A/C Compressor/Disconnect Question


I am a fairly new Texas inspector and have a contract on my house. The buyers hired a seasoned inspector, after which they submitted an amendment to the contract asking me to take care of a few items. Two of these items are the subject of this thread.

  1. The disconnect for the air conditioning unit has #10 wire on 60 amp breakers. Have licensed electrician install proper weight wire for the 60 amp breakers.
  2. Federal Pacific Electric brand panel for the air conditioning disconnect. This is a fire hazard. Have licensed electrician evaluate for consideration of replacement.

These are verbatim from the contract amendment, and it appears as though they are take directly from the inspection report, although I do not know that for sure.

I question the accuracy of both statements.

The data plate on my compressor requires a minimum ampacity of 25 amps. Does not a #10 wire meet that requirement?

Two questions on the Federal Pacific disconnect panel. First, I understand there are differing opinions on their safety, so I don’t think the inspector should have made a flat out statement that it is a fire hazard. Second, it’s on the exterior brick veneer wall of my house - it is not the service panel. Now, it does have what appears to be a breaker rather than a pull-out disconnect. One breaker is labeled 60 and the other “Non-Auto”.

Gentlemen, I don’t want to hire an electrician just for the sake of hiring one. Any guidance you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I read some time back a lengthy forum thread, but I know that doesn’t make me an expert. I do want to do the right thing for my buyers.

The photo of the 40 amp breaker is for the compressor and is in the main panel in the garage.

Thanks in advance.

Oh, the house was built in '86. Best I can tell the main panel is GE.

Rick Henrichs

Ok first of all based on the information given the 60 amp “breaker” is not a breaker and appears to be a service disconnect and the 40 amp ‘breaker’ in the main panel appears to be the over current protection for the device. But it is a Federal Pacific brand and they are problematic, with that being said, it is not used as a over current device and just a service disconnect so I see no problem with it.

Now the wire size is something different and to me it is correct. Many many of electricians do not know this. I was schooled by an electrician one day and he set me right. The wire size needs to be rated for 125% of the RLA plus the FLA which is 20 amps in this case. So 125% of 20 amps 24 amps and #10 typically facilitates a maximum of 30 amps, so it would be correct.

But here is the real kicker, is it really worth arguing the problem or spending the $150 and making it go away? It is up to you. But in my eyes there is no problem here, but others may say there is.

This is the best as I understand it…let others chime in.

I agree with most of what you said except 25 amps is the minimum ampacity. This circuit is being protected with a 40 amp breaker, #10 is too small for 40 amp brk, if that’s what is running from main panel to FP disconnect.

You are correct on all technical accounts. There is nothