Three New Electrical Panels

ntl1991June 24, 2011

I'm planning the next big job that needs to be done in my home, and that's electrical.

First off, I have a 200A service entrance, which is fed into the 3-meter box, which then feeds the three panels. The service entrance cable isn't looking great and I'd like to get it replaced.

The panels are as follows: First floor has a Federal Pacific 100A Fuse Panel, Second floor has another Federal Pacific 100A Fuse Panel, and the Third floor has a Circa 1965 Federal Pacific 100A Stab-lok (Oh yes!) Circuit Breaker Panel.

The house was built in 1948 and has original 2-wire non-metallic with cloth sheathing, which is largely in great shape. I've already installed GFI's to protect ungrounded circuits in the house, and whenever I replace a switch or receptacle, I use new Romex pigtails to keep the old stuff from deteriorating too much.

I'm looking at Cutler Hammer CH22B100V panels for all three floors. The second and third floors will just be a panel swap, (kitchen counters were rewired with 20A multi-wire branch circuits a few years back) and all the wiring is up to snuff.

The 1st floor (because of ease of access from the unfinished basement) will get a dedicated refrigerator circuit, two separate 20A appliance circuits for the counters, I've already wired in a dedicated 20A circuit for a gas range I'll be getting in the future and one for a large window air conditioner. The two bedrooms and the bath (which are on one circuit) will be separated and the receptacles will all be rewired.

My electrician will be installing the panels and doing the service entrance cable along with the meter boxes; I've just done some prep work with the 1st floor circuits.

Now, what's the deal with AFCI and ungrounded conductors? I know the current NEC requires AFCI in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, etc. Are there any exceptions to the use of AFCI? While I understand it helps to reduce arcs which start fires, I'd imagine it could also be a safety issue if one was unplugging a device at night and the AFCI tripped the circuit which (in my case) also powers the overhead lights. How sensitive are these AFCIs?

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'Unplugging a device' shouldn't cause them to trip. I can run a 1/2" drill for about 10 seconds,under moderate load, before my Cutler-Hammer, Type CH, AFCI trips.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Which is why they aren't used in garages or unfinished basements, correct? The arcs in the electric motors cause the AFCI to trip. What about things like vacuum cleaners or other household devices with motors?

Because I'm just replacing the panels, I shouldn't have to protect the existing circuits with AFCI, but if I rewire the bedrooms with two new 20A circuits, then I will need AFCI protection on those new circuits, correct?

A random question: Why, when I watch television shows such as Holmes on Homes and others (filmed in Canada), do I see most of their load centers horizontal rather than vertical? Is their any benefit to doing that?

What I'm working with now:

1st Floor:

2nd Floor:

3rd Floor:

I found out last week (after pulling off the front cover) that the 2nd floor has a couple of double-tapped circuits including two 15A "house" circuits which were double-tapped to a single 30A minibreaker fuse! Also, when they installed the boiler, they double-tapped the laundry circuit to get power. I ordered two 301P fuse blocks and my electrical will be installing them next week.

The third floor was just as bad with double-taps. The boiler, like the 2nd floor, was double tapped into the laundry circuit. Also, the garage was on the 3rd floor panel for some reason (I think the previous owner lived on the 3rd floor).

It's funny how none of this stuff gets disclosed when buying a house, and my house inspection report didn't list any issues regarding electrical. It's like finding the pieces to a puzzle and figuring out how they match up...

That was the case when I had a hunch there was a fire on the 3rd floor. There was all new (Romex) wiring in the kitchen, cathedral ceilings with six Velux skylights circa-1986 (which the identical house next door doesn't have), the back wall of the kitchen is missing the original 40's tile, vinyl siding on the 3rd floor that didn't quite match perfectly when its sunny outside, and that weird 12-3 wire that runs up the exterior of the house to behind the kitchen counter... Of course, when I went to the building inspector last year, the one permit on file for my house was taken out in 1986 for a house fire that started in the kitchen.

None of it was disclosed however... I had to go searching for it. Had I known then, it might've influenced my decision to buy the house. (Of course, now, I love my house and actually am thankful for the fire because I now have all new wiring and cathedral ceilings with skylights, and a second legal bedroom on the 3rd floor which they created from unfinished attic space by installing two skylights and finishing the room.)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 5:17PM
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Ron Natalie

No, the reasons why AFCIs aren't used in garages and unfinished basements is those places require GFCIs.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 9:00AM
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