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  1. #1
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    Default An Electrician created this mess, why?

    This 90 yr old house of over 2000 sq ft still uses the old fuse panel for most circuits. Service was upgraded a bit to 100 Amps, but that was so they could install a plenum-type heater, that needs a 100 amp supply. They installed a Federal Stab-Lok panel with a max rating of 125 Amp. The 60 amp breaker on the right supplies the old fuse panel, the one on the left is 100 a for the furnace.
    Then the oil-fired water heater failed, so they installed a third panel, another Stab-Lok, on two 20 Amp fuses.

    The square ammeters in the first panel are for a second meter which records power consumption for discount prices, not transferrable to the new owner.

    My client now wants to sell. Too bad this whole mess was a waste of $$ and did nothing to raise the value of his property.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    At least the fix is easy.
    Tear it all out and start over.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  3. #3
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Too bad this whole mess was a waste of $$ and did nothing to raise the value of his property.
    Did you ever consider that that was all the client wanted to do, or could afford???

    Maybe an upgrade was out of their price range? Especially after buying that plenum heater (whatever that is).

    The work itself is actually not that bad. Sure, and upgrade with a larger panel would have been a better job, but I am sure the customer got exactly what they paid for.

    You automatically blame the electrician. Just like I was told previously here. Don't go slamming the other guy until you know all the details.


    And just so others know, FPE (NOT the old FPE) is standard issue in Canada. How this is and what the changes from the old FPE are I don't know.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    The main thing I see which would need to be checked and verified would be that what used to be "service equipment" and is now just a "fuse panel" needs to make sure that neutrals are isolated from ground.

    Now sure about up in Canada, but down here many of the old fuse panels which were designed as service equipment had no way of isolating the neutrals from ground (no need to when it was "service equipment").

    I see some crushed NM cables from staples having been driven too tight way-back-when it was installed, and other things.

    However, as Peter said (basically said) fix the things which are wrong and it will be okay.

    Sure, I would recommend replacement too, that's what home inspectors do.

    Write up what is wrong (and check the neutrals in that old-but-no-longer service equipment fuse panel) and recommend replacement to correct everything and put everything in a nice new enclosure where it can all be taken care of properly. Besides, if insurance companies up there are like they are down here, your client most likely WILL NOT be able to get insurance with that breaker panel, which is the kicker to kick start the replacement of it all.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
    Did you ever consider that that was all the client wanted to do, or could afford???
    Sure, an upgrade with a larger panel would have been a better job, but I am sure the customer got exactly what they paid for.
    You automatically blame the electrician. Just like I was told previously here. Don't go slamming the other guy until you know all the details.
    And just so others know, FPE (NOT the old FPE) is standard issue in Canada. How this is and what the changes from the old FPE are I don't know.
    OK. I posted the pics because I thought it was an interesting arrangement of breakers and fuses. Then yeah, I blame the electrician for not avoiding this by simply starting with a larger combination panel. Sorry sir, it'll cost $50 more, but you'll thank me someday.


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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    The main thing I see which would need to be checked and verified would be that what used to be "service equipment" and is now just a "fuse panel" needs to make sure that neutrals are isolated from ground.
    many of the old fuse panels which were designed as service equipment had no way of isolating the neutrals from ground (no need to when it was "service equipment").
    That's a good question. I made the assumption that there was originally a fused disconnect ahead of that fuse panel, which is what we'd normally see here. I don't test for isolation of the neutral except by visual, and would you take a resistance reading for that?

    Sure, I would recommend replacement too, that's what home inspectors do.

    Write up what is wrong (and check the neutrals in that old-but-no-longer service equipment fuse panel) and recommend replacement to correct everything and put everything in a nice new enclosure where it can all be taken care of properly. Besides, if insurance companies up there are like they are down here, your client most likely WILL NOT be able to get insurance with that breaker panel, which is the kicker to kick start the replacement of it all.
    I was inspecting for the owner in this case. We had a long discussion about this, and he admits he should have done diff, but just didn't know better. Yes, it will all have to be upgraded for the new owner, unless they pay cash and skip the insurance.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Then yeah, I blame the electrician for not avoiding this by simply starting with a larger combination panel. Sorry sir, it'll cost $50 more, but you'll thank me someday.
    Then there is the real world, where the customer says: "No. Just do what you need to make it work. That stupid heater cost me enough."
    And I can tell you the difference between that job and a service upgrade is just a bit more than $50.

    I get the quite often with pools and hot tubs. Folks get all bent out of shape when I quote them $1000 to properly wire their $6000 hot tub.


    It is easy for you to criticize someone after the fact without knowing all the details.
    If what you say in your reply to Jerry is true, that the HO did not know any better, then yes, the electrician should have suggested the upgrade. He was probably just doing what was asked and was not smart enough to suggest otherwise.

