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100 AMP service Panel Questions

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Initial post: Sep 9, 2011 5:09:40 AM PDT
Bought a home that has a 100 Amp Electrical panel in it. almos every one of the breakers are doubled uo meaning they have two wires going to them instead of the one so this previous owner , instead of adding a bigger panel, just stuck another (circuit for lack of a better explination) on each breaker.. My question is: Can i get those breakers that have the two little switches on them that are made to double up space or do I need to get a bigger box and add more single circuits? also, none of the circuits do what they are labled to.. i guess he jumped electrical wires from room to room so like, i will shut of the breaker to say, a bed room... but then the kitchen goes out as any suggestions on straightening this all out?

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 8:26:43 AM PDT
Take a few things in to consideration, Is it your house and wouldn't you be better off in the long run to do it right? Plus take in the money side those little space save breakers are double if not triple (in GFCI Breaker) in price, plus you would have to find and get the breakers that are made for that box, which has to do with age of the box and wiring. I if it was my house would just go ahead and get a bigger box and new breakers THE RIGHT ONES. ground fault breakers and Arc fault breakers for bed and bath to bring it up to code and it's a lot safer plus you would also get the wiring situation taken care of as to labeling where the wire's go. What I did was tie my new and old box together and as time and money allowed slowly change them over one room at a time, to the new box. Took longer and was easier than $3,500.00 and a hole week with out power, but just make sure what ever you do that it's up to code your local inspector(at city hall) can give you better help probably. Minor note every room has to have at least one branch circuit (one breaker) and the bathroom a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) breaker. I think the kitchen has to have a gfci breaker supplying the gfci outlet's within 6ft of the sink, and bedrooms have to have An AFCI breaker (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupt), along with major appliances they have to have there own breaker as well. So a two bedroom home has to have at least 2 AFCI breakers and 2 GFCI breakers. Post back with more info on your box you have now like brand and other info like room number and type.

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 11:04:36 AM PDT
Mark Iven says:
Daniel, it sounds like you are advocating a major rewiring of the house in order to meet current (no pun intended) codes. Is this really necessary when upgrading service panels?

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 11:40:04 AM PDT
i WAS THINKING THE SAME THING dAVID.. JUST REPLACE THE PANEL.. BUT I FIGURED IT WOULD BE FASTER TO USE THE DOUBLE BREAKERS... (Opps, Caps anyhow, I would actually like to move the panel also as it is inside a wall cabinete in my kitchen right now and the town inspector has already mentioned me moving it but I can only imagine what that would take / cost... And since thats also where service comes into the house, Id have to move that as well... I guess I could put it into the garage but that would also stink moving all the wires into the home from the garage. In the basement I do have two sub panels, one is the original 4 fuse box from what ever year, its got the 4 little screw in glass fuses.. the second is a new 4 breaker panel for the new bath addition with a breaker labled "Whirl Pool" but theres no whirl pool in the house so, I feel like crying when I see if i were to move the box to a new location, is there a way to maybe just put it where the sub panel for the new bath is and run the wires to it from the old box, sorta like a junction box or will i need to re wire the whole house...every plug and switch and socket?? god, this is the second home i had with a panel in a kitchen cab... i gotta admit it though, its easier to move a few mugs and a couple mixing bowls out of the way to get to the panel than to go out to the garage or through the house, out the back door, and down the hatch to the basement.. (no way to get there from inside) to get at the panel...

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 11:45:51 AM PDT
Not sure of the brand of the box but it looks older. The house is small, its an open floor plan so the house is one big room that is split into 3 sections by a half wall and a counter. the counter is between kitchen and main living room and then theres a 1/2 wall tha seperates the living room and a sort of small sunroom type area with a bunch of windows and french door to the outside. then there is a hallway from there with two small bedrooms on the left and the one master BR on the right, at the end of the hall is the bathroom. the house is one floor, it has a decent sized attic that is just used as storage and has no lighting wired in so i just plugged in a hanging lamp for when i need to go up there..
there is a half basement with a crwal space, nothing in the crwal space except spiders, mice and the occasional northern ringneck then theres a detached 2 car garage i use for a woodshop / storage.

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 3:18:31 PM PDT
yeah okay I would explain but never mind, what I will tell you is that anytime a screw is removed on the object for work to be done that one single object has to be up to code when the work is done, So i'll unscrew the cover to add a breaker and well now the hole box has to be up to code, or maybe it's just the inspector hear is a Dick. Dick Johnson. But you can get the tandem pole breakers here there not up to code for most applications so check and see if the brand name and lug's match up.
but those are the breakers you were talking about right?

