Do we need additional circuits added to our electrical panel?

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Posted by: from Calgary
12/3/2014 at 3:41:01 PM

We hired a contractor to finish off a partially developed space in our basement (approx 400 sqft), but are concerned about the electrical work being done. The previous configuration had all outlets on one circuit, all lights on another, which made sense for the 3 outlets and 3 light fixtures that were there. Our reno has increased this to 10 outlets (standard, 2 per box) two of which will be used for a bar fridge and a wine cooler, 9 pot lights, and 3 standard light fixtures. It does not appear that additional circuits/breakers have been added to our electrical panel, and while I'm by no means an electrician, I feel the existing 2 circuits might be overloaded with these additions.

Are we right in thinking this? What would be an appropriate configuration for this setup? My sense is that at the very least, there should be a dedicated circuit for the wine cooler and bar fridge (they are two separate units).

Thanks in advance!

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Date/Time12/3/2014 at 4:21:52 PM

Hi Nicole,

I'm not sure what your electrical codes are in Calgary. But in Saskatoon you're allowed up to 1200 watts for one breaker and that includes plugins as well for that 1200 watts on same breaker so depending what you are going to use the plugins for.

And yes your right in my opinion the bar fridge and wine cooler should be on a seperate breaker as well.

You could also call your electrical inspector as well. He would have all the codes at his/ her finger tips.

Hope this helps,



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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time12/3/2014 at 4:53:33 PM

The Canadian Electrical code is very clear in its requirements. This is a Canadian standard, not province to province.

If you have not hired an electrical contractor to do your wiring, chances are it is not to code. As every profession, each person is schooled in conforming to their respective field. You would not go to a dentist for a foot injury even though they both have PhD's. Jack of all trades, DIY and one stop contractors who do not have a licensed professional for each respective trade are a business of the grandfather past and should be avoided unless it is minor work, but in saying that they are not allowed to install gas and electrical without an electrical permit. Plumbing, HVAC, Gas, Electrical, structural etc contractors all have their place in the work force and should be hired independently unless the company looking after the contract can prove professional trades, who are licensed and insured, can do that task to code.

Within the code, a maximum of 12 devices can be connected to a 15 amp circuit breaker in a residential occupancy, unless the load is known, then, in no case, can the load exceed 80% of the circuit capacity, 75% is the reasonable allowance to ensure no troubles are triggered in the future. A connected load for a pot light, for example, rated at 50 watts would be 28 lights equaling 1400 watts, but then must take into consideration the length of wire and a few other issues EVEN IF LED bulbs are used since the fixture is rated for a 50 watt bulb not a 7 watt LED that anyone can remove and convert back to non-LED.

Call your local electrical inspection department, which may differ from the government inspection services and explain to them what your contractor has done and ask their opinion. Chances are you may have to open some walls and redo some wiring, but it is better than an electrical shock hazard or worse, an electrical fire to cause even more damage.

Here in Ontario there is the ESA, I am sure Alberta has a similar company, Google "electrical inspection services Alberta".

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Mark from CMJ Renovations in Oakville
Date/Time12/3/2014 at 6:38:00 PM

You are correct to be concerned. It must be to code because the electrical inspector would have caught it. What, no inspection? Oh oh, that probably means no permit. Oh oh that means if there is a problem down the road your insurance company will probably tell you you are on your own.

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Date/Time12/3/2014 at 10:17:14 PM

Ni Nicole,

Robert has done a good job (as usual) in replying to your question from a technical perspective. What I would like to offer is about the bar fridge et al. It could very well be installed to code; it is tough to make an educated guess without actually being there.

What I would like to offer is the reality of what you are doing there and ask a few additional questions and make a few comments.

As an example, there is not a code rule that says that you have to have a separate / dedicated circuit for your TV... but the reality is that you likely need one to accommodate the TV, HD converter, DVD / Blue-Ray player, X-Box, surround sound system, amplifier, etc. So saying that the installation is "code compliant" may not be what you need or even good enough.

So you mention bar fridge... is this an actual bar? Does it have a sink, counter space, appliances, etc? The code is specific about what is required for this type of installation. Although we generally refer to "kitchens" when we apply these rules, they may also apply in this instance.

The Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) is the source document for all of this, but most provinces create modifications or additional codes (amendments) which may also apply. The provinces do not remove any of the requirements of the CEC, but may add to it as necessary.

My point in this is that depending on your situation, the remodeled installation that you have may be code compliant, but there are errors in the installation that you may not even be aware of or that you need to consider other than an "overloaded" circuit.

Hope this helps.



John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Nicole in Calgary
Date/Time12/5/2014 at 1:05:27 PM

Thank you so much for your responses! I have gone back to the contractor and ensured that two additional circuits have been added.

Thanks again :)

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