Still ok to use a breaker panel as a junction box?

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by afjes_2016, Dec 5, 2018.

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  1. Dec 5, 2018 #1

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

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    Ok guys. Asking for a bit of assistance here. Retired and don't have a recent copy of the NEC (not paying for it since I don't need it).

    Question is - by code is it still ok to use a breaker panel as a junction box? Trying to help my boss with his FedPacific box swap out.

    I want to help him by by-passing his FedPac box by removing all the breakers and putting in a new breaker panel next to it and using the FedPac as a junction box going to the new breaker panel.

    Thanks
     
  2. Dec 6, 2018 at 12:38 AM #2

    hornetd

    hornetd

    hornetd

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    Yes it is code compliant as long as you can provide a cover, which was listed by a recognized electrical testing laboratory for use with that cabinet, which will completely close the front of the cabinet. If memory serves Federal Pacific panel board cabinets did not have a cover door over the breakers handles. If the one in question does have a closable cover then you are home free. All you would have to do is to drill the cover door and drill and tap the cover or drill both and use a machine screw and nut so that the door can be closed to deny access without tools. If it does not have a completely enclosing cover with a door then your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may require you to have a cover made by an electrical cabinet manufacturer to a recognized design. Such Underwriters Recognized (UR) products can be expensive enough to make your project impractical. Some more pragmatic AHJs will allow you to use a cover from any listed cabinet to cover the front of the existing cabinet and since cabinets come in both flush and surface mount designs you should be able to buy a cover separately through any electrical supply house. Some AHJs are practical to the point of allowing standard sizes of electrical box blank covers to be affixed to the original cover so as to cover the holes. The key to success here is to find out what your local AHJ will except before you start work. Neatness does count in such conversions. No matter how you go about closing any openings do it super neatly. That shows that your work is careful and unlikely to hide some dangerous flaw. Be aware that unless the existing cover has a cover door you can use to close the breaker openings or you can find listed breaker blanks to close them you will be asking for permission to do some thing which is not specifically allowed in the code. Don't bring up the word exception first though.

    Once you have the cover issue settled consider installing UR barrier strips which have sems screws. Those have a pressure plate under each screw head to permit straight in connections. Alternatively you could use any barrier strip which is listed or recognized for direct use on the conductors you will need to terminate. You then run the home runs from one end down one side and the connecting jumpers to the breakers from the other end from the other side. That will make an impressively neat installation which will help gain quick acceptance for the finished installation. You can bring that up during your sit down with the AHJ's representative to see if it is worth doing but no inspector would ever turn down a neat installation done with laboratory listed or recognized parts. Make sure that the listing mark is available for inspection. If the listing mark is on the packaging rather than the part itself have the packaging available for the inspector to examine. That may mean all of the packages and not just one representative example depending on whether that AHJ has ever been burned on any similar project.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  3. Dec 6, 2018 at 11:20 AM #3

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

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    Thanks for the info Tom. Yes, it still has the original panel cover and does have a door that closes properly.
     
  4. Dec 6, 2018 at 4:15 PM #4

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    Yes , I would either screw the door closed or get a sheet metal shop to make a blank cover & paint it . Might label it as a Junction Box .

    I personally would screw a ground bar to the old can / enclosure and use it .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  5. Dec 6, 2018 at 10:03 PM #5

    hornetd

    hornetd

    hornetd

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    You lucked out there. All you should have to do is to drill a couple of holes through the cover's door and install a couple of machine screws to keep the door closed. You could then proceed.

    If you do use an Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC) Bus in the old cabinet it would behoove you to install bonding bushings on both ends of the nipples between the two enclosures and bond each bushing to the Equipment Grounding Conductor buss bar in the cabinet were it is installed. Bonding of the nipple to the EGC buss bars in each cabinet lowers the impedance of the Ground Fault current pathway in the event of a fault thus lowering the trip time of the affected breaker and clearing the fault in the shortest time possible. None of that is needed if all the circuits which run to the old cabinet are in conduit or another raceway which serve as the EGC. If that is the case wire brush the contact surface around each raceway entry and make up all of the lock nuts wrench tight. Ideal and others market a circuit tester which will test the impedance of the Equipment Grounding pathway from any point on the individual branch circuits. That will quickly reveal if any of the raceways have a loose or corroded joint or connection at any box or other point. If a high impedance is detected you will have to find the loose connection and fix it or bond around it.

    If you want to use a neutral buss in the old cabinet, so as to avoid the work of running individual neutral conductors for each branch circuit into the new cabinet, you will need to buy the insulating stand offs for the bus bars and run a 4/Ø Aluminum or a 2/Ø copper conductor, for a 200 ampere main breaker, between that neutral buss in the old cabinet and the Neutral buss in the new panel.