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 5:20:05 PM PDT
I'd agree with Daniel. As an electrician I would recommend upgrading to a 200 amp service with a 40 circuit panel (incidentally, a 200 amp sevice won't raise your electric bill, you're still using the same amount of power). You can put your new panel where it is more accessible (though realistic, and not in a detached garage). Your original panel location would probably have to become a main cut-off breaker since the new location could be too far from your service entrance to the house. Then again, maybe you can move your service entrance and just forget the last thing I said! Your old sub-panels/fuse box could become junction points if they can't be rerouted to the new location. Rewire the house? Doubt that would be necessary. Unless you have some old knob and tube type of wiring still existing (the type used many, many years ago) maybe some rewiring would have to be done. You can use "twin" breakers to lighten up the load on the doubled up ones, but if there are that many wires in there, your best bet is an upgrade. Pricey? Unfortunately, yes. GFCI breakers aren't necessary if the receptacles are GFCI protected. Arc fault breakers are code, but only with a new service. I am not advising against them as they are there to protect you, but they trip very easily (for a reason) over the smallest thing. I discovered several years ago that standing near the circuit panel with a walkie-talkie will cause them to trip! The thing with old houses is they used one circuit for several rooms because people just didn't plug that many things in (back in the day). I'd have to see the lay-out and what your situation is to even give you accurate advice. Sorry! Anyway... Best guess without knowing much about your situation is an upgrade. But that's just my long-winded $.02. Get several quotes if that's the route you decide because it will be $$$$. The short-term band-aid would be to use twin breakers, but I don't know how old your main panel is and that would dictate how easy/how much the breakers would be. If you can remove one, take a picture, or just write down the info, take it to an electrical supply place and price them... or possibly find them cheaper online. Good luck!

Posted on Sep 9, 2011 8:29:40 PM PDT
B. Shashinka says:
I just had to chime in here. I live in Connecticut and got hit by Hurricane Irene. We are on the same section of the grid as the city police station and thus are never out for more than 30-60 minutes (until this past week). Long story short I just got done installing a 6 circuit transfer switch for the important circuits and found that my father who rewired the whole house when purchased 23 years ago decided to put one wall of each room on the same circuit on an adjacent room. When questioned about it he advised that it was because if he had to do electrical work in the room he always had at least one working outlet. I don't know if it is up to code but it made circuit planing an adventure... Just seeing that made me want to re wire the whole house.

Posted on Sep 10, 2011 1:59:56 AM PDT
M. Payne says:
Romspert is correct, pay the $$, do it right, relocate & upgrade to a 200 amp panel, and install GFI or ARC breakers as required, near water or on exterior outlets. One thing no one has mentioned, if your wiring is not code, and you have a fire, I promise you the insurance company will hire an electrical inspector to do a post-mortem, and if that unpermitted wiring is found...well, you get the idea.

Posted on Sep 10, 2011 7:29:16 PM PDT
D. Smith says:
Wondering whether you had the home inspected at the time of purchase. If you did, I'd go back to the inspector and hold him/her responsible. If the wiring was not up to current codes, it's typically the seller's responsibility to make it right. If the inspector let it slide, he/she could be liable for the cost of the upgrade since you lost the opportunity to have it corrected before closing. Please check with your county for the codes in effect at the time of closing and whether you have any recourse.

That aside, it's always best to do it right. It may cost you a hefty chunk of change up front, but it may save your home and/or lives down the road. It's never worth it to cut corners.

Posted on Sep 11, 2011 5:50:37 AM PDT
Caveman says:
First thing you need to do is map the old box figure out what goes to what. And leave the old panel if you can. add double breakers or another sub panel old houses are like digging a hole the more you dig the deeper you get.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2011 2:14:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 11, 2011 2:18:41 PM PDT
papadee says:
Get a larger panel with at least a 150 amp main breaker or better yet for future use a 200 amp service panel with a main breaker (200 amp), if you do either of these you must have the main incoming line (wires/cable) inside your house from the breaker panel to the electric meter outside changed out to equal the new breaker panel size (150 or 200 amp depends on the one you choose, get the right size cable to match the breaker panel) also the power company must come to see if their cable is big enough to handle your new breaker panel.Panel should be a 30 breakers for 150amp and a 40 breakers for a 200 amp panel.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2011 4:31:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 16, 2011 4:33:22 PM PDT
>> Wondering whether you had the home inspected at the time of purchase.
>> If you did, I'd go back to the inspector and hold him/her responsible

200% WRONG.
Houses are suppposed to be up to the code current at time it was built, or at the time that part was renovated.
House built in 1951 with 70 amp service and 6-8 fused circuits, if all in good condition, is most probably 100% code-legal. Yes it should probably be upgraded, kitchen & bath should get GFI receptacles, but it's legal as it stands without any changes.

