Results 1 to 20 of 20
  1. #1

    Default Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Hello all,
    Now I know this is a highly debated subject in some circles, but I also believe that this should be done.
    I performed an inspection recently on a house that was built in the 60's, where I recommended seperating and isolating the neutrals and grounds in a sub panel. The listing agent's electrician came in and said that everything is safe because the panel is a three wire system where the neutral and ground is bonded in the main panel. He contacted the local ahj and they informed him that it was grandfathered in unless the house was:
    A.) unoccupied
    b.) If any alterations had been made to the panel.
    C.) If more than fifty percent of the house is under renovation. One caviat to this is that the county that the house is in did not have mandated code inforcment until after 2006. He did have to make corrections within the panel based on my finding that one of the feeders was melted near the lug. He went into the panel and cut back the feeder and re-attached the now shorter wire to the lug. I told the electrician that he would need to provide a letter of clearance and he did. Now the buyers agent is under the impression that I was wrong. If someone could provide me with a little clarification on this subject along with any reference material it would be greatly appreciated.

    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by George Hallaron; 02-22-2013 at 11:29 AM.
    F.I.R.E. Services
    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Columbus GA
    Posts
    3,746

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    The agents electrician was correct.
    There can be some discussion as to his description of it as "safe". It would be more accurate to describe it as "as safe as it ever was".

    Only in certain circumstances will the electrical system be "Required" to meet the current standards.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
    Posts
    4,170

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    The AHJ is not the arbiter with "SAFE" standards, only with what they can currently enforce.
    They can only enforce the minimum standards in effect at the time it was built unless a "trigger" event happens.
    They cannot force the upgrade to current standards unless something triggers their enforcement powers like a remodel or repair that requires a permit.
    Kind of like having an illegal drug in your house, the police have no authority to knock down your door and take it unless they have probable cause to get a search warrant.
    But just because they have no authority to change it does not make the drug legal.
    Your a,b,and c are triggers to allow them to enforce changes to the most current code.
    Explain to the clients that codes are continually updated to make houses safer, usually because someone died or was injured. This change is already on the books and it required even though the AHJ can't force the change.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Mesa AZ
    Posts
    1,181

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Hallaron View Post
    Hello all,
    Now I know this is a highly debated subject in some circles, but I also believe that this should be done.
    I performed an inspection recently on a house that was built in the 60's, where I recommended seperating and isolating the neutrals and grounds in a sub panel. The listing agent's electrician came in and said that everything is safe because the panel is a three wire system where the neutral and ground is bonded in the main panel. He contacted the local ahj and they informed him that it was grandfathered in unless the house was:

    I told the electrician that he would need to provide a letter of clearance and he did. Now the buyers agent is under the impression that I was wrong. If someone could provide me with a little clarification on this subject along with any reference material it would be greatly appreciated.
    I treat this the same way as GFCI or ARC fault recommendations.
    I just state this is the current requirements, recommend to correct it as a safety concern and move on.

    Phoenix AZ Resale Home, Mobile Home, New Home Warranty Inspections. ASHI Certified Inspector #206929 Arizona Certified Inspector # 38440
    www.inspectaz.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    I would tell the buyers, that code is always being changed. Just because something is grandfathered doesn't mean that it is OK. They changed the code for a reason. If it was OK, then the code would not have been changed. Your assessment stands. You aren't wrong. Even though there is no requirement to update aluminum branch wiring to copper, that doesn't mean that there aren't safety concerns with aluminum. Ditto with that sub panel.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Thanks fellas,

    I don't presume to be one of those inspectors that feels he is beyond reproach. I am always willing to entertain opposing points of view. From my prospective, I made the recommendation to have a licensed electrician repair as necassary for safety. He submitted a letter of safety certification with his license number stating that the work was not necassary, so as far as I'm concerned any liability will fall to him as the licensed specialist. I would certainly appreciate anymore feedback, as I like to consider myself a perpetual student as it pertains to learning from past experiences.

