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Thread: Electrical Question

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    Electrical Question

    Backstory is that our house was built in 1974 and was built with aluminum wiring. When we bought the house it had a new 200 w box installed. That was 27 years ago. We had an outlet fail and a supposed electrician came in and showed us that it was backstabbed and that was not right and 'fixed' it. Another electrical company gave us a telephone quote only.

    Yesterday a Master Electrician came in to give us an estimate. He pulled the cover off the junction area that had been used to connect the new box and one of the connectors was burned through and another was brown. He pulled the outlet that had been 'fixed' and just moving it caused the circuit to blow. (I know enough about electricity to know that was not right!) He checked several other things and gave us an estimate for replacing outlets and switches, fixing the junction box, tightening up the box, etc.

    Needless to say, we hired him.

    He mentioned that the central box should be replaced every 20 years. Is this a sales recommendation or something that is essentially necessary? It seems a little extreme to me, that an electrical box should only last that long.
    Wayne the Shrink

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  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy

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    If the panel is in good shape and new breakers are still available, I see no reason to replace it.
    BTW I am an electrician.

  3. #3
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    My 2˘
    The box is a box. If there isn't corrosion or damage, I can't see replacing it. But Codes do change. Maybe a box should be replaced as it becomes obsolete by Code standards, but that wouldn't necessarily have a timeline. Maybe your Master Electrician just used 20 years as a general timeframe example, where Codes 'could' change enough to warrant such replacement?

    If you 'often' use the circuit breakers as OFF-ON switches, they do wear out and would need to be replaced more often than you'd think. Heat and Time will also deteriorate circuit Breakers, so even if you aren't regularly switching them, they still need to be replaced on some sort of timeline...which I could see being as 20 years. Maybe that's what your Master Electrician was saying?

    FYI, I an not a licensed Electrician, but I did get a Electronic Technician degree and worked in the Electrical industry since 1985.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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  4. #4
    He wants to make a sale I recommend people upgrade from fuse boxes but if they have “modern” equipment I see no reason to make someone spend the $$$


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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I installed a new 200 amp breaker box over 20 years ago. I see no need to replace it simply because of age. This house was built in 1958, and still had the original 60 amp service with the cartridge fuses and glass fuses. 60 amps is not enough to run air conditioning, cook stoves, and water heaters, so the whole system had been added on to and modified in a manner that was downright scary. The insurance salesman absolutely did not like it.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master

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    We almost never use the circuit breakers. They have been on since we moved here and I have only used them when I did minor repair and had to close a circuit. The only one I have popped regularly is the garage circuit.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Nobody replaces a box after 20 years without a good reason like major rust. Lugs can be replaced and the box is often integrated with the building.

    Aluminum wiring is a concern. The little I've done tells me the connections need to be checked every few years and too much bending causes fatigue failure (breaks) rather than work hardening like copper.
    Last edited by Mal Paso; 01-15-2021 at 11:06 AM.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master
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    I agree that a box is a box. A 200 amp service is typical in American homes and is plenty. The "Box" is just an enclosure with rails that hold breakers. As stated earlier, if the breakers for that type of panel are still available, there's NO reason to replace a functional breaker box.

    That guy doesn't just want to sell you a breaker box, he wants to sell you the panel, about 20-30 breakers and hours worth of labor. And you can bet your last dollar that he will purchased the supplies at contractor's prices and mark them up when he graciously "supplies" them to you.

    My father had a degree in electrical engineering but didn't work as a residential electrician. However he was rather frugal and we did all of our own work when I was young. In one house we had a mixture of old and new with a 200 amp service feeding part of the house directly and part of the house via an old sub-panel. The sub-panel had glass and cartridge fuses. The wiring in that house would put your average building inspector into a seizure with nothing more than a glance.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master popper's Avatar
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    In 74 house should have never been wired with Al. Al was outed in the 60s. Revamps are allowed with pigtail (screw version) or backstabbed (Al rated) sockets. Cu plated Al. is acceptable. Some F-P panels are 'claimed' to be fire hazards. Any 'darkening' of wiring needs replacement. Breakers go bad after a (long) while and today's versions don't last as long (imports). Years ago I inspected the knob and wire of her relative's (1900 or so) house. Fine shape. Many older homes have added panels to handle the normal 200 Amp service, how legal the 'fix' is depends on local code.
    Not an electrician but yeas ago I bid the ceiling lighting of KCI (500 & 350W merc in concrete cast egg crate), Co that got the job did Al and we got the cost plus fix. $$$.
    Whatever!

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    Not a house electrician but I agree with everyone else. A box is a box and buss bar is a buss bar.

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  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    Was the aluminum wiring for individual circuits or the main wiring to the panel? For the main service entrance wiring, aluminum wire that has been properly sized and installed is perfectly acceptable. For a while aluminum wire was used for individual circuits, but has not been allowed by the National Electrical code for many years. I don't know when the use stopped but I have not seen it installed since the mid 70's when I started electrical work. The only place I've seen aluminum wire used for individual circuits were in old mobile homes.