Think of it this way; If code were to change and require fire-proof siding, would *you* want to be forced to replace your vinyl siding with new stuff when you sold the house?

Posted on Sep 17, 2011 10:28:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 17, 2011 10:29:00 PM PDT
Sparky says:
Every room does NOT require a separate branch circuit. However, you should limit your typical wall receptacles to no more than 10 receptacles per branch circuit. Upgrading the service panel is the best way to go, IMO. Go with the 200amp service panel, as previously mentioned. 150amp panels can actually be more expensive than the 200amp panels. Hire a licensed electrician to check out the circuits and replace the service panel. Since you don't have any idea what the previous home owner has done to the wiring, be sure to have a licensed electrician to check it all out...if for nothing else, some peace of mind on your end. You could even have the wrong size breakers for the wiring used, if the previous homeowner got that creative. I am not aware that the NEC has ever allowed two wires for a circuit breaker. Only one wire per breaker is allowed. Check on that, because the home inspector should have caught that and written it up. Good luck to you.

Posted on Sep 18, 2011 4:39:22 PM PDT
Kupkake says:
It depends on the connected load in other words, let say you have a forced air system using natural gas for heating vs. electric baseboard heaters. Or most of your applicances are gas (water heater, stove, etc..) not electric then most likely a 100A service is fine. I would talk to your electrical inspector and see what he has to say, as most jurisdictions have their own requirements beyond the NEC. If you decide to hire a contractor, make sure you hire a competent contractor and check their license and bonding information. Most states have that information online. Get at least three written estimates and make sure you understand the scope of work they are providing. The breakers you are describing sound like "piggy-back" breakers, they are typically used to add a circuit when there is limited space in a panel, and the combined loads do not exceed the ampacity of the panel. Also you can connect two wires to a CB when the lug is so rated. By-the-way you can still buy piggy-back breakers at most home improvment centers.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 5:40:22 AM PDT
Yeah, like that one... thanks for the link too!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 5:41:26 AM PDT
I agree... every "Little" job becomes a major renovation!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 5:44:45 AM PDT
The bathroom is all new so its got the GFI outlets and uch, the kitchen outlets have all been up dated, I have replaced all most all the old outlets (two prong style) with new three pron style outlets as well as replacing every light switch with newer rocker style switches. Like I said, most of the wireing in the house is nerew but the way it was added in is kinda suspect. it seems that instead of cutting out the old circuits and running new l ines from the panel, he did alot of jumping round off old wires.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 5:46:31 AM PDT
I think the home inspector did find it.. I just really cant remember Ill have to look it up in his report. I know he found alot of stuff... like the 6 foot snake skins in the

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 5:53:33 AM PDT
So is replacing the 100 Amp panel with a 200 Amp panel just a case or dissconecting the old one , mounting the new one and just re hooking up all the wires? I dont get what the difference is... is it just physically bigger so it can hold more breakers? or does it require more electricity from the city lines? Also, cant i just buy a 200 amp box and replace one of the sub panels with it? (the newer one...) and move some of the stuff out of the 100 amp box, down to the two hundred amp box? or does that just defeat the purpose? So id have the service coming into the old 100 amp box, then a line going out to the new 200 amp box in the basement, and most of the circuits would be now coming from the new 200 amp box and not the 100 amp... I can easilly enough run wires to the three bedrooms up from the basement below, as well as wires for the hall way, washer and dryer and garage. or would it be the same as just useing the old 100 amp box?

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 8:59:58 AM PDT
Mud Duck says:
riiick: Talk about incorrect. I guess you didn't read? The previous owner had added second feeds to breakers. I have never seen any code that allows for two feeds to a breaker, and doing it without a permit (you'd never get a permit to do this) is also illegal in many jurisdictions.