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  7. #7

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Robert,

    That is a very valid point, however as I stated in my earlier post, the county in which the house was built did not odopt any code compliance rules until after 2006 and the state still to this day to the best of my knowledge leaves code compliance and enforcement up to the indiividual counties. Only a very small handfull of counties in the whole state have any code compliance laws. Furthermore, the county grandfathered in all work that was completed prior to that date. So Technically, You could be using two pieces of tin foil as a bonding jumper and they wouldn't have anything to say about that unless they had reason to impose thier jurisdiction.

    Last edited by George Hallaron; 02-22-2013 at 06:59 PM.
    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,246

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Because there were never any permits or inspections, there is no grandfathering in of anything as no one ever deemed it to be safe.

    On the flip side of the above is that the NEC allows existing panels wired that way to remain wired that way. Does this mean that wiring that way is "safe enough"? Possibly, but one must remember that the NEC itself states that following it will only produce a system which is "essentially free of hazards", the NEC itself does not claim that it will be"safe" or free of hazards.

    I believe the best way to go is to recommend that it be brought to current standards. Not that it will be, but you made the recommendation.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
    Posts
    3,177

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    ...the NEC allows existing panels wired that way to remain wired that way....
    JP - Could you elaborate on that? Why does the NEC allow it?

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,246

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    John,

    I'm referring to separate buildings.

    Just clarifying.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Holladay, UT
    Posts
    565

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    George, I include this link in my reports when I find doubled or bundled neutrals: http://ecatalog.squared.com/pubs/Ele...0100DB0705.pdf

    Tom Rees / A Closer Look Home Inspection / Salt Lake City, Utah

  12. #12

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Tom,
    Thanks for the reference material. I'll add it to my library.

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    George,
    I just had the same thing happen to me today. I inspected a home last week that had a new main installed outside and they just used the "clothes closet" panel as a sub. The sub panel has grounds and neutrals on the same bar. I wrote it was incorrectly wired and this is the response.
    "Main panel and Sub panels are correctly installed. Sub panel feeds are 3 wire so requires Neutral and Grounds to be bonded through each other".

    The installed an new main panel and spliced the ancient wiring to the old panel somewhere I couldn't find and left this crappy box in the master closet. I was surprised they didn't take all breakers outside and make this a junction box.

    I don't understand how this is correctly installed.
    Pic of new panel
    Pic of sub panel
    Pic of sub bus bar.

    ***IMPORTANT*** You Need To Register To View Images ***IMPORTANT*** You Need To Register To View Images

  14. #14

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Burnett View Post
    George,
    I just had the same thing happen to me today. I inspected a home last week that had a new main installed outside and they just used the "clothes closet" panel as a sub. The sub panel has grounds and neutrals on the same bar. I wrote it was incorrectly wired and this is the response.
    "Main panel and Sub panels are correctly installed. Sub panel feeds are 3 wire so requires Neutral and Grounds to be bonded through each other".

    The installed an new main panel and spliced the ancient wiring to the old panel somewhere I couldn't find and left this crappy box in the master closet. I was surprised they didn't take all breakers outside and make this a junction box.

    I don't understand how this is correctly installed.
    Pic of new panel
    Pic of sub panel
    Pic of sub bus bar.
    Gary,
    I'm not sure of the rules in Texas, but if they are similar to the rules around here the issue you are faced with seems much more clear to me than the one I was faced with. Since they altered or replaced the main panel, they should have had the work inspected by an ahj. If I understand the rules correctly, once they modified the service, the whole service should have been updated to meet current standards. The next time I'm faced with this type of situation, standard wording will be something to the nature of: Against my recommendation the current owners did not make the suggested changes. And include a letter of safety clearance with the electricians licence # and signature that states that he certifies the current set up to be safe.

