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  1. #1
    mathew stouffer's Avatar
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    Default Too many wafer breakers in panel

    This is a general question, so hopefully I don't take too much heat This is a 5500 sq ft single family home built in 08. 200 amp service disconnect with one distribution panel for the house. Can too many wafer breakers be installed in a panel resulting is over crowding. It looks like a bowl of pasta.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    I'm sure the electrical gurus will chime in soon. The mini's aren't allowed here because of the very idea you mention. Could it happen sure. Haven't seen it happen or even been told of a real incident of it happening.
    Presumably, if the draw from the extra circuits is too much the main would pop off. My issue with these is that when I see them installed it usually means DIY, bad, goofy, unsafe wiring, a new addition to the house but too cheap to put in a bigger panel, etc. I don't really have to make a big deal out of the mini's because there's so much other stuff wrong. I end up calling for Sparky no matter what. I would check your AHJ and see if they are allowed locally or not.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Brand new panels are sold (typically) with a part number that gives the number of spaces and the number of circuits. If the two numbers are the same then only full width breakers are allowed - example, xxxx4040 indicates 40 spaces and 40 circuits. If the numbers are different, it indicates that tandem, double, half wide, skinny - whatever breakers are allowed in at least some of the panel. A xxxx2040 in a part number usually indicates that there are 20 full width spaces and 40 circuits are permitted - meaning that 20 tandem or 40 skinny breakers are allowed.

    Many service changes are done with a 20-40 type panel because there often isn't room for, or owners don't want, a locker sized panel mounted in place of the old one.

    The issue with these "small" breakers not being "as good as", or somehow being a "non professional" install is pure bunk. These breakers are put through exactly the same testing processes as their wider brothers and most have exactly the same innards.

    Unless an AHJ has a published rule to the contrary the tandem and/or skinny breakers are entirely legal - provided they are approved for the panel they get installed in.

    As has been pointed out in numerous other posts on this board, the number of breakers in a panel is irrelevant. The loads are the issue. You will often find that a circuit that feeds 3 or 4 bedrooms (and has 16-20 receptacles may have less of a load than a single small appliance kitchen circuit. In a residence it is just as legal to feed all 20 of these receptacles off one circuit as it is to run a separate circuit for each one.

    It is entirely reasonable to provide a means of future expansion with a panel that allows more than one breaker per slot. Keep in mind 150 and 200 AMP panels are overkill for many homes and that an average homeowner couldn't pay the electric bill for a 200 AMP panel running at capacity even a small percentage of the time.

    Personal opinions concerning whether or not a tandem or skinny breaker are amature work are pretty stupid when you consider changing the panel can add a several thousand dollar upcharge to a several hundred dollar receptacle circuit installation.

    The 2011 NEC may change SOP on installing this type of panel but I suspect when the public gets wind of what's in store that pressure will be brought to bear to alter AFCI requirements.

    Resi electricians work in a very competitive environment where "pretty" wiring is frowned on by many employeers because of the time it takes. A panel can be very "ugly" inside and be perfectly safe and functional. A panel upgrade can be "ugly" as well simply because there is limited wire to work with in many cases. It is also very unlikly that a panel can be "too full" if it contains the number of circuits it is designed for. You may not like how a panel looks inside but that doesn't mean that the panel is unsafe or that it needs evaluation by a pro.

    Finally, Chicago and its' off the wall requirements for electrical work may be considered "Cadillac" installs by some but most of the rest of the country just laughs at them, having long ago abandoned requiring resi conduit installs. Most jurisdictions also allow electrical equipment to be used as designed by the manufacturer instead of supposing that the city boys know more than the people who make the stuff do.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by mathew stouffer View Post
    This is a general question, so hopefully I don't take too much heat This is a 5500 sq ft single family home built in 08. 200 amp service disconnect with one distribution panel for the house. Can too many wafer breakers be installed in a panel resulting is over crowding. It looks like a bowl of pasta.
    Yes, too many breakers can be installed in a panel, they may not be, but they can be. Depends on the ratings and limitations of the panel, buss, etc. if the correct listed breakers are used or illegally modified panel, and if the panel is CTL or not, MLO or Main breaker, or not, etc.. It is possible to exceed the scheduled, labeled listed capabilities/fill/use of a panel, even install a branch or feeder exceding the panel limitations, but it is not permissible to do so difference between "may" (shall/should/allowed or safe) vs. "can" as in "able" or physically possible to do so. It is possible to overfill the wiring spaces/troughs also - just not permissible to do so as well.

