double-60 is being used on the incoming side if the bus and the querant's description is wrong.. – keshlam Dec 24 '16 at 19:23
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    My 150-A GE panel has four 240-V 2-pole breakers in a top section: 30 A for dryer, 40 A for a/c condensing unit, 50 A for electric range, and 60 A feeder to all the branch breakers (15 A and 20 A) in a lower section. Could this be the case in the querant's daughter's house. As for the sparking, could it be that some high power device was on while it was unplugged? – Jim Stewart Dec 24 '16 at 20:21
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If there is 14 gauge or 12 gauge wire coming out of those breakers, this is a serious hazard and a code violation. You need to have an electrician (a different one) remove those breakers, analyze the wiring and install appropriate breakers (and possibly new circuits).

Even if there is a heavier gauge wire at the breaker and the smaller circuit wires are attached downstream, no conventional household light or receptacle circuit should be on a breaker larger than 20 amps, and then only if all the wiring in the circuit is at least 12 gauge.

  • This is exactly what I was thinking I will relay this to my daughter the electrician is a brother to a close friend of hers so I have to diplomatic about it but it will have to fixed my grandkids live in the house. – user64202 Dec 24 '16 at 17:53
  • First priority, fix the unsafe condition. Try to be diplomatic but zero compromise, fix it now, smooth feathers later. Unfortunately in a world where facts no longer matter, safety codes don't either. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 25 '16 at 20:24
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Ordinarily this means sub-panel. But with 42 years experience you know this isn't that.

This is a "pop the service panel cover off Right Now" situation. This is to get photos and sanity-check yourself that there isn't, in fact, huge 4 AWG wire coming out of that breaker to a new sub-panel. If you don't see that, shut it off and don't use it again until you can show it to the electrical inspector, because the guy who did that needs to be run down and asked about all the other work he's done.

If you can't wait that long to get it back in service, shut off your PCs then the main panel, and yank that breaker outta there, and replace with a 15A double breaker until this can be sorted out properly. Don't touch anything metal even if it's "off".

  • I added some breakers and rearranged some others in my panel without shutting off the main breaker. I know this is not recommended, but for each breaker that I removed I first turned off that breaker then checked that it was off with a non contact voltage detector, then pulled the breaker, then placed in its new location and then turned it on. I used good safety glasses. Is this truly unsafe, if one is careful? – Jim Stewart Dec 25 '16 at 19:25
  • Yes, it is, if you do not fully understand the circuit. Mainly I'm talking about MWBCs aka multi-wire branch circuits. These are a pair of circuits with a shared neutral, putting the hots on opposite poles, with the neutral only handling differential current. If those are inadvertently put on the same pole, then neutral handles the full current of both sides! 30A on a 14AWG wire! Before 2011 they were put "wherever" with no markings, modern code requires handle-tied breakers which practically forces you to put them on opposite poles. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 25 '16 at 19:57
  • You notice I wasn't that concerned with changing breakers hot. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 25 '16 at 20:19
  • But if all you see in the panel is hot black wires and neutral white wires you can pretty much assume there are no MWBCs, right? And if you look at the ends of the cables as they enter the panel and none of the cables for the 120-V branch circuits are other than 14-2 + Gnd or 12-2 + Gnd, then you can rule out any MWBCs, right? – Jim Stewart Dec 26 '16 at 1:45
  • Color tells you nothing, hots can be any color not reserved. Indeed it is rather unlikely that a /2 romex run to the panel would be part of a MWBC. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '16 at 6:17

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