A green-colored screw should thread into the heavy gauge steel of this 200A service panel enclosure, securing the bonding jumper. At the center of the highlighted area in the photo, one can see that the screw was either removed or never installed.
This threaded ground bonding location ensures that the metal panel enclosure remains at zero voltage to the building and service grounding systems, and helps ensure that a low-impedance path for fault current on the panel enclosure will trip a breaker before serious damage occurs. A poor connection here could result in a high-impedance path for fault current. An ungrounded (‘hot’) conductor could contact the panel enclosure and discharge to ground through this poor connection at relatively low levels of current not sufficient to trip the breaker protecting the circuit. At least two hazards would result:
- The connection missing the screw could heat up and melt adjacent wire insulation, causing more trouble, or ignite the wooden surface on which the panel is mounted.
- The panel enclosure would remain energized until the fault is cleared, and could electrocute someone.
This office electrical fit-out project involved relocation and addition of ceiling-hung, 220V space heaters, salvaged pendant fixtures and connection of multiple circuits to a set of internally-wired cubicle branch circuits serving receptacles.
This was a straightforward 200A service upgrade job on the service side, but a nest of badly labeled branch circuit conductors in a shared raceway (3/4″ conduit) made re-connection at the new service disconnect/breaker panel more difficult than it could have been.
I include a GFCI receptacle with service equipment replacements/upgrades, and in this case I also installed a switched utility service light to facilitate finding breakers or further work at the service disconnect/distribution breaker panel location.
This project involved 30A, 220V power and telephone callbox wiring to supply an innovative pneumatic elevator tube lift that works on the same principles as the deposit tube at a drive-through teller or the cash register drop tubes at a big-box home improvement store like Home Depot.
Overall, the project involved complex coordination over a period of months, with the general contractor’s several trades. There were also a mix of new and antique/reused materials, and an unusual HVAC implementation involving installation and configuration of a differential thermostat to draw conditioned air from the main areas of the house to the 1st Floor foyer area adjacent to the garage, when the temperature differential reaches a set threshold. Read more >>
Frayed service cable / power quality
What type of electric service cable damage are you looking out for?
If you can see exposed aluminum strands on your service entrance cable, it has frayed to the point where you should replace it. Cost may vary from $750 – $2200, depending on your service capacity (usually between 100A – 200A for residential electric accounts) and the capacity of your replacement service (for those wanting central air conditioning, an upgrade from 100A to 150A or 200A will often be needed; subsequent solar PV or micro wind power installations over 5kW capacity may be cheaper to install if the existing service is larger than 100A).
Fuse cabinet as distribution panel
Many homes in West Philadelphia feature a distribution panel remote from the main service equipment. In older installations, this may be a wooden cabinet with a picture-framed wooden or glass-pane door, usually located in a stair- or hallway, and lined with a felt-like friable material that may be asbestos.
Several fuse-holder modules provide for branch circuit over-current protection. Unlike with modern wiring, the fuses may protect both the grounded (neutral) and ungrounded (‘hot’) conductors of 120V circuits, so a single circuit may have two fuses in it.
These fuse cabinets may not meet the demands of modern electrical usage
This project broke down into three main phases, with a 200A service upgrade, rewiring the 2nd floor before move-in, while water-damaged ceilings were being repaired, and the First Floor and Kitchen undertaken during occupancy, months later.
200A Service Upgrade
The 200A panel upgrade involved replacing the service cable drop, meter pan, and carefully preserving a special timer-controlled metering setup for a discontinued but grand-fathered tariff featuring time of use rates that provide 1/2-price energy for water heating, but no energy at all from 10am – 4pm.
First, let me say that I recommend using CFL’s. It’s just that I wonder if mandating conversion from incandescents to new lighting technologies shouldn’t be coupled with some better education about the new lamps.
Soon to be mandated to exclusion of incandescents, are CFL’s as good as people make them out to be? CFL’s have several under-publicized issues that all customers should be aware of.
The challenge: install a new, room-centered ceiling fan/light location extended from an off-center existing ceiling fixture three joist-bays forward of center (front to back) and hard to the exterior wall (left to right).
The results? A seamless installation at the minimum quoted pricing scenario, by fishing new cable through holes blind-drilled six feet diagonally through three joists.
Original price quote:
I quoted $50 to install a replacement fixture in the current location, plus $75 to move to the center of the room’s NE ‘alcove’ area (within the same joist bay as the original location). To move to the actual center of the room, change that $75 to $150, and budget for some ceiling repair/paint in case I am unable to drill through two joists and get the wire to fish through them, without opening the ceiling to access the cavities between the joists. Note that location may have to be as much as 14″ forward or back of center, so that the wiring box can install on a structural joist and provide safe support for the ceiling fan. The additional charge for plaster repair, if necessary, would be $75, and paint would be on you. I don’t really want to do plaster repair, so I’m happy to put that on you, too.
