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  1. #1
    Sheryl Davidson's Avatar
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    Default Water heater electricity question

    OK guys, I am obviously no "expert" in electricity, but I inspected this home today. The hot water heater electrical cord (orange in photos) is running from the water heater, over the rafters, and directly to two breakers in the service panel. Now, I have a feeling that this is either a) illegal/not code and/or b) not safe. I told the potential homeowner about this and that I would ask you guys to confirm my questions. (The home is a foreclosure and has about 1000 other problems. I just wanted confirmation about this situation in case I run into it again.) I have attached photos. Thanks for any help!

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  2. #2
    Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Sheryl,

    It looks like normal #10 NMC (orange Romex). The black and white wires are both being used as "hots" and appear to be connected to a 2-pole breaker (with handle-tie). That part would be normal for a 240-volt water heater. As the water heater doesn't need a neutral it is typical to use the white conductor of 10-2+ground cable for the other hot. Assuming it's a 30-amp breaker and the bare ground is properly connected at both ends, the actual electrical connections are OK. But that looks like the only thing normal!

    It's a sloppy install. The white hot should be marked, the NMC is missing protection at the heater, no TPR discharge piping, etc, etc. There's a bunch more I'm sure you know about but I'm most fascinated by the stream of water above the water heater.

    What's with that??? You find it that way?

    Last edited by Richard Moore; 02-09-2008 at 03:04 AM.

  3. #3
    Sheryl Davidson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Funny you should mention the water. The home was vacant and in total disarray (foreclosure). I was about to start my plumbing inspection and went out to the street to turn the water service on. As I was walking back to the garage area, I heard water running. *not good* I turned the corner and voila! You could take a shower at the water heater. Needless to say, after spending 4 hours at the home and informing my customer about all the problems (obvious plumbing issues, electricity worked only in the bedrooms/refrigerator/washer/half the basement, and HVAC system not working), he decided not to take on this home as a flipper. I could tell by the look on his face that he was glad he hired me to look at the home. He said he was literally ready to sign the closing papers. And truthfully, when you just "look" at the house, it doesn't appear all that bad as far as being a "fixer-upper". It was all the intrusive testing that revealed the extent of the problems.

    My main concern about the water heater line was that I thought it was perhaps handyman work and that I wanted to be certain that there were no code violations or safety issues just in case I run into this problem again some day.

    Thanks for your answer!


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheryl Davidson View Post
    --- went out to the street to turn the water service on.

    Nope!

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheryl Davidson View Post
    in the service panel.
    Sheryl,

    There is not much, if anything, in those photos which I see is correct.

    But first "service panel"? Is that the first panel after the meter?

    It 'looks like' the service entrance cable (SEC) does come in at the bottom left, the ground/neutral then goes up to the neutral terminal bar in the upper left, with the two hots going around the right side up to the top two terminals terminating facing to the right.

    There are (as best I can see and count) *10* separate handles for breakers in the top section of the split bus panel - not more than *6* are allowed.

    The lower left breaker in the top part of the panel then feeds to lower section of the panel.

    I see at least one white conductor which is connected to a breaker and this should not be 'white', it needs to be permanently re-identified by painting to red or black.

    Then there are all those NM cables (looks like at least three, possibly four) going into one opening (clamp or no clamp, not sure there) on the left, then at least three more NM cables going into the left center opening (clamp or no clamp), and the same thing with the other clamps.

    That panel may not be as bad as it looks, but it looks like a mess (workmanship and neatness does indeed help for inspection purposes).

    Fluorescent light plugged into a light socket adapter? No way is that allowed.

    From the 2008 NEC,
    - 334.15 Exposed Work.
    - - (B) Protection from Physical Damage. Cable shall be protected from physical damage where necessary by rigid metal conduit, intermediate metal conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Schedule 80 PVC conduit, or other approved means. (blah, blah, blah follows but does not pertain to this issue).
    - - (C) In Unfinished Basements and Crawl Spaces. Where cable is run at angles with joists in unfinished basements and crawl spaces, it shall be permissible to secure cables not smaller than two 6 AWG or three 8 AWG conductors directly to the lower edges of the joists. Smaller cables shall be run either through bored holes in joists or on running boards. (blah, blah, blah follows but does not pertain to this issue).

    - 334.17 Through or Parallel to Framing Members.
    Types NM, NMC, or NMS cable shall be protected in accordance with 300.4 where installed through or parallel to framing members. Grommets used as required in 300.4(B)(1) shall remain in place and be listed for the purpose of cable protection.

    That NM cable should not be going to the water heater unprotected from physical damage (needs to be in flexible metal conduit or some other approved protection from physical damage).

    I like the water droplets squirting out of the piping, and, of course, the lack of a pipe at the T&P relief valve.

    I could go on and on and on and ...

