Replacing FP electrical panel in Condo (with pics)

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I want to thank everyone for your inputs. I was at Lowes again and happen to stumble across a Square D Homeline value pack HOM1224L125VP 12/24 that come with 2-20A breakers and a factory installed ground bar. Whats wierd is Lowes doesn't show this on their website, nor does Squared D have this in the catalog. When I e-mailed Squared-D this is the reply I got within 5 minutes.
"Thank you for your recent internet inquiry.
The HOM1224L125VP consists of a HOM1224L125TC -125Amp 12 space/24 circuit factory installed main lug load center with equipment ground bar kit, and (2) HOM120 Homeline 20 Amp single pole circuit breakers.
The HOM1224L125TC is available separately, and the -T in the -TC suffix is for a factory installed ground bar"
So it looks like I found the panel I'm looking for. Just goes to show sometimes you have to go to the store and look more closely as some companies manufacture product exclusivly for Lowes or HD.
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*Congratulations on the good find. Yes the valuepacks that include branch circuit breakers are packaged exclusively for the retailers. The panels sold at the electrical supply companies never come with branch circuit breakers which makes the products at Home Depot and Lowes very enticing.
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Thanks for the Square D link. Yeah, that panel would work. But I should mention the stud to the left can be moved/relocated and one of the studs is just a filler, so I can go a little wider. I just came back from HD, and they had Siemans and Eaton CH 8/16 boxes. The Eaton CH is a bit smaller than the Seimans, at 11"W X 13" high. Lowes has Square D, but I think the biggest they have is 6/12. I'll definately loook into the Square D though at a supply house. The existing FPE panel
In terms of seperate ground bar, the existing wiring in the condo is BX w/o ground, and the feed to the panel is BX and no ground. Do I still need it? I see "ground straps" that come with the new panels, should those be installed?
In terms of quality, any of them better or worse? I know Square D has been around for ages. What about the others?
*I agree with RBM. If all of your grounds are through the BX armor, then you don't need a ground bar. It is a cheap and easy installation now though in case you add a Romex circuit later. You will need to make sure that all of your connectors and locknuts are tight to ensure good ground continuity through the BX. Do not bond the neutral bar to the panel using the ground straps. That would only be done if this was a main panel. What you have is a sub-panel. The bond strap is already (Or should be) installed at the meter and main breaker location.
I think that Square D QO and the Cutler-Hammer tan line are best known for their higher quality, but any brand should suffice for your needs. Murray is made by Siemens and the circuit breakers are interchangeable. Lowes sells GE panels with white covers for apartments and condos. If you are able to move the stud and install a regular size panel, I suggest something like a 20 circuit or 24 circuit panel or at least a 12/20. You will have more room inside of the panel to work in and plenty of room for future expansion should the need arise.
You may want to get some white electrical tape and apply it to the neutral conductors as it looks as though the color is fading on the existing wiring.
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John Grabowski wrote:

I'm a big fan of Square D QO series as top quality. Just a week ago I helped someone replace a failed CH tan breaker feeding their heat pump, nothing wrong on the circuit, strictly a breaker failure. Even disconnected and sitting in my hand the breaker handle would not latch on.
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*I don't think any breaker is failsafe. I've replaced QO breakers that have gone bad after 20 years. I think loose connections and arcing are contributing factors as is continuously pushing the load to the maximum breaker rating.
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John Grabowski wrote:

Nothing is ever 100%, however this CH breaker was only around 5 years old, original equipment in a recent housing development. Loose connections and arcing will certainly do in otherwise good equipment. I didn't see any signs of either on the CH breaker, indeed the screw terminals were so tight I had to use a wrench on the screwdriver to loosen them. Perhaps overtorquing when it was installed caused internal damage.
I've not personally run across a failed QO breaker, but I'm not an electrician either. I can say that I use QO in all of my personal installations, including my new main panel and shop subpanel which I upgraded at my current house in 2006 and I've not had any issues.
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*5 years is not much of a life for any brand of circuit breaker. I would check the nameplate on the heatpump to see if it the size required by the manufacturer. Of course there is no telling what happened to the breaker during its trip from the factory to its final stop in the circuit breaker panel (Like everything else).
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How many more circuits can I add? The main breaker in the meter room is only 50A. Besides the circuits I mentioned above, I would like to run a new dedicated 20A for the bathroom( being shared by a 15A circuit now) and at least 1 more 20A for the kitchen counter (code calls for 2, I have 1 existing circuit there already).
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How many more circuits can I add? The main breaker in the meter room is only 50A. Besides the circuits I mentioned above, I would like to run a new dedicated 20A for the bathroom( being shared by a 15A circuit now) and at least 1 more 20A for the kitchen counter (code calls for 2, I have 1 existing circuit there already).
** You can add as many as you have panel space to accommodate. You'll still be limited by the 50 amp feeder and main
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I guess what I'm trying to ask is there any restriction as to what size cabinet I can put in? I am limited to space, but if I could , is there any code violation if I put in lets say a 20/40 panel? I thought the main service dictates how big of a panel you can put in.
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.

*No violation. Put in as big a panel as you think you will need for the life of the condo. The 50 amp main circuit breaker will protect it from being overloaded. If the 50 amp main breaker is old, you might want to install a new one for the best protection. New FPE breakers are still available for the price of a mortgage payment.
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might be a good idea to upgrade serive from the meter location to a minimum of 100 amps and price a 200 amp upgrade. which might be very little more
50 amps is really low for any home today:(
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On 3/20/2011 1:31 PM, bob haller wrote:

It's a condo. He doesn't own the meter base or the distribution wires, if it is like most. Most condos, even the work 'inside the 4 walls' that he has described, would have to be done by an association or management company approved electrician. The whole building may only have 200 or 400 amp service, split among 4-6-8 units. If it has window A/C units, it probably wasn't built as a condo, it is probably an old converted apartment building from 1960s at newest, if the 240v outlets are original. We just don't know, unless OP cares to post more details.
Being a glorified apartment, 50 amps is likely adequate, unless he is planning on installing a server farm or ceramics kiln.
--
aem sends...

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Well at this point investigating options is a good idea and likely free:)
ACs, electric water heaters, electric stoves, kitchen appliances, hair dryers and curling irons, todays homes are power hungry.
Years ago a customer of mine reported he lived in a condo and his main panel was bad and only 50 amps, and he couldnt go larger.
the power company put in a service drop at their expense just for him for free:) A side benefit.... it freed up capacity for the other 3 residences, after that they upgraded too, although he didnt know the details
he said it was a PIA getting everyone to agree but his cost was minimal which he liked
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Correct, I believe the bldg is approx 60 units total, built around 1955-1960s. It has through the wall A/C's, with dedicated 220V outlets next to them. To my knowledge, all of the units have FPE panels.
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I went to Lowes this morning, and although they only had a 6/12 Square D Lug box, the dimensions are the same for 8/16, which is 12.57" X8.88". It looked pretty tight in the box, with the neutral bar being op top, And only like a inch space on the left side to route the neutrals. If it looked that tight for a 6/12, the 8/16 is even tighter. The other boxes I saw (GE/Murray,Cutler Hammer) although bigger looks like it had more room inside.
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I went to Lowes this morning, and although they only had a 6/12 Square D Lug box, the dimensions are the same for 8/16, which is 12.57" X8.88". It looked pretty tight in the box, with the neutral bar being op top, And only like a inch space on the left side to route the neutrals. If it looked that tight for a 6/12, the 8/16 is even tighter. The other boxes I saw (GE/Murray,Cutler Hammer) although bigger looks like it had more room inside.
*I think that the Square D box is slightly deeper, but go with whatever box that you want. It's nice to have plenty of working space.
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I went to Lowes this morning, and although they only had a 6/12 Square D Lug box, the dimensions are the same for 8/16, which is 12.57" X8.88". It looked pretty tight in the box, with the neutral bar being op top, And only like a inch space on the left side to route the neutrals. If it looked that tight for a 6/12, the 8/16 is even tighter. The other boxes I saw (GE/Murray,Cutler Hammer) although bigger looks like it had more room inside.
I had only suggested a QO because of your possible space restrictions. If you've got the room, I'd get a box big enough to walk in.
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I appreciate the suggestion, thanks anyway.
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is the entires condo main only 50 amps?
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