Any electricians care to help me out?

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Forum topic by Tony Mirabella posted 12-30-2013 06:48 AM 1552 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tony Mirabella

33 posts in 3694 days

12-30-2013 06:48 AM

Topic tags/keywords: electrical wiring

So, I’ve been working on getting my basement workshop together after relocating and a several year woodworking hiatus. Everything has gone miraculously smooth except for one thing: the electrical in the basement is severely lacking. This is an old building and I presently only have access to a couple of 15 amp circuits to run everything. The breaker box upstairs is full, and a new load center is out of the question presently. So, we’ve been making do by trying to put as little load on each circuit as necessary (playing musical extension cords). It works, but it’s tedious.

Earlier today while fiddling around down there, I noticed a couple of electrical lines that were a little thicker than the rest that I’d never noticed up in the floor joists. Furthermore, they were capped off and connected to nothing. Out comes the multimeter, and whatayaknow, 240 volts. Checked the panel and sure enough, there’s an extra 30 amp (double pole) breaker. Apparently there was once an electric range that has since been replaced by gas, so that circuit is completely unused.

So, arbitrarily long story short, can I use this to my advantage, and if so, how?

Disclaimer: I’m not asking for advice on how to do this on my own, I’m certainly no electrician. Just looking for someone experienced to chime in to get an idea of what my options are before I call the pros in.

16 replies so far

View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2268 days

#1 posted 12-30-2013 08:45 AM

I am not a electrician, but hell yeah that one is easy. First toss the breaker off, and than run around and inspect everything to see if anything is off. Be sure to check all 220v things like dryers, hot water heaters, and 220v outlets. Actually if you have a gas stove and you think that where it came from, pull the stove out and look behind it, you may find the affected outlet there, and than if you really do not care react accordingly. You can than pull the double breaker out for that circuit and put in 2 15 or 20 amp circuits or a new 220 v circuit depending on your needs. If a new 220v circuit just use the existing breaker but run a new wire, but I would not totally kill the old wire by chopping it out of there, just seal it up really good so it safe and cozy in case somewhere someone down the line wants to go back to a electric stove on that circuit. After all, houses typically outlive people.

View HerbC's profile


1793 posts in 3101 days

#2 posted 12-30-2013 02:17 PM

If it’s an older 220V circuit for a stove, it probably has just the two “hot” wires and a ground wire and does not have a “neutral” wire. In that case you will not be able to use the circuit for 120V circuits without violating the electrical code and creating a potentially unsafe situation.

If that’s the case, is there any way you can replace the existing circuit wiring with a new, heaver wire that includes neutral was well as the hot and ground wires? if so, you could upgrade the breaker to a higher amp rating and install a new subpanel in the shop. That would give you the ability to put more circuits in the shop, eliminating the problems you currently face.

When in doubt, consult a qualified electrician and ensure all work is done iaw current electrical code.

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3202 days

#3 posted 12-30-2013 02:27 PM

Good advice! I lived in an old house that only had a 90 amp fuse box. A friend and I replaced it with a 150 amp box and split up the circuits to keep from blowing fuses, which was a problem.
For you, I would suggest having an electrician look at it an make his recommendations.

View Tony Mirabella's profile

Tony Mirabella

33 posts in 3694 days

#4 posted 12-31-2013 03:59 AM

Good info, guys.

Herb, I think your spot on with the two hot wires and no neutral…this setup is pretty dated. I had counted on replacing the wiring in any case. I initially wanted to just add a small subpanel to the basement, but since the breaker box is in close proximity to the basement, would it be more economical to just replace the double pole breaker with two 15 amp breakers and drop two new lines directly down into the basement?

Again, excuse me if I’m way off base, as I only know enough about electrical to be dangerous.

View HerbC's profile


1793 posts in 3101 days

#5 posted 12-31-2013 04:30 AM

Well, you could do that (replace the double-pole breaker with two single poles and run two outlet circuits to the basement shop) but replacing the cable (and possibly the double-pole 30A breaker) with new cable and adding a small distribution box (six circuits) would give you a lot more flexibility. If it was mine, I’d up the cable/breaker to 60 A, add a 6 circuit panel, and add two or three 20A 120V circuits to the shop from the distribution panel. That way you can still pull at least one 220V circuit if you ever need it (how about for a GOOD dust collector???)

Bottom line, I’d recommend you pull in a qualified electrician to evaluate the situation and help you make the upgrade, whether you go with the distribution panel in the basement or not…

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Tony Mirabella's profile

Tony Mirabella

33 posts in 3694 days

#6 posted 12-31-2013 04:58 AM

‘Bottom line, I’d recommend you pull in a qualified electrician…”

Sage advice, sir. Many thanks.

View ZacD's profile


34 posts in 2000 days

#7 posted 01-01-2014 04:12 PM

Yeah, this is a job that would be super easy for someone with a little experience running wire. It wouldn’t be more than a few hours for this job probably. However, if you don’t have experience doing electrical work, it is always better to call in someone who does. Things can go down hill very quickly. At 220v with a 30amp breaker, your’re body isn’t enough load to trip it before you’re dead.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3108 days

#8 posted 01-01-2014 04:20 PM

Insurance companies are beginning to take a dim view of people without a liscence doing their on wiring and not having it inspected. For your own protection you might want to check your insurance policy. If something were to happen you would be in a world of hurt if your insurance didn’t pay off. That’s just my two cents.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View AaronS's profile


28 posts in 1851 days

#9 posted 01-01-2014 05:22 PM

I am an electrician and rewired my parents basement which is also sectioned off for my father’s workshop. The solution I came up with is what several others have said…use a double pole breaker in your main load center and run 220V with neutral and ground (all properly sized to the breaker in your main panel) to a subpanel in your basement. This way you have breakers close to your work area. This would be a fairly routine job for any qualified interior electrician. Since you are not an experienced electrician, I definitely suggest hiring one in lieu of doing it yourself for fire and electrical shock safety. There are many things you may not think of (is your main load center and service conductors capable of handing the increased load, not bonding neutral and ground at subpanel, conductor sizes, box fill, GFCI’s, etc.) Hope this helps and good luck with your new workshop.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2745 days

#10 posted 01-01-2014 05:45 PM

Get an electrician to be safe.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 4064 days

#11 posted 01-01-2014 06:17 PM

Nice to read thing like this and hearing the expert advise by fellow jocks, Pulling in a qualified electrician is way better than experimenting. Great advise jocks lets keep the new year a safe one, best wish on your new hot wire find…BC

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3826 days

#12 posted 01-01-2014 08:06 PM

I too say get professional advice ,and help if needed.It does not need to be said re the obvious hazzards so have safe fun and a great new year. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Tony Mirabella's profile

Tony Mirabella

33 posts in 3694 days

#13 posted 01-02-2014 02:19 AM

Yeah, bringing in an electrician was always part of the plan. Always nice to have some good info beforehand, y’know?

Again, thanks everyone for all of your input, it’s greatly appreciated.

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 3035 days

#14 posted 01-02-2014 02:31 AM

Ask the electrician if he can install a distribution box with 2 20 amp single pole breakers in it. That should take care of your needs.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 3035 days

#15 posted 01-02-2014 02:33 AM

Double post ??

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

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