    I have replaced many electrical panels over the years, but never because of their age. Unless there was other problems with your panel I think the electrician you hired may be pulling your leg (and wallet).
    Last edited by jimlj; 01-15-2021 at 06:39 PM.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    Depends on the buss in the box. Many “ reasonable ones” nowdays are al VS ones that are solid Copper. Always used the paste on al wiring connectors when al to copper or other metal.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimlj View Post
    Was the aluminum wiring for individual circuits or the main wiring to the panel? For the main service entrance wiring aluminum wire that has been properly sized and installed is perfectly acceptable. For a while aluminum wire was used for individual circuits, but has not been allowed by the National Electrical code for many years. I don't know when the use stopped but I have not seen it installed since the mid 70's when I started electrical work. The only place I've seen aluminum wire used for individual circuits were in old mobile homes.

    I have replaced many electrical panels over the years, but never because of their age. Unless there was other problems with your panel I think the electrician you hired may be pulling your leg (and wallet).
    Yes. I buried the electrical to my house. Local contractor recommended 2-2-4, and it IS aluminum.

  14. #14
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    My dad was a an electrician then state electrical inspector. Back in the 70's I remember helping him replace a LOT of aluminum wire because it was burning houses down, especially manufactured homes where they used it to save money. One manufactured home company was sued and had to cover the cost of revamping the wiring because it was undersized aluminum.

    Only reason I could see replacing a main panel is if it is one of the big box store junk panels that are known for issues. Neighbor had one that was 10 years old and the main buss bars in it were burning up because the breakers didn't make a tight fit.

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy
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    I am NOT an electrician but I do a lot of electrical work on my own home and rental units. I have a Master Electrician as a guide and consultant. As noted by several others, the box and breakers really do not go bad. What does change is the need for more circuits in many upgraded homes. I had an old box replaced several years ago in my 1958 era home and told the guy I work with what I had planned yet to do to the house. Fast forward several years and I completely remodeled the basement with GFI and receptacles every 6 feet and all that. I am finishing a complete kitchen remodel and there were I think four circuits total in the small kitchen that also has a washer and dryer in a corner. This is what I have now for circuits:
    1. All lights which are LED including under counter lighting
    2. Separate dishwasher circuit
    3. Separate disposal circuit
    4 Separate washing machine circuit
    5. Separate refrigerator circuit
    6. Two receptacles on a west wall
    7 To meet code and additional counter top I now have 3 circuits with 2 receptacles each
    8. Separate breaker for the microwave

    Several years ago I tiled the bathroom and thought it would be cool to put a heated floor in - another 20 amp breaker dedicated to one thing.

    Garages need to have dedicated 20 amp breakers if you have any power equipment

    All of this goes to say that likely the reason you need bigger than you think or what you have may not last is not due to wear but due to upgrading things.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master metricmonkeywrench's Avatar
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    We just redid the main in our house which was built in 1965. Its all copper with the cloth covered romex except for any modern installs. The 100a panel was full and I even had a slim dual on one circuit. For years we have had power fluctuations and dimming when the AC kicked on or a flicker when the drier or pool pump was started. We learned to live with it. Last year the local power company came thru and announced that they will be burying the utilities. For our house as an old retrofit the power was going to come to the corner of the house, be conduited up to a new (wireless reading) meter box and then up and over a window and back down into the existing old meter box which would be internally bypassed. Not wanting that ugly mess we opted to have an electrician replace the entire system and upgrade us to a 200a circuit. I now have new panels with lots of room to grow and when the underground burial comes through it will go directly into the new service.

    If not for that we likely would still have had the same box for years to come.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I am not an electrician and don't play one on tv but have done some wiring. I can't say that I've heard you need to replace a box every 20yrs unless there is some type of damage like water or fire. Probably wouldn't hurt but seems like wasted money to me unless something is wrong.

    I asked my wife's dad who is a commercial/industrial electrician and he scratched his head and said no. Good enough for me.
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  18. #18
    Boolit Master daloper's Avatar
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    Your biggest problem is the Aluminum wire. All of your receptacles and switches need to be rated to be use with aluminum wire, don't just go and buy the cheap switches and stuff at your local big box store. If you have aluminum wire you should have someone check the lugs and connections on a regular basis because they will come loose from the wire heating up and expanding and contracting when it cools.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Decades ago, GONRA lived in an Al wired house in Northern DE.
    SO - Went thru all the receptacles, switches, ... (rated for Cu ONLY!),
    sanded the Al wire under the screw,
    added a dab of NoAlox grease.
    Retightened screw.
    Never hada problem....

    Current house in PA is all Cu BUT hasalotta "pushin" connectors.
    Replaced all these with "screw ons" - made me feel better......
    Last edited by GONRA; 01-15-2021 at 07:58 PM.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Aluminum Oxide is an insulator. That's why grounding parts for solar panels have teeth to penetrate the anodizing.

    Would be a bad thing for wire.
    Mal

    Mal Paso means Bad Pass, just so you know.

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