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In 1995 an electrician who was also a friend of the family helped me out by installing a sub panel in my garage. He tapped the feeder cable directly into the main lugs in the main box and ran them to a shut off switch in the crawl space then out to the panel in the garage. He provided all the hardware and cabling as leftovers from other jobs he'd done (he worked for a major commercial electrical company in the area at the time), so I sure wasn't complaining about anything he provided or any of the work he did.

Knowing what I know now, though, I'm pretty sure this installation doesn't meet current code, and I'm not sure it met code back then, either. Since we're planning a small, 2-bathroom addition for next summer, I'm trying to get myself prepared for the amount of electrical work that will need to be done.

Did this installation meet code in 1995 and does it still meet code today?

The main panel: enter image description here

This panel is completely full: enter image description here We have a gas fired furnace, so 120v/20a to run the blower & electronics.

The main panel hots tap to the sub-panel: enter image description here The two smaller wires in front are the taps to the sub-panel. The power was still on to the house - I stood well back with a 2x4 in hand, just in case.

The main panel ground and neutral taps to the sub-panel: enter image description here I'm sure someone will yell about the grounds and neutrals all intermingled. This is how I found the box the first time I opened it, and this is how he tapped them in when he added them.

The cable: enter image description here

The cutoff switch in the crawlspace directly below the main panel and nowhere near the access to the crawlspace: enter image description here Yes, that says "Lime Agitator". Did I mention he provided everything for free as leftovers from other jobs? The location of this cutoff switch is the main thing that I'm questioning the legality of.

The switch sticker: enter image description here

The inside of the cutoff switch: enter image description here

The label on a fuse: enter image description here Another one the camera wouldn't focus on. I turned the camera upside down to get around the side for the sticker, you're not going crazy. Is this a 30amp fuse (FRS-R-30)?

The panel in the garage: enter image description here This panel is now also full.

I know that when we do the addition, we'll have to replace the garage sub-panel with something much larger (I know, minimum 30 spaces, probably 40) than this little QO box.

  • Pretty sure that type of cordage cannot be used as cable among other problems... – Ecnerwal Jul 11 at 1:45
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    Can you post photos of the rest of the label on that main panel please? – ThreePhaseEel Jul 11 at 4:26
  • @ThreePhaseEel photos updated as requested. – FreeMan Jul 11 at 13:21
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    Definitely the kind of question this site was created for. – A. I. Breveleri Jul 11 at 16:06
  • Thanks, @A.I.Breveleri! I do what I can. :) – FreeMan Jul 11 at 16:11
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Yeah, it’s a mess alright. The combining of neutral and ground in the main panel isn’t wrong, though.

  • First, the problem of the 60A wire completely unprotected, since it’s on the meter side of the main breaker. If that cable took a nail or something, it could flow as much as 10KA and nothing would trip. Nothing. The service drop would glow cherry red, but this 6/4 cordage would glow cherry red first and set the building on fire.

Buildings take a calculated risk with the service entrance from the weatherhead to the meter to the main breaker. But by design, this is kept to a bare minimum. Your electrician extended this “logic” to that disconnect switch, which would be a pointless thing except for the above problem.

  • The double-taps of the breaker. Regardless of the above, sticking 2 wires on a lug only listed for one is always a huge no-no. Now, they make double lugs, and they also make 3-void Polaris connectors. A reason to do that legally would be if you decided to add a second 60A subpanel fed off a 60A subpanel. No need to fit a 60A breaker in the first sub; simply tee off the first subpanel’s feeder.

  • cordage being used as a substitute for building wiring. The giveaway that it’s cordage is “/4” which is cordage-talk for black white red green. The ground wire is counted as a conductor. In house wiring, it’s called /3, because the ground wire is taken for granted.

  • The disconnect switch lacks appropriate working space, obviously... but who cares? It’s leaving.

So how do we attack this?

