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I’m trying to fix this ugly condition in my old house. I understand that a lot of what’s happening here isn’t code complaint, probably in many more ways than I’m aware of. This picture shows the current condition, mostly is it came with the house (I’ve done some demo on the wall behind as well). I’m trying to fix this mess and looking for guidance from the knowledgeable folks on this forum.

Background:

As you can probably tell from the picture, the electrical panel is surface mounted. The power comes in through a knock out in the back of the panel. For unknown reasons, all of the circuits come out of the side of the panel, which results in the many exposed, face-stapled cables you can see in the picture.

I would like to clean up this mess.

Part 1 - I want to reroute 5 of the NM cables together, through a 2” knock out, so that they run directly into the wall behind the panel.

For Part 1, the 5 circuits are: 2 15 amp circuits (fed by the old metal cables, see upper right of panel. These which will be replaced with 2 14/2 NM cables); 2 15 amp circuits (fed by 2 14/2 NM cables); 1 20 amp circuit (fed by a 12/2 NM cable).

Part 2 - I want to reroute the remaining 7 circuits into a conduit connected to a 2” knock at the bottom of the panel. I’ll use THHN wire in the conduit, which will run to a junction box a short distance from the panel. At the junction box, I’ll connect to the original NM cables pictured and continue into the wall behind.

For Part 2, my 7 circuits are: 2 20 amp circuits (fed by a 12/3 NM cable, 2 hot wires go to 2 separate 20 amp breakers); 1 20 amp circuit (fed by a 12/2 NM cable); 2 paired 40 amp circuits (fed by a 10/3 NM cable, 2 hot wires go to paired 40 amp breakers); 2 paired 15 amp circuits (fed by a 14/2 cable, 2 hot wires go to paired 15 amp breakers); 2 paired 30 amp circuits (fed by a 12/2 cable, 2 hot wires go to paired 30 amp breakers); 1 15 amp circuit (fed by 14/2 NM cable).

My Questions:

By code, am I allowed to route 5 NM cables together and run them through a single 2” knock out?

Am I allowed to run 6 circuits in a single conduit (as long as the conduit is large enough) or is there a maximum number of circuits?

Am I allowed to connect conduit to the bottom of the electrical panel or do I have to connect to the top?

If I use PVC conduit, do I need a separate ground wire for each circuit or can I combine to reduce the total number of wires?

If I use a metal conduit, do i need to include a ground wire?

I would prefer if the new junction box was flush-mounted, but I assume it will need to be surface mounted like the electrical panel. Is there any way to connect conduit to the face of a junction box, rather than to the side?

By code, how large does my junction box need to be?

I’m somewhat familiar with the NEC professionally, and actually enjoy reading the code. I’m happy to look up code sections if anyone can point me in the right direction and offer some guidance.

Inside electrical panel

Picture of electrical panel with loose face-staple nm cables

  • Stepping back one notch, open the door and let's see what that panel is. Given that there are several types that are out there which should be replaced as a safety precaution, knowing if yours is one of those might be a good start before getting into the extensive re-wiring. I believe that "5 NM cables through one knock-out" is not going to fly since you can't clamp them that way. Using 5 (smaller) knock-outs is fine, however. – Ecnerwal Sep 20 at 17:34
  • I just posted a picture inside the panel. Recently spoke with an electrician who recommended we "heavy up" to 200 amp. Thanks – wimija Sep 20 at 17:56
  • It looks like cutler hammer so it will be ok unless you just want more room. – JACK Sep 20 at 18:22
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I'm much more concerned about the fact that you have split-bus (Rule of Six) panel. I guess I wouldn't worry if breaker sum <= service rating or at least within 20% of it... the reason we dislike split-bus panels is it's possible to laughably overload a service. You only have 4 of the 6 breakers in-use, so that helps.

I'm also concerned with breaker spaces, I don't see how to power a house with so few breakers.

Other than that, I love CH panels. Great panels.

A few defects:

  • The 12/3 cable with shared neutral needs to go to a 2-pole breaker. This is a Multi-Wire Branch Circuit and must follow those rules

  • The 10 AWG circuit needs to be breakered 30A not 40A.

  • The 12 AWG circuit needs to be breakered 20A not 30A.

Tell us more about the last two; rarely certain motor loads qualify for a breaker bump not otherwise allowed.

By code, am I allowed to route 5 NM cables together and run them through a single 2” knock out?

Yes, if you have a proper cable clamp rated for 5 NM cables. NEC 110.3(B).

That might be a unicorn.

Am I allowed to run 6 circuits in a single conduit (as long as the conduit is large enough) or is there a maximum number of circuits?

Only if the a) length is less than 2 feet... or b) the conduit is >4 square inch cross section and <20% full.

Otherwise, since you have more than 4 circuits in the conduit, you must derate #12 wire to 15A, #10 wire to 20A, and #8 wire to 28.5A.

There's a lot of complicated math behind it, but that's the gist. See 310.15(B)(3)(a) and how it interacts with Article 334's derates and the statutory minimums in 240.4(D) and round up/down in 240.4(B).

Am I allowed to connect conduit to the bottom of the electrical panel or do I have to connect to the top?

If the factory provides knockouts, you're allowed to use them. Other holes, see 110.3(B) "must follow instructions and labeling".

That clause (with 110.2) invokes the UL White Book and its design rules.

If I use PVC conduit, do I need a separate ground wire for each circuit or can I combine to reduce the total number of wires?

Everything you have talked about is NM cable. You need 1 ground per NM cable.

If you were using wiring methods that entail individual wires, then grounds can be shared.

If I use a metal conduit, do i need to include a ground wire?

Nope, the metal conduit works except for certain flexible types. Assuming, of course, you are working in individual wires such that you could share a ground.

I would prefer if the new junction box was flush-mounted, but I assume it will need to be surface mounted like the electrical panel. Is there any way to connect conduit to the face of a junction box, rather than to the side?

No, because you have to be able to remove the cover without disassembling any part of the building 314.29.

You could flush-mount and then use a box extension to simulate a surface mount, for attaching the first conduit.

What's your fondness for surface mount? That's been bugging me honestly. My hunch is that your biggest concern is aesthetics. So why go to all this trouble? Why not just build a false wall in front of all those cables which you find so ugly? Rip some 2x4's to give you the correct spacing at each location, then lay some drywall across it and Bob's your uncle. You're allowed to hide cables. You could bring the false wall up so it's near flush with the panel.

By code, how large does my junction box need to be?

NEC 314.16 I believe. You need 2 cubic inches per #14 wire, 2.25 per #12 wire, and up to 5 per #6 wire. Grounds count as 1/4 of a wire (rounding up).

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  • Where in the world did you come up with grounds counting as 1/4 ? The largest ground in the box is used for box fill at 1x the wire size – Ed Beal Sep 20 at 21:53
  • Not (after 4 wires) in NEC 2020, Ed. – Ecnerwal Sep 20 at 22:39
  • Thank you all for the feedback! Yes, my concern is primarily aesthetic as this whole mess is on a highly visible wall in our kitchen. At Harper's recommendation, I think I'll just build a cavity to hide all the cables and snake them into the wall behind. That seems like the simplest, safest solution. Thanks again everyone! – wimija Sep 21 at 0:21

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