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Old 08-25-2019, 02:00 PM   #1
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Default Variety of observations and questions replacing old panels

As a second year apprentice and being quite a noob, I'd like to list some things that I've come across the past couple months that have interested me while replacing old 1950's-60's panels in some local public schools. Most of the panels are under the "Frank Adams" name, some "Square D", and some "Federal" panels too.



1. The weight/thickness of the metals in comparison to the replacements.

The old steel back boxes of the panels and panel covers are crazy thick and heavy. The aluminum replacements are cheap and flimsy in comparison, most of them arriving bent and scratched on arrival. The old rigid conduit alone was insanely overbuilt. I wonder what the logic was? Was it to contain a fire better- or just made to last because that's how things were made in good ol' USA back then? The guys who installed this stuff must've been strong as hell.



2. The amount of copper used in these old panels is astounding. Thick copper busbars, copper screws, copper border around the directory (with glass covers).



3. Question: Why are some of the busbars/old feeders tin coated, and some aren't? What is the logic? I understand it's to prevent oxidation, but if it were so successful at doing so, why isn't all copper tin coated?



4. It amazes me how bad some of the electric work is in these public schools. Panels stuffed with splices and double tapped feeders/breakers, undersized breakers for amperage, tons of boxes full of wire without covers, panels STUFFED with wire (and cloth to boot), just insane amounts of stuff. These schools somehow go under the radar as far as inspections go, apparently. I'd think it would be the opposite.



Once I get to 20 posts, I'll post some pictures here- we are about halfway done with replacing approx 100 panels- most of which are 60-70 years old.
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Old 08-25-2019, 02:51 PM   #2
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The reason for rigid conduit is because of the building type, and rigid was more accessible at the time. (EMT came later) The reason for more heavy duty enclosures is progress, and greed. Are you guys just replacing the panels and leaving the old cloth covered wire? I hope not. Another consideration with those old schools is Asbestos. Not all of it has been abated. Especially in hard lids.
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Old 08-25-2019, 02:53 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Mellow View Post
As a second year apprentice and being quite a noob, I'd like to list some things that I've come across the past couple months that have interested me while replacing old 1950's-60's panels in some local public schools. Most of the panels are under the "Frank Adams" name, some "Square D", and some "Federal" panels too.



1. The weight/thickness of the metals in comparison to the replacements.

The old steel back boxes of the panels and panel covers are crazy thick and heavy. The aluminum replacements are cheap and flimsy in comparison, most of them arriving bent and scratched on arrival. The old rigid conduit alone was insanely overbuilt. I wonder what the logic was? Was it to contain a fire better- or just made to last because that's how things were made in good ol' USA back then? The guys who installed this stuff must've been strong as hell.



2. The amount of copper used in these old panels is astounding. Thick copper busbars, copper screws, copper border around the directory (with glass covers).



3. Question: Why are some of the busbars/old feeders tin coated, and some aren't? What is the logic? I understand it's to prevent oxidation, but if it were so successful at doing so, why isn't all copper tin coated?



4. It amazes me how bad some of the electric work is in these public schools. Panels stuffed with splices and double tapped feeders/breakers, undersized breakers for amperage, tons of boxes full of wire without covers, panels STUFFED with wire (and cloth to boot), just insane amounts of stuff. These schools somehow go under the radar as far as inspections go, apparently. I'd think it would be the opposite.



Once I get to 20 posts, I'll post some pictures here- we are about halfway done with replacing approx 100 panels- most of which are 60-70 years old.

I remember in the early days of my career some of the inspectors demanded we run every conductor including neutrals long and looped back to the breakers or lugs (due to future electrician needing to move things daydream).
It explains a lot of the old panels being overstuffed with conductors so badly you cannot even see to the back wall of the enclosure.
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Old 08-25-2019, 02:59 PM   #4
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Are you guys just replacing the panels and leaving the old cloth covered wire? I hope not. Another consideration with those old schools is Asbestos. Not all of it has been abated. Especially in hard lids.

Yes. Replacing the wiring wasn't part of the project- it wasn't part of what went out to bid. Hence my confusion about schools flying under the radar when it comes to this stuff. The old cloth wiring is only one of many things that is wrong with the electric in these schools, trust me.


Yes there is major asbestos throughout all of the schools. They've abated a couple of the switch gears, but I'm sure there is asbestos literally everywhere. Once a room gets abated, you drill into the old concrete and there's probably more there. I don't know the right answer.
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Old 08-25-2019, 03:22 PM   #5
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Yes. Replacing the wiring wasn't part of the project- it wasn't part of what went out to bid. Hence my confusion about schools flying under the radar when it comes to this stuff. The old cloth wiring is only one of many things that is wrong with the electric in these schools, trust me.