    The information you seek would be on the panel labels and wiring diagrams info, which you have chosen not to picture. I do not see "spagetti" wiring here, not sure what your concern is within the panel itself other than lacking a main disconnect as more than 20 percent are less than 30 amp circuits and a 2008 install would likely be 2005 NEC. I counted 40, the indications on the listing labels would tell us more. I don't see the "pasta"/spagetti issue you do, excepting two conductor paths which cross the lug "zone" and are not within the designated wiring areas, easily corrected.

    I am however immediately concerned about the wiring method and installation methods and panel installation location, employed here. This surface type is mounted within unenclosed stud cavities, floating out in the middle of a basement or room area, and the NM above is neither secured, protected, spaced, nor covered properly (open above, excess of two cables per opening, not stapled, bundling, exposed, no protection from damage below ceiling, etc.). There appears no closure bottom or backside either esp. the lower open mounting position opening. The stud "wall" is not stopped or braced for that matter. This would lead me to surmise that either the panel/location installation is not original, or finals weren't granted two years ago, or that significant deconstruction or demolition has occured in this area and modifications to the electrical system have occured post finals.



    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-06-2010 at 02:00 PM. Reason: insert picture of concern.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Also, some AHJs (for example, my home town) prohibit these breakers as they feel they make it too easy to place both ungrounded conductors in a multi-wire circuit on the same phase.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 11-06-2010 at 01:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    I don't see any wafers only molded case tandems. A Square-D tandem in space 29 (lowest left) and a double-pole Square-D occupying 15/17 (mid-left).

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-07-2010 at 12:00 PM. Reason: Wasn't clear pointing out SquareD tandem & Dbl Pole

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    EDIT: NOT sure if the panel is correctly fed with 4 wire Feeder looks like 3 wire SEU cable

    That panel is a cutler hammer Br series. It is a 3040. meaning it has 30 full size spaces with the allowance for 10 tandem ( you call wafer) breakers in the lower part of the panel.

    There is one square d double pole breaker installed in that BR panel. That is not correct. It should not be there. It fits but is not classified to install in that panel.

    Matt ...

    Rather than me go through everything about that panel if you will go here to this link

    Residential Products

    Go over to the right column under ' catalogs ' and click on ' tab 03 load centers and circuit breakers' then open the pdf file that comes up.

    Everything you ever want to know about a cutler hammer CH or BR panel is in that file ...

    Just a note ... your shown panel has had grounding bars added and they appear to be located in the correct area of the panel installed in pre-drilled holes from the manufacturer. You can see this area and the supplied mounting holes in the above document I linked you to on page 46.

    Thing to look for in your situation is that the neutral and grounding has been isolated since this panel is down stream of the service equipment and in the same structure.dwelling as the service equipment. It appears to be correct from what I see.

    There are also 2 neutral terminal bars set on insulated standoffs (one you can see in your picture) in that panel one on each side of the panel.. There should be a flat metal strap that runs underneath/behind the top area of the mounting rails for the breakers that bonds these to neutral terminal bars. Be sure they did not bond that strap to the metal can of the panel ... if 4 wire feeder.
    You can see that bonding strap also on page 46 of the file.

    On that same page you will notice that the bottom 5 positions of the bus stabs are notched to accept wafer or tandem breakers. Since the panel is ctl (circuit limiting) the tandem breakers will have rejection tabs that will not allow the tandem breaker to install on a bus stab that is not notched and therefore the panel cannot be over filled with too many breakers.

    But as HG tells you there are resourceful ways to defeat the ctl features of a panel design.


    So you need to look at the wiring diagram on the panel and make sure there are no tandems breakers installed in spaces where they do not belong. In general a panel will have either a notched bus stab or the mounting rail for the breaker will have a slot in it that will allow the installation of a tandem breaker (legally..).

    Hope this helps

    Roger

    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-07-2010 at 12:28 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Rather than edit the last post I am a pretty sure the mlo panel is fed with SEU cable and appears to be 3 wires only. 2 hots and neutral ... no equipment ground.

    If that is the case then the feeder coming from the service equipment is incorrect and should be 4 wires.

    Placed a note to this effect in previous reply.

    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-07-2010 at 12:06 PM.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Just to add if that is a 3 wire feeder ... for now .. the bonding strap I mentioned earlier between the neutral bars should be bonded to the metal can in order to provide a ground fault path over the feeder neutral so the breakers will trip on fault.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Roger/Mat,
    I realized by second post was unclear. Was in process of correcting, and in the time it took me...(ugh! froze), Roger had posted three times (and edited all three posts!)

    !I meant that I don't see "wafers" but molded case tandems, However, ONE of those tandems appears to be a Square D (bottom left, space 29) and there is a double pole Square D up at about 15/17.

