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Thread: maxed out split bus panel and unfused feeders through joists

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Milwaukie, Oregon
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    maxed out split bus panel and unfused feeders through joists

    I have a house recently purchased. the panel currently is a mess, and I had planned to replace and clean up the wiring. Initially I did not realize the panel was a split bus main because it is situated on the south end of the house in the basement, and the meter is on the north end with a feeder going through the 2nd floor joists halfway across the house, then down into the basement. (Split level house, so essentially feeder cable come into the house between the downstairs and upstairs, goes across the 2 story side of the house to the single level side which has a full basement below it. down that wall to the floor to the floor and pops out in the basement. I have a few issues and am unsure of the order in which to tackle them... I would like to do as much of the work as possible myself, I have done wiring, lighting, receptables, etc. on new construction and remodels in the past and am comfortable with that, and replacing the panel/swapping breakers, assuming I can turn power off ahead of it, but will at the minimum have an electrician doing or supervising the meter socket swap, and the service/feeder hookups at the meter and panel. My concern is when I pull the permit for the first thing, it's going to flag everything and need to be fixed all at once. I have a "five year plan" for remodelling the whole house, and plan to essentially replace all the electrical (braided sheathing romex, and 2 prong sockets) in that time when I have walls open doing that work in different areas of the house, but to be honest, I don't have the budget or time to do all the electrical all at once, and I am working full time in addition to remodelling this house, so I don't want to spend a ton of time opening up walls now for electrical, and then patch it up, only to tear it out again in the next few years...

    1. Feeder appears to be unfused cable going through the joists. Meter socket is square profile, assuming 100amp service from this, panel is rated at 125amps). Given this, the first thing I would like to do is replace the meter socket with a meter main or meter and disconnect.

    2. feeder cable from meter to panel does not have a ground (as far as I can tell), no grounding rods at the meter, and panel is only grounded to water supply. The cable sheathing says size 2cdr3 size 1cdr5. My interpretation of this is 2 conductor 3 gauge, 1 conductor 5 gauge. at the panel I can tell it is aluminum conductors 2 hot and one neutral.

    In consulting with one electrician (a friend) from another state, his recommendation was run new feeder in conduit on the outside of the house, put a new meter socket in, then hire an electrician to swap connections over to the new socket and current panel. This makes sense I think, if the code allows connection to current panel? If I explain this to the inspector, are they going to require the new panel to be replaced all at once along with this work, and then dig into scrutiny further down the chain such as outlets without/improper grounds etc? I am also anticipating needing to put a new mast in (current supply from the POCO is fastened with an eye bolt into the eave of the house, then goes into the attic through the eave and down inside the wall to the meter socket.

    3. Currently I have a separate range and oven, each on 30 amp circuits on the top 6 disconnect breakers. My plan was to remodel the kitchen first, and plan to replace these with a freestanding range/oven. This would need a 50amp 240v circuit instead of 2 30 amp 240v breakers. This is what drove the deep dive into the electrical, and realizing it was a split bus main panel, and not a sub-panel with a disconnect upstream...I have a 2 pole 40amp breaker for an AC unit on the lower half of the panel, I wanted to replace one of the 30 with a 50amp, and move the 40 for the AC up to the other upper space to allow 2 extra spaces on the panel to clean up my outlets and lighting as well as run a separate garage circuit (currently garage is on the same outlet circuit as the downstairs of the house) My question here is, is replacing the oven on hold until this electrical is figured out and the panel replaced? Or is it possible to pull the two 30 amp breakers without the main disconnect? I understand the split bus panel and 6 disconnect rule shuts off power to the entire house outputting from the panel, but does that also allow me to work on the top 6 breakers in the panel? I know theoretically I could pull the meter and cut power to the house, but given the work I plan to do longer term, I'm hesitant that a cut meter seal is not technically allowed, and going to be a red flag to an inspector to scrutinize and question the competency of other work/. Thoughts?

    Long term I would like to bump up to a 200 amp service to have the capacity to add stuff like a mig welder, and dedicated circuits for power tools in the garage down the road. Does this plan make sense in that regard, if I future proof by sizing the feeder cable for 200amp, then not utilizing it's full capacity until down the road? Same goes with the panel sizing, I'd like to replace with a 200amp panel, but as long as the meter main is limited to a 100amp disconnect there isn't concern until service to the meter get's upgraded.

    I have another electrician coming to look at the work as well, but as with anything, the more research and understanding you have upfront, the better idea of the scope of the work is going to be.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Chapel Hill, NC
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    I am closing this thread, in accordance with the Forum rules. This Forum is intended to assist professional electricians, inspectors, engineers, and other members of the electrical industry in the performance of their job-related tasks. However, if you are not an electrician or an electrical contractor, then we are not permitted to help you perform your own electrical installation work.

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