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bostonoak

Outlet not wired to sub panel

bostonoak
6 months ago

Almost 10 years ago I had an electrical sub panel installed in my kitchen. The regular panel is in the basement.


I also had outlets and switches added in all the rooms (it's an old building, built in the 1920s).


In the bedroom there was only one pre-existing outlet. It did not get connected to the sub panel. I thought I was going to close it up and use the 3 new outlets that were installed on the other walls in the bedroom.


However, as luck would have it, this outlet's location has turned out to be very useful because of the way I was forced to position my bed. Also, directly on the other side of the wall from the pre-existing outlet (in the living room) is another pre-existing outlet that also did not get connected to the sub panel.


Before I call an electrician to see what, if anything, can be done, I would like to have some basic information for I recall the electrical work being very stressful because of the cutting into walls. I want to be as prepared as possible.


During the sub panel installation new wiring was run up the walls, into the attic and then connected to the sub panel. What are my options in terms of getting this old outlet connected to the sub panel?


1) Does it need to get new wiring or can the old wiring be connected to the sub panel? The sub panel is only 11.5 feet away. 2) Does he have to cut holes in the wall or can he use the path used by the old wiring? 3) Or will he have to simply install a new outlet near the present one?


Below is a photo of the current outlet and the new switch he installed for the ceiling fan which also has a light. If you look carefully above the switch you can see where the electrician cut the wall in order to run the wiring.


Any feedback will be highly appreciated. I know it's probably hard to say anything simply from my photo and description. All I want is your best guess. The responsibility is mine and mine alone.



Comments (38)

  • Dave
    6 months ago

    so this single outlet is connexted to the main panel and the reat go to the sub panel? have you had issues? if not, id just leave it.


    Otherwise, they could fish wire from it, up inside the wall and into the attic and then back down to one of the other existing outlets getting it on the same circuit as the rest.


    But, unless its really bothering you, i would just leave it alone and not waste my money.



    bostonoak thanked Dave
  • rwiegand
    6 months ago

    Not clear why it needs to be wired to the subpanel. What's wrong with running it from the main?-- what problem are you trying to solve by re-wiring it?

    A good electrician should be able to fish new wires to that location with fairly minimal holes in the wall, but there will be some. It seems unlikely you can re-use the existing wire and have it get to the new location, but your electrician will figure that out.

    bostonoak thanked rwiegand
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  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Thanks for the responses.

    Let me try to explain again. The outlet works. But it is not connected to the sub panel. It's connected to the main panel in the basement.

    I want ALL my outlets connected to the sub panel in the kitchen. It's just very convenient to be able to have everything controlled from my sub panel. Otherwise, why did I install the sub panel? It's also good for resale value to be able to say that, despite the age of the home, I added outlets and switches and that EVERYTHING is controlled from the sub panel and the main panel in the basement.

  • Dave
    6 months ago

    If the outlet works properly, moving it to the sub panel is a waste of money, time and will not do anything to the resale value.


  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Hi Dave,

    Your suggestion of fishing wire from it and taking that wire to another outlet that's connected to the sub panel caught my attention. Would that be considered safe? The other 3 outlets in the bedroom are on the same circuit. Would that entail removing the present wiring in the outlet or just adding new wiring?

    I would love to hear of other suggestions, if there are any, of how I can connect this outlet to the sub panel.

    The switch above it is connected to the sub panel.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Hi Travis,

    Thanks for your suggestion. The outlet works. I just want it connected to the sub panel for convenience. Also, if a new home owner came and switched off the main power switch in the sub panel, thinking that it controlled ALL the power in the home, he could be in for a rude shock. If I cannot connect it to the sub panel, I'll prefer to close off the outlet. But its location has turned out to be very convenient, to my big surprise.

  • Dave
    6 months ago

    You could certainly fish from a close by outlet which would put that outlet on the same circuit.


    current box would need to be cut out. either cut the drywall in a channel and run the wire through studs, or fish up to the attic and back down.