    My concern is that they (square D breakers) do not belong there, as well as the mounting of the panel in unfinished and unblocked stud wall, unclosed exposed wiring unsecured and improperly secured in basement below ceiling level, and unclosed finger hole opening at back panel (for surface mounting) centered just below spaces 29 & 30. Cables are 3/4 per "hole" above, not secured properly in wall cavity, The unfinished stud wall communicates with the unfinished floor ceiling assembly above and has no blocking or bracing and is in the middle of the "room" or area.

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    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-07-2010 at 12:31 PM. Reason: Drat! Lost formattin' again!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    HG

    I'm seeing a 3 wire feeder to that panel ... ?? You see the same?

    And yes there is a squared d tandem in space 29.

    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-07-2010 at 04:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    The first and third pics are the ones that would picture the area, and poorly lit/bad pixelization I lose all detail when I try to blow them up.
    Unfortunately the "good" pic (middle one) cuts off just above the N lug is overlayed over another pic at the top edge, and doesn't show the top of the cabinet but blows up reasonably well.

    Cable looks to be flat/gray bare seems to be going to G bar on the R. N terminals are on far right side of cab.

    Can't say one way or the other. Mat will have to say, or supply a better resolution/blow-up of the area. He's a photoshop wiz, sure he can do if he's of a mind to.

    P.S. Did notice 2-wire 2-P at 2/4 identified conductor as hot.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-07-2010 at 01:05 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Yes I'm having the same problem. Also think I see the braided bare ground going to the grounding bar lug on the right side of panel in the 3rd picture Matt posted as you mentioned. When I move the picture to my photo shop and work on it a bit I think I see a insulated neutral going to the neutral bar on the right hand side of panel.

    Anyway for these type panels that are mlo or main breaker they have the metal bonding strap going between the two neutral bars inside a insulating sleeve. There is a bonding jumper that is factory attached to back of the panel .. it will be hanging loose to be attached to the right side neutral terminal bus if needed for a service equipment application.

    My point to Matt is that if he does have a 4 wire feeder then be sure they did not bond the right side neutral termination bar to the metal can of the panel with that bonding jumper.

    You can see the insulating sleeve over the bonding strap just to the left of the top left double pole breaker.

    The preferred method to separate the ground from neutral in these panels using the insulated bonding strap is to not remove the strap to convert one of the neutral bars to a grounding bar. Instead you leave the bonding strap in place preserving the split neutral design and add grounding bars ... one with a lug to accept the equipment ground of the 4 wire feeder.

    Main thing is when you do this you do not connect that factory bonding jumper hanging loose on the panel back plate to right side neutral bar ... which of course would only make sense.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    I've looked at all three photos and they all look like the same panel - a main lug only panel fed by SE cable, which would mean that panel is either: a) the service equipment which is wired incorrectly (among other things) or; b) a non-service equipment which is fed incorrectly (among other things).

    I am sure it is not a) as Mat said there was a 200 amp main disconnect somewhere else.

    That leaves b), which means the SE cable needs to be removed and replaced with either SER cable or with some other appropriate feeder wiring method.

    I realize some of the above was discussed in the posts above by Bill, H. G. and Roger, but in reading those posts I did not see where the above was clearly stated with the other issues which were also discussed.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I've looked at all three photos and they all look like the same panel - a main lug only panel fed by SE cable, which would mean that panel is either: a) the service equipment which is wired incorrectly (among other things) or; b) a non-service equipment which is fed incorrectly (among other things).

    I am sure it is not a) as Mat said there was a 200 amp main disconnect somewhere else.

    That leaves b), which means the SE cable needs to be removed and replaced with either SER cable or with some other appropriate feeder wiring method.

    I realize some of the above was discussed in the posts above by Bill, H. G. and Roger, but in reading those posts I did not see where the above was clearly stated with the other issues which were also discussed.
    No it wasn't very clear so glad you summarized it a little better.

    I think it probably is 4 wire AL SER. At first I thought that bare stranded was braided like SEU would have but I think it is just separation of the al strands that makes it look that way where it bends.

    The below picture is what I think is present. Red arrow is the bare ground ... blue dots are the ground route to the grounding terminal lug .. light blue arrow. Yellow arrow is the insulated neutral terminating in the neutral lug. And green arrow is the bonding strap.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Frazee View Post
    I think it probably is 4 wire AL SER. At first I thought that bare stranded was braided like SEU would have but I think it is just separation of the al strands that makes it look that way where it bends.

    Roger,

    Look in the 3rd photo, I see what you are pointing to, but I also see no insulated neutral conductor coming out of that cable, and the neutral is required to be insulated (except for when it is part of service entrance cable).

    If that is SER, then someone stripped the insulation off all the way back to the cable, and that is not good either.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Yes and I suppose only way we are going to know is if Matt has a better picture or can clarify.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Roger,

    Look in the 3rd photo, I see what you are pointing to, but I also see no insulated neutral conductor coming out of that cable
    The insulated neutral is there in the pic you posted, Jerry, directly behind the bare grounding conductor. It has a greyish tint to it, and is concealed by the black and the white branch circuit feeders.

    Try tracing it back from the lug on the extreme right. It was gone for me too, then it popped into view.

    In which case, neutral should not be bonded with that strap.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 11-07-2010 at 08:19 PM.
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Try tracing it back from the lug on the extreme right. It was gone for me too, then it popped into view.
    John,

    SEE IT!

    Thanks!

    (Criminey, it was even in the ellipse I drew and I STILL did not see it. )

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    The insulated neutral is there in the pic you posted, Jerry, directly behind the bare grounding conductor. It has a greyish tint to it, and is concealed by the black and the white branch circuit feeders.

    Try tracing it back from the lug on the extreme right. It was gone for me too, then it popped into view.

    In which case, neutral should not be bonded with that strap.
    Yep that is what I thought I was seeing too but I didn't want to bet the bank on it ...

    FWIW ...the type panel shown uses one of the two options by cutler hammer in its modern (newer panels). In this case the panel shown uses an insulated sleeve over the metal strap that bonds the two neutral terminal bars (split neutral) and you do not bond the panel metal to neutral with the strap. This panel will come with a bonding jumper factory installed and you use that bonding jumper to bond neutral to ground. The bonding strap only bonds the neutral bars on the insulated standoffs.

    The other type split neutral panel cutler hammer uses has a uninsulated bonding strap that connects to a bonding jumper. In these panels you remove the bonding jumper then reinstall the screw it in the bonding strap or you can remove the strap and install the bonding jumper on the left hand neutral bar converting it to a grounding bar. Both types have the option for additional grounding bars..sorta like these images ...

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    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-08-2010 at 12:24 AM.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    At 5500 square feet and only 200 amp service, you should be very careful to insure the panel is not overloated. Check the panel manufacture's specs for this panel. In this area I would normally see a minimum of 225 amps, and then only when there is gas heat and hot water.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Thanks for all of the info. I don't have additional pics, but it was 4 cable, not 3. Also there is there AC compressors outside which have not been connected. So another panel will likely need to be installed.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Michael Thomas, Your home town AHJ prohibits tandems because he feels it's too easy to put a multi-wire on the same phase.....
    Does anyone question my fellow AHJ's when they take these liberties?
    What legislation has been passed that allow him/her to prohibit based on how he feels with no codes given to do so??

    Don Horn, 225 amp service just because of 5500 sq ft? Please tell me U jest. If you don't understand how a service is sized, then please forgive me. If you do, then please tell me I missed your point.

    If you don't know some basics in sizing a residential service Don, that's OK, but don't assume (other than the 3va/sq ft for general lighting) that the size of a home dictates the service size required.
    If you would like to know more, I would suggest you start a new thread on the subject.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by bob smit View Post
    Michael Thomas, Your home town AHJ prohibits tandems because he feels it's too easy to put a multi-wire on the same phase.....
    Does anyone question my fellow AHJ's when they take these liberties?
    What legislation has been passed that allow him/her to prohibit based on how he feels with no codes given to do so??

    Don Horn, 225 amp service just because of 5500 sq ft? Please tell me U jest. If you don't understand how a service is sized, then please forgive me. If you do, then please tell me I missed your point.

    If you don't know some basics in sizing a residential service Don, that's OK, but don't assume (other than the 3va/sq ft for general lighting) that the size of a home dictates the service size required.
    If you would like to know more, I would suggest you start a new thread on the subject.
    Bob - there's a certain amount of incredulousness involved by most of us when Chicago rules are bandied about. This one ranks right up there with no NM-B.

    I'd also agree with you about panel size except Don is in an area where there's some monster sized A/C loads sometimes. You're entirely right though, after all the figgurin' there's only one more 15 AMP circuit required in a 5500 Sq. Ft. house over a 2500 Sq. Ft.


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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    I'd also agree with you about panel size except Don is in an area where there's some monster sized A/C loads sometimes. You're entirely right though, after all the figgurin' there's only one more 15 AMP circuit required in a 5500 Sq. Ft. house over a 2500 Sq. Ft.
    Not really that big of a load. Anyway the newer A/C units pull about half of the amperage than they did 5 years ago. I see plenty of 200 amp big homes in middle TN.

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    Default Re: Too many wafer breakers in panel

    OLY QUAP! Just read my post (above), sure came across with a condescending tone. I apologize. The tone was a response to some of my fellow AHJ's sense that their authority is theirs' as opposed to what is given them by legislation.
    I get the 'Chicago' thing, but trust that even the AHJs in that city cannot enforce what they feel might happen,.. and I assume.


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