Peter McCarthy Electric Co., Inc.
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|Posted on January 29, 2014 at 8:35 PM||comments (380)|
Today was not too bad as far as the weather goes. In the high teens, but sunny and not windy. That is fine enough weather for doing electrical work outside.
We did a lot of cutting and threading rigid pipe and assembling it today. In the top picture, Peter it toting a bag of concrete mortar, essential for patching up the holes and filling in around the conduits where they pass through the walls. In the second picture, you can see the 200 Amp Service meter housing roughed in. The 2" pipe exiting the right side goes out to the exterior wall, where we will run it vertically to a point about 15 feet above ground and then turn and run laterally to where it will end. The service head is put on, and the 3/0 THHN Copper cables are pulled through the pipe from up high down to the meter housing. At that point, the larger 3/0 Copper cables will terminate on the meter's internal bus detail, on the LINE side, giving power to each meter. From there, two sets of smaller Copper cables will be taken off the LOAD side of each meter socket, and they will run through the 1/1/4" rigid conduits that come out the back of the housing and go into the circuit breaker panels on the inside. These cables, then, are called the feeders for each 100 Amp circuit breaker panel.
We use the vice and hand threader to cut the threads on the end of the rigid conduits after we have cut them to the length we need each piece. Note the grey bucket below the threader. There is an oil can squirting gun that we use to continuously bathe the metal cutting dies as a lubricant while cutting. The cutting dies would bite and fight through the metal otherwise, and they may produce threads but you would destroy them very quickly.
We also have to cut many pieces of uni-strut, the metal channel you see in the bottom picture. We cut them to the desired length and then attach them to the brick wall with masonry fasteners. This, in turn, provides a uniform flat surface to clamp the pipe to.
It was a tiring, but good, day. You go home pooped on days like today!
|Posted on January 28, 2014 at 4:44 PM||comments (199)|
Welcome readers! It's January28th, 2014 here in Chicago, and winter is really feeling like winter! Yesterday it hovered around 0 degrees F. Today, it was -11 at 7:30 AM and by 9:30 or 10 it had warmed up to -4. When it is that cold, we just can't work outside.
After finishing the new service in Wrigleyville the week before last, now we can finally start installing this new 200 Amp service upgrade in Humboldt Park. We had to take almost a week off between finishing that new 400 Amp service upgrade and starting this one due to the cold. Tomorrow is supposed to be at least 20 degrees, so we can can start on the inside work today and work on the outside work tomorrow.
In this vintage Greystone 2-flat that dates to last century, there are presently two little fuse-boxes in place. One serves the first floor and the other serves the second floor. As you can see in the panel on the left, there are only 4 plug fuses in place for the branch circuits. This is drastically undersized! Note that two of the plug fuses are green. That means they are 30 Amp fuses. This is extremely dangerous, because they are "protecting" 15-amp circuits! Part of the reason circuit breakers were invented was to eliminate situations like you see here. Obviously, the circuit was drastically overloaded, such that a 15 amp plug fuse kept burning out. Someone "solved" that problem by replacing it with a 30 Amp plug fuse! This is a very dangerous practice, because as this Hyde Park electrician has said over and over, the fuse (or breaker) is sized BASED ON THE SIZE OF THE WIRE IT IS PROTECTING. That imply means if your branch circuit wire leading to your outlets and lights is sized to only safely carry 15 Amps, and now you take the 15 Amp fuse out and put in a 30 Amp fuse, now you are allowing twice as much current to flow in your combustible lathe and plaster wooden walls and ceilings as the wire was safely rated for. Moreover, since this building is over 90 years old, you can bet at least some of the original cloth-covered wire in still in place. That wire, with its decades of heating and oxidizing, should not even be carrying 15 Amps in my opinion. Over-fusing by a factor of 100% is very dangerous. Ignoring basic electrical safety practices and NFPA standards creates a fire hazard.
How do I know the old cloth-covered wire is still in place? I don't know, for sure. But I see a lot of evidence of it in the very old BXs that emanate up from junction boxes in the basement. No new wiring there. That aside, it is just common sense. Very few people re-wire a house, take out all the old cloth-covered wire, and then leave a little 4 branch circuit panel in place. Sometimes it's what you don't see as much as what you do.
We will redo the ground to meet Chicago code standards as well as install two new GE 100 Amp 120/240v circuit breaker panels on the inside. We will move the meters outside, and pipe the new riser in 2" Rigid conduit with 3/0 copper THHN cables. Later in the year, hopefully, they will visit the branch circuit situation and rewire at least partially. AFCI circuit breakers and GFCI receptacles should be installed, as well as dividing the load up and adding many new circuits and additional wiring. Increasing power availability by upgrading from a 100 Amp Service to a 200 Amp service is the first step, and proving larger panels with ample space for additional circuit breakers is imperative. But in and of itself, that does not eliminate any overload on an individual branch circuit. Distribution and overall capacity are two different issues. Just like in your car, working on your engine does not have any impact on your transmission, or vice versa. But this work is the first step.
|Posted on January 24, 2014 at 7:57 PM||comments (311)|
|Posted on January 7, 2014 at 2:26 PM||comments (925)|
In the previous post, I showed the work we had completed on the inside. We had installed the 7 new GE circuit breaker panels, the new meter-banks, and the main disconnect comprised of the large cabinet and 400Amp 120/240v GE main circuit breaker. Most old vintage buildings in Chicago that have not been rewired in the last 50 years really need this job. The antique, cloth-covered wire in the branch circuits needs to be pulled out and replaced for safety and to meet the present codes. AFCI circuits are mandated by code for the bedrooms, and these vintage circuit breaker panels do not accommodate them. Due to the explosive use of consumer electronics, the grounding requirements have become much more stringent in the past 20 years. Practically no 3-flat or 6-flat in Chicago comes close to meeting those requirements if the 200A 1950s or 1960s service has not been upgraded in the past 10 years. This inadequate grounding can have disastrous consequences.
