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Thread: Opening Up and Electrical Panel

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member moeronn's Avatar
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    Default Opening Up an Electrical Panel

    After reviewing some of the threads here and talking to an electrician about a house I am under contract to purchase, it seems like I should take a look at the wiring of the main electrical panel (especially after reading the thread about moving the panel from the basement to the main floor that I can't find the link for now).

    The panel itself looks fairly new with mostly 20 AMP and some 30 & 40 AMP circuits. I just want to peak and see what the wiring to the panel looks like. I'm not planning on doing anything else other than look to see that it isn't a complete mess/mickey mouse job.

    FWIW I've done DIY lighting fixture, recepticle and switch replacements and am generally comfortable with electrical, but never done anything at the panel other than flip the breakers.

    Is this something an average DIYer can/should do? Is there anything that should be done prior to doing this?
    Last edited by moeronn; 11-02-2009 at 10:22 AM.

  2. #2
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    The panel face is just a cover plate. Unscrew and pull off. If you are uncomfortable with it turn the panel off first. Don't go poking around it with a screwdriver.
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

  3. #3
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    If you had a home inspection and the inspector was competent I wouldn't worry to much...I always recommend an inspector that has nothing to do with and was not recommended by any real estate agent...

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member moeronn's Avatar
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    The inspector did seem pretty competent and the more I read the report the less concerned I am about the panel wiring.

    Most of the items called out are somewhat expected, even though they aren't the way they should be (open junction boxes, reversed polarity, open grounds). The real kicker was the plastic 35mm film canister he found under the house used as a "junction box" for what he thinks was irrigation wiring.

  5. #5

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    Note I am "overly cautious" about these things...

    I would say don't remove the cover if you do not know *exactly* what everything inside a circuit breaker panel is for.

    1. There is ALWAYS live power present in a breaker panel even with the main breaker off! If you are not familiar with these panels, you would not know where it was dangerous and still live.

    2. If you are not familiar with breaker panels, then you would not know what was ok and what was not! (Correct?) So no sense taking the risk is my thinking.

    3. And accidents happen. A screwdriver/wrench can slip and go right into the panel touching something live. The cover might slip while you are removing it and touch something live.

    4. Home inspectors typically remove the cover of the breaker panel and look inside. Might ask the inspector if this was done.

  6. #6
    Senior Robin Hood Guy Ian Gills's Avatar
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    My HI did not do this.

    Fortunately there was nothing too wrong with it, except one double lug.

    I always wear goggles and gloves when going into my panel.

  7. #7
    I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP) Lakee911's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Gills View Post
    My HI did not do this.

    Fortunately there was nothing too wrong with it, except one double lug.

    I always wear goggles and gloves when going into my panel.
    That's never a bad idea if there is anything hot in the panel. Gloves should be leather (as long as its not damp) or something rated for electrical work. Long sleeves, but not loose sleeves, should be worn as well.

    I was thinking though, and no offense, but if you're unsure about opening the panel, do you even know what to look for when you get inside?

    Thx,
    Jason

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default wires

    "Reversed polarity and open grounds" assuming the outlets SHOULD have been grounded, are neither "somewhat expected", nor acceptable.
    Last edited by hj; 11-03-2009 at 05:28 PM.

  9. #9
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    "Reversed polarity and open grounds" assuming the outlets SHOULD have been grounded, are neither "somewhat expected", nor acceptable.
    I'm with HJ. Those are red flags that a hack has done things to your electrical system. If it was me, I'd want to know what the inside of the panel looked at...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lakee911 View Post
    I was thinking though, and no offense, but if you're unsure about opening the panel, do you even know what to look for when you get inside?
    I was thinking this, also...

    Maybe a good idea to hire an electrician to inspect everything for you. A few hundred bucks is cheap for peace of mind...
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