Flow decisions for a 120G - Guess I'll turn this into a build thread!

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by anathema, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. anathema

    anathema Guest

    SOLD! You drive a hard bargain Mario. :bigsmile:

    Heh, I work at 5AM tomorrow so I'm trying to go to bed early tonight, but let me know when you are free, I think I'd be able to meet up tomorrow afternoon.

    This MP40 on surge mode sounds like someone snoring...
  2. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    I've got 5-6 buckets of used sand I'd you want for free...
  3. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Thanks Mike, I might be interested, let me see how big Mario's container of sand is. I've been swamped this week at work, which is good, but leaves me no time to work on this project until wednesday. Talk to you both then?
  4. xcaret

    xcaret Supporting Member

    That works for me.
  5. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Well today the electrician came by, looked into the panel and informed me that our panel is maxed out, and he won't be able to add any circuits to it. When he initially came by, he'd said that there was room, but when he opened it up there wasn't. This kind of sinks my whole project, as without electricity in the room I planned to use for the tank, I'll have a difficult time keeping stuff alive.


    Not sure where to go from here, don't have room in my bedroom for a 120, can't put it on the living room floor, and don't have 220 to run the lights anyway unless I buy a step up transformer.
  6. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Panel is maxed out in what way?
    Full of breakers, so no more can fit, or too much total current?
    If the former, look at the breakers. Are they singles or doubles? A lot of older
    breakers are singles, which means it is fairly easy to swap out to a double, and add more circuits.

    If it is too much total current - then yeah, you are in a bit of trouble.
    Although you might do some detailed power analysis on what breakers go where and if they make sense.
    For example, my box had a 20A breaker to a single outlet that drove the hot water recurculation pump.
    There are two things you can then do:
    1) Lower the current on quite a few of them (say 20A to 10A), which lowers total current on the panel,
    allowing you to add more.
    2) Actually tie into those lines.

    Other thoughts:
    Do you have an electric stove or other major electric appliances??
    You could switch to gas, and probably save money long term anyway.
    (Your electrical tier will go up with the bigger tank)
  7. xcaret

    xcaret Supporting Member

    Agreed too on the panel; I ran a new line for a friend and his place's box was out of room "maxed out" just bought a double breaker and that did the trick.
  8. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    It is quite normal for the total of your smaller breakers to exceed the max for the main breaker.
    The theory being that they will not be maxed at the same time.
    No idea if there are local codes on how much over you can be though.
    Regardless, you really should think about the totals. Tripping your main breaker is generally a bad idea.
  9. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Electrician said I can't do a double breaker. When he opened my panel he said he needed to go to the store to buy a double breaker, came back and said he can't do it. Landlord is not really super supportive of the idea, and the electrician is the landlord's official suggestion.

    I don't want to do anything that jeopardizes my relationship with the landlord.

    I guess I might call my own electrician instead of using the landlords suggestion.

    *edit* Called the guy back and he said the panel is maxed out with all half size breakers already, so that isn't an option.
  10. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Ouch. Could really limit your plans.

    A thought - do you feel comfortable opening up the panel and looking inside?
    (Meaning remove the main plate, and look at the wires)
    It is somewhat surprising to have a panel full up with doubles.
    There is a distinct possibility that not all of those breakers are really being used.

    A picture might be good as well.

    It is also a bit odd that the electrician would look at the panel, go buy a double breaker, then realize it is full.
  11. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Yes, makes me wonder also.

    As an aside, does either of you know of a local source for a 220 step up transformer in the 1000 watt range? I've found them online, but would prefer to buy it locally.
  12. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Only place I can think of would be Jameco, but looks like 300W max.
    Curious though : What is it for?
  13. anathema

    anathema Guest


    While shopping for sand, it helps you remember what you are shopping for if you have 5000 tons of it sitting alongside the dock at your job. Too bad it's not calcium based.

    Here's my breaker box. I can DEFINITELY afford to consolidate. The kitchen has 2 breakers for outlets itself, plus 1 for the microwave, and one for the fridge. The 2 breakers for kitchen outlets is a bit ridiculous since until recently 3 of the 4 outlets in the kitchen didn't work. The GFI outlets had "worn out" according to the electrician. In any case, two 20Amp breakers for 1 rice cooker and a toaster seems a bit much.

    The issue is, either the electrician or the landlord doesn't want the work done. I got approval from the landlord, and he gave me the card and said to use this electrician. The electrician flaked on two appointments, was supposed to have this done two weeks ago, and finally came over, looked at it and said it can't be done after I called him several times to try to get him to set the appointment again. It may just be that he doesn't think a little $300 job is worth his time, and in that case I should get a second opinion, but I am unsure if I need to get the landlord's approval to hire outside his recommendation.


    The step up transformer would be for the light fixture I planned to use. It's 220. Also, to make this all the more fun, if my unit came with the garage, there is power and even a 220 outlet that is not currently wired up but could easily be, in the garage. Too bad that's an extra $400 a month.
  14. anathema

    anathema Guest

    The other issue with all this is that I had planned on running two circuits. I'm concerned that at peak load, with 2 250W halides, a 150W refugium light, 2 39W t5's, a mag 9.5, an MP40, and whatever heaters I need I'm quite close to 20Amps or even over at full load. Add in the inefficiency of a step up transformer, and inefficiency in general, and if the power goes out and everything tries to restart at once it will trip the breaker.

    This concerns me a lot because of both my work schedule, and this tank being downstairs in a place where it may not get noticed for an entire day or more by my roommate or gf if I am not around the house. I've had tanks saved a couple times while I was at work because the other person living in the house called me and said "Hey your tank isn't noisy anymore is that normal?" Or in one case "Um the living room is flooded!"

    This gave me time to call someone to check on the tank and fix whatever was wrong. If the breaker trips with the tank downstairs, no one will notice, so I wanted to be well within the maximum load for the breakers I used. Maybe I worry too much.
  15. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Called another electrician that was well reviewed on yelp, and he is coming by to check it out free of charge. We'll see what that yields.
  16. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    My guess on the electrician is like you said - simply not interested in your small job.
    That box is a rather amusing mixture of breakers. :)
    None of the breakers appear to be tandems, but your breakers appear thinner than mine, so not sure if tandems will fit.
    The new electrician should know.

    The scary thing - I see 12 black/red hot wires, from the breakers, but I only see 4 white neutral wires.
    (Small wires. I ignored the big wires)
    Hopefully there is a bus bar somewhere else.
    Worst case, they combined the neutrals somewhere else, and are potentially really overloading the wires.

    Be a bit careful with that 220V lighting setup. GFCI protection does not work through a transformer.
    You might want another 220V GFCI on the other side.
  17. anathema

    anathema Guest

    So today I stopped by UES with my handy dandy iphone containing a picture of my dilemma.

    I came home with a smaller 50A breaker for the stove, and two 20A breakers identical to the gray ones in my picture. I already went and installed them myself, and I reorganized that whole top row so it made a bit more sense, cleaned up the wire routing a bit also. When the new electrician comes in tomorrow, he will see 2 unused 20A single pole breakers installed and ready to use. No excuses!

    My house was built in 1903, and the wiring is a disaster. This is one of the BIG reasons I don't want to involve myself in a project like was suggested earlier of "cleaning up the wiring plan" in some of the rooms. Yes, I have one 20A breaker that goes to only 2 outlets that are behind furniture in the kitchen. No, I don't want to touch, modify, be responsible for, or even breathe on the already installed wiring in this house. When I moved in, one of the outlets in my bedroom didn't work. I pulled it out of the wall, and it was MELTED in half. That was the condition when I moved in, I don't want to have any part of changing it because then if it all blows up, they can blame me. I also went around the house when I moved in and sorted the outlets based on whether they actually had a ground or not, about half don't.

    I'm taking what I see as a small risk by installing a totally separate pair of circuits to an unfinished part of the house that already has exposed wiring and conduit in it. If something goes wrong with either of THOSE TWO circuits, I'll take the blame. I'm also doing my best to make sure they are safe and done correctly. The rest of the house I don't want any part of. The joy of renting in a city that considers fire hazards charming...

    Anyway all that aside, in my meeting witht he guy at the counter at UES, we couldn't find a way to add another 220 circuit. It looks like I'm stuck either using another light setup, or buying a step up transformer for the giesseman one. I have 2 400W ballasts I could use in lumenarcs, but I'd have to buy another lumenarc. UES had a 1000W step up/down transformer in stock for $130, don't see how I'd add a GFI to that setup but I guess if I get fried the world would get by without me just fine.

    The more I think about it though, it is convenient enough to have 2 110V 20A circuits in the room. That gives me enough overhead to have the tank in there and run a power tool if I need to. Also, if that light fixture breaks (german engineering!) then I have an easier time replacing it, I can just plug in the new one instead of having to rewire the 220 outlet before I replace it. I think this will work, and only 2 weeks behind schedule. :tired:
  18. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    If you put those two new breakers in the right place, you will have 220V across them.
    So you could use those normally for 110V, and then bridge them for 220V.
    Alternately, put in a single 220V breaker (which is essentially 2 x 110V breakers).
    You can use that for 220, then split it outside for dual 110.

    The way 220V works is that your house has two "hot" 110V lines, where the waves are out of phase, so between those hot
    lines you get 220V, but between those lines and neutral, you only get 110V.
    The different out of phase hot lines are interleaved in the breaker box.

    But talk to the electrician about that first!!!
    While I know it would work, and it is not risky if done correctly, I have no idea what the codes are.
  19. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Yes I have room to make one 220v circuit, or two 110v circuits. However if I make the 220v one I don't have any 110 to the tank.
  20. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    You can split that 220, into dual 110.
    I will use a made up DC like example to explain. (Not quite the same as AC, but close enough)
    You have 3 wires in a 220V circuit : A(+110V) , B(Neutral) , C(-110V)
    So you have 3 combinations that work.
    1) A-C = +110 to -110 = 220V
    2) A-B = +110 to 0 = 110V
    3) B-C = 0 to -110 = 110V
    For real alternating current, the +/- is phase, but same concept.

    So with those wires, you can get a 220V plug and two 110V plugs.
    Now those are wires, not plugs, so it is something the electrician would have to do.
    And may or may not be to code.

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