Is it worth updating the electrical system?

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Hard to put a penny behing a circuit breaker.
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Christopher A. Young
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The electrician came to house today. This is what he said.
We have BX - armored cable thoughout the house.
He said the fuse panel has three 30 amp fuses that are all oversized. There is no 10 guage wiring.
Three of the wires leaving the panel were 12 gauge. I think he said they can support the 20 amp fuses. Two of the wires were rated at 14 gauge which I believe he said only supports 15 amps. None of the fuses in the box were 15 amp fuses.
There are a total of 8 circuits running off the panel. None of them are 10 gauge wire.
The fuse panel brand name is General. They don't sell that brand anymore. The black double pull unit at the bottom didn't have any 30 amp fuses in it.
He would replace with a100 amp 'Murry' brand breaker (?). He said we don't need 200 amp service and doubts we are using more than 50 amps as things stand now. We don't have an electric stove, jacuzzi, electric dryer, central air or a disposal unit.
There are at least 5 junction boxes down cellar. He would break them up and put each outgoing wire on a separate circuit going back to the panel.
He gave me an estimate of $1600 for installation and materials.
It includes: 1. 100 amp breaker panel. He wasn't sure how many circuits. Perhaps 24. 2. 100 meter socket 3. PVC mast (for outside the house going to the electric company's system) 4. 2 ground rods 5. main ground to water pipe.
He told me to get a couple estimates from a couple other electricians and to verify what he said about the system. I gather it's a good price.
Anyone care to offer an opinion or feedback... I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

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Charlie S. wrote:

His plan sounds good! But you also need to unload some of those 30 amp improperly fused circuits so breakers dont trip constantly, put some proper 15 amp fuses in them and see how long they last:(
Heavy loads are washer, gas dryer, furnace, any A/C or window units? Use hair dryers or curling irons in bathroom? how about kitchen? Countertop appliances like microwaves, toaster ovens etc can draw lots of amps.
I would install dedicated GFCI circuits to bathroom, kitchen, seperate circuits for washer dryer, furnace, etc.
This way the remaining circuits can carry the load. I dont know how much extra 200 amps would cost but do know I am sorry I didnt do that.
Long term the BX supports upgrading to all grounded outlets

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I would go for the 200A panel even if you don't think you need it now. It leaves many more options available for the future if you ever change your electric use. Plus, if you ever decide to sell, a 200A service will be standard, a 100A service will seem limited.
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Although a 100 amp panel may suit your current needs, you should consider the future. Do you have any plans to enlarge the house? How much longer do you plan to live there? Do you think that you might install central air conditioning at some point? Maybe in a few years you might get a hot tub.
You don't want to pay for another service upgrade later when you find that you will need more juice. Just for the heck of it, ask this electrician for a price on a 200 amp service with a 40 circuit panel. Let us know what he says.
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Called tonight for an estimate on the 200 amp service. I'll post what he says and what I end up doing.
I thank everyone for their help.

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Do get other estimates. Sounds like he is mainly updating to breakers from fuses and getting rid of basement junction boxes. Is he running any more wires/outlets? adding any grounded of gfci circuits?
sounds too expensive to me for what sounds like is being done.
lee h
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If an electrican suggested grounding anything to a water pipe, FIRE HIM...or at least don't hire him. It is a violation of the National Electrical Code to use a water pipe as a ground.
You are putting your plumber's life at risk!!!
Charlie S. wrote:

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landlord_n_va wrote:

Would you be kind enough to read Article 250 of NEC 2005, which seems to be at variance with your opinion.
The electrician in question seems to be a belt-and-suspenders type, who is going to install three grounds, two to driven electrodes and one to a water pipe, which is not only in compliance with NEC 2005 but exceeds the requirement.
I don't know what bizarre notion leads you to believe that grounding to a metal water pipe in contact with the earth endangers anyone, in fact it is quite the opposite--by grounding to a water pipe all possibility of a differential between electrical ground and the potential in the water pipe is eliminated and the risk of shock is reduced, however slightly.
The real risk in grounding to a water pipe is that at some point the metal pipe will be replaced with plastic without providing a separate grounding electrode, thus removing all grounding from the system.

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Well John,
Perhaps you can explain to the group what is going to happen to the plumber that has to cut the copper pipe that you are using for a ground????
If there is any current leakage through that ground, then the plumber is going to have 120V across his body when he grabs the two ends of the pipe.
J. Clarke wrote:

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landlord_n_va wrote:

Look, if you don't like the NEC, take it up with them. But don't claim that something violates the code when it doesn't.

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wrote:

the entrance to the house. That has to be supplimented with another electrode.
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Don't get excited John, I was just commenting on your statement .."..what bizarre notion leads you to believe that grounding to a metal water pipe in contact with the earth endangers anyone, in fact it is quite the opposite--.."
That clearly is not true!!!
And maybe you are right about the NEC, it is probably our local code here that prohibits grounding to water pipes. Grounding to a water pipe in a dangerous thing to do!!!
J. Clarke wrote:

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landlord_n_va wrote:

The NEC method addresses that. You are required to have _two_ grounds, one of which can be a water pipe and the other of which can be the structure of a metal building, provided specific conditions are met.
The electrician in question proposed _three_, two electrodes driven into the ground and one to the water pipe.
Floating the water pipes is just as dangerous you know.
Your kill the plumber scenario by the way requires that several things have gone wrong. Do you know of it actually happening anywhere?

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John,
I don't agree that the "Your kill the plumber scenario by the way requires that several things have gone wrong." It only requires ONE thing to go wrong---that being that the plumber opens the pipe which has a current on it from some grounding issue.
If the water pipe is used as a ground, and there is medal pipe all the way to the bottom of your well or to the water utility, then the water pipe will be a better ground than the rods you may have driven in the ground,...ie. fewer "ohms" to the earth..and thus the best path to ground. So, most of the current from any ground leakage will be going through that water pipe and NOT to the grounds driven into the earth. and..like I stated before, when the plumber opens the pipe he could easily have the voltage potential across his body.

Check out page 19, Scenario 4, of this OSHA report http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/pdfs/98-131.pdf which states " For example, many electrical systems are installed in a manner that allows a structure's water pipes or other conductive conduit to serve as a continuous path to ground in compliance with the NEC. However FACE investigations have identified cases of electrocution or fire as a result of an interruption in a continuous path to ground."
J. Clarke wrote:

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wrote:

That's two. It would require the simultaneous occurrence of an electrical problem and the need for a plumber.

[snip]
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Mark Lloyd wrote:

And if it is wired to code also that the _second_ ground has failed which makes three.

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J. Clarke wrote:

In my house when I bought it, there was no electrical outlet in the bathroom except for an outlet in the light fixture over the sink. The house was wired with 12-2 Romex with no ground. So they ran a ground wire from the fixture to a nearby copper water pipe. That was allowable back then. So what happens if something is plugged in and has a leak to ground? Current travels in that pipe back to where the water pipe system is bonded to the electrical ground. Some if the electricity travel to the earth thru the water meter and out, and most of it travels up the grounding electrode conductor to the panel. Notice that only one fault has occurred and there is current flowing through the pipe with no alternate path until it gets near the water meter. If that pipe is cut, a couple of bad things happen. All the plumbing fixtures connected to that pipe that are downstream of the cut are energized. Any additional outlet grounds that are grounded to that pipe are energized. The plumber who cut that pipe can be electrocuted when the pipe separates and he's holding onto both sides.
One ground fault and it causes lots of dangerous situations.
Best regards, Bob
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zxcvbob wrote:

Screw up number 1. Ungrounded outlet. Screw up number 2. No GFI on an outlet in a bathroom.

Screw up number three. Grounding to a point other than the breaker panel.

We are not talking about what was "allowable back then", we are talking about NEC 2005 I believe.

Screw up number 4--something has an undetected leak.

Screw up number 5, undersized grounding conductor resulting in significant voltage drop across the length of the conductor, if I understand what you wrote here correctly.

Nope, according to NEC 2005 at least three violations of code have occurred.

Screw up number 6--ungrounded appliances.

Screwup number 7, more outlets not grounded to the central grounding point.

If the wiring violates code.
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J. Clarke wrote:

It depends where the break occurs.

They didn't exist in 1950.

you obviously don't understand

???
What kind of appliances are you talking about? Do you consider a water faucet to be an appliance?

It didn't violate the code. I found the electrical inspection tag stapled to one of the bathroom studs in when I tore out the plaster. It was wired in 1950, I think. (the inspection tag wasn't dated, just signed and it said they could the wires now.) They didn't have access to the 2005 electrical code.
I brought the kitchen and bathroom up to 1993 code when I bought the house, although I was under no obligation to do so. I don't know or care whether it meets 2005 code. I have ungrounded outlets all over the house, no AFCI breakers to the bedrooms, and not even my /insurance company/ cares.
Do you tear out the wiring in your house and redo it every 3 years when a new code book comes out?
My example showed perfectly (to anyone who tried to understand it rather than just argue points that they don't understand) how one undetected fault set up a dangerous situation if you use the nearest accessible cold water pipe as a ground electrode, and shows why there's a rule that the water pipes must be grounded within a few feet of the water meter.
Best regards, Bob
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