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  6. #6
    Richard Abrams's Avatar
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    Cool Re: Water heater electricity question

    With all that is wrong with this water heater I could probably retire on the repairs to this appliance. Bd Homeowner job


  7. #7
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    Smile Re: Water heater electricity question

    Its a "water heater" not a "hot water heater." If the water was already hot it would not need heated. The only reason I say this is because the same thing was told to me several years ago.

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck
    There are (as best I can see and count) *10* separate handles for breakers in the top section of the split bus panel - not more than *6* are allowed.
    Hi Jerry,

    Can you explain what this means " - *10* separate handles - not more than siz allowed?

    Thanks


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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Ken,

    A split bus panel is intended to meet the 'no more than six mains' rule and not have a 'single main'. This is done by *intending* the panel to have six breakers at the top, one of those breakers then feeds the bottom 'split bus'.

    Thus, you meet the 'no more than six mains' because all of the breakers in the bottom half are de-energized by one of the six mains in the top half.

    The problem in that panel is that there are more than six in the top half, I counted about 10 breakers in the top half. *If* that is the 'service equipment', and most split bus panels are - that's the reason for using a split bus panel, then you now have '10 mains' ... which is not allowed.

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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Isn't that a back-fed main at the top?


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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kondzich View Post
    Its a "water heater" not a "hot water heater." If the water was already hot it would not need heated.
    Paul,

    I say the same thing here every now and then ... there is no need to heat 'hot water' - it is 'already "hot".

    However, the 'hot water heater' has been ingrained to many from days of old from when 'water heaters' first came about ... they were referred to as "You got one of those new fangled 'hot water' heaters?" Over the years " 'hot water' heater " became 'hot water heater', which is now just 'water heater', we are no longer amazed that it produces 'hot water', it is an accepted convenience.

    Old habits were passed on to future generations through Great grandpa saying 'hot water heater' to Grandpa who said the same thing to Dad who said the same thing.

    Likewise, on old drawings and plans you would find HWH indicating where the 'hot water' heater went. Nowadays, though, few use HWH ... most have made the switch to WH to designate where the water heater goes.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 02-13-2008 at 05:51 AM.
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    Isn't that a back-fed main at the top?
    John,

    Looks like (to me) it is just to terminals at the tops of the top bus.

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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    John,

    Looks like (to me) it is just to terminals at the tops of the top bus.
    I need a new monitor. Or eyes. Or both.


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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    I need a new monitor. Or eyes. Or both.
    Both?

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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Jerry,

    Thanks for the explaination.
    I think I understand what you meant, but this now raises my interest and I want to learn more. Hopefully you can help me.

    1. How do you know that this is a split bus panel and separated by upper and lower parts of the panel? Can you point me to a panel mfg. & model to search for a better detail of the bus arrangement?

    2. The large capacity 2-pole breaker fed off the lower lugs. What is the purpose of that? I thought maybe to feed another panel, but I only see the wires from lugs to breaker? Does this protect the breakers? on the lower bus?

    Many Thanks


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    2. The large capacity 2-pole breaker fed off the lower lugs. What is the purpose of that? I thought maybe to feed another panel, but I only see the wires from lugs to breaker? Does this protect the breakers? on the lower bus?
    That double pole breaker is feeding the lower set of breakers, not the other way around. It is the "main breaker" for the lower set.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    1. How do you know that this is a split bus panel and separated by upper and lower parts of the panel? Can you point me to a panel mfg. & model to search for a better detail of the bus arrangement?
    Ken,

    When you see conductor going from one breaker at the top (or it could be arranged upside down, but that is the same thing in reverse) and feeding the bottom, as you asked in question 2 and John answered, that is a good indication of a split bus panel.

    Almost every (every one I can recall seeing) will have an open area between the split bus sections. Some had larger open areas and some had smaller open areas.

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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Jerry,

    Excellent illustration!
    Many Thanks!!


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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    A split bus panel is intended to meet the 'no more than six mains' rule
    Now the "Intended" part would be the manufactures spec's and not NEC right?

    NEC just states no more then 6 throws to shut the power off correct?

    That being said it would only take two throws in that panel to shut the power off correct?

    Just out of curiosity why would anybody want a split Panel. How is this better then conventional panel.

    OK, Jerry, I'll take my beating now..........

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Water heater electricity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Schulz View Post
    Now the "Intended" part would be the manufactures spec's and not NEC right?
    Both. Which also be one and the same.

    NEC just states no more then 6 throws to shut the power off correct?
    Yes.

    That being said it would only take two throws in that panel to shut the power off correct?
    Talking about the right photo in the original post, right?

    Then, no, that would take 10 throws.

    Just out of curiosity why would anybody want a split Panel. How is this better then conventional panel.
    'Nobody does want them', electricians did because they were cheaper - no extra main breaker to buy.

    Not better, worse (in my opinion) than service equipment with a single main breaker.

    Just like, in my opinion, the main disconnect should be required to be 'outside' (it is not) and then another 'main' at each panel of more than 6 breakers (also not required). Code is "minimum" for safety, not 'good', 'better, or 'best' practices, just the worst you are legally allowed to do it.

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