Is the contractor wrong, or am I??

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by David Newell, Oct 8, 2018.

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  1. Oct 8, 2018 #1

    David Newell

    David Newell

    David Newell

    New Member

    Oct 8, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Sacramento Area


    I was an "early adapter" when it came to Solar Heating, and had a thermal "drain down" solar water heater installed in the early 90's. Then, about 10 years later, it was updated to a glycol heat-transfer system.

    All by the same contractor locally, with a C10 "general" and a ?? "solar" CSLB ticket.

    About 2 years ago, the same guy put in a replacement Rheem water heater, the prior one of which had sprung a small but irreparable leak . Just outside the warranty period of 10 years. The new one is a mere 6 years.

    So, towards the end of last winter, the backup electric heater failed. Presuming it was breakers, I lived thru a hot summer's provision of hot water, but the days are getting shorter, and I got off my lazy butt..
    and it's not the breakers! So it has to be in the supply armored Romex in the attic, of about 110 feet.

    Well, after my back operation, I ain't crawlin' 'round my attic....

    SO, since I'm in the process of getting solar electric panels installed, I figured I could sneak in the extra work for the water heater power supply on top of the $30K+ electric installation, with little extra cash outlay.

    So the guy bidding the job solar electric wanted to look at the panel, to see if there was space, (which there is), and he said
    "??Why are there two 30 amp ganged breakers feeding 12 gauge wires??"

    Well, those breakers are for the solar hot water back up mentioned above.
    and after seeing the other end, also 12 gauge..
    the fellow speculated that there was perhaps a heating event at a junction b ox, with a loosened wire nut
    causing one leg to be around 40 volts, at the water heater disconnect box .

    But, 4500/3380 is on the side of the tank,
    which I suppose is starting wattage, cold heater: and "running" when heated up...??
    So starting current draw is right at 20 1/2 amps.

    According to tables on-line,
    a 20 amp carry at 110' should require a 10 or even 8 gauge wire.

    1. I think the breakers should be 20 amp "slo-blo", to handle the start-up current,
    (IS there a 25 amp breaker??)

    2. All the wire should be heavier than 12 gauge

    3. Probably the problem is in the Jboxes in the attic.


    I called the contractor, 16 months after installation, and HE said
    "Dude, there's only 1 year warrantee..."

    My stating it had failed within a year, but I was to stupid to report it, elicited a yawn.

    I stated the facts of the matter, and he said

    "The house was permitted when it was built, and we just tied into what was there."
    "The codes may have changed, but they were what was there: you think we have X Ray vision?"

    Well, how about the mismatch between the 30 amps an the 12 gauge?
    "Like I said, not our job or responsibility."

    IMHO, I think a contractor has a duty to advise homeowners if something is not up to code,
    and if it is a safety issue, either refuse to install the appliance (or whatever): or insist on a change order.

    Further, i think the statute of limitations on an unsafe, faulty install is NOT limited to "one year",
    but 4 years if it is noted: and ten years if a fire or other hazard causes loss because of it.


    I've told him what I think:
    I've sent references to codes I think apply:

    and I've said that I would pay for wire and circuit breakers if needed,
    but he needs to get the install corrected to current codes .

    I've given him a week to yea or nay,
    and then I will go to CSLB and file a complaint,
    get a forensic Electician to make repairs and take pictures,
    pay for that service,
    and commence trying for recovery from the contractor
    down the pay-a-lawyer route.

    (I've NEVER sued anyone..)


    So anyway, if I'm FOS, please advise.

    I that a fair offer?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks to my friend Rich, who turned me on to this site.


  2. Oct 8, 2018 #2




    Contractor retired

    Nov 4, 2010
    Likes Received:
    I think his responsibility for a mistake in wiring last for a long time or should. It starts up with 2 elements, all they had to do was disconnect the second one.
  3. Oct 8, 2018 #3




    Fixer Upper Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Feb 5, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Sometimes it’s a matter of who is right and who is wrong and that’s an easy thing to see and a difficult thing to prove and enforcement is even harder.

    It sounds like you are correct and it sounds like a “reputable” contractor would take care of it. Clearly he is not reputable and perhaps he isn’t even a contractor by the sounds of it.

    By all means report him but don’t expect any action because of it. It will go in a file and when he gets enough he will change his business name and start again or however it gets done these days. Of course this is just my opinion.

    My years of life have programmed me that for the most part my last chance to complain is when the last dollar leaves my hand, and if it isn’t the last chance it is for sure the last easy chance I get.

    Most people around here live by word of mouth and doing quality work and taking care of customers. In bigger cities there is an ever expanding customer base and people pick from the top of the list. As a kid I asked my dad why so many companies in the yellow pages were AAA Plumbing etc. He said when you need a plumber you start at the top of the list. He told me to always start at the bottom of the list and get a better plumber.

    Good luck on the repairs. I will leave the technical advice to the pros who should be along shortly.
  4. Oct 8, 2018 #4





    Nov 18, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Was the installation inspected? Is the conductor size marked on the label that has the laboratory listing mark on it.

    The bad news is that it is seldom worth while to pay a lawyer; at $100.00 + per hour; to try to recover any loss that is not in the Multiple $1000 range. You could consider small claims court if the limit on claim will cover you loss.

    If I hadn't moved from Davis, California to Maryland many years ago I would come over and help you sort it out just to get back into alternative energy which I haven't had the opportunity to work with for decades.

    Tom Horne
  5. Oct 8, 2018 #5




    Well-Known Member

    Sep 30, 2006
    Likes Received:
    You may want to hold your water and do a cost benefit before you proceed.

    "I would pay for wire and circuit breakers if needed, but he needs to get the install corrected to current codes."

    He has no pre-requsite to "bring the installation to current codes", and at that, only to prevailing codes at the time of the installation.

    His expense would then only be labor and permit, so why not make the same offer to the new contractor, which by the way, would be a miniscual cost compared to an attorney, and that process.

    Then if you feel a lasting desire for satisfaction, file with the state contractors license board, who by the way, have subpoena powers.
  6. Oct 11, 2018 #6




    Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator

    Jun 6, 2009
    Likes Received:
    I'm with Snooby on this one. If he took shortcuts the first time, why give him a second chance?
    And then post a negative review wherever he advertises online.
  7. Oct 11, 2018 #7




    Well-Known Member

    May 26, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Most residential electric water heaters are around 4500 watts . At 240 VAC = 18.75 amps * 1.25 for continuous duty = 23.4375 amps . Thus # 10 AWG copper wire and 2 pole 30 amp circuit breaker . Slightly more if it has 5000 watt elements .

    All this is if the water does not use both the upper and lower element at the same time ( non simultaneous ) .

    As far as warranty , which is cheaper , a lawyer or an electrician ?

    God bless

  8. Oct 14, 2018 #8




    Junior Member

    Aug 23, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I can see both sides, but the key here is that the same guy did the original wiring and the new WH install, so he had to know the wiring was inadequate. Code was violated the moment he hooked up the wiring, and regardless of any "warranty period" all work must meet code. As long as the repairs are done at the standard rate for that work in your area, he will have to pay you now, or pay you and your lawyer and the Court fees later on. He will pay now. Accept only payment in full and insist on cash or verified cashier's check only so he has no more room to be a weasel.

    Some lessons in this business come hard, but they are supposed to when you're as bad as he was at your job. None of us are perfect, but all of us can act responsibly.

    nealtw likes this.

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