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I currently have a 100 amp panel (square D) with no free slots. I'm looking at adding an electric heater (1000 watts, 240V) to the washroom.

I'm wondering if I can replace the 30 amp breaker for the dryer (24 amp, 3 wire + ground) with a 40 amp breaker and run wiring from the dryer receptacle to the heater. I would use 8 ga. wire for both lengths (from breaker to dryer receptacle and from dryer receptacle to heater).

  • As breakers are sized to protect the wiring (not the load device), that should work. I'll let the sparkies chime in with an official answer, though. Another alternative might be tandem or narrow form factor breakers to replace some of your others, freeing up space. – isherwood Jul 28 '16 at 20:45
  • Dedicated circuit. – Dan D. Jul 28 '16 at 21:30
  • I'd be inclined to replace the current 30A dual breaker with a tandem-dual(?) which would then give you a new 240V circuit to use. – brhans Jul 28 '16 at 22:07
  • @brhans -- quadruplex, but yes -- keep in mind that quadruplex breakers only exist in 1" form factor styles though – ThreePhaseEel Jul 28 '16 at 22:20
  • What type of circuit breaker panel do you have? – ThreePhaseEel Jul 28 '16 at 22:20
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Get a 120V heater

Electric heaters are cheap. A 240V 1000W heater is worth about $40. You could easily spend more than that on exotic breakers and hookups. Sell it on Craigslist and get a 120V 1000W heater.

If you hardwire it, either put it on a dedicated 15A circuit, or a shared 20A circuit. A hardwired load which shares a circuit with receptacles must be less than 50% of the circuit's capacity (2400W, which is why you can't do it on a 15A 1800W circuit unless you downsize the heater.)

Share a 40A breaker

No. You are not allowed to put more than one receptacle on a branch circuit. NEC 210.23.

To be more precise, 210.23 calls out the exceptions where you are allowed to have multiple receptacles on a circuit, and it lists them by ampere rating. For residential, only cooking appliances for a 40-50A circuit.

Each receptacle must have the same rating as the circuit, i.e. you can't put a 30A receptacle on a 40A circuit. (NEC 210.21). The exceptions are 15A receptacles are allowed on 20A circuits... and 50A receptacles on 40A circuits (because no 40A receptacle standard exists).

Duplex breakers

The usual way to solve a "box cram" problem is a quadriplex breaker that puts two 240V 2-pole breakers in two spaces. Quadriplex may not be available in 3/4" wide breakers. But you don‘t need them to be. You can get two plain 120V duplex breakers and use them for four of your 120V circuits. That will free up two spaces for your 2-pole breaker.

Sub-panel

Given the criterion of using the on-hand parts (240V/40A breaker and heater), sub-panel is the way to go. Put in a 240V 40A sub-panel and put in any circuits you please, does not necessarily have to include the dryer. In fact I wouldn't put the dryer in there. I'd move over as many 15-20A 120V circuits as I possibly could, to free up spaces in your main panel. You could certainly put at least six 15A circuits - I'm not familiar with the rules on panel fill. You could even put this sub-panel right next to your main panel to make it easier to move circuits.

Do not be bashful about buying a large sub-panel. Cheaping out and getting a panel with too few spaces is how you got in this pickle in the first place. You might even think about planning the sub-panel so it could become your future main panel.

It is totally OK to buy a sub-panel which is rated at a larger amperage than you are using. It is also OK if your sub-panel has a "main" breaker larger than your 40A breaker. That main breaker will simply be redundant.

  • Receptacle or outlet? 240V heaters are usually hardwired...also, there are no quadruplex breakers in the 3/4" (QO, CH) world. – ThreePhaseEel Jul 29 '16 at 11:36
  • It would be legal to hardwire the heater, but if the circuit is 40A, he still needs to use a 40 or 50 amp receptacle for the dryer. I don't have time to hunt down the code section, but I think that's not legal. The upshot is this is such a maze of hooks, crooks and gotchas that the "1 device per >20A circuit" is usually the best plan. – Harper Jul 29 '16 at 14:41
  • Since the issue I'm trying to address is adding the 1000W/240V heater to the washroom on a full panel, could I do something like this instead... replace 2 single pole 15 amp breakers (circuits X & Y) with 2 single pole TANDEM 15 amp breakers, reconnect circuits X and Y on the outside pair and wire the heater to inside pair of circuits A+B? @ThreePhaseEel – rmarhi Jul 29 '16 at 17:10
  • The 240v breakers need to be handle-tied and listed for 240V service. Another option is to use two duplex breakers on four 120V circuits, freeing up 2 spaces for a 2-pole breaker. If it was me, I'd send the 240V heater back and get a 120V heater. Electric heaters are cheap, quite likely cheaper than the duplex breakers you'd need to make space. – Harper Jul 29 '16 at 17:51
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Your current plan is no good for two reasons. First, you can't put a 30A receptacle on a 40A branch circuit as per 210.21(B)(3). Then, even if you wired up your dryer to a 50A plug and plugged it into a 50A receptacle, it'd still be against code as 210.23(C) prohibits non-cooking appliances on 40/50A circuits in dwelling units.

(Costs assume you already have the 8AWG wire and the 240V/1kW heater budgeted for, as well as misc parts such as j-boxes, wirenuts, etal. "Wire" is assumed to be 12/2 W/G NM-B -- that's $25 for 50' through the orange borg.)

Your options are as follows:

Use a 120V/1kW heater on a 20A circuit and get only one tandem breaker (if your panel will let you)

Cost: $125 for breaker + wire + heater

You'll need a QOT2020 breaker replacing an existing QO120 in your panel (or you can use a QOT1520 to replace a QO115, instead), as well as 12/2 wire (not hard) and a suitable heater, such as this Cadet unit from the orange borg. Pay attention to the labeling and design of your panel, though -- many QO panels reject tandem breakers altogether, and those that don't often limit the number of slots that accept them (to avoid violating the old 42 circuit rule from the NEC).

Use a quadruplex (sort-of...) breaker to split up the existing dryer slots to make room for the new 240V circuit (again, if your panel will let you)

Cost: $100 for the weirdo breaker + $25 for wire

There is a 30/20A quadruplex-ish breaker available for the QO line -- it's the QO20303020. However, you'll have to have a supply house custom order the kit for you or order it online yourself (it's 2 tandem breakers and a handle tie), and again, it may not be within the UL listing of your panel as not all QO panels are listed to accept tandems, and those that are often can only accept them in certain breaker positions.

Install a small subpanel somewhere -- this always works

Cost: $30 or $45 for breakers, $25 for wire, $25 for subpanel, and lots more work

You'll need at least two breakers for this, namely a QO240 and a QO215. Replacing the existing QO230 is another $15, albeit not really necessary -- QOs are reliable as far as circuit breaker reliability goes. The subpanel will be a QO612L100 -- get a F suffix if you want a flushmount, S (linked) if you want surface mount, DF or DS if you want the above but with a door.

This requires you to pull the existing QO230 out of the main panel and install a QO240 in its place, run the 8AWG you have planned from the main to the sub, install the subpanel with the 8AWG hots to the main lugs and the 8AWG ground to the ground bar main lug -- you will not be pulling the bonding screw out of this sub as you'll be using wirenuts for the neutral connection instead.

The 12AWG (or 14AWG if you'd prefer) wire for the heater goes to the two hots on the QO215 (tape or paint the white wire black here to mark it as a hot), and its ground also goes to the ground bar. Finally, the two hots on the existing 10(?)AWG to the dryer that is rerouted to meet the subpanel go to the two hots on the QO230 of course, the ground from that to the ground bar, and the neutral from the dryer goes into a wirenut with the incoming neutral (nobody says you can't make the neutral and ground connections in a panel in some other way -- the bars are just there because they're convenient).

  • Thanks very much for the suggestions. I actually have a spare 40amp CB and already have the heater too which is why I framed the question like I did. I'm leaning towards the hybrid quad but would like an opinion on the thought to use 2 tandem 15s as those are readily available (see my comment to Harper's answer above) . My panel has only one single pole 20amp CB otherwise I would consider tandem 20s. In this hybrid quad scenario I would use 12g wire for the heater (knowing this is heavier than required). – rmarhi Jul 30 '16 at 13:58
  • There is no QO15303015 kit or QO1530 breaker available at all -- it sounds like the subpanel is your cheapest option even if you're willing to do the extra labor of hooking it up. – ThreePhaseEel Jul 30 '16 at 15:00
  • I was thinking 2 QO1515s side by side with the middle 15s handle tied... – rmarhi Jul 30 '16 at 15:44
  • Given the criterion of using the on-hand parts, sub-panel is the way to go. Put in a 240V 40A sub-panel and put in any circuits you please, does not necessarily have to include the dryer. In fact I wouldn't put the dryer in there. I'd move over as many 15-20A 120V circuits as I possibly could, to free up spaces in your main panel. You could certainly put at least six 15A circuits - I'm not familiar with the rules on panel fill. You could even put this sub-panel right next to your main panel to make it easier to move circuits. – Harper Jul 30 '16 at 15:50
  • the duplex breaker approach is the most straightforward given the heater is fixed. thx – rmarhi Aug 3 '16 at 16:13

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