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  • Any electricians? need advice

    I have a 60 amp fuse box panel that feeds into 2 sub panels with breakers that powers the stuff in my finished basement.

    The large sub panel has about 6 breakers and powers; a 42 inch plasma and accompanying DVD, stereo, cable box etc; 2 computers with a roughly 400 watt draw each; washer, dryer, 4-5 lights, a dehumidifier and the random vacuum.

    Teh small sub panel has 2 breakers, 1 for the dishwasher the other for the garbage disposal.

    The wire coming from the sub panel to the main fuse box burned off its sheathing and started arcing to wire that runs from the dishwasher and garbage disposal sub panel to the main fuse box. A good 4 inch section of copper wire is exposed on the wires coming from both sub panels due to the sheath burning off. I have power off to the sub panesl now and am about to call an electrician.

    Question:

    Can I just replace the burned wire from the sub panels to the main panel with lower gauge (fatter) wire and be done with it?


    I sit time to give in and upgrade to higher amp service with a new breaker box?

    any rough estimate on fuse box to breaker box upgrade? There are roughly 8 leads into the main fuse box with 6 15 amp fuses. One sub panel has 6 breakers on it the other has 2.

    Any help would be appreciated.


    This likely started burning after we plugged in a 1500 watt electric heater (Yeah, I know completely overloaded.

    I did notice the main panel getting hot before we plugged in the electric heater. but never did it burn. regardless, I suspect that the wire from the sub panels is underspec for the electricity flowing through them.

    “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough!” Benjamin Franklin

  • #2
    Re: Any electricians? need advice

    It does sound like the subpanel breakers are underrated for the wire feeding them. The whole point of breakers is to trip well before the upstream feed melts down. Something's seriously wrong if that doesn't happen. Did this not get properly inspected when it was first installed? (Someone's license could be at risk here, including both electrician and inspector.)

    Is there room in the conduit for larger wire? That's the biggest obstacle to going to a larger conductor.
    Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

    snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

    Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

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    • #3
      Re: Any electricians? need advice

      Time to upgrade. Contact a licensed electrician in your area. They are about the only ones who can meet the various codes in effect locally. It will be expensive, but cutting corners to save a few bucks isn't worth losing everything in a house fire. Also, you may have insurance, and people think they are good to go with that, but they fight tooth and nail before giving any money up and they never pay for all the little things you have accumulated over the years that make a house your home.

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      • #4
        Re: Any electricians? need advice

        update:

        Things were as I feared. We need to upgrade the main panel and incorporate the sub panel into it. This will mean an upgrade in service from the electrical company. Turns out the wire in the subpanel also burned.

        The copper wire from the sub panel to the main panel got so hot the copper turned this translucent white and is very brittle... The sheath burned completely off. It must have been glowing red hot....

        Interestingly, since it was a fire (although a very tiny one) my insurance company may cover it.

        It will be 2,000$ to upgrade from 60 amp fused to 200 amp breakers. But we will be able to turn on everything at once and not worry about burning down the house.

        “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough!” Benjamin Franklin

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        • #5
          Re: Any electricians? need advice

          My parents had to replace theirs too. It's expensive for a good electrician, but completely worth it for the safety you'll gain. As was said already, this is one area of a house you definitely don't want to cut any corners in. Sound's like you have it figured out tho. Stay safe!
          "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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          • #6
            Re: Any electricians? need advice

            How did the subpanel get put in without upgrading the main panel in the first place?
            Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

            snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

            Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Any electricians? need advice

              The wire coming from the sub panel to the main fuse box burned off its sheathing and started arcing to wire that runs from the dishwasher and garbage disposal sub panel to the main fuse box. A good 4 inch section of copper wire is exposed on the wires coming from both sub panels due to the sheath burning off. I have power off to the sub panesl now and am about to call an electrician.
              Replace it now, the archs from the wire could cause a fire in your house. For your safety replace the wire with a trained electricians, dont do it yourself. It may seem easy but, the electricians coming in must shutoff the power from outside.(Direct line from powerlines)

              Can I just replace the burned wire from the sub panels to the main panel with lower gauge (fatter) wire and be done with it?
              No, the wire will do the same thing and maybe even blow.

              I sit time to give in and upgrade to higher amp service with a new breaker box?
              Yes, it is time to upgrade your service.

              [quote]any rough estimate on fuse box to breaker box upgrade? There are roughly 8 leads into the main fuse box with 6 15 amp fuses. One sub panel has 6 breakers on it the other has 2.[/quote[

              For my area, its around a $900 job with labor, and stock.

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              • #8
                Re: Any electricians? need advice

                Soucy basically said what i was going to say and 900 bucks is actually pretty good.