    I see it as better practice to keep both current carrying conductors of each branch circuit together back to the cabinet were the branch circuit breakers are installed. That will insure the lowest impedance in the neutral pathway and the fastest possible tripping of the circuit breaker during a short circuit between the energized and Neutral conductors. That is why I like using laboratory listed or recognized barrier strips to connect the existing circuits to their new termination points in the new panel cabinet.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  6. Dec 6, 2018 at 10:10 PM #6

    hornetd

    hornetd

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    Some AHJs will only accept a new cover if it is built by a laboratory recognized shop. Most will except an original listed cover with an original door which can be fastened closed so tools would be needed to open it.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  7. Dec 6, 2018 at 10:56 PM #7

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    I will undoubtedly get flamed for this , but if doing it for myself , the AHJ would never know it happened .

    When dealing with an old house that is more or less Grandfathered , there is almost no limit to the amount of work you could get forced into .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
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  8. Dec 7, 2018 at 12:36 PM #8

    hornetd

    hornetd

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    I hope that you don't see this as getting flamed. I had supposed that since a new service is being installed that an inspection by the AHJ would be needed to get the new installation energized unless he was planning on doing a hot swap from his existing Service Entry Conductors to the set for the new service equipment.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  9. Dec 7, 2018 at 12:38 PM #9

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

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    Tom, again thanks!

    100amp service

    You may have just saved me a lot of physical work and time. With these old bones and my back problems it will save the day!! Never thought of running a conductor from the old panel to the new one for the existing neutrals. The existing FedPac panel is in very good condition considering. The existing panel neutral is already isolated from the panel but someone put a bonding strap from the neutral bar to the panel. I will remove that.

    As you suggested:

    "install bonding bushings on both ends of the nipples between the two enclosures and bond each bushing to the Equipment Grounding Conductor buss bar in the cabinet were it is installed"

    I will do this and had planned on doing it. The existing nipple does not have one but I wanted to put one on anyway.

    Since I will use the existing isolated neutral bar as my neutrals for existing I will run a line to the new isolated neutral bar. But I would assume I still need to run a neutral line to the new panel from the service.

    The service conductors are not long enough to go from the old panel to the new thru the nipple so I was going to use these to connect the conductors in the panel.

    I will bolt the door to the panel cover of the existing panel as suggested.

    This is going to be much easier now. There are five 3/4" conduits going into the top of the FedPac panel. The ceilings are very high and would have to use an extension ladder to get to the ceiling where all the couplings are on the five conduit. Was not looking forward to bending 3/4" conduit and climbing the ladder with each bend to check them. Needless to say all the conductors in each of them. Lucky, there is a main disconnect knife switch directly next the fedpac panel so I can cut the power right there and work with a dead panel.
     
  10. Dec 7, 2018 at 5:53 PM #10

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    As I said , if I was doing this for myself , that is what I would do . If it sounded like I was advising the OP to do so , please , everyone forgive me .

    No insult intended , but it sounds as the OP is way over his head & I am not advising he / she to do any hot work .

    God bless
    Wyr
     
  11. Dec 8, 2018 at 12:24 PM #11

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

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    I appreciate your concern here for me Wyr. Not quite over my head on this one though. Just needed some clarification on a subject of using the panel as a junction box. While I am a "Established and Supporting Member" of this forum and usually on the other end of assisting OPs with their electrical questions as being a retired residential electrician myself (due to physical disabilities) I figured this was the best place to come to and ask this question again for clarification and suggestions.

    Also, would not be the first time I did any "hot work". :)
     
  12. Dec 8, 2018 at 4:42 PM #12

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    Well , I have done my share of residential service calls , but mostly did commercial work . Only did 3 houses from the ground up .

    I have been a supervisor / estimator for 20 - 30 years . So it has been a long time since I wore my tools 40 hours a week .

    I am now semi retired and usually work in the mornings . Bad knees , back & hips .

    Best of luck , :)
    God bless
    Wyr
     
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  13. Dec 9, 2018 at 12:13 PM #13

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

    afjes_2016

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    Wyr: The pain! Oh the pain!!
    Know exactly what you mean about pain. My knees (both) are also bad. Almost impossible for me to get up from the floor (where a lot of electrical work is done) without grabbing onto something and pulling my self up. Bending over; just as bad, back goes out without any warning. So I hear ya!

    Yup, my boss asked me to do this swap out for him as I have also done renovation work for him in the past as he owns multiple rental units and has bought houses, reno and then rented them. He knows anyone but him and I am retired. He lets me take my time though and he has given me a nice cushy-job behind a desk so I can't say no to him when he asks me.

    I think using this panel as a jbox is my best bet so far. No rush on my end to get it done. It is in an area that is hardly used except for storage so he said he does not care if it takes me a week to get it done.

    Best of luck to you too!
    AFJES
     
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