    If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, it can be done. But its rather poistless as the outlet and the entire sub panel is fed from the main.

  • elltwo
    6 months ago

    Is the basement far away, like do you live in the top floor of a three decker, or is this a single family house?

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Hi Elltwo,

    Thanks for responding. The basement is far away. Yes, I'm on the third floor.

  • Travis Johnson
    6 months ago

    This makes no sense, either electrically or fiscally speaking.


    Following proper protocal, no one should ever be shocked no matter where the line side comes from. A live circuit should never be worked on.


    I can see no reason why anyone would want an additional load on a subpanel when it is not needed. Wired from the main panel is always best if properly done. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the subpanel is maxed out on its load capacity and why the outlet was never connected to it.

  • Dave
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    I disagree with above.

    The outlet was never added to the sub panel probably just out of a lazyness or it was thought it was to be removed.

    Adding a single outlet to the sub panel (by connecting it to the circuit in that room) likely will not be over loading a sub panel. likely items of use: lamp, phone charger, etc.

    Also, no one spoke of working on a live circuit. However, as an electrician, i do it often. nothing wrong with that if you know what youre doing.


    But one thing i will agree on, if the outlet is working, i see no reason to move it to the sub panel.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Travis Johnson,

    By "shocked" I was not talking about being electrically shocked. Perhaps a better word would have been surprised. In other words, a new owner would come in thinking that the sub panel controlled all the electricity in the home, only to find out that some outlets are not connected to the sub panel.

    The reason the outlet was not added to the sub panel, as best as I can recall, was that it was less work for the electrician. It was a pre-existing outlet, the only one in the room. It was also the one he used to charge things and so as he worked. And I was, of course, concerned about my wallet.

    I would feel a lot better if the sub panel controlled everything.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Dave,

    Thanks for chiming in. Your electrician's view is very much appreciated. My only issue is that I would really like to get the outlet wired to the sub panel. Right now I use it mainly for my alarm clock. I also use when I'm ironing my work shirts.

    Since its wiring is old and most likely runs all the way to the basement, without disturbing that wire, is there a way to connect it to the sub panel?

  • Dave
    6 months ago

    an electrican can cut out the box, fish wire from a close by outlet and then put in a cut in plastic box in the same spot. There would be to sets of wires entering the box. The new fished wire and the old wire would be capped in there too.


    If i was the electrican, id also find the other end and cap it there too.


    Can definitely be done. Probably a $200-300 if there are no issues.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Hi Dave,

    Really appreciate your feedback. I'm just trying to be a bit educated before I talk with an electrician. This is what I should have done the first time around.

    So, unless there's a surprise somewhere, there should be a clear path from the attic to the the present outlet box?

    There are three other new outlets in the room but they are on different walls. Is fishing wires from on outlet to another considered code?

    The sub panel is on the same wall as the outlet. It's only 11.5 feet away. If fishing wires from another outlet is tricky, can he cap the old wires in the outlet and fish new wires from the sub panel to the outlet and just have the capped wires inside the outlet but pushed to the side. Is that appropriate, from an electrical point of view?

  • HU-131248914
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Completely stupid waste of money. A sub panel is an addition to a main panel. It doesn’t replace the main panel. It is more than common to have original circuits on the original panel and just have new circuits come off the subpanel.


    It is like a river and a stream. The river goes to the main panel, where the little streams go off to the different creeks. A subpanel is just a big stream of the river that is split off, to then branch into the small creeks.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    6 months ago

    HU-131248914,


    We're all entitled to our opinions, desires and tastes. Nothing wrong with that. 😀

  • Stax
    6 months ago

    OP. With your responses, I'm sure somebody will eventually stumble by and give you the answer that you know you want.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Stax,

    Not really.

    If someone says that it's not good idea because it is not safe or against code, I will respect that.

    But if someone says it's not a good idea because you are simply wasting money, that's a matter of opinion or taste. We can agree to disagree.

  • Travis Johnson
    5 months ago

    @bostonoak


    I already told you that it could be. It depends on the amps of ghe subpabel and what is connected to it. An extra outlet could overload it. With it hooked to the main panel it is not.


    I make the assumption here that since it was only 10 years ago that the subpanel was put in, then the electrician deemed it safe. Just because a wire is older does not mean it is unsafe.


    i am a high voltage electrician and not a house one, but we have switch gear put in 100 years ago that works fine and is still safe.


    Your house, do what you want, but there is no reason to waste money or risk electrical problems for something that works.






  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Hi Travis Johnson,

    I appreciate your response as an electrician.

    The only appliances that I have are a washer, dryer and fridge. My oven uses gas.

    Below are 2 photos of my sub panel. I don't know whether seeing them will help you understand my situation a bit better.

    In any case, thanks for trying to explain things to a novice.





  • Travis Johnson
    5 months ago

    It looks like and sounds like you got amps for it. I cant read the subpanel breaker amperage, but it looks like you have 100 amp subpanel with room to spare, but it can be deceiving. What you describe as load sounds low.


    One thing to keep in mind here is that with capacity the short comings is typically with amperage not wattage.


    As an example, my back up generator is 20 kilowatts, so pretty big, but only has a 83 amp rating. That ends up being my limiting factor as most houses have 100 or 200 amp services. There are other factor involved, but we are seldom told that when dealing with capacity… like buying a home generator for instance.


    Or having a subpanel in this case.


    They are tied together of course because depending on your voltage your wattage will drop or vice versa, but a like of amps can limit you.








  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Travis Johnson,

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I will try to see how I can determine the amperage in my sub panel.

  • elltwo
    5 months ago

    Don't fret about it. It could have been an oversight 10 years ago, or there could been access issues from the top of that wall. If there are no barriers or access problems up above that wall in the floor of the attic then it should be an easy (4 hour) job for either a home run to the panel 11.5 feet away or a splice to an existing junction box in the attic. A licensed electrician can advise you once he puts eyes on the problem.

  • Travis Johnson
    5 months ago

    @bostonoak


    It is easy, just open up the subpanel and read the top most breaker. It will say 100 or 60 or whatever.


    That is your sub panel in amps because it will trip if a higher amperage is detected… by design.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Travis,

    You were right. It was very easy to determine the amperage of my sub panel, thanks to your tip. It's 100 amps. And the brand name is Square D.

    Thanks!

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    elltwo,

    Really appreciate your feedback. I will have an electrician look at it. At least now I won't be totally in the dark like last time.

    Thanks!

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Across the street from me, a neighbor recently had a modular home (smaller than his regular house) delivered to his backyard from Pennsylvania (I live in a suburb of Boston). He wanted more living space in the backyard. Also, he plays music and he says that the modular home has more control of sound so he's less likely to cause noise in the neighborhood (I've never heard any noise from him).

    It was quite a spectacle to watch the delivery. I cannot believe how they negotiated the difficult turn into his driveway. He told me that the professional calculation that takes place before the purchase and delivery is amazing.

    Last week there were two vans from an electrical company parked outside his home. They were doing work for his new house. I walked over and asked one of them if they would like to take a look at my place, when they had a chance. A few days later the head of the company kindly dropped by for a few minutes.

    To refresh your memory, I want to have two outlets and a kitchen light fixture wired to my subpanel in the kitchen. Right now, they are wired only to my main panel in the basement.

    Keep in mind, I'm the type of person who obsesses too much before a renovation or home repair. I want to know as much as possible before the job is done (I once had a very nasty experience with a contractor. Only when I got a lawyer was the matter resolved. Every person who knows about the story has told me that the contractor was at fault). Anyway., the feedback was very interesting. Long story short, it's not a big deal as I feared.