In this picture, the external piping is shown. I have to give high praise to my crew who did all of this work in the frigid Chicago cold. Notice how nicely the parallel rigid conduits follow the contours of the building, and route the feeders within the very limited space that the exterior walls, windows and porch framing allow. They did all of this last Saturday when it was about 20 degrees! Believe me, working outside, standing on frozen earth and snow, holding metal parts in your hands all day long is no picnic. MY GUYS RULE!
We are waiting now to transfer the circuitry from the old panels to the new ones. To do this, we have to bring the whole building off line for about an hour to set up the temporary feed to the new equipment. We had planned to do this yesterday, but at -17 degrees it was determined that it was too risky to bring the boiler off line for even an hour. We hope to resume there later in the week.
|Posted on January 3, 2014 at 6:45 PM||comments (368)|
|Posted on October 23, 2013 at 4:08 PM||comments (178)|
|Posted on October 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM||comments (1135)|
|Posted on October 18, 2013 at 9:56 PM||comments (548)|
A lady telephoned a few weeks ago to ask "how soon I could come out." The first question many people ask. In this case, soon was not soon enough.I asked her what the issue was, and after about 20 minutes or so we had walked all the way though the steps she could take herself. It was a very simple operation, really. If I recall, she wanted to change a dimmer. I asked her her comfort level with this kind of thing. Since she had said she had already changed one switch, she seemed like the type of person who could easily replace a dimmer, taking the proper precautions. She was able to change it herself, I was able to share a little knowledge and empower a young homeowner, and off course she saved on an electrician's service call.
Here is a copy of the follow-up email I sent her. It includes valuable info for all you DIYers out there!
It was a pleasure "meeting you" over the phone yesterday. I am so pleased you had success with this project. It is a really good "Hey I did that!" feeling, isn't it? Plus it keeps a few dollars in your pocket!
The main things to always remember are:
1. Neutral wires carry current, not voltage. They can be even more dangerous than hot wires. ALWAYS TURN EVERYTHING OFF.
2. Breakers are often not identified properly. You might think you are turning a specific circuit off when you are not. ALWAYS TURN EVERYTHING OFF.
3. When you put in outlets or switches, (when power is dead, of course) take the time to wrap the metal screws where the wire attaches with electrical tape. That insulates them from accidental human shock down the line, or shorting the circuit if a grounded or hot wire gets inadvertently pushed up against them and makes accidental contact, especially likely in very crowded switch boxes.
4. These are the basic color codes for wiring in Chicago:
- neutral wire
-hot wires. these will always be hot, or live, when the breaker is on. They supply the power to outlets, switches, ect.
blue, yellow, orange
- switch legs (wires that attach to the switch so they become hot when the switch is turned on, and they lead to the light fixture or whatever the switch is controlling. when the switch is off, they should be dead, or off.
- depends on situation. Not that common. Assume they are"hot" until proven otherwise.
Those are the basic color codes that electricians are supposed to follow. But at times they don't. A white could be "hot" and a black could be neutral. Electricians and handymen sometimes use the color wire they have, if they are missing the correct one. I always use colored tape to identify the wire in such a case. If I am all out of white wire, I can use red wire as long as I clearly identify it with white tape. But they often don't. SO ALWAYS TURN EVERYTHING OFF. (starting to see a pattern here?)
One other situation you may encounter. Folks use BX cable where there is no pipe. That cable comes factory-manufactured with a white and black wire in it. Newer BX has a green wire also. It also comes with 3 wires, white, black, red. But it is really common for folks to use a 2-wire BX to add a switch to a light that was previously a pull chain. In that case they fish that 2-wire BX down the wall to a switch box, and add the switch. Since there is only white and black to work with, they usually use the black as the hot to feed the switch, and then the white is used as the switched wire back up to the fixture. (The code actually allows this but I don't agree with the practice.) But you should be aware of it for safety. It happens more in older homes. Where you find just 2 wires in a switch box, one going to each side of a switch, and they are black and white, the white is NOT a neutral. It will be hot when the switch is turned on!
Well I hope that information keeps you safe and helps you out in the future. Even if you don't do anything more complicated than yesterday, knowledge is power, right? Just remember, ALWAYS turn EVERYTHING off. A little excess in the name of safety is well worth it. You can reset your clocks when you are done.
Best wishes and always feel free to call if you need advice or a second opinion.
Peter McCarthy, President
Peter McCarthy Electric Co., Inc.
Chicago, IL 60615
Angie's List Super Service Award 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Member, Electrical Section, National Fire Prevention Association
Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce
|Posted on August 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM||comments (285)|
|Posted on August 22, 2013 at 8:01 PM||comments (1119)|