                One thing that might save some cash is go to home depot/lowes and buy the parts you need before the electrician gets there. As in your boxes you will need and the replacement breakers. That way you dont have to buy them off the electrician doing the work.
                that sounds like a good idea trooper.
                -Vulcan

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                • #9
                  Re: Any electricians? need advice

                  Why would the new wire blow if it's fatter? Presumably the issue is that the old wire wasn't as fat as the downstream breakers assumed. Ideally the downstream breakers should blow well below the rating of the main-panel-to-subpanel feed.

                  If you provide your own parts, you need to know what to safely provide. That means the breakers need to be rated for what the lines can actually carry. There may be oddball local requirements that only a licensed electrician would know. (My neighbor did his own 2nd floor wiring when adding a 2nd floor to the house, and he had to make a couple iterations with the inspectors before they were happy. Some of the inspectors would roll their eyes at the nitpicks of other inspectors, especially when the criticism made no practical sense. And this is with someone who's had a lot of experience in industrial wiring in hazardous, sometimes explosive, environments.)
                  Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                  snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                  Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Any electricians? need advice

                    Why would the new wire blow if it's fatter? Presumably the issue is that the old wire wasn't as fat as the downstream breakers assumed. Ideally the downstream breakers should blow well below the rating of the main-panel-to-subpanel feed.
                    Even if its fatter would the termainal able to hold it? And I ment the termainal would blow(Short or something)

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                    • #11
                      Re: Any electricians? need advice

                      Also keep in mind that the wiring has been overheated, which damages the wire. This damage causes more resistance, which leads to more heat, more damage and the increased risk of fire. Simply upgrading one wire may not remove the entire problem and would be a "band-aid" fix at best. The fact that the circuit overloaded to begin with is a red flag that it is taxed out and that some of the load should be spread out by creating new circuits. As stated before, this generally requires a service upgrade and a reworking of the panel system and circuit routing. I remember when I was a kid and we had an old fuse panel and the lights would dim whenever the furnace or refrigerator kicked on. After the 200A upgrade and a nice new breaker box with nice, labeled breakers, we don't have that problem and it's very simple to turn on or off the different circuits for service and to add circuits.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Any electricians? need advice

                        Originally posted by Elwenil View Post
                        Contact a licensed electrician in your area. They are about the only ones who can meet the various codes in effect locally. It will be expensive, but cutting corners to save a few bucks isn't worth losing everything in a house fire.
                        Best advice yet...though I do admit a certain bias as I work for the NFPA, the people who make the National Electrical Code.
                        sigpic
                        |TG-1st|Grunt
                        ARMA Admin (retired)
                        Pathfinder-Spartan 5

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                        • #13
                          Re: Any electricians? need advice

                          This is Gloop's GF, I am an Electrician in NY state. I think your main problem was the 1500W heater you plugged in. I am sure that the panel was perfectly fine and had a balanced load before you attempted that. I strongly suggest that you DO NOT upgrade the wire to a larger gauge. That will solve the problem but then you are just overlooking the main problem. Tell me a little about that 1500W heater. Was it a single phase heater? Would you have been able to manage the load by running it of two phases? There are a variety of cheats to get around having to upgrade your entire service, but if this is going to be a regular item that you are powering, I recommend bringing in someone locally and either re-balancing the panel load distribution to compensate for the heater, or upgrading the service voltage you have coming into the house. You may want to move to a 2 bar panel as the main breaker panel and going off that. I do think that if you were to install some baseboard heaters throughout the basement, you can run the heaters off two breakers(20A) within the panel to get 208V. This way, you will get the amount of heat you want, and you won't be burning the sheathing off the wires. And you would be able to get rid off that 1500W heater. It sounds like a mini-salamander we had on a jobsite once. I think I covered everything... If there are anymore questions, just let Gloop know and I will answer them if I can.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Any electricians? need advice

                            Also, I didn't ask if you knew the gauges of the wires running from the main panel feeding the sub-panels. I can look up the proper sizing depending on the main breaker in each of those sub-panels. If they are each fed from a breaker within the main panel, there will not be a pain breaker for each sub-panel. Let me know.

                            -Meg

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                            • #15
                              Re: Any electricians? need advice

                              Originally posted by LtSoucy View Post
                              Even if its fatter would the termainal able to hold it? And I ment the termainal would blow(Short or something)
                              I'd guess that if the terminal was big enough to hold the larger gauge, it would handle the current of the larger gauge. But as others have pointed out, there's the existing damage to consider, plus the need to review the entire system for proper loading.

                              A 1500 watt heater is a fairly common size for a portable space heater. That's 15 amps at 100 volts, so it pretty much uses all of a baseline circuit.
                              Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                              snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                              Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

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