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McGurk

One Garage Outlet... One. Ridiculous.

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Moved into a new-to-us house (1985 build) recently, and have been slowly learning its "charming" traits. Like the outdoor faucet that had frozen rupturing a hidden pipe before we bought (undisclosed or unknown), and thereby and ruining the finished basement after I turned it on. Or the cold rooms on the west side of the house. Or the fact that the microwave can trip the TV/lights/ lamp outlets breaker if they are on at the same time. Or the lawn that is in the process of slowly dying (working in it).

But the most baffling thing would be the (apparently up to code) single outlet in the attached garage. I know.. I know... you don't need 20 of them, but a couple spread out would have been nice. But, I recently discovered (finally looked at) that it is not on its own circuit. Ok, not a problem, I just need to watch what I run in there (no welders, huge compressors, or anything 220v). This winter I had a few strings of Christmas lights running that were on hooked up to an outdoor outlet which was added when a small sun room/3 season porch was built a couple years ago. All was fine for a week or so. Then it happened...

One night when the timer turned them on, I heard a small "pop" and they went out. No problem, check the outdoor GFI outlet. Not tripped. Check the breaker box. Nothing tripped. Check the GFI again. Not tripped. Re-check the breaker box. Nothing amiss. Look for other affected outlets. Nothing logical that I could find was off. Go out to the garage, find that the opener won't work and the one lone garage outlet is not powered. Now I am getting somewhere, but it is not a GFI outlet. Overhead lights work in the garage, but the outlet is dead. I am at a loss.

Fast forward an hour, and my wife is getting ready for bed. She notices that the nightlight plugged into the upstairs master bath isn't turning on. Not a GFI, but must be tied to the problem. I'm on the hunt again. The guest bath's sink outlet is also not working, and it IS a GFI outlet. DING DING DING! Reset it, all is well, as far as getting power restored goes, anyway. Post-it note is written up and placed in the breaker box for future reference.

Now, my dilemma. I'd like to run some more outlets in the garage, but as I have discovered, the garage outlet is powered AFTER the upstairs bathroom GFI outlet in its required (or maybe just recommended?) location. I have some woodworking tools (nothing excessive, but a table saw, 12" miter saw, small compressor, plus lots of hand power tools) and a workbench that I'd like to run a small bank of outlets on with some over-bench lights. Can I simply replace the bathroom GFI outlet with a standard outlet, or upgrade the GFI outlet, and go from there? Or, can I bypass the "outgoing" power by hardwiring the incoming/outgoing leads with some wire nuts and short leads for the existing bathroom outlet?

I appreciate any thought and opinions on this mess, and Thanks in advance!

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The best solution is to run a new circuit from the breaker box to the garage. Depending on access, it might be a good idea to hire an electrician for a couple hundred bucks, rather than spending a lot of time trying to fish wires. Those guys are good at running wires, and have the tools necessary to do so. I was amazed at how little time it took them to get some power from the basement up to the attic when I had my attic air put in.

On the other hand, maybe it would be easy to run a new wire at your house.

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If I had an open circuit in my box, that might be an option. As of now, I'd have to split an used single spot with a double breaker. Also, the box is not very close to where the garage is, and it's all finished off (of course!). Thanks for the advice, though!

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McGurk, I feel for ya man. When I bought my house I had your problem but I bought it knowing I was going to gut and run new wire through out, so it was an easy fix, just time consuming. It does sound like your house is way under powered and you might down the road have to look into a wiring job. I am not positive but I seem to recall that a main panel is suppose to be only 80% full and if you are having to go to double breakers perhaps some of your problem can be solved by getting a bigger service installed. I would go down to one of the box stores and buy one of their circuit testers that will allow you to trace your outlets back to the main panel so you can find out what is actually on a circuit and perhaps adjust the load. Our kitchen when the microwave went on the upstairs lights dimmed, Always new when supper was almost ready. Good luck

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Are all the breakers in the panel actually being used? I just recently wanted to add a new circuit during my basement remodel but at first glance the panel looked full. When I brought in an electrician and he started digging around he actually found 6 breakers that were either completely unused or that were powering nothing but a single outlet or light so they had a lot of capacity left. He was able to add a new circuit onto an existing empty breaker, add to underused breakers, and also rebalance some of the load so that it was more logically organized. Only took him a couple hours to do it plus add a couple outlets and lights, but my basement was unfinished so he had easy access to everything.

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That's a good point. I'll pop the cover and see if there are any empties. The box is horribly marked and there has been a bit of guess work already! In an ideal world i would have a secondary box put in the garage, but that's probably not happenning.

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My guess is a bigger box is in order. A 200 amp box would probably fix may of your problems. You would have more room for breakers and some of the loads on the breakers you currently have in your box could probably be fixed. If you do go the route of having a new wire ran to your garage us a large enough wire so you can have a subpanel. Then if you want to run larger tools, and have a 240v outlet you can. Recently spent a few couple thousand updating a 1970's rambler that was an electrical nightmare.

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My guess is a bigger box is in order. A 200 amp box would probably fix may of your problems.

You might also want to check with your homeowners insurance, as when my agent found out my (old) house had 200 amp service, he was able to get me a different classification and I got better insurance for quite a bit less (I want to say it was like $150+ per year.) It could help offset the cost of having it done. Just something to check... Good luck.

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If it were my house, I wouldn't want to run new power (a second line) out to the garage. I would find a way to dedicate the existing line to just the garage. Trace the wire from the bathroom to the garage. Take the wire from it's last in-house connection and run that back to an open slot on the panel. Now you've got a dedicated line to the garage that you can pigtail into a few other outlets as needed.

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Again, thanks for all the input, guys. I appreciate it!

As there are no open spots in the panel, I don't think I am going to bother with switching anything out and running lines like that. As I stated earlier, I am not doing any welding or big-time work or lots of work, just occasional maintanence/project type stuff. So, I'm not too worried about the draw. I'm pretty sure it's just 14-2 wire anyway, so going hog-wild with banks of outlets isn't an option anyway with what's there. Finances aren't condusive to a new panel and an electrical overhaul at the moment (wife was just laid off, 2 young-uns, etc...) so I think I am just going to work with what I have. I do like the idea of having someone give the house a once-over and see if there are any re-configuring of circuits to improve my situation. When finances allow, I may have that done or, like stated, do a thorough mapping of the house and circuits myself.

What would conceivably run on the existing circuit (as far as I know):

-Morning hairdryer/curling iron/whatever else the wife needs

-kid/guest bathroom needs (pretty minimal so far, but I have a 4 yr old daughter)

-charger for shaver/clipper once a month

-Garage door opener

-Christmas lights in winter (switching to LEDs for the next season)

-garage stuff, all only when needed: table saw, miter saw, skil saw, battery charger, small compressor when needed, smaller power hand tools, corded lights, etc...

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of "bypassing" the GFI in the spare bathroom. I will leave it in there, but connect the "input and output" of the feed, and pigtail the GFI into it. It's rare when more than 2 of the things on that list would ever be on a the same time. Besides, the GFI is what popped, not the breaker, and I don't want to have things in the rest of the house go when it pops. Then, I can also do that in the master bath and add a GFI (none there now) to that box. The outdoor outlets are already "after" the spare bathroom, so I don't think I'll need to alter those.

Then I can add a couple of outlets in the garage. I'm thinking of 5) at the moment. 1) on my "shelf" side of the garage, 3) on the bench side of the garage, and 1) dedicated box for the opener. Yes, there is not one for the opener. Crazy, right? There is just an extension cord threaded up to the rafters (no celing) and over to the opener from my 1) existing outlet. I'd do away with that, and run exposed conduit for the new outlets, and call it good.

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Your current configuration as stated is not NEC legal.

The bathroom has to be on a 20 amp circuit and has to be by itself, meaning that the 20 amp circuit can power either the entire bathroom (lights and receptacle) or just the receptacle of more than one bathroom and that is all.

It sounds like whoever modified or built your house is not nearly as knowledgeable as what they thought.

I wonder if the panel wasn't replaced at one point and things just got thrown together in there.

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Thanks for the input, mnfishinguy. The house was built in 1985, so the single garage outlet must not have been compliant from the get-go. Was that acceptable back then? The extension cord for the garage door opener really threw me, and I can't beleive that they were able to get away with that. Also, the 3-season porch (added on 2010) may have just pulled power off of that same circuit for the 2) outdoor outlets located on the same exterior wall as the bathrooms due to convenience. The rest of the lights/outlets in the 3 season porch were not not affected by the guest bath GFCI tripping.

I am really thankful for all of the help here!

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I can only guess they never had the electrical in the garage inspected. That is ugly!!!

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The garage door opener thing is easy to explain. Didn't have an opener until later.

Why it is connected to bathroom? inexplicable.

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It may or may not have been legal, I was thinking of when the code changed and it was around that time, but it doesn't matter anyways.

After thinking about it for awhile, it sure sounds like either wired by someone that didn't really have a good understanding of the principal of the NEC or that someone did some remodeling with bad advice.

Now back to the original question, I would keep it simple and just run a UF wire out to the garage for the power. You can direct bury it if it is protected by a GFCI and it only has to be 12" deep.

Here is the article if your interested.

Table 300.5 (second vertical column from right) gives limited use of lesser

burial depth for the residential circuits described, as shown in Fig. 300-13. Any

GFCI-protected residential “branch circuit” not over 120 V and protected at 20 A

or less may be buried only 12 in. (300 mm) below grade, instead of, say, 24 in.

(600 mm), as required for Type UF cable for any nonresidential use or for a residential

“feeder.”

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I did have it inspected before purchase, and it wasn't brought up as an issue.

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back in the 80s the bathrooms, outside receptacles, and garage would be fed from the load side of a G.F.C.I outlet in the basement. This was a cheep way of wiring a house. Saving the cost of buying multi g.f.c.i receptacles that costed a lot of money back than. Don't know if it was code compliant back then but I have had service calls for lost power on outlets that the home owner could not figure out why. I would find a G.F.C.I outlet that was tripped somewhere in an unfinished basement that the home owner never used. Reset it and all was good. Those service calls where easy money.

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Making some calls with scenarios for bids. Sux that I have to pay to destroy finished work to get a situation to code for 30-yr-old erroneous work, if indeed it wasn't compliant at the time of build. BTW, there aren't any bathrooms on 20 amp breakers, either, and it is a 100 amp service box plum full of breakers.

Once again, thanks for all the help, guys!

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Depending on how long you have had this house you may want to contact your realitor if you had one as there may be something they can do if this wasn't up to code when you bought it. Might be a long shot but worth a phone call.

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When I built my first house in 1980, the GFI in the bathroom controlled the 2 outside receptacles and garage receptacle. The electrical work was done by an electrical contractor. It was inspected and approved. I think the City of Minnetonka had their own electrical inspector then; I don't recall the state electrical inspector being involved.

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Thanks for chiming in, Cav. Makes me feel better about the situation in that this wasn't unheard of to do this back then, even if it isn't compliant with current standards. Might be better off leaving it alone for the time being, but I hate running extension cords to do anything in the garage.

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If it makes you feel better: My basement lights, entryway, kitchen, minus the microwave, living room and bedroom are on ONE circuit. If I have a few lights on, surround sound on I will trip a circuit breaker. If I want to run the vacuum I have to plug an extension cord into the microwave outlet so that I wont trip a circuit breaker.

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