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  1. #1
    JD Weekley's Avatar
    JD Weekley Guest

    Default New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    Hello, long time lurker finally wishing to ask a question

    A home I own (built 1885), has at some point been upgraded with breaker panels sometime in the 70s I'll figure. The way the panels are currently is set up seems somewhat odd, and I'd like to have some knowledge before I pay to have an electrician look it over.

    It's a two unit with up and down apartments. Two meters come into the house, each goes to a smaller breaker panel each containing four large breakers. These are Federal Pacific and the main thing is I wish to upgrade these.

    These large breakers in these panels then feed:

    1) a breaker panel located in detached garage.
    2) electric dryer service
    3) Central air
    4) General use panel right next to them containing approximately 30 breakers (not federal Pacific)

    1) Misc baseboard heaters
    2) Electric Stove service (not used)
    3) General panel right next to them with 20 breakers (not federal pacific)
    4) Unused

    Typically, I see panels now with the these large "main" breakers in "one" panel and they would then feed all general use breakers and then any "sub" panels like garage etc.

    Seem normal for the time? I imagine they duplicated what the old fuse panels were doing except with breakers.

    Can the above configuration be kept and merely the smaller panels (with 4 large breakers) upgraded from Federal?

    Just wish to know a bit so I can (somewhat) intelligently discuss this with an electrician.

    Thank you for any input you may wish to offer Kindest regards

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    What brand are the other breaker panels.? Fed Pac are not the only ones that are problematic.

    It sounds like alot is going on there. The first disconnect is the service panel, Every panel downstream from it is considered a sub panel. Multiple sub panels are ok provided everything is wired correctly. For instance, grounds and neutrals should bonded only in the main service equipment. In every downstream sub panel, the grounds and neutrals should be separated. Many times they are not.

    You need a good electrician who you can trust.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Default Re: New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    Sounds like you do not have a main service disconnect and you have more than the allowed six switches to disconnect the service. one way to correct this would be to change the panel and the sevice equipment panel into one panel for each space both being service equipment with one main breaker in each panel.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Lanham, MD

    Default Re: New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    You mentioned two meters. So it looks like service was separated to meter the upper level and lower level separately for two different tenants. I'd recommend you seek the services of a licensed electrician to evaluate.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    New Mexico

    Default Re: New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    That setup doesn't sound too unusual for an older house. With the info you gave us, it does sound like you could replace the two main panels with the FPE breakers. Depending on the age of the two general use panels, you may want to replace them at the same time. You could combine those two panels easily into one, and leave the panel in the garage. Neutrals and grounds should be isolated where necessary in the sub panels, but your electrician should be able to explain that you in more detail.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  6. #6
    JD Weekley's Avatar
    JD Weekley Guest

    Default Re: New here, and have electrical breaker panel question/s

    Thank you all for the fast response and information.

    Yes, it is looking to me like it's best to have both floors swapped over to modern panels with integrated main shut offs. Should be fun as I imagine many of the wires will not be easy to retrofit to a new panel and many come in through conduit. Some electrician will hate me and love my checkbook.

    I've found that one of the "Sub Panels" downstream from the main shut off, has the neutrals and grounds combined on one panel. It's pretty busy in there, so it's debatable whether isolating them or swapping panels and isolating would be much different. They are a "General Electric TQP" Breaker.

    Yes. two meters, and the up and down are separated into separate services.

    Four switches to totally disconnect each floor. 8 for whole house. Guess that's not good, lol...

    I've swapped small panels before but this is a bit too much going on for a even an advanced DIY'r . Amazingly, no issues, and no breakers ever trip. Hopefully, the Federal Pacific breakers are capable of doing so!

    30+ years and hasn't burnt surprisingly. Borrowed time I suppose lol..

    Thank you all for your time in answering and your expertise! Time to seek local professional help I suppose


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