    John, just for my own curiosity, what is your background in the trades?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    One of the first things I would've done here would be a load calculation. The 100 amp upgrade may not have been enough. Another concern is those green glass fuses. Usually they are the old 30 amp stop-gaps that people used for nuisance blows, under protecting a 15 or 20 amp circuit. This always gives me the heebie-jeebies. I see there are some type-s sockets in there, which is good for preventing that type of shenanigans.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Not a thing wrong with screw in fuses. Just not as convenient as we like.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    I fully agree Speedy, as the owners needs changed over the years is when he was faced with the cost of doing a small upgrade vs replacing the entire panel. That's why you've got these sub-panels daisy-chained together. It always comes down to cost (for most people). Of course now in hind-sight, everyone's reaction is why didn't they just upgrade the main panel to start with ?

    Joe Klampfer RHI
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Johnston View Post
    Not a thing wrong with screw in fuses.

    Actually, there is - they are very easily defeated and bypassed by the old penny trick or wrapping with aluminum foil.

    The NEC has, and for a very long time now, required replacement of overfused Edison base fuses by some other protection means. Basically if the Edison base fuse holder has evidence of overfusing, replacing with another Edison base fuse is prohibited.

    Installing Edison base fuse holders is only permitted when they are made to accept Type S fuses by the installation of adapter.

    Which all means that if there is evidence of overfusing one is not allowed to install even the correct size Edison base fuse for a replacement, but an adapter for Type S fuses may be screwed in and the Type S safety type fuses may be used.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
    Then there is the real world, where the customer says: "No. Just do what you need to make it work. That stupid heater cost me enough."
    And I can tell you the difference between that job and a service upgrade is just a bit more than $50.
    It is easy for you to criticize someone after the fact without knowing all the details.
    If what you say in your reply to Jerry is true, that the HO did not know any better, then yes, the electrician should have suggested the upgrade. He was probably just doing what was asked and was not smart enough to suggest otherwise.

    John, just for my own curiosity, what is your background in the trades?
    OK. In the end I think we agree. I was suggesting $50 as around about the diff between a panel rated for 125 A and one rated for 200, back in '89. I know a service upgrade to 200 amps would cost way more then that, I tell them it could be $3000.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    There is nothing inherently wrong with using edison-base fuses.

    Where there is no evidence of tampering or over-fusing, one is still allowed to use the 'original' style plug fuse on existing installations.

    Moreover, there do exist circuit breakers that you can place in the fuse holder.

    In many circumstances, fuses of any sort are arguably a superior form of protection than circuit breakers, because even the 'time delay' types react much faster than breakers. A lot of the 'selective co-ordination' issues you hear about do not arise when fuses are used.

    Customer tampering? There's a reason the box stores sell so many breakers .... and it's not because electrical contractors are taking their business there!


  14. #14
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    A fuse is a circuit breaker- the point is in it's limitations. The limitation of Edison base fuses is that they are not amperage specific, so it's possible to overfuse a circuit. Type-S eliminates that possibilty when installed properly.


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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Got fuses? Anybody want fuses?

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  16. #16
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Actually, there is - they are very easily defeated and bypassed by the old penny trick or wrapping with aluminum foil.

    The NEC has, and for a very long time now, required replacement of overfused Edison base fuses by some other protection means. Basically if the Edison base fuse holder has evidence of overfusing, replacing with another Edison base fuse is prohibited.

    Installing Edison base fuse holders is only permitted when they are made to accept Type S fuses by the installation of adapter.

    Which all means that if there is evidence of overfusing one is not allowed to install even the correct size Edison base fuse for a replacement, but an adapter for Type S fuses may be screwed in and the Type S safety type fuses may be used.
    What do you mean by the old penny trick? Yes people can circumvent the purpose of any safety devise like seat belts or anything. When I said nothing wrong with fuses I meant used properly.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Johnston View Post
    What do you mean by the old penny trick? Yes people can circumvent the purpose of any safety devise like seat belts or anything. When I said nothing wrong with fuses I meant used properly.

    "When I said nothing wrong with fuses I meant used properly."

    That is my point - they are not used properly because they are so easy to defeat.

    Take your seat belt example, they were so easy NOT to use that manufacturers started putting buzzers in which went off when the seat belt was not used, then people complained about the buzzers, so the buzzers were made to only come on for a few seconds (to allow you to die without seatbelt in peace and quiet), then they replaced buzzers with a chime sound, to lull you to sleep so you could die in even more quiet (except for all that darn noise around you caused by the crashing and smashing of steel and glass). Heck, some manufacturers even went to "passive" seat belts in that you did not have to do anything, the seat belt did it for you, but no one liked those either.

    Things CAN be defeated, and THE EASIER it is to defeat them, the more often they will be defeated - and Edison base fuses are on that list.

    Which makes them LESS THAN "safe" and certainly LESS THAN "safer".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    To Speedy Petey, Federal Pioneer is apparently a name used up here by Federal Pacific and I have learned that anything Pioneer or Pacific should be called out. Are there newer panels made by this company that are not an issue up here? And how would I I.D. such a thing? I just don't want to be calling out something thats perfectly safe. Thanks for any info you have on that. Brian


  19. #19
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    "When I said nothing wrong with fuses I meant used properly."

    That is my point - they are not used properly because they are so easy to defeat.

    Take your seat belt example, they were so easy NOT to use that manufacturers started putting buzzers in which went off when the seat belt was not used, then people complained about the buzzers, so the buzzers were made to only come on for a few seconds (to allow you to die without seatbelt in peace and quiet), then they replaced buzzers with a chime sound, to lull you to sleep so you could die in even more quiet (except for all that darn noise around you caused by the crashing and smashing of steel and glass). Heck, some manufacturers even went to "passive" seat belts in that you did not have to do anything, the seat belt did it for you, but no one liked those either.

    Things CAN be defeated, and THE EASIER it is to defeat them, the more often they will be defeated - and Edison base fuses are on that list.

    Which makes them LESS THAN "safe" and certainly LESS THAN "safer".
    Still interested in the penny trick. Never heard of that one.


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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Robertson View Post
    To Speedy Petey, Federal Pioneer is apparently a name used up here by Federal Pacific and I have learned that anything Pioneer or Pacific should be called out. Are there newer panels made by this company that are not an issue up here? And how would I I.D. such a thing? I just don't want to be calling out something thats perfectly safe. Thanks for any info you have on that. Brian
    Schneider Electric Canada - Solutions, Products and Services in Electrical Distribution and Automation and Control 'Progress without obsolesence'.

    Federal Pacific is the older brand name, and the breakers can be of either Canadian or US manufacture.
    Federal Pioneer products are newer, made in Canada.
    I can't vouch for them, but will say they are popular units around here.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Hello All,

    There is an issue being overlooked here. We can argue all day long about the pro and cons of fuses vs. breakers in addition to risk when something is being used correctly or abused.

    There are other issues that are not dictated by law or code, but by policy.

    In some areas, for whatever their reasons, some lenders and insurance companies will not provide loans / insurance with homes that have 60 amp services and/or fuses. I believe this has been discussed here before.

    As a consultant, I would certainly want my client to be aware of this potential and recommend they check with their lender / insurance company to learn what they require.

    Best to All,
    Have a great holiday weekend.

    Corey


  22. #22
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Johnston View Post
    Still interested in the penny trick. Never heard of that one.
    You've never heard of putting a penny into an Edison base fuse socket then screwing the blown fuse back in?

    The penny contacts the center contact in the fuse base and contacts the screw shell, thereby making contact across the fuse holder as though the fuse was not even there (you can pass a heck of a lot of current through a copper penny before it melts). The fuse only holds the penny in place, heck, you could take the shell from a light bulb (lamp) and screw that in to hold the penny in place.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    You've never heard of putting a penny into an Edison base fuse socket then screwing the blown fuse back in?

    The penny contacts the center contact in the fuse base and contacts the screw shell, thereby making contact across the fuse holder as though the fuse was not even there (you can pass a heck of a lot of current through a copper penny before it melts). The fuse only holds the penny in place, heck, you could take the shell from a light bulb (lamp) and screw that in to hold the penny in place.
    Nope never heard that one. Thanks


  24. #24
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    A fuse is a circuit breaker? Either learn the difference, or stay out of the box! There's more to that topic than a simple post can address.

    Easy to defeat? It's not all that hard to change a breaker - ask any DIY forum.

    Federal Pioneer has nothing, apart from appearance, in common with Federal Pacific. While there were some allegations out of New York regarding two pole Federal pacific breakers, somehow our Canadian neighbors have not encountered the same issues. At the risk of reopening the entire FPE debate, this difference in experience alone is enough to undermine the anti-FPE hysteria some seem to enjoy.

    Incidentally, the breakers appear to be replacement breakers made by the "Unique Breaker Co" of China, and not original FPE. Even assuming the anti-FPE cant has merit, we have no reason to apply this to makers made by someone else. As for placing them in anothers' panel, well, the listing agency (in this case ETL) says it's OK - who am I to argue?


  25. #25
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Steinke View Post
    Easy to defeat? It's not all that hard to change a breaker - ask any DIY forum.
    Compare that to changing a fuse.

    But what is under discussion in that regard is the defeating of the device.

    Explain briefly how one defeats a breaker as easily as the old penny for Edison base fuses or wrapping the newer Type S fuses in aluminum foil. Thanks.

    By the way, there ARE "circuit breaker fuses", but I know you know that, and I also know those are not the ones the other person was talking about. What they were alluding to, I think, is the fact that when a fuse blows "it breaks the circuit, therefore it is a circuit breaker", which is correct in the most basic sense of the word but is completely incorrect in the definition of what circuit breakers and and what they do ... fuses are fuses and circuit breakers are circuit breakers.

    By definition ... a fuse *IS NOT* a "circuit breaker".

    From the NEC (I know you know this, this is for the other person).
    - Circuit Breaker. A device designed to open and close a circuit by nonautomatic means and to open the circuit automatically on a predetermined overcurrent without damage to itself when properly applied within its rating.
    - - FPN: The automatic opening means can be integral, direct acting with the circuit breaker, or remote from the circuit breaker.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: An Electrician created this mess, why?

    A fuse is a circuit breaker? Either learn the difference, or stay out of the box! There's more to that topic than a simple an address.
    ...I think it's time for de-caf, John.


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