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Breaker Q's & A's

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Installing Circuit Breaker

I am currently trying to install a Zinsco 20 Amp single pole circuit breaker into my main box at my house. My questions is how exactly do I do that? When I open the box there are a series of circuit breakers with two metal bars laying horizontally behind them. I know I need to somehow attach the circuit breaker to the two bars, but it seems a red bar at the top portion of the box prevents from the circuit breaker to be completely installed.

Not every brand of circuit breaker will fit into every brand of breaker box. You have to get the correct breaker that will fit into your breaker box. The best way to do this is to look at the current breakers in your breaker box and go buy a 20 Amp single pole breaker that is the same brand.

Installing New Breaker in Service Panel?

I've got a circuit in my house, which I think is overloaded. I'm thinking of dividing it into two parts. If I do, I'll have to install a new breaker in my service panel. I've done some wiring before, but I've never been into the service panel. I've read every bit of "how to" info I can find, and I comprehend it all. Is it safe now to go ahead and try this? Or do I need formal training for this task?!??!?!!?

You can do all the wiring with the exception of tying it into the box. The dangerous thing about wiring in your box, is even with the main breaker turned off, (which will make the main bus bars dead) there is still live power coming into the box to the main breaker.

Are you intimate with NEC, National Electric Code? Wiring seems simple, but the details can kill you, especially in the breaker box. Call an electrician, talk to him about the job, then watch him. That way you get the job done and get a lesson.

You don't need "formal" training to do the job, but having an electrician do it with you watching is excellent training.

Adding a Second Breaker Box

I need some help regarding , adding a second breaker box to the current one. I have many woodworking tools that use 220 and my box is plum full. Any help at all would be ok.

You can take one of a few paths. You can upgrade your service.. if you go to 200 amp service, for instance, you 100 amp box gets replaced with a much bigger one.. with LOTS of room to grow. This would be the best.. and not necessarily the most expensive option. The power company will bring in a bigger line... and you or an electrician would rewire your house into the new box... leaving the room to grow.

If you want to just add a new box, as you mentioned, in addition to the one you have, you can do that too. You would need to remove a couple breakers from your full one, and put in a feeder breaker to feed the new box. Then you can rewire the circuits you removed from the old box to the new one. And use the other space in the new box for your expansion ...

You can replace one of your breakers with a "mini" breaker.  These breakers are half the size of a regular breaker and have two breakers for two seperate circuits....  that way you can free up a slot for another breaker.

Circuit Breaker Box Population

In my earlier post about adding circuits to the garage I mentioned having two open 15A slots. Well in the process of getting ready to add my new circuits I checked the breaker box to see what it's rating was and what what was already in it. Well to my surprise the box is a 100 Amp unit and there are 6 20amp breakers, 1 30amp breaker (furnace/air), and 1 40amp breaker (220 outlet for electric dryer). The 40 amp circuit is not being used but that still leaves 150 amps worth of breakers in use.

Would this be considered normal? Or did the person who converted this from a fuse box to a breaker box go wayyyy overboard? Would appreciate your insight.

This is generally normal.

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Though a panel may be rated for 100Amps, it is possible and even likely you have more than that in total circuit amperages by adding up breakers. The reason is that you will most likely never have air conditioning and heat on at the same time for example.  The real amperage draw is most likely less at any given time than what is there in circuit breaker totals.  Conversely, however, this is not to say that simply because you have a few empty spaces in the panel you can add some more outlets.

You really need to calculate the overall draw for your house and determine if you are beyond what the house and panel is rated for.

Wires into Fuse Box

Is there a way to tell which fuse controls which wire that is running into the top of the fuse box?

Well, yes. But it entails taking the panel cover off. It is ok to do this.. but you have to remember, there is live usually 220 volt power in there.. and it can kill. So if you take the cover off, you don't want to touch anything in there. Usually the cover is attached with four screws one in each corner. If you take the cover off, you can trace the wire (the Black wire) to the fuse. Use a permanent marker and label the wires above the box...either on the wire or on the floor joist or wall. Remember to be careful.. can't say that enough..and don't touch .. especially the bars that run down the center or any exposed black wires or the big wires supplying the box.

Electricity from House to Garage: What to Use?

I am in the process of placing electricity from the house to the garage. I have been advised to use a 60amp double breaker on 6 gauge wire to a panel in the garage. I have a 100amp homeline in the house. I need help with what type of panel I need in the garage that will support 220 amp. I would like to have 4-6 circuits out there.

I am not having any luck with the hardware stores. All they are stocking in 60 amp is generator panels.

Go to an electric supply and get a small 12 circuit panel, you don't have to use all the circuits, and if you do need them in the future you'll have them. A 60-amp sub-panel is what I have out to my woodworking shop, which is enough for a 220 volt table saw and other machinery. As far as wire size, it depends on how far your garage is from the house. You don't want to undersize it, for safety reasons. I have 4 gauge wire to my shop, which is approx. 60' from the house, it's probably overkill but I would rather be safe than sorry! Again, it allows for future expansion.

The other thing you need to consider is if you have space in your existing house panel to install this sub-panel. If you have 20 circuits (the max for 100-amp panel), you will have to upgrade to at least 150-amp service.

Consult a qualified electrician because you want to make sure everything is safe!!

Updating Electric Panel

I want to change the breaker panel box from 13 circuits to 20. Is this easy to do? Is it an all day job? Will there be step by step direction with the new box I buy do you think ?

This is not that easy. For one thing, you will need to have your power turned off while you transfer the main-power ,incoming wires. An electrician could do this in a day. How fast you can do it, though depends on your abilities.

There are a minimal of directions that come with a new box. I doubt there will be enough there for you to complete the whole job to code.

Another answer:
I've just updated by service from 100AMP to 200 AMP.
1. Recent regulations may require your Electric meter to be relocated to be directly behind the Electrical box. My house is only 25 years old, but the meter had to be moved.
2. The electric company must be called to verify the line will be able to carry the extra current.
3. In any case I'd check inside the outside Electric meterbox every few years for water leaking in and potential shorting. When they moved my meter it was scary what they found inside!! The electric company puts the meter on, wires it up to your house but once its connected to your home you own it. They tell me had I had a fire from their box and their wiring they are not responsible!!
4. With home upgrades like central air, pools or hot tubs along with electric dryers and stoves 200 AMP service is needed.

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Click here for our Electrical Tips Article

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