Actual amount invoiced: $150.
xxxx S 49th St., Philadelphia, PA
Inspection conducted January 27, 2011 pursuant to settlement contingencies in the sale of a home
Robert Monk Electric
Philadelphia Lic. #35849
PA HIC #060608
II SCOPE OF REVIEW
III ITEM DETAILS
IV PROPOSALS & ESTIMATES
V CONTINGENCY FOR CERTIFICATION TO INSURER
Following is copied from a formal presentation resulting from by-the-way observations during a service call for a single branch circuit outage…
Scope of Review
Item Details & Recommendations w/ Estimates
The electrical system needs a 2-year program of gradual upgrade and repair that might cost between $1000 and $5000. The basement ceiling is a rat’s nest and the service equipment has been incompletely consolidated from four (4) 60A services to one (1) 60A service currently in use plus another that is energized but not in use. With multiple adults in the large building, the service should be 100A minimum; two 60A services would be more than enough, if loads were balanced across them, but this involves an ‘overhead’ of an additional $5/month to maintain unneeded separate billing for the two metered accounts. A single, 100- , 150- or 200A service would be ideal for the current use, but would involve higher up-front costs.
Service entrance cables from the abandoned meters have been disconnected inside the multi-gang meters enclosure, but remain a hazard because of their proximity inside the enclosure to live terminals that have no over-current protection (breaker or fuse). These should be removed or terminated in proper enclosures, as part of any work to complete the electrical service equipment.
Other specific electrical problems I observed in this building include: open wire enclosures in basement ceiling and 2nd floor switch box. Abandoned receptacle location at Dining Room north, NM-B (“Romex”) cable subject to damage where run loose in attic, frayed cables in basement ceiling, rusted conduit at Exterior north, near service meters, missing GFCI protection at Basement laundry area, missing bushing where service drop cable at Exterior north exits protective sleeve conduit, and some non-electrical wood rotted on Exterior north window trim and siding.
Also, the basement has a damp floor and smells strongly of mold.
Off-site Links ->
- Annapolis Home Inspection, LLC Aluminum branch circuits, homes 1965-1972
- ComplianceAndSafety.com OSHA Electrical Safety Training
- Electric Monk TV (YouTube) Video channel for PhillyLicensedElectrician.com Robert Monk
- EnergyConservation HowTo A tinkerer genius discusses energy conservation and his ladder system for accessing the attic (where a lot of energy-saving work happens).
- PennFuture Energy Center Energy and energy efficiency news for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Phila area rife with building efficiency upgrade opportunities Philadelphia Inquirer article discusses recent study showing Philadelphia’s inner-ring suburbs stand to save from energy conservation retrofits.
- Philadelphia Row-house Manual A design, maintenance, and modifications manual for our most widely-used form of housing.
- Robert Monk Robert Monk’s personal blog
- SolarCities (DOE) Solar PV Levelized Cost Interactive Comparator Simple graph compares ‘levelized cost’ of energy from solar PV to conventional grid rates, with a time-slider interactive feature.
- The Circuit Detective – Solve Home Electrical Problems Yourself! Electrical troubleshooting procedures pitched to homeowners.
- The Energy Co-op Blog from a leading alternative energy provider in PECO territory, includes fun conservation tips.
- Weatherization: the anti-Solyndra Salon.com article praising the continued success of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), low-income energy-savings and job-creation.
- West Philly Tool Library Official site of WPTL, Philly’s own community tool lending library: like a book library, but tools!
- WestPhillyLocal .com Site name say sit all.
- Bartram's Gardens Founded in Philadelphia’s colonial era, today the gardens continue pioneering in horticulture and agriculture with a variety of herbs, trees and other vegetation in an arboretum/gardens on the Schulkill River banks, and a new farm abutting sadly neglected
- HiddenCity Philadelphia Surprising places it takes an adventurer to discover; events, too.
- Philly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Schedule City of Philadelphia dates and places for disposing of spent batteries, CFL lamps, unused paint and cleaning products, etc. LovePhilly: don’t pour these in the drain or send them out with the trash.
- Reading Terminal Market Purveyors of fine foods and foodie stuff, all under one roof downtown under the PA Convention Center
- Secret Garden on the Rails Jacques-Jean Tiziou shows some dramatic natural and urban and naturalized-urban scenes along abandoned rails of Philadelphia
- Sketch Burger, Fishtown A vegan-friendly burger joint with a #1 in Philly contender beef burger, best fries that somehow stay fresh for 1/2 hour while you tackle burger, and a vegan cafe vibe of friendly folks.
- WXPN: Philly sings in key of love Love songs by Philly artists