    First, even though my condo building is old (built on the 1920s), from their experience most of the wiring in our city's old homes goes up to the attic then either runs down through the chimney or plumbing route and into the basement. If the attic has a lot of space, it makes wiring work easier. One can stand in our attic and still not touch the roof. There's a lot of space.

    Second, they said they would simply disconnect the wiring from the outlets to the basement and install new wiring to the subpanel in the kitchen. But they would make sure that the old wiring was taken care of properly. They would do the same with the kitchen light fixture. Also, since I plan to change the fixture from a flushmount to a pendant, that would be no problem at all because they will still need to remove the current fixture in order to do the wiring to the subpanel.

    Third, no big holes have to made to the walls for the outlet wiring. They will only be really small ones. This has always been a big concern of mine.

    This was a big relief for me to know. I was very grateful to the electrician. I wish I could afford him but something tells me that he's not in my league. 😊

    I now have a new project: Finding an affordable electrician to finally get this matter resolved.

  • Dave
    2 months ago

    Afordable electrician might also mean cutting corners and doing lazy work. Have someone licensed, insured and reputible do the job or leave it as is. As an electrician, that is my advice.

    bostonoak thanked Dave
  • mtvhike
    2 months ago

    The only reason to move the outlet from the main panel to the subpanel is that the original wiring was old and ungrounded (and for the convenience of not having to go to the main panel to reset a breaker). Do the cables, both new and old, come down from the attic?

    bostonoak thanked mtvhike
  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Dave,

    The electrician I'll use has to be licensed. But all good, licensed contractors do not charge the same rate. I've learned this from my experience and that of my friends and neighbors.

    There are many contractors of equal skill and thoughtfulness but have different rates from each other.

    Some have bigger overheads (office, scheduler, and so on). They need to charge more.

    Others are equally as good but run a lean system (wife/girlfriend does the schedule, no office, the phone or van is the office). Lean operation allows for a lower rate, lower rate helps with word-of-mouth recommendations, and so on).

    This is why I try to do as much research beforehand as possible. I have no intention of telling a contractor how to do his job. But I do want to know as much about the project as possible beforehand. And I'd rather get most of this info from a neutral party, with no vested interests.

    That's just me.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Mtvhike,

    Convenience is very important to me.

    The main cable from the basement panel to the subpanel in the kitchen comes from the basement (it follows the vent stack route). The cables from the subpanel to the new outlets and new fixtures come from the subpanel to the attic then to the outlets and fixtures.

  • A Mat
    2 months ago

    4-6 hrs@ $150/hr $50 materials.

    bostonoak thanked A Mat
  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    A Mat,

    Thanks. I'm in Massachusetts. I don't know where you are and whether your rates apply here.

    But thanks for the info!

  • mtvhike
    2 months ago

    Do you mean convenience in plugging into the receptacle, or convenience in resetting a tripped breaker? Also, are there junction boxes in the attic you could tap into? It's easy to run a new line from the attic inside the wall to the location of the receptacle now fed from the main panel in the basement.

  • bostonoak
    Original Author
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Mtvhike,

    I meant convenience in the sense of not having to go all the way to the basement to shut off or reset something. Just knowing that everything is controlled from the subpanel (and the main panel) is just nice.

    In terms of junction boxes in the attic, I honestly do not know. I have never walked inside because I would not want to fall through the ceiling. I only poke my head through the attic scuttle while standing on a ladder (had to google to find out what it's called). It is 20" by 26" and is in the hallway ceiling. This is one of the reasons why this whole process has been a big, stressful mystery to me. Only an electrician has been up there, like 10 years ago or so.

    If you say it's easy to run a wire from the attic to the outlets that are fed from the main panel then that's very encouraging. I would especially be relieved if no holes have to be cut in the walls (or if so, very small ones). But I'm thinking that studs, for example, might get in the way. Anyway, I'll be glad when this is over.

  • Dave
    2 months ago

    Thats only if there are j boxes up there. thats just a guess and a hope. I would not count or bank on that idea.