    George Hallaron: Owner primary inspector
    Bienvenue Home Inspections LLC
    www.bienvenuehomeinspections.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,246

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    The newly installed service equipment panel on the exterior means that the original service equipment panel inside the house has been "altered" and the electrician who altered the original service equipment panel is the one who is responsible for any and all corrections needed to make that now-not-service equipment panel compliant with the code.

    That includes replacing the feeders and replacing the original panel when they discover that the original panel is "suitable for use as service equipment only" and must now also be replaced.

    And to answer your question - no, the three conductor feeders are not allowed nor are they code compliant (unless metallic conduit was used and the grounding conductor continuity through the metallic conduit is still effectively present.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 02-26-2013 at 09:42 AM.
    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Colorado Front Range
    Posts
    601

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Burnett View Post
    George,
    I just had the same thing happen to me today. I inspected a home last week that had a new main installed outside and they just used the "clothes closet" panel as a sub. The sub panel has grounds and neutrals on the same bar. I wrote it was incorrectly wired and this is the response.
    "Main panel and Sub panels are correctly installed. Sub panel feeds are 3 wire so requires Neutral and Grounds to be bonded through each other".

    The installed an new main panel and spliced the ancient wiring to the old panel somewhere I couldn't find and left this crappy box in the master closet. I was surprised they didn't take all breakers outside and make this a junction box.

    I don't understand how this is correctly installed.
    Pic of new panel
    Pic of sub panel
    Pic of sub bus bar.
    A prohibition against panels in a clothes closet has been around for a LONG time

    Occam's eraser: The philosophical principle that even the simplest solution is bound to have something wrong with it.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    They still allow work to be done in the Clothes Closet panel without moving it to a new location but I hear that is about to change that no repairs or replacements can be done to these old "closet" panels. I am told by a former Dallas Inspector that Dallas would let you replace the panels if they were the same size (no new cut out or splices required).

    "Like Hollywood stars and Sports figures, I guess it's time for panels to come out of the closet too!"

    I will try to get the Dallas Electrical Inspector this afternoon on the phone and ask him about this panel. He did red tag earlier but later gave a green tag. His issues had to do with multiwire neutrals and not bonding. There is another panel in the utility room (I later find out) that I never saw during my inspection that the electrician says he bonded also. At least he's consistent.


  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    NY State
    Posts
    440

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Rees View Post
    George, I include this link in my reports when I find doubled or bundled neutrals: http://ecatalog.squared.com/pubs/Ele...0100DB0705.pdf
    While this is generally correct, I do not like the last paragraph and that part is NOT correct.

    One of the objectives of the particular arrangement of bonding jumpers, neutrals and equipment
    grounds is to allow circuit isolation while keeping the equipment grounding
    conductor still connected to the gr
    ounding electrode (see UL 869A -
    Reference Standard for Service Eq
    uipment). When the neutral is
    disconnected, the objective is to st
    ill have the equipment ground solidly
    connected to the grounding electrode. If both the neutral and grounded
    conductor is under the same terminal, this cannot be accomplished.
    The objective is not to keep the equipment ground connected to the grounding electrode. The grounding electrode has NOTHING to do with equipment grounding or bonding. The point is to keep the equipment ground connected to the ground/neutral bar in the panel which is bonded to the service neutral. THAT is the source of ALL equipment grounds.


  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    I hate it when I'm wrong but I had to let the electrician off the hook after I spoke with the AHJ (who by the way, was a very nice well versed guy who called me back after I left him a voicemail).
    This neighborhood has a bunch of old ungrounded systems that have been upgraded over the years. He said that because the old panels did not have an electrical grounding conductor that the only way (without going back and rewiring the old panel which they do not require) to bring the neutrals and grounds back to the service is through the neutral conductor.
    He didn't say he liked it but that was the way it needs to be done. He did say that the city was going to be changing just about all of the exceptions it has on panels in the closets
    I think everything I googled and everyone I talked to says they have to be separate.

    You can't win 'em all.


