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I'm upgrading my electrical service from 100A to 200A and am hoping to leave the existing panel as is and feed it from the new main as a sub panel. I know for a sub panel the neutral and ground bars have to be separated, but I'm not sure by looking at the existing panel (an older GE 24 breaker) whether this is possible or not. It definitely doesn't look the same as the newer panels where you just remove the one tie bar.

Any insight would be appreciated.

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    A picture would be helpful. Also the model number or some other information that could help with identification, is required to definitively answer this question. Without more information, the answer is... Maybe. – Tester101 Jul 13 '13 at 14:04
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    Haha, of course... well the sticker on the door of the panel just says Amalgamated Electrical Corporation Limited CAT No. MB 2410 - 3003402 ... I have a photo but it's not letting me post it – t.red Jul 14 '13 at 4:19
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It looks like that panel has two grounding bars. One on each side, mostly hidden behind insulated wires in your picture. It also appears like the Neutral bus bar is distinct, and care was taken to keep neutrals and grounds on their separate bars. This will save you much time.

By the looks of your picture, the panel chassis is used as part of the ground bus, which is kind of sketchy, but ok. I would also guess the brass screw on the neutral bar doesn't have any hole to put a wire through, and touches an unpainted section of the chassis. if so, removing it will likely separate the ground and neutral plane in that breaker cabinet.

After doing that (and testing with a multimeter that ground and neutral are separated), you should be able to run this panel as a sub off of a 100A breaker in the new panel.

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The first disconnect anywhere after the meter, be it a breaker or a fuse, is the last ground you have to bond to neutral. It is clear in the photo that there is a brass coloured screw--this is your bond to ground. Remove this screw and you can use the panel as a sub panel.

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It's a GE Qline 12-space. Spaces are relevant because newly required AFCI and GFCI breakers (like the one in the lower left) need a full space, and will not fit in the little half-spaces used by the other breakers. So as you modernize you may find yourself cramped in this panel.

Since you are making it a subpanel, you must separate neutral and ground. It looks like the last guy made your job pretty easy. That is rare.

Typically there is either a jumper from neutral bar to ground, or a screw that connects the neutral bar to the panel's metal box. The screw can be removed. If it makes the neutral bar floppy, it was the wrong screw.

The panel's metal box is a perfectly acceptable grounding path. Many of your circuits appear to ground via the EMT conduit coming into the box. That is a fine way to ground.

The hole in the side of the panel should be plugged with a 10 cent knockout cover.

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I wouldn't bond the ground with the nuetral anywhere. The nuetral is a current carrying ground and you really should let it run back to the source. Although the nuetral is an earth ground it is half the circuit and bonding the ground wires to it potentially puts your ground wires, and maybe the ground under your feet, in the active circuit. Sink a ground rod at the panel and bond ground wires to it. If your main panel has the nuetral and ground bonded I would separate them.

  • -1 This doesn't answer the question of whether that panel can be used as a sub-panel. – BMitch Sep 8 '13 at 1:22
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    "If your main panel has the nuetral and ground bonded I would separate them.". This is bad/unsafe advice. – Steven Sep 8 '13 at 20:24

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