This house wiring certainly can not be up to code.

St8koutOctober 20, 2012

I went to replace an outside outlet and after shutting off all the single-circuit breakers it still had power, along with my pool pump and garbage disposal, (I started mapping out my breakers when I could not find out how to cut the power to that outlet).

There are four double-breakers. The HVAC is on the first one, but what I found is that the second one shuts down the whole house (except the HVAC) and I mean everything inside and outside, including the pool pump. Is the whole house supposed to be on just one double-breaker like that, (from there it goes to individual single-ciruit breakers)?

Also, that outside outlet, pool pump, and garbage disposal do not have single-circuit breakers. They can only be shut off with this 'master breaker' which is obviously high amp which means these 3 ciruits do not have proper overload protection, right?

I had hired a home inspector before I bought the house but nothing was mentioned about the wiring.

On a side note, the previous owner mapped out the breaker panel, but half of them are marked incorrectly. I have to wonder if this house got vandalized while vacant and someone had to rewire it because of thieves stealing the copper wiring. Every wall outlet seemed to be loose and some were missing the covers.

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You quite likely have a 'split buss' panel, and the second dp breaker controls the power to the entire bottom section. They don't use those in new construction anymore but there's nothing wrong with it.

The fact that those receptacle circuits don't have breakers in the lower section IS, however, a problem. Could there be another panel somewhere?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 11:14PM
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Well, I've been living here some 4 months now and pretty sure I would have seen a second panel by now if there was one, unless it's in the attic, which I doubt.

There is one single-pole breaker that does not seem to shut off anything that I can find. Pretty sure I've accounted for every light and outlet in the house and garage. Wonder if these rogue ciruits were supposed to go to that breaker. I'm not sure how this 'master breaker' is wired but maybe I can move those circuits from it to this breaker.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 12:12AM
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How old is the home and what is the brand of the breaker box? IMO, think you should have a master electrician look at the situation.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 12:37PM
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A common split bus panel is designed to take up to six two pole breakers in the top section (there is a rule in the NEC about '6 operations of the hand' to shut down a structure.

One of them is used as the 'main' for the lower section, while the others are then used for 240 V loads 9and they can be 120/240 V loads).

The generally comply with the NEC that was in affect at the time, and are thus grandfathered.

Someone may have run your errant circuits to the main for the lower part of the panel, not understanding they should have been on separate breakers of smaller rating in the lower part.

This would leave them dangerously on a larger than safe breaker 9but it sounds like at least they ARE on a breaker, as opposed to directly on the POCO drop).

The danger is for an overload since an actual short circuit is very likely to trip even the large breaker.

You should have an electrician open the panel and inspect what is there, and likely at least install s new breaker in the lower portion for the GD.
If the pol pump is a 120 V load, it should be on another breaker in the lower part of the panel.
If it is 240 V it may need to be in the upper part of the panel.

This type of panel is no longer used, but old installations remain grandfathered, and are safe if they are not messed around with (like it sounds yours has bee).

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:46PM
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The 1984 NEC was the first that did not permit the split-buss panels. Is your house from an earlier date?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:06PM
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Officially the house is listed as being built in 1985 as well as the whole subdivision. Seems there was a huge housing boom here in the mid 80s and I guess they didn't get the memo. So all these houses are not up to code?

I guess I need to talk to the home inspector about this. I saw him checking out the panel but he obviously did not examine every single circuit.

The pool pump is 120v, as are the 3 circuits in question.

The brand name on the panel is Challenger, and every breaker slot is filled. There's no room to add another breaker.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:03PM
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So all these houses are not up to code?

They are up to code. Where I live we are under the 2008 electrical code and it is now 2012. Most communities lag the NEC by years. So, a 1985 code might not be adopted till 1988 or later.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:52PM
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We're on '08 too with a number of amendments and deletion of entire articles of the NEC. There's nothing to say that 30 years ago an electrical contractor with a surplus of split buss panels didn't get an exemption from his cousin who happened to be the electrical inspector at the time. Or maybe the cousin was on the city council....

Your best bet is to get a licensed electrician to inspect the panel.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:36AM
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"Your best bet is to get a licensed electrician to inspect the panel."

Yeah, this might also be a good time to see about moving that panel to the inside of the same garage wall while I'm at it. As it is, it is outside for easy access by any and everyone. All my security, motion floodlights, cameras, home automation can be shut down with the flip of a switch, which I asked about here in another thread earlier.

I got an email back from Nevada Energy when I asked if I can lock my panel and was told that the panel was my property, not theirs. They own only the meter, so yes.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:07PM
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Check with the AHJ.

They may have some stupid local rule.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:03AM
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