It’s a Gould panel, but it’s also I-T-E, and their direct-lineage descent is Siemens. (Who also got the Murray line). So Siemens kinda has 2 separate lines of breakers, and it looks like their Q or QP line ought to do it. Hopefully our panel expert ThreePhaseEel will come by and give us a definite answer.

However, I’m unclear on whether this panel is rated for tandem/duplex/double-stuff breakers. I can see that it’s a CTL panel, meaning the post-1966 CTL limitations on double-stuffs do apply to it. Generally when they accept them, they say so, or at least hint at it, with a model number like Foo2032bar (meaning 20 spaces 32 circuits). We get nothing here, so let’s assume the worst unless ThreePhaseEel can tell us otherwise.

The first rule of grandfathering is you can’t make a situation worse. So we identify every circuit that serves something which must be a dedicated circuit today. That’s laundry room receps, bathroom receps, kitchen receps, dishwasher, disposal, built-in microwave. Put red stickers on those breakers; can’t use ‘em.

Also look for any red wires in cables; if you see that, identify the cable and follow BOTH the Red AND Black wires to their breakers and red-sticker both. Those are MWBCs, we don’t wanna mess with them, except it’d be good to put them on a 2-pole breaker.

Now, we identify two circuits with the same breaker trip value (15 or 20), that could stand to share a breaker because they aren’t used very often together, or they don’t have much load. Pull both their leads off and pigtail them to 1 of the breakers. Do this twice and we have 2 free spaces.

Fit a 60A 2-pole breaker. My wild-guess is a Siemens Q260 and hopefully ThreePhaseEel can guide us further, but most likely an Eaton CL250 would be the universal substitute (but only 50A). Don’t use Eaton BR, Square D or GE.

Now run a 6/3 NM-B (Romex) cable from this new breaker to the main lugs of the subpanel. Bypass the disconnect switch.

I think that licks all the problems!

| improve this answer | |
  • Siemens QP is indeed the correct breaker for this panel – ThreePhaseEel Jul 11 at 4:26
  • @ThreePhaseEel Do you think double-stuffs will be viable in this panel? The Q22050CT would provide a quick cure, but that doesn’t seem to come in a 60A. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 at 5:47
  • I'd have to see more of the panel's labeling to be sure, I kindasortadoubt it though? – ThreePhaseEel Jul 11 at 5:55
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    @FreeMan Yeah, clearly not. Or, the inspector is the person’s person-in-law. (I don’t use gendered pronouns, sorry, because Monica.) – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 at 15:28
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    @ThreePhaseEel it will be a bathroom/walk-in closet and I had no thought or intention of putting the panel outside. I get the firefighter disconnect idea, but it seems like it's too easy for the neighborhood ruffians to shut off power as a practical joke... :/ – FreeMan Jul 11 at 20:20
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Oh boy!! the guys will have a field day with this. Right off the bat, you're not allowed to double wire a terminal as was done in your first picture.

The grounding and neutrals don't have to be separated in the second picture because it's the main panel.

The disconnect has to be way more accessible and should be in plain sight. you can't "hunt" for it. That's one expensive fuse switch, 600 volts.

Bottom line, not to code then, not to code now.

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    Neutral and grounds don't need to be separated in a Main panel which is what that picture is of "The main panel ground and neutral taps to the sub-panel" – Ecnerwal Jul 11 at 2:12
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    @Ecnerwal Agreed. While it might be a best practice to separate, in the main panel it's not required to separate grounds from neutrals. Glad you posted that. – George Anderson Jul 11 at 3:10
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    One more comment...holy crap, JACK mentioned you can't double wire a terminal as show in the first pic, but my gosh, isn't that BEFORE the main disconnect? $hit how would you turn off power to the structure quickly in an emergency? Crawl into the crawl space when the house was flooding or on fire to disconnect the other feed? An what about "tap rules" This is a terrible setup. That friend did the OP no favors. Major cleanup needed on aisle 7. – George Anderson Jul 11 at 3:16
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    @Ecnerwal Thanks. I was thinking it was the subpanel.... it was late. Stay safe Edited answer. – JACK Jul 11 at 12:47

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