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Adding a circuit breaker


Zarathustra2

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I am setting up the wet room for my sump in a closet that also houses the house circuit breaker. I've never added a circuit breaker before but have done a decent amount of lower level electrical work. So wanted to ask a few questions.

  1. Is this something that I can do on my own. I've looked up instructions online and it doesn't seem too hard but I am always iffy around the possibility of electrical fire in my house.
  2. Since I am putting a sump near the overall circuit breaker for my house I am worried about salt creep there. Does a standard panel protect against that or is there something I can get to give it some more protection?
  3. If this doesn't look like something I can do on my own does anyone know of or is a good electrician that can help out on a budget? Alternately if someone has done this sort of thing before and can just help me out with advice for beer that would of course be appreciated.
  4. Do I need permits for this sort of work since I am adding a circuit?

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Most anyone can follow the directions on how to add a circuit. It's whether or not they can follow through without getting hurt. Your best bet for your first time would be to ask someone on the forum to help if they have already done it. You will also need to verify that your box can handle another load on it. Very often a large box is placed into service but upon opening it you will find that it is maxed out. This happened to me once before. I hired an electrician to wire up a few dedicated circuits in my house. He came out and looked the job over, checked the panel real quick and said he needed $200. I agreed and a week later he came out and pulled all the wire, cut in the new boxes and wired it all together. When he opened the panel to connect the new breakers, there was no more Bus Bar to accept the new circuit. There were plenty of knock outs, just not enough terminals. Yes we rigged it after that.... So you might want to check that out.

However, and I hate to say this.. I absolutely would not put a large sump set up in a closet that houses the panel. Not ever. It's not salt creep that you need to worry about, it's the corrosive nature of the evap. Your panel will begin corroding on day one. I've known several people that have placed their frag room/large sump under a stair closet only to find everything rotted out after about 6 months. You create a damp and humid atmosphere that wood and paneling does not like. Then the guys that keep their 200g sumps in their garages will tell you about how all of their tools began to rust within a week of setting it up. You do not want the aluminum Bus Bar in your panel to oxidize, this is the aluminum equivalent of rusting. When you see aluminum that puffs up with white powder it is being exposed to the elements. The connections in the panel will most likely begin to do this right where the connections are made. Especially there since the protective coating will be compromised from the metal on metal scraping when installing a breaker. This corrosion can impede the flow of electricity and create a hot spot, think "toaster", that could cause a fire.

Now I'm not an electrician but I do work with them everyday and of course we ask each other all kinds of questions related to our trades. You bet I've already asked this type of question before and that was the answer I was given. Hopefully Prof can add a little about the experience of his fish room and just how quickly the cord ends and the A/C unit he installed showed signs of compromise.

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It could cost you more money to switch breaker panels, if this truly is the "whole house" panel, than your tank itself. A vent fan would certainly help. I wouldn't want to place any bets on how well it would work. As in would it take a 98% bad situation and turn it into a 3% bad situation? Couldn't tell you, however keep in mind that after enough time the 3% could grow into 50% then into 98% if not watched.

Place a high dollar, say Snap-On, plier, wrench, ratchet, or screwdriver, on your current sump under the tank (or do it a friends house if your tank isn't running yet) and see just what it looks like within a week or 2. Make sure it is a very expensive tool so that you really take the hit, not some $1 tool from harbor freight.

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The breaker box is in the closet where you want to put your sump? Like, the actual door for the panel opens into the closet? I would not do it. It is all built with aluminum, copper, plastic and galvanized steel to cut down on corrosion but I would not subject it to the kind of humidity that you will create. Adding a vent or a dehumidifier would cut the risk but probably still not worth it. Unless it is a really, really big closet.

I have run sumps in closets before and really love the convience of the remote location but it does wreak havoc on drywall and wood surfaces. All metal is toast in the first year and any unprotected steel is toast in the first month.

After I started running tanks in the garage and before I walled in the fish room I fought flash rust every day. Screws, nails, tools, etc. would rust between uses. I had to treat my tablesaw top every week to keep it from rusting and i was using paste wax. It was also in the opposite corner of a three car garage.

All that being said, the possibility is still there. Seal up and paint all surfaces in the closet with a quality paint, I like latex enamels. You can't seal up the breaker box. They need to breathe. But I guess you could always use something like petroleum jelly to protect the circuits ;) It can be done but take precautions and be extra vigilant of the humidity levels and keep everything clean. Sumps tend to have lots of bubbles and this is one of the quickest ways to get lots of water into the air. So, that is one more thing to watch for.

PS, I have a dehumidifier if you want to buy it.

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Thanks for the offer on the dehumidifier but I think I'm just going to have to change plans. The circuit breaker box is in that closet and while it is large for a closet it is still a closet. Also, I am pretty dead set on going for an algae scrubber/no skimmer reef so I would be putting a lot of humidity in the air. Thanks for the advice guys. I am going to do the smart thing and take it and go back to the drawing board for my 90. I just wasn't thinking about corrosion on that circuit breaker box or in the closet in general as a problem. But now that you have brought it up I just cannot get past it.

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