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  1. #1
    Charles Holt's Avatar
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    Default Undersized Panels?

    This my first post, but I appreciate all that others have contributed. The home I was inspecting today has two service panels. The Challenger panel data plates say they are 150 amps maximum. The wiring to the panels is 4/0 aluminum. Seeing the larger wire size, I didn't think anything of it until I came to the main disconnects at the exterior of the home. The disconnects are 200 amps. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated as I haven't come across mismatched disconnects before.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Those interior panels, do they have a main breaker in them or are they main lug ?


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    The panel (and its feeders) have to be listed for at least the amperage of the smallest breaker ahead of it. Which in this case sounds like it's the exterior 200A service disconnect... unless there is a second (150A or smaller) breaker serving as a disconnect (AKA "main breaker", in Ken's post) at the load-side panel.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 10-31-2010 at 07:07 AM. Reason: Improved clarity
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    The panel (and its feeders) has to be listed for at least the amperage of the smallest breaker ahead of it.
    Which is what Ken was saying with:
    Quote Originally Posted by ken horak View Post
    Those interior panels, do they have a main breaker in them or are they main lug ?
    If the panel itself has a main breaker for the panel (nothing prohibits any or every panel from having its own panel main, in fact, I feel the installation are safer with a main at each panel), then the panel main could serve as "the smallest breaker ahead of it" as the panel main would be ahead of the panel bus bars. The panel main would then need to be the same, or lower, rating as the panel bus bars.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  5. #5
    Charles Holt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Which is what Ken was saying with:


    If the panel itself has a main breaker for the panel (nothing prohibits any or every panel from having its own panel main, in fact, I feel the installation are safer with a main at each panel), then the panel main could serve as "the smallest breaker ahead of it" as the panel main would be ahead of the panel bus bars. The panel main would then need to be the same, or lower, rating as the panel bus bars.
    Jerry,

    There is no main breaker at either panel. The main breakers are at the meter...two 200 amp breakers for the 150 max Challenger panels. Not sure of the ramifications from a safety standpoint nor do I know how to wright it up as some Code authority approved this for the Certificate of Occupancy. Home was built in 1997. I guess the building officials can supercede the NEC and manufacturer's installlation instructions. If anyone out there can educate me, it would be greatly appreciated. I've been doing home inspections since 1994 and this is a first for me. I'm just trying to gain knowledge.


  6. #6
    Charles Holt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Holt View Post
    Jerry,

    There is no main breaker at either panel. The main breakers are at the meter...two 200 amp breakers for the 150 max Challenger panels. Not sure of the ramifications from a safety standpoint nor do I know how to wright it up as some Code authority approved this for the Certificate of Occupancy. Home was built in 1997. I guess the building officials can supercede the NEC and manufacturer's installlation instructions. If anyone out there can educate me, it would be greatly appreciated. I've been doing home inspections since 1994 and this is a first for me. I'm just trying to gain knowledge.
    oops...write


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Holt View Post
    There is no main breaker at either panel. The main breakers are at the meter...two 200 amp breakers for the 150 max Challenger panels.
    That is not good.

    Either the main disconnects need to be replaced with 150 amp mains (the easy solution, but it reduces the power available at the panels) or the panels need to be replaced with 200 amp rated panels (the more costly solution, but it leaves full available power at the panels).

    some Code authority approved this for the Certificate of Occupancy.
    Probably, but that does not make it right, still needs to be corrected.

    I guess the building officials can supercede the NEC and manufacturer's installlation instructions.
    Nope, but we sure can make mistakes too.

    Not only that, but ... AHJ code inspectors are not there making sure THAT EVERYTHING meets the code, we would be there all day, and the next, and the next, and ... there simply is no way for the AHJ inspectors to inspect EVERYTHING, thus the Final Inspection and the Certificate of Occupancy are simply stating that the things which were inspected passed. Those two papers do not mean that everything was inspected or that everything is okay and meets codes.

    I tried to inspect as much as I can, and I have more time allotted for the inspection than most AHJ and inspectors have as we are a small town with fewer inspections - but even then there are two things I can guarantee: 1) the AHJ cannot inspect it all; 2) the AHJ will miss things.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    If the main 200 amp disconnects were not part of the meter base enclosure and were remote from the meter and meter base in individual enclosures I'd be tempted to recommend that the meter base be checked for proper class 320 rating for a 400 amp service. I only say this because challenger panels are a bit dated and it may be hard to say what resourcefulness may have occurred with the service entrance wiring and existing meter over the years.
    .
    BTW ... welcome to the forum and we love good pictures of your inspected equipment. It really helps us to not have to ask a long series of questions to get all the information needed to give an accurate response.


