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Mapped my whole house wiring!

IVB

Senior Member
Today's my last day of vacation, and I am excited about what I did today. I got completely and utterly sick of playing "guess which circuit this light is on", and spent all morning first creating a house layout of every single light & outlet in my house in photoshop, then going to the breaker box and tripping each circuit and walking around the house to see what was off. I used my daughter's small nightlight for each outlet.

Very interesting findings too - we have 19 different circuits total in our small box (some are the half-size, some are double pole). Last year the electrician was trying to sell us on putting in a bigger box as ours was totally full. I found 4 different circuits, 3 20A, 1 15A, that I don't think run anything. I've traced every light & outlet, the furnace, stove, dryer, every other major appliance in the whole house (incl basement), and they don't trip any of those. To confirm that they're unused, I left them off - if something doesn't work, i guess we'll find out.

This also saved me some $$ as I was about to going to call the electrician in as we needed a seperate circuit for some stuff - turns out the prior dude had done some reshuffling already without my knowledge, and we're totally fine on that run. Finally, I'm going to measure the wattage off each appliance so I can make sure no circuits are overloaded - our electric bill was $400 last month for a 1600sqft house, so somethings chewing up something somewhere.

If any of you have similarly old or just mega-extended houses where the prior electricians had a sense of humor, i'd advise the same. It makes life sooo much simpler when I can look at a house layout diagram, then at a grid where I see what circuit to trip, and go right there.
 

Digger

Senior Member
Next time you are bored come on over........ I have lots of "fun" projects for you :blink:

But I admit I already did something similar in my house just not in photoshop.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Sometimes there is a dedicated circuit for seldom used stuff, like a Jacuzzi tub or something. Sometimes they are for outside lights/outlets or sprinklers - did you check them? Also the hot water heater is a 220 and there is usually no indication on the tank (unless you have a gas heater).

And yes, rather than replacing the entire panel you can replace full size breakers with half size to free up more room.
 

sic0048

Senior Member
Not to hijack the thread too much, but I do want to ask a similar question.

My house has a 100amp service. The house is about 30 yrs old, so this was common. It has about 3900sq ft and also a pool (it's not heated however). The service panel is full, but as suggested, I know I can replace the full size breakers for 1/2 size and get more breakers installed.

We are planning on building an rather large out building that will replace the existing pool shed (a cheap metal shed that is rusting out that currently has enough power run to it for the pool pump, light and 1 outlet). I plan on having a small woodworking shop out there too. I will also be adding outdoor lighting and need to run some dedicated circuits to my wiring closet.

My question is at what point to you need to look at bolstering the service to 200 amp? I realize there isn't a easy way to give me an exact answer, but what are your thoughts/suggestions?

I guess the most obvious would be to get some sort of electrical metering device so I could see what type of loads I am pulling on average. Any suggestions as to a device that could be tied into an automation system for longer term metering (after all, if I have to spend money of something, I'll want to tie it into my system - future M1 and CQC setup).

Any suggestions that I can do without buying some expensive equipment?

Thanks in advance to trying to answer my vague questions.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Is your HVAC, Hot water heater, dryer, oven, etc. gas or electric? If they are electric you have to be close to max already. An easy way is to just use a clamp on ammeter to test. Other, more permament monitors have been discussed in recent threads.
 

dublin00

Member
sic0048 said:
Not to hijack the thread too much, but I do want to ask a similar question.

My house has a 100amp service. The house is about 30 yrs old, so this was common. It has about 3900sq ft and also a pool (it's not heated however). The service panel is full, but as suggested, I know I can replace the full size breakers for 1/2 size and get more breakers installed.

We are planning on building an rather large out building that will replace the existing pool shed (a cheap metal shed that is rusting out that currently has enough power run to it for the pool pump, light and 1 outlet). I plan on having a small woodworking shop out there too. I will also be adding outdoor lighting and need to run some dedicated circuits to my wiring closet.

My question is at what point to you need to look at bolstering the service to 200 amp? I realize there isn't a easy way to give me an exact answer, but what are your thoughts/suggestions?
I'd suggest adding a service sub-panel at the new pool house/wood shop. Could you add a new 50amp-100amp service direct from the meter to the pool house? You might find that you'll need to do this anyway if you plan to permit the new structure. You will need to check if the service from the street to the meter can handle the extra load too (don't forget that!).

When we built our pool we were required by the city to run a buried line from the meter to the pool shed. Since I was paying, I had a 100-amp service run (very little extra cost over 50amp so why not). It is a modest sized outdoor panel and it also holds the pool pump relay controls (these combo pool/service-panel sub panels are easy to find on the internet).
 

IVB

Senior Member
Hey, anyone want to know what circuit any of my lights are on? Cuz I know. For a fact. C'mon, go ahead, make my day :blink:

Seriously though, I still have about 15 or so zWave switches to put in. That was the driving factor behind doing this now - I couldn't handle the "is the light off now" conversation another dozen times. The cool thing is, now I can quickly install the zWave switches even at nighttime, which is when my free time usually is, as I know exactly what to trip.

Sometimes there is a dedicated circuit for seldom used stuff, like a Jacuzzi tub or something. Sometimes they are for outside lights/outlets or sprinklers - did you check them? Also the hot water heater is a 220 and there is usually no indication on the tank (unless you have a gas heater).

And yes, rather than replacing the entire panel you can replace full size breakers with half size to free up more room.

Good call on the water heater - I best check that tonight before we wake up to the dang cold. It's gas, but with an electric pilot IIRC.

Also, I'm at 100% with half-size where possible, so those 4 (or 3 if one is the water heater) would really be useful to have.
 

nsisman

Active Member
And don't forget about the splits where the top half of the plug is on one circuit and the bottom is on another circuit.

You need to id the top and bottom of all your receptacles !

Those split receptacles are supposed to be on the same trip breaker but sometimes diy handimen forget to put the little joiner pins in.

Neil
 

IVB

Senior Member
Eek, didn't check both outlets on the receptacles, thx. Got all the other stuff though, water is still hot so i'm thinking the water heater is ok.

I did find out that we are using one of the 4 "phantom" circuits, turns out the one time I used an assistant to tell me on/off, she was wrong. Oh well, down to 3 that are still off. Time will tell.

And btw, I did use this as the time to test my UPS's :blink: They worked just fine. (oh, and I just installed another zWave switch - took all of 15mins given that I knew which circuit to turn off. This, as compared to the prior 30mins->1hr cuz I played that dang guessing game about which circuit to turn off. WooHoo!
 

sic0048

Senior Member
Steve said:
Is your HVAC, Hot water heater, dryer, oven, etc. gas or electric? If they are electric you have to be close to max already. An easy way is to just use a clamp on ammeter to test. Other, more permament monitors have been discussed in recent threads.
Good question. The furnace and water heater are gas. Oven, A/C and dryer are all electric.
 
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