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enter image description hereenter image description hereI'm not an electrician, but I am a pretty aggressive DIYer that wants to do things the right way (i.e. I plan on getting a permit and everything inspected but I need a gameplan first).

I have a 200A service panel in my garage and I want to add two sub-panels (the house is almost new and the builder left me with no extra space). My plan was to add a panel next to the existing and move my AC (I have two 240v units) breakers to the new sub so that I can have room in the main for the two new 100A feeder circuit breakers. The AC breakers are at the bottom of the panel so I think I'll have enough slack to move those Romex cables over to the new panel at one of the top positions. The other new sub panel will be in a detached shop that I'll run wire underground through 2" PVC.

My question is how to get the two large feeder cables out of the panel and off to the two new panels without going completely surface mount. My garage is framed with 2x6 construction and the builder insulated and sheetrocked the whole place. I would like to keep it looking nice so I thought some kind of flush mounted PVC pull box below the existing panel would help get the wires down from the existing panel and routed in the horizontal direction to cross through the studs.

I know its probably way easier to do this with conduit on the surface but I want it to be super clean and don't care about the cost or time.

EDIT: I believe the existing panel is the Homeline HOM3060M200PC by Schneider Electric

I added this new picture below to show the obstacles to getting conduit from the service panel area into the rear yard where I can more easily trench. This unknown (at least to me in my mind) was what was driving me to want to have everything run inside the wall.

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    Is there a reason you don't use a 200A subpanel with a set of subfeed lugs in the main panel? What make/model is that main panel, anyway? Also, have you considered that conduit can be run within walls? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 3 '19 at 5:01
  • Also, I take it the new house subpanel is being mounted in the bay next to the existing subpanel? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 3 '19 at 16:04
  • I don't have any reason for choosing a particular panel for the new subs. My thought was to size them reasonable for future growth and at the same time not too high to have to run too large feeder cables in ridiculously sized conduit. I am not sure what is gained by subfeed lugs in the main panel? I thought running conduit inside the wall was okay is that a code violation? – T.A. Nov 3 '19 at 18:52
  • Running conduit in a wall is A-OK :) can I ask if your studs are on 16" or 24" centers btw? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 3 '19 at 19:57
  • I believe they're all 16" on center. Not sure if there's any extra structural doubles or triples in that wall but it wouldn't surprise me because its part of a super tall R.V. bay wall. – T.A. Nov 3 '19 at 21:36
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You'll have to bore the stud anyway, so I'd just nipple between the two panels

Since you'll have to put a hole in the stud no matter what you do, I'd make that hole count as much as possible. How? Well, we start by scrapping the junction box and using a rigid metal conduit nipple between the adjacent sides of the two panels. This gets rid of a wire and a nailplate, as the conduit provides physical protection while serving as a grounding means provided appropriate bonding locknuts and insulating bushings are used.

It also means we can use the 60% fill rule for nipples under 24" in length, which allows us to fit 3 250kcmil XHHW-2 aluminum wires (enough for a 200A feeder!) down a 1.5" RMC nipple (which is small enough to stay within the 40% stud boring rules).

As to that feeder run to the shed...

Running the feeder to the shed in conduit is a good idea; however, you don't need the junction boxes. I'd simply run straight out the opposite side of the panel if at all possible, then to a LB with its cover protruding from the drywall that is nippled to the LB on the outside. If that doesn't work, you can come out the bottom then use a LR to turn the corner to the lateral run to the LB, again with the conduit body's cover protruding from the drywall.

As to the feeder wires themselves, you have two choices. One would be to get a bunch of 1/0 Al XHHW-2 and run that for your hots and neutral with a 6AWG bare copper ground; this gives you a 125A-capable feeder, but requires a bit more labor than using a multiplexed cable in conduit. The other option would be to use a 2-2-2-4 mobile home feeder (tri-rated USE/RHH/RHW-2) multiplex cable to get you a 90A feeder to the shed; while this compromises a bit on ampacity, it does get you the convenience of a multiplex cable, as 1/0-1/0-1/0-2 is not available in mobile home feeder and quadruplex URD can't be used for a feeder in conduit as it's made of the old, nasty AA-1350 aluminum, which isn't legal for the conductor types generally usable in conduit as per NEC 310.106(B) and 310.10. Running SER in conduit is also a bad idea; while technically legal, it's a nightmare from a conduit fill and pulling perspective, to the point where using individual wires is a far better solution.

GO BIG OR GO HOME

The single most important thing with this installation, no matter what else you do, is to not skimp on panel sizing the way your builder did to put you in this pickle to begin with. I would go with a 200A or 225A, 40-space or 42-space, main lug panel as a minimum for the house subpanel, using the aforementioned 250kcmil feeder wires landing on main lugs in the subpanel and a 200A breaker in the main panel to provide a shutoff for the subpanel. In Homeline, this would require a HOM2200BB for the feeder breaker and a HOM4080L225PC with a PK27GTA field-fitted (or a HOM4080L225PGC, if you can find it for a good price) for the subpanel.

For the shed panel, you'll want a 100A or 125A, 24-space or 30-space, main breaker panel, as the main breaker serves as a local shutoff for the building. In Homeline, this would be a HOM3060M125PC with a PK23GTA field-fitted to it, or a HOM2448M125PRB if you need an outdoor panel for the shed, again with a PK23GTA field-fitted to it.

In both subpanels, you'll need to make sure the neutral-to-ground bonding screw is removed, by the way. The shed will also need a grounding electrode system; two ground rods driven 8' deep and 8' apart, connected to the panel using a run of 8AWG bare copper wire, will typically suffice.

TORQUE ALL LUGS TO SPEC

One other thing you'll need to do when installing this is torque all the breaker and loadcenter lug setscrews to their manufacturer specified installation torques; this is required by 2017 NEC 110.14(D), and is a very good idea anyway lest your electrical system develop a case of the loose lugnuts...

  • This is all amazing information, thank you so much for taking the time to thoughtfully write it up. I do have a couple questions though. For the 1.5” RMC nipple you suggested between the two electrical panels is any kind of fitting required on the outside of the panel box (i.e. between the outside of the box and the stud) or do the locknuts end up squeezing the two box walls snug up against the stud like a sandwich? Also is the bushing just to prevent chaffing of the insulated conductors coming out of the conduit? – T.A. Nov 5 '19 at 1:07
  • @T.A. not sure if you can get away with "sandwich" clamping the nipple using two locknuts on the insides of the boxes, or if you'll need locknuts on the outsides of the boxes as well (the locknuts on the outside normally serve to prevent the conduit from going further into the box than it should). And yes, the bushings would be used to prevent chafing of the conductors (they're required for all wires 4AWG and larger) – ThreePhaseEel Nov 5 '19 at 2:29

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