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So to begin with, I am not a DIY'er when it comes to electricity. I prefer to allow the professionals to handle these matters as it's not something I'm confident in and not too knowledgeable about... my dad however has always been a DIY'er and I'll give him credit that throughout his years he's done many electrical projects not only at home but also for the community. Lately, his mind hasn't been as sharp due to age and the potential for maybe even dementia so of course I want to check what he's doing. At their house they had a subpanel that was ran power from the main breaker box. Inside the sub panel, there was 3 breakers, which led power to:

  1. an outlet in the "pump house", a small 3x3 almost doghouse looking add on, which is used for a small heater in the winter for making sure the water line doesn't freeze up

  2. a single light receptacle which is used as a back porch light

  3. a single gang receptacle which sits right next to the subpanel and is only used occasionally for maybe plugging in a shop vac when vacuuming out cars.

For some reason my father stated he needed to replace the subpanel and what not. He took it off and then decided that he would use a junction box instead of subpanel for this circuit. His plan is to simply connect the 4 hot wires with a wire nut, the 4 neutral wires with a wire nut, and I'm assuming the 4 grounds with a wire nut and place them in a junction box. I'm not too sure on exactly what works and what doesn't, I even recommended that I pay someone to do it for him, but he's always been stubborn and refused it of course. So I simply ask, is what he's doing even technically the correct thing or is it something that I need to make sure doesn't happen? Is there any method that I can at least tell him to do if his idea doesn't work because I am certain he will do something to hook it all up within the next two weeks. Thanks!

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    If it is only a 120 volt circuit, it should work, done often in houses. Being out in a shed, code probably requires at least a disconnect at shed so you don't have run all the way home when something happens. If running 240 volts(two hots) to shed, then this is a no-no and very bad.
    – crip659
    Oct 24 at 12:35
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    You can run 240V to a shed. To current code, you need a 4-wire feed (hot, hot, neutral and ground) a local disconnect (typically the "main" switch on the sub-panel at the shed) a local ground rod for the detached structure tied to the grounding conductor from the house that connects to the sub-panel, and the neutral of the sub-panel (as with all sub-panels) needs to be isolated from ground. On the low-end, you can have a 15 or 20A MWBC feeding the shed, a double-pole 20A switch at the shed for disconnect means, and still need to maintain the ground separate from the neutral.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 24 at 14:21
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    It would be helpful to know the breaker and wire size feeding the sub panel. It would also be helpful to understand why your dad suddenly feels he needs to remove this subpanel and replace it with a junction box. Has something failed?
    – J...
    Oct 25 at 11:50
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    @RobbieGoodwin If I had a nickel for every time the "internet strangers" here saved someone from a qualified "expert"...
    – J...
    Oct 25 at 12:13
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    @RobbieGoodwin And it is only thanks to this fantastic group of "internet strangers" that I have learned which of the "qualified experts" who have worked on my house in the past actually did things right or wrong. Oct 25 at 14:25
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With an appropriate breaker feeding it, this is fine.

Typical subpanel is fed by a double-pole (240V) breaker in the USA/Canada.

The feed would (per circuit descriptions) EITHER need to be a double-pole set up as a MultiWire Branch Circuit (one or two hots out on each hot in, all neutrals, all grounds conjoined) or as a single-pole if conjoining all hots. The double-pole (if used) will need handle-tie at minimum, single handle preferred.

The amperage will need to be 15 amps if there is ANY 14Ga wire on ANY of these circuits, or can be 20A if ALL wire is minimum 12Ga. That's probably going to be a smaller breaker than was feeding the sub-panel before.

The circuit will need GFCI protection given the loads served. If an MWBC, the only way to do that is with a GFCI double-pole breaker. If run as a single-pole feed, the first outlet can be the GFCI, which would then be the only thing fed directly from the breaker (on its Line terminals) and would feed everythng else (from its Load terminals.) Or that can also be a GFCI breaker, of course.

The "pump house" requires a local disconnect - that can be a 20A (or 15A if the breaker is 15A) switch.

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As noted in Ecnerwal's answer, this is probably fine, if implemented as a proper MWBC with proper GFCI protection.

However, there may be one additional issue: hardwired loads. Normally, a circuit with hardwired loads using > 50% of capacity can't have any regular receptacles (i.e., plug-in loads) on the same circuit. In this case, the lighting is a non-issue (likely 1 Amp or less), but the heater might be an issue. The heater could be any of:

  • 120V plug-in heater, presumably 1500W = 12A = max. for a 120V 15A circuit and well over 50% of a 20A circuit.
  • 120V hardwired heater
  • 240V hardwired heater

If it is a 120V plug-in heater, then there is no real issue. From a practical standpoint, best to put the heater part of the circuit on the opposite leg from the convenience receptacle, but no other problem.

If it is a 120V or 240V hardwired heater then you need to check the current requirements. If it is > 6 Amps on a 15A circuit (6A = 1/2 of 12A continuous) or > 8 Amps on a 20A circuit (8A = 1/2 of 16A continuous) then you have a problem. If it is a 120V circuit > 6A/8A, you must put it on the opposite leg from the convenience receptacle. If it is a 240V circuit > 6A/8A then this entire "everything on one circuit instead of subpanel" change does not work.

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    The heater is stated to be fed by an outlet (which I interpret from a normal person writing as normal people meaning for receptacle, rather than NEC meaning could be hardwired.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 24 at 14:24
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    @Ecnerwal You are probably correct. But the question says "outlet" for heater and "receptacle" for the light & the convenience receptacle. Oct 24 at 14:26
  • "Probably" seems a bit strong. We have no idea what the feeder gauge is or what the breaker size in the main panel is. Maybe it's a 60A sub fed with big wire and the breakers in there are critical protection for the smaller gauge runs. We also don't know why OP's dad suddenly feels this arrangement needs to change. Why would you intentionally nerf a serviceable sub panel if it was all in good working order? It makes no sense... there's missing information here, I think.
    – J...
    Oct 25 at 11:48
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Sorry - I was unclear. I was referring to your opening statement in this answer ("...this is probably fine"). A geriatric DIYer, from a generation that never had free access to information like electrical codes, with failing mental health, is proposing a plan to pull out a subpanel and just nut everything together...with no reasons given for why. This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to me... one that is quite a lot less than probably fine.
    – J...
    Oct 25 at 12:06
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    @J... Oh, that "probably". That refers to: "We seem to have heater (= 1 120V circuit) + convenience receptacle (= 1 120V circuit) + lights (can be combined with convenience receptacle), so 2 x 120V circuits = 1 x MWBC, provided it is fixed up properly." But only "probably" because we don't have definite information regarding the heater, wires in place, etc. Oct 25 at 12:23

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