Yes there is major asbestos throughout all of the schools. They've abated a couple of the switch gears, but I'm sure there is asbestos literally everywhere. Once a room gets abated, you drill into the old concrete and there's probably more there. I don't know the right answer.
I believe you about the wiring all FUBAR, seen it for myself. It's hard to believe they replace the panels and leave that old brittle, flaky wire., but I've seen that too. The last school I did had an "on-site" inspector. Pretty cool dude, but he was so bored, he'd follow us around most of the day just for someone to talk to.
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Old 08-25-2019, 04:36 PM   #6
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A lot of the overkill you see was due to the Soviet scare.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:01 PM   #7
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If it's a "public school" that makes it a "government owned property" school. Thus may explain the later "hog wiring" that took place. The best place to see "hog wiring" is where the cit-ay, count-ay, or state office is that the Inspectors work out of. Saint Louis cit-ay hall, municipal court, civil court and city-1 jail was once laughable back in the 1990's. If these buildings where privately owned, those same inspectors would shut them down and pull the hook.
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:19 PM   #8
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If it's a "public school" that makes it a "government owned property" school. Thus may explain the later "hog wiring" that took place. The best place to see "hog wiring" is where the cit-ay, count-ay, or state office is that the Inspectors work out of. Saint Louis cit-ay hall, municipal court, civil court and city-1 jail was once laughable back in the 1990's. If these buildings where privately owned, those same inspectors would shut them down and pull the hook.

They are indeed, public schools. But that's such BS-- if the latest NFPA code should be in full force anywhere- it should be at these public elementary/middle schools, and instead it's the opposite. Those silly Tamper resistant receptacles would actually be perfect in these schools. Instead, half the outlets are broken/ancient. Years and years of violations all over the place. Like I said, double and triple tapped stuff all over the place...melted breakers, ancient wiring.... The state grants millions of dollars in capital improvements and half of it goes to putting lipstick on the pigs (i.e. they're installing gender neutral bathrooms.... complete with flushometers).
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
1. The weight/thickness of the metals in comparison to the replacements.

The old steel back boxes of the panels and panel covers are crazy thick and heavy. The aluminum replacements are cheap and flimsy in comparison, most of them arriving bent and scratched on arrival. The old rigid conduit alone was insanely overbuilt. I wonder what the logic was? Was it to contain a fire better- or just made to last because that's how things were made in good ol' USA back then? The guys who installed this stuff must've been strong as hell.
During the OPEC oil embargo, they came up with a way to make synthetic plastics using very little oil. The BPA caused men’s testosterone to decrease and estrogen to increase. They no longer could bend heavy wall conduit, let alone lift panel boxes or stuff wires into panels. So they came out with Thin wall conduit and reduced the amount of steel and copper in most items.

As family sizes decreased the need for greater immigration became apparent. Soon we will become a nation similar to the movie Wall-E. We will be so weak that we will need robots to do everything for us.
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:31 PM   #10
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During the OPEC oil embargo, they came up with a way to make synthetic plastics using very little oil. The BPA caused men’s testosterone to decrease and estrogen to increase. They no longer could bend heavy wall conduit, let alone lift panel boxes or stuff wires into panels. So they came out with Thin wall conduit and reduced the amount of steel and copper in most items.

As family sizes decreased the need for greater immigration became apparent. Soon we will become a nation similar to the movie Wall-E. We will be so weak that we will need robots to do everything for us.

I'm not sure if your post is tongue in cheek, but there seems to be a lot of truth in what you are saying. Honestly, one of my biggest problems with the work that we do is the daily handling of a variety of plastics. Especially the malleable plastics such as the vinyl on THHN or black tape-- plasticizers and phthalates are used, which the body recognizes as endocrine disruptors and are found to mimic estrogen. People say "well you don't eat the stuff"- worse, your skin absorbs it.
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Old 08-25-2019, 11:04 PM   #11
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I'm not sure if your post is tongue in cheek, but there seems to be a lot of truth in what you are saying. Honestly, one of my biggest problems with the work that we do is the daily handling of a variety of plastics. Especially the malleable plastics such as the vinyl on THHN or black tape-- plasticizers and phthalates are used, which the body recognizes as endocrine disruptors and are found to mimic estrogen. People say "well you don't eat the stuff"- worse, your skin absorbs it.
I think most of us are one “no lube” wire pull away from using gender neutral bathrooms.
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Old 10-11-2019, 02:50 AM   #12
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The origin of heavy thick metal coduit,
goes back to the first days of reticulated electrical systems.
The days of D C !. When power first went out, their were no electricians at the start ,so wiring was installed into buildings by our mortal enemys the plumbers. Which was probably because they had the experience and tools to work with metal pipes.
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Old 10-11-2019, 05:50 AM   #13
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A lot of the overkill you see was due to the Soviet scare.
That's true, most of the older schools around here still have these:

https://imgs.6sqft.com/wp-content/up...ut-shelter.jpg

I would not be surprised if there was a spec for RMC that stuck around it copied and pasted specs for DECADES after that requirement was history.
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Old 10-11-2019, 05:57 AM   #14
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I think the quality of these things are like most things, they gradually shaved quality at every opportunity to save a few nickels.
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Old 10-11-2019, 05:08 PM   #15
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Another way to look at this is that in the "old days", materials were cheap and engineering was expensive. So if you don't want to spend a ton of your product development budget on up-front engineering, you just throw more materials at a problem. "I don't know EXACTLY how thick a busbar needs to be to safely carry 200A, but if I make it twice as thick as the other guy, it will be fine."



But over time more and more competition arose while materials became more expensive. By the 1970s we had been cranking engineers out of colleges by the butt load, resulting in engineering becoming cheaper (by comparison). So mfrs had them re-engineer products to be "right sized" rather than over sized. When I first became an EE in the early 80s, some of the early work I was given was just that sort of thing. For example studying heat rise tests on bus bars in MCCs so that we could minimize the amount of copper wasted; working with an ME on redesigning enclosures to use 16ga steel instead of 14ga, but using extra folds and creases to attain the same rigidity; coming up with a fastening system (nut inserts) so that back panels didn't have to be 11ga steel in order to have enough threads to hold onto equipment during fault stresses. So yes, compared to the products we were replacing, the new stuff was "less than", but in reality some of that old stuff was overkill.
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Old 10-12-2019, 06:27 AM   #16
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Another way to look at this is that in the "old days", materials were cheap and engineering was expensive. So if you don't want to spend a ton of your product development budget on up-front engineering, you just throw more materials at a problem. "I don't know EXACTLY how thick a busbar needs to be to safely carry 200A, but if I make it twice as thick as the other guy, it will be fine."



But over time more and more competition arose while materials became more expensive. By the 1970s we had been cranking engineers out of colleges by the butt load, resulting in engineering becoming cheaper (by comparison). So mfrs had them re-engineer products to be "right sized" rather than over sized. When I first became an EE in the early 80s, some of the early work I was given was just that sort of thing. For example studying heat rise tests on bus bars in MCCs so that we could minimize the amount of copper wasted; working with an ME on redesigning enclosures to use 16ga steel instead of 14ga, but using extra folds and creases to attain the same rigidity; coming up with a fastening system (nut inserts) so that back panels didn't have to be 11ga steel in order to have enough threads to hold onto equipment during fault stresses. So yes, compared to the products we were replacing, the new stuff was "less than", but in reality some of that old stuff was overkill.
When I read this I was reminded of a statement an engineer made to me once, "Anyone can build a house, but it takes an engineer to build one that can barely stand".
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Old 10-12-2019, 08:29 AM   #17
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But over time more and more competition arose while materials became more expensive. By the 1970s we had been cranking engineers out of colleges by the butt load, resulting in engineering becoming cheaper (by comparison). So mfrs had them re-engineer products to be "right sized" rather than over sized.
Another post I clicked like for but I didn't like. To me this is the saddest thing in the world, a generation of engineering talent dedicated to shaving nickels and dimes. Imagine what might have come of this if they set them to innovation and improvement rather than turning a dollar of profit into $1.02.
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Last edited by splatz; 10-12-2019 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 08:45 AM   #18
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When I read this I was reminded of a statement an engineer made to me once, "Anyone can build a house, but it takes an engineer to build one that can barely stand".
You're thinking of the Blues Mobile. It barely made it to Daley Plaza. Yeah, it's on film.
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Old 10-12-2019, 08:47 AM   #19
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Another post I clicked like for but I didn't like. To me this is the saddest thing in the world, a generation of engineers trained on shaving nickels and dimes. Imagine what might have come of this if they set them to innovation and improvement rather than turning a dollar of profit into $1.02.
Lack of TARIFFS drove all of this.

The NEMA players were looking over their shoulder to what was happening to Detroit.
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Old 10-12-2019, 10:33 AM   #20
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You're thinking of the Blues Mobile. It barely made it to Daley Plaza. Yeah, it's on film.
No, I'm thinking of an actual guy who made this statement which is about engineering to a minimum spec.
Or he may be a relative of the guy who hands out the loose leaf local amendments.
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