Craig: If you replace the panel with a 200 amp service you will likely need to also upgrade the feed line coming from the pole or ground to the box. You can either replace your current panel with the new one (size isn't always different) or put the new panel next to the old one and sub panel the old to the new. I did mine this way, my 200 amp panel has a 100 amp breaker feeding the old panel so that I didn't have to rewire the whole house. Remember, if you splice a wire you MUST put it into an accessible and sealed box. If you find any splices from the old owner, and it sounds like you have, they too must be in a sealed and accessible box. The reason I did mine this way is that I plan on using the sub-panel (old panel) for my backup generator in the near future so it saves me the money of having to redo it all again. This also saves you from a lot of code issues when you upgrade a panel. By leaving the old one in place you no longer have to upgrade anything you find wrong in the wiring (do it anyway if it is a safety issue). I'm mostly thinking of your location issues.

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 9:02:32 AM PDT
INTP1000 says:
NO. You must use a wire size appropiate to 200 Amps all the way from the power pole to the new 200
Amp box. Yes, more breakers can be added and thus more branch circuits can be run (installed). No, the power you use is up to you, not due to the size of the box. Yes, but don't forget to run 200 Amp capable wiring from the old box to the new one.Yes, you can run "most of the circuits" to the new 200 amp box. You could, however, just add a 100 Amp box (if that would be less exp0ensive). Just remember to run appropiate size wiring between boxes. If I had the money I'd just rep0lace the old box with a new 200 Amp box and have all the branch circuits sized appropiately. That would cost more than the addition of an additional box, however. Perhaps someone should do a proper design.

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 9:20:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 19, 2011 9:21:11 AM PDT
Sparky says:
You could use a subpanel and move some of the circuits to it, so you don't have to use the "half" breakers you alluded to earlier. As a thought, you would want to move your "lighter load" circuits over to the subpanel, such as your lighting circuits and bedroom wall outlet circuits. Leave the heavier load circuits in the 100 amp panel. If it were me, I would use a 60 amp breaker in the main panel and run 6 ga. THHN wire from it to your subpanel. MAKE SURE YOU ISOLATE THE NEUTRAL BUS IN THE SUB PANEL FROM THE SUB PANEL ITSELF. You would need to run 2 hot leads from the 60 amp breaker, one neutral from the main panel, and one ground. The ground would be a separate grounding bar in the sub panel (just for the ground wires), which you may need to install yourself. The isolated neutral bar in the subpanel would be for the neutral wires only. Your existing wiring may be too short to move to another panel. This is why it was mentioned that it may be simpler to just replace the existing box with a larger box. If you do replace with a 200 amp box, then you will also need to replace the wiring from the meter base to the 200 amp breaker (wire size must be rated for 200 amps). The power company would prefer if you have a licensed electrician for your county replace the wire from the meter base to the new panel. You could hire the electrician to do that, and then do the rest of the work yourself. If a larger feed wire is required to the meter, that is the power company's responsibility. They should not charge you for the upgrade on their end. Just for peace of mind, I would still advise hiring an electrician to trace your circuits out to be sure you don't have branch circuits tied together on the same phase. When I bought my home, I added a whole house fan. I had to turn off 3 breakers in the panel to remove power from where I wanted to tap into. The previous homeowner had 3 branch circuits tied together (all on the same phase) in the attic. Needless to say, that was a very dangerous situation, regarding a possible fire hazard, if nothing else. That's why I suggested having an electrician trace each circuit to be sure none of them are tied together now. Hope this adds more food for thought as to the direction you want to take.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2011 10:05:33 AM PDT
Just so I dont seem like a real i would also want to hire an electrician to do any heavy wireing jobs.. I mean, I can run a wire for a light or switch and stuff like that but i dont like to go near the box and esp high voltage If I were to go withthe new box id hire someone..i was just looking for a possible, less expensive way to free up some circuits. I want to run more power out to the garage for my tools but im afraid ill overload something as I dont know what else is on the same circuit.. I guess ill be hitting breakers and seeing whats not working this week, lol wait till night time, turn on every light and start shutting breakers.. fun fun.

Posted on Sep 19, 2011 10:06:56 AM PDT
oh another bad sign was that there was a sheet of paper in the cabinet witht he Panel in it that showed what breaker was what, I think two or three of them were correct, the rest werent... if thats not a clue I dont know what is.
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Discussion in:  Home Improvement forum
Participants:  31
Total posts:  60
Initial post:  Sep 9, 2011
Latest post:  Aug 6, 2013

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