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  1. #1
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    Mar 2010
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    Default Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    1950 home during 4 pt inspection. I know modern standards call for a 4 wire feed w/neutrals and grounds isolated but this one has a 3 wire feed w/the ground wire going to one of the floating neutral buses. Both neutral buses are bonded and there is no bond screw (at upper right corner) bonding them to cabinet. How should I write this up? Is it grandfathered in? Is it wrong? Thanks, Mark

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    That's not a 1950s panel.

    My guess is that that panel location used to have one of the old 'mains' panels which had two pull out fuse holder blocks and Edison base fuses for the lighting circuits - which would have made that panel the service equipment panel.

    The frequent upgrade (but it has always been wrong when done) was to install a new service panel at another location (usually outside, that is typically a dead give away for this, but sometimes in a garage if the older home had a garage) and turn that original panel into a remote panel (not service equipment panel).

    The issue with those updates is that what was service entrance conductors (which are allowed to have two hot conductor with one bare neutral/ground conductor) now becomes feeder conductors (which have two hot conductors, but the neutral conductor is required to be insulated, and an equipment ground path of a conductor or metallic conduit).

    Guess what usually costs the most to run during a proper update and relocation of the service equipment panel? Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable as there is frequently no easy way to get from Point A (outside at the new service equipment panel) to Point B (at the new remote panel) ... so the electrical contractor opts leave the old service entrance cable in place and use it ... even though that is not allowed.

    Is it just the photo or me ... are those two feeder conductors (upper right corner) covered with electrical tape? They look like they were wrapped with electrical tape - which would indicate that their outer covering and insulation was failing, so they got wrapped up with electrical tape.

    What is also strange is that bare copper grounding conductor with that old service entrance cable, just looks strange.

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    That's not a 1950s panel.

    My guess is that that panel location used to have one of the old 'mains' panels which had two pull out fuse holder blocks and Edison base fuses for the lighting circuits - which would have made that panel the service equipment panel.

    The frequent upgrade (but it has always been wrong when done) was to install a new service panel at another location (usually outside, that is typically a dead give away for this, but sometimes in a garage if the older home had a garage) and turn that original panel into a remote panel (not service equipment panel).

    The issue with those updates is that what was service entrance conductors (which are allowed to have two hot conductor with one bare neutral/ground conductor) now becomes feeder conductors (which have two hot conductors, but the neutral conductor is required to be insulated, and an equipment ground path of a conductor or metallic conduit).

    Guess what usually costs the most to run during a proper update and relocation of the service equipment panel? Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable as there is frequently no easy way to get from Point A (outside at the new service equipment panel) to Point B (at the new remote panel) ... so the electrical contractor opts leave the old service entrance cable in place and use it ... even though that is not allowed.

    Is it just the photo or me ... are those two feeder conductors (upper right corner) covered with electrical tape? They look like they were wrapped with electrical tape - which would indicate that their outer covering and insulation was failing, so they got wrapped up with electrical tape.

    What is also strange is that bare copper grounding conductor with that old service entrance cable, just looks strange.
    Jerry,
    Yes; wrapped in tape and your guest is probably correct as the house has been added onto several times; it is quite a hodgepodge throughout and in the attic; something out of a Stephen King movie. I did the full inspection a few years back and pretty much referred them to all professions. I don't think they did anything as it appears the same today as back then. But now they need the 4 pt and they are scrambling to satisfy the insurance company. Back to my original questions(s); Is this set-up grandfather in? is it unsafe (by yesterdays terms)? If not; what can be done to make it okay? Like I said; I know how to do it right by today's standards but not sure what to say or do as it is now in the present. As always; thanks for your help. Mark


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    Quote Originally Posted by mark petty View Post
    Back to my original questions(s); Is this set-up grandfather in?
    Back to part of my original answer: (see bold in this one) "The frequent upgrade (but it has always been wrong when done)"

    Nothing to 'grandfather in' - it was wrong when it was done, and it is still wrong today.

    is it unsafe (by yesterdays terms)?
    It was unsafe back when it was done, and it is even more unsafe today ("time" is not a 'test of something being okay', "time" ages and deteriorates things, so "things get worse" with "time").

    If not; what can be done to make it okay?
    Another part from my original answer: (see bold here also) "Guess what usually costs the most to run during a proper update and relocation of the service equipment panel? Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable as there is frequently no easy way to get from Point A (outside at the new service equipment panel) to Point B (at the new remote panel) "

    I know how to do it right by today's standards
    Same standards today as back then.

    What has changed is not the standard, what has changed is that what was once a "service equipment panel" fed by service entrance conductors, is now just a regular electrical panel fed by feeder conductors.

    I.e., the solution: "Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable"

    I don't think they did anything as it appears the same today as back then.

    Quite common, only it usually doesn't bite them back until they go to sell. Now it's 'Oh-oh ... we should have corrected that back when we bought the place, not spent that money the seller gave us for those repairs on a nice new large screen TV!'



    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Back to part of my original answer: (see bold in this one) "The frequent upgrade (but it has always been wrong when done)"

    Nothing to 'grandfather in' - it was wrong when it was done, and it is still wrong today.



    It was unsafe back when it was done, and it is even more unsafe today ("time" is not a 'test of something being okay', "time" ages and deteriorates things, so "things get worse" with "time").



    Another part from my original answer: (see bold here also) "Guess what usually costs the most to run during a proper update and relocation of the service equipment panel? Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable as there is frequently no easy way to get from Point A (outside at the new service equipment panel) to Point B (at the new remote panel) "



    Same standards today as back then.

    What has changed is not the standard, what has changed is that what was once a "service equipment panel" fed by service entrance conductors, is now just a regular electrical panel fed by feeder conductors.

    I.e., the solution: "Replacing the old service entrance cable with a proper feeder cable"


    Quite common, only it usually doesn't bite them back until they go to sell. Now it's 'Oh-oh ... we should have corrected that back when we bought the place, not spent that money the seller gave us for those repairs on a nice new large screen TV!'

    Great way of putting it. Thanks again.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Colorado Front Range
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    642

    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    I'm guessing that the original panel was set up where there were extremely short runs of the feeder to the lugs inside the panel. Many of these old feeder cables had the neutral wrapped around the two line conductors as a bunch of loose strands. The mess you have looks like the old conductors were spliced just inside the panel as they were seldom as long as whats there now.

    So, if this is the case the next issue is how the splices were made. And, if the insulation on the 2 line conductors is nothing but tape over more of the same type copper used on the neutral. Looks like the same stuff sticking out the bottom of the lugs. While adding up the breakers in a panel isn't how to calculate a load, it appears that there is "probably" a range and dryer being fed out of this panel, and the visible supply conductors appear to be #10, which is too small to carry just the range, let alone adding a dryer. The black conductor on the 50 AMP breaker looks to either have been stripped too long or has been hot and burned back a bit.

    The "old" grounding electrode conductor/water pipe bond wire is present in the panel and hooked up. This may or may not be an issue depending on how things are hooked up at the service disconnect.

    A bit puzzling is that all the cables have ground wires which would have required an isolated neutral buss when installed.

    All in all this looks like a Saturday afternoon project with the home owner at the time, a buddy or two, and several cases of beer involved.

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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Sub/remote panel w/3 wire feed neutrals and ground bonded

    "How should I write this up?" Just short and sweet.

    'Recommend this be further evaluated and repaired by a licensed Electrician.'

    Enough said.


    - - - Updated - - -

    "How should I write this up?" Just short and sweet.

    'Recommend this be further evaluated and repaired by a licensed Electrician.'

    Enough said.



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