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Did Challenger make 150 A max split bus panels in 1996/7?


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Holt View Post
    Jerry,

    There is no main breaker at either panel. The main breakers are at the meter...two 200 amp breakers for the 150 max Challenger panels. Not sure of the ramifications from a safety standpoint nor do I know how to wright it up as some Code authority approved this for the Certificate of Occupancy. Home was built in 1997. I guess the building officials can supercede the NEC and manufacturer's installlation instructions. If anyone out there can educate me, it would be greatly appreciated. I've been doing home inspections since 1994 and this is a first for me. I'm just trying to gain knowledge.
    Write it up as an incorrect installation.
    Interior panels are rated for 150 amperes maximum, as per manufactures labeling and the UL listing, of said panels. The panels in question are fed from exterior disconnecting means providing 200 amperes to the interior 150 ampere maximum allowed panels.

    You should report your findings regardless if it passed another inspection and a Certificate of Occupancy was issued.

    ANY INSPECTOR, AHJ, Plumbing, Mechanical Electrical, Building, or Home Inspector, who says they do not miss things are lying!!! I don't care who they are, they miss things.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Did Challenger make 150 A max split bus panels in 1996/7?
    I thought they were originally a Sylvania product until the early 80's, and were bought by ITE but I'm not recalling the details so likely could be wrong. Anyway I thought they were not in production in 1996 or 97...


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    there are two things I can guarantee: 1) the AHJ cannot inspect it all; 2) the AHJ will miss things.

    Quote Originally Posted by ken horak View Post
    ANY INSPECTOR, AHJ, Plumbing, Mechanical Electrical, Building, or Home Inspector, who says they do not miss things are lying!!! I don't care who they are, they miss things.
    Confirmation of what I said - cool.
    .


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    I wouldn't blame anything on a 1996/7 AHJ, even if there were any requirements for residential in where-ever Georgia.

    I'd suspect someone of after-the-fact substituting larger Service Disconnects than what would have been original, 100A, 125A or 150A, likely a DIYer who was tired of tripping and going outside to reset.


    May be a multi-family or 2-family occupancy? dual meters/disconnects? Feeders, Taps, or both?

    I'm finding 1996/7 Cutler-Hammer and Challenger branded documents with Eaton's insignia hosted on their (Eaton's) site, some with earlier edition dates, but with revision dates at that time. I also dug up the not actually identified as "classified" old UL letter (proclaiming "acceptable") about using CutlerHammer cross referenced circuit breakers and fused switches for Challenger branded equipment references on Eaton's site (attached). Hard to find since it has been moved/renamed on Eaton's site, so often. Also dug up an Eaton site "ad" featuring a newspaper clipping about commercial/industrial fire 1998 pushing their breakers for Challenger, Westinghouse, etc.

    Hey, Original Poster, regarding this/these 200 Amp disconnects, how about a picture, how about a picture of the loadcenter/distribution panels you're referencing? How about some details from the labeling and wiring diagrams? How about some answers regarding MLO, split buss or Mains?

    Roger F., For example Disconnects Type CHH 175-225 Trip Amps, wiring size (AL/CU)minimum is #2/0 Line and Load side, a 150 max is 4/0.

    I'm thinking (could be faulty memory) that basically split buss loadcenters weren't being made much after mid-80s either. For some reason I'm thinking Eaton owned Challenger from about that time or just earlier also. I'm finding Challenger branded documents some with Eaton insignias hosted on Eaton's site with dates 80s through mid/late 90s.

    When I navigate Eaton's Technical documents under classified circuit breakers, I find no documents relating residential Challenger applications, I had to scour to find what I did.

    4/0 size/and material (Aluminum) /identification is questioned as is the equipment descriptions, as everything stated has been very vague.

    Bottom line is that I wouldn't necessarily call the feeder load side panels undersized, I'd call the feeders/taps possibly undersized and the SERVICE DISCONNECT(S) (fused switches or circuit breakers) OVERSIZED at 200 amps.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 10-31-2010 at 01:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Roger, yes the product history/challenger line is confusing. I frankly remembered it wrong myself. I knew I had something from Eaton, somewhere outlining the Challenger/BR Loadcenter history....I finally found it, a 2008 Eaton Doc.

    May also prove helpful to the OP identifying what "vintage" Challenger panels are present (location - city, state identification of manufacture).

    Quoting from the attached, good idea to d/l may need it someday, and things tend to move around on Eaton's site.

    (Load Centers)


    Product History


    BR Family
    "With the acquisition of Westinghouse's Distribution and Control Buisness Unit (DCBU) in 1994, Eaton Corporation gained the circuit breaker and loadcenter manufacturing and marketing operations of Westinghouse. Prior to 1989, these products were manufactured by Westinghouse's Bryant subsidiary in Bridgeport, CT. The products from this facility bore the Westinghouse and Bryant nameplates. In 1988, Westinghouse purchased Challenger Electric, redesigned the product, and moved all production from Bridgeport to Jackson, MS. As Eaton integrated the product lines in 1995, all load center production shifted to the Lincoln, IL facility."

    So it seems we had Challenger Electric produced in Bridgepoert, CT.

    1988 Westinghouse purchased Challenger, and redesigned product, and eventually moved all prduction out of Jackson, MS.

    1994 Eaton acquired Westinghouse's Circuit Breaker and Load Center business (including "Challenger" name), began "integration" of the product lines in 1995, and eventually and all load center production (type BR)shifted to Lincoln, IL.

    Exploring the various "vintage(s)" notes on the type BR load centers in the attached, can be confusing.

    Hope the attached helps the OP. I've eaten too much candy, I need a nap!



  15. #15
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Whew HG

    You must have really dug to get all that but anyway I found it interesting to read.

    I don't think we have very good odds that the panels in question are split bus and I too am a bit suspicious of the resourcefulness that may have occurred since the original installation.

    At any rate without pictures or clarification the panels are undersized as described and at this point probably best to wait for a reply from the op before getting too much information posted that turns out to be unnecessary.

    Fwiw .. I never have a problem with detailed information necessary or not and actually think it is a bonus to those here who want to learn specifics .. so appreciate your posts about product history etc..... but then I have the time to read them....


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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    I threw those docs in there for the OP, since the MLO or MCB or even wondered if there might be an older "Challenger" split bus panel pre-westinghouse acquision, old stock 80s, installed as new to 96/97 construction, or later; could be Westinghouse produced Challenger panels post westinghouse re-design to "BR" but pre Eaton acquistion, could be Eaton acquired, pre-re-design production, or Post-Eaton acquired, post-re-design, Lincoln production. Any of which could have been re-fitted with new cover plates. The same doc under the "CH" family history hits major NEC/UL vintage dates regarding changes in load-center design/requirements.

    I'd be concered with a 4/0 aluminum feeder too. That's why I'd go with the service disconnects are oversized based on the OPs description, not necessarily the feeder panels are undersized. However, we've seen some interesting things in that part of the country posted (NC, GA) like Sidney Alstead's ST(O) cord being installed as feeder cable in attic to feeder panel for HVAC in condo attic with a sickening neutral.

    I chomped on a lot of candy looking for old pdfs on the computer. Shot my sugar through the roof, renamed the docs so I can find them if need be before hardrive dies.


  17. #17
    Charles Holt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Undersized Panels?

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    I threw those docs in there for the OP, since the MLO or MCB or even wondered if there might be an older "Challenger" split bus panel pre-westinghouse acquision, old stock 80s, installed as new to 96/97 construction, or later; could be Westinghouse produced Challenger panels post westinghouse re-design to "BR" but pre Eaton acquistion, could be Eaton acquired, pre-re-design production, or Post-Eaton acquired, post-re-design, Lincoln production. Any of which could have been re-fitted with new cover plates. The same doc under the "CH" family history hits major NEC/UL vintage dates regarding changes in load-center design/requirements.

    I'd be concered with a 4/0 aluminum feeder too. That's why I'd go with the service disconnects are oversized based on the OPs description, not necessarily the feeder panels are undersized. However, we've seen some interesting things in that part of the country posted (NC, GA) like Sidney Alstead's ST(O) cord being installed as feeder cable in attic to feeder panel for HVAC in condo attic with a sickening neutral.

    I chomped on a lot of candy looking for old pdfs on the computer. Shot my sugar through the roof, renamed the docs so I can find them if need be before hardrive dies.
    Thank you to everyone who commented. My recommendations in the report will reflect the discrepencies between disconnect size and panel rating, recommending that the main disconnects be changed to match the panel size. My additional input will include contacting a licensed electrician for further evaluation and repair. If the electrician wants to ok the current configuration, he has to put his license on it.


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