  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,246

    Default Re: Seperating and isolating the neutrals in a sub panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Burnett View Post
    I hate it when I'm wrong but I had to let the electrician off the hook after I spoke with the AHJ (who by the way, was a very nice well versed guy who called me back after I left him a voicemail).
    This neighborhood has a bunch of old ungrounded systems that have been upgraded over the years. He said that because the old panels did not have an electrical grounding conductor that the only way (without going back and rewiring the old panel which they do not require) to bring the neutrals and grounds back to the service is through the neutral conductor.
    He didn't say he liked it but that was the way it needs to be done. He did say that the city was going to be changing just about all of the exceptions it has on panels in the closets
    I think everything I googled and everyone I talked to says they have to be separate.

    You can't win 'em all.
    Gary,

    That is why I stated what I did here: (I've added bold and underlining)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    The newly installed service equipment panel on the exterior means that the original service equipment panel inside the house has been "altered" and the electrician who altered the original service equipment panel is the one who is responsible for any and all corrections needed to make that now-not-service equipment panel compliant with the code.

    That includes replacing the feeders and replacing the original panel when they discover that the original panel is "suitable for use as service equipment only" and must now also be replaced.

    And to answer your question - no, the three conductor feeders are not allowed nor are they code compliant (unless metallic conduit was used and the grounding conductor continuity through the metallic conduit is still effectively present.
    The party who installed the new service equipment outdoors "altered" the use of the original panel, and that party should have, at that time, been required to bring that "altered" panel into compliance.

    It is INEXCUSABLE - in my opinion - for the AHJ to allow a contractor to "alter" a panel (especially by "altering" its use and thus making it non-compliant) without then doing *whatever is necessary* to bring the "altered" panel into compliance with the code.

    We recently had an electrical contractor do essentially the same thing when they wired an addition. The meter was on the right side of the house and a two car garage was being added to that side of the house, there was also a bedroom addition being added to the rear of the house.

    The service equipment panel was in the laundry room on the other end of the house. The electrician relocated the meter from the right side of the house to the right side of the two car addition where new service equipment was also installed; the electrician installed a distribution panel where the meter was originally located and left the original service equipment in the laundry room - untouched I will add as that electrician did not in any way "touch" that service equipment panel in the laundry room ... however ... that electrician "altered" the use of that panel by installing new "service equipment" in front of it. The act of installing the new service equipment is what caused the original service equipment panel in the laundry room to become non-compliant there was a 3-wire service entrance run to that original service equipment panel, that now-non-service equipment panel now REQUIRES a 4-wire feeder and the neutrals isolated within that panel (yes, that panel was such that it was "Suitable for use as service equipment" but was not "Suitable ONLY FOR use as service equipment", meaning that the neutrals were bonded to ground with a jumper and not manufactured bonded to ground).

    The electrician kept saying "But I DID NOT TOUCH THAT PANEL in the laundry room, thus you cannot make me correct something I did not do."

    I pointed out that the panel in the laundry room is no longer compliant because of something HE DID DO - HE "altered" that panel in the laundry room from being the 'service equipment panel" to being a non-service equipment panel, that until HE "ALTERED" THE WIRING that panel was compliant, and that since HE "ALTERED THE WIRING that panel became non-compliant - even though he did not actually physically remove the panel cover and do anything in that laundry room panel ... HE WAS THE CAUSE which made that laundry room panel non-compliant.

    I gave him two choices: a) return that panel to its original state as "service equipment" AND make the service entrance conductors compliant too (there were not), OR, remove the neutral-to-ground bond in that panel and replace the "service entrance conductors" with "feeder" conductors. It WAS compliant before he "altered" it, he needed to leave is as compliant after he "altered" it.

    He replaced the "service entrance conductors" to that panel with feeder conductors and isolated the neutral from the grounds as there was no practical way to achieve the other option (I knew there was no practical way to achieve the other option - the cost would have been outrageous ).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •