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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Default Arc Fault Breaker?

    So, I have a cape cod style house from 1941. I just got it. First thing I did was to run 3 circuts to the kitchen, dishwasher, disposal, and an appliance line. (these didn't exist before) the kitchen was all on the same breaker as the living room. I also ran a new circut to the 2nd floor of the house for outlets up there. Lights are spread across 2 breakers. I had some help from an electrician to do this.

    One thing I told him is that I want to protect the house from any faults caused by old bad wiring. The whole house is done in armoured cable (bx i think). Cloth insulation. It seems to be in really good condition, but I worry about what's in the walls that I can't see.

    The electricain seemed confused when I asked him to install an arc fault breaker from the main lights and outlets on the old wiring in the house.

    There's a 60 amp breaker on the main line that runs all of the old lights and outlets, Would it make sense to replace this breaker with an arc fault breaker, or all of the indivdual breakers under the main?

    Edit: I failed to mention that the house has a 200 amp panel by square d, and there are several other larger breakers for the appliances -furnace, dryer, and so on. All copper wires accept the neutral wire from the power company...
    Last edited by JCphotog; 12-17-2007 at 10:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
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    645

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Quote Originally Posted by JCphotog View Post
    So, I have a cape cod style house from 1941. I just got it. First thing I did was to run 3 circuts to the kitchen, dishwasher, disposal, and an appliance line. (these didn't exist before) the kitchen was all on the same breaker as the living room. I also ran a new circut to the 2nd floor of the house for outlets up there. Lights are spread across 2 breakers. I had some help from an electrician to do this.

    One thing I told him is that I want to protect the house from any faults caused by old bad wiring. The whole house is done in armoured cable (bx i think). Cloth insulation. It seems to be in really good condition, but I worry about what's in the walls that I can't see.

    The electricain seemed confused when I asked him to install an arc fault breaker from the main lights and outlets on the old wiring in the house.

    There's a 60 amp breaker on the main line that runs all of the old lights and outlets, Would it make sense to replace this breaker with an arc fault breaker, or all of the indivdual breakers under the main?

    Edit: I failed to mention that the house has a 200 amp panel by square d, and there are several other larger breakers for the appliances -furnace, dryer, and so on. All copper wires accept the neutral wire from the power company...
    A 60 amp breaker on the main line runs all the old lights and outlets. To me, this sounds very odd.
    Besides I have only found AFCIs in two sizes, that being 15 & 20 amps.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    78

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    There are 4 large breakers. One for the main house lights and outlets, then 3 other appliance breakers, then below the 60 amp main, there are smaller 15 amp breakers which control the individual circuits within the house. IE, 15amp breaker for the beadroom, 15 amp breaker for the living room and dining room, 15 amp breaker for the... and they are all under the 60amp breaker. If you turn one off, that circuit goes off, if you turn the 60amp, they all go off (except for the appliances)...

    I think the 60amp breaker is more like a switch for everything, so that really answers my question. I really should just replace the individual circuits with afci breakers.

    Seems like a good thing to have in the house to protect your investment..

  4. #4
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    Jun 2007
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    Shamokin, Pa.
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    645

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Quote Originally Posted by DwarfWytch View Post
    I agree with Ernie that something sounds amiss either with your panel or your description; unless of course those other lighting and receptacle circuits are not directly wired to that 60 amp breaker, but instead to a sub panel (perhaps the original main panel) which contains individual branch circuit protection (might be fuses and not circuit breakers) limited to 15 or 20 amps, and that 60 amp breaker protects/feeds. As lighting circuits and receptacles 120 volt branch circuits are generally protected by individual 15 and 20 amp circuit breakers, this is a residence in the US correct?
    Did not Cutler Hammer make a panel like that at one time. I am sure I saw one in a house, where a few main breakers controlled more breakers.
    I had forgot all about it till now. The reason it being that someone had installed a 200 amp panel box using the original 100 amp SE cable and a 100 amp meter base. I ran away from that job because of that. Did show the homeowner the problem though, and told him he should get a second opinion, [as he was a doctor, as I recall**.
    Maybe Square D produced a panel box like that at one time.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2007
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    78

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Ernie, that's it. At some point I'll upgrade the panel.. But for now that's my situation.
    Do you think it's a good idea to upgrade to arc fault breakers in an older house?

    DwarfWytch, no they are breakers all in one panel. You turn of the 60amp, and everything goes out except the appliances, you turn of the smaller breakers, and only that circuit goes out... No confusion there..

  6. #6
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    Nov 2007
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    78

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Interesting. I have no idea how old the panel is. This could have been here for some time. Are they a bad choice to keep?

    Would you suggest changing out the panel? Would this be a super urgent project?

    If so, what do you think would be a reasonable bid to accept for a job like that, also any choice of panel brands that you'd suggest?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Shamokin, Pa.
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    645

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Quote Originally Posted by JCphotog View Post
    Ernie, that's it. At some point I'll upgrade the panel.. But for now that's my situation.
    Do you think it's a good idea to upgrade to arc fault breakers in an older house?

    DwarfWytch, no they are breakers all in one panel. You turn of the 60amp, and everything goes out except the appliances, you turn of the smaller breakers, and only that circuit goes out... No confusion there..
    Like I posted earlier, I have only ever seen one panel manufactured like that.
    Does anyone have more info on this type, like why was it thought to be a good idea?
    I don't see any problem with having one though.
    And AFCIs should work in the breakers spaces that feed the bedroom outlets just fine.
    Just watch out for old outlets. I have run into trouble with AFCIs not holding, but upgrading to new outlets has helped that situation. Go figure that one

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Denver, CO
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    666

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Split bus panels used to be pretty common but they have not been approved for use by the NEC since the 80's(?)

    I spent an entire summer replacing them on homes.

  9. #9
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    Nov 2007
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    78

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Great information guys! Thank you for that. What do you think the price range would be to upgrade?

  10. #10
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    Nov 2007
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    78

    Default Re: Arc Fault Breaker?

    Sure, any job is impossible to do a real estimate with out seeing anything in person.. Say for the sake of discussion, if you were just swapping out the panel for a new one.. Any thoughts on cost so I can approach local vendors with a bit of education...

    I've spoken to local contractors that charge $150 for the first half hour, and 70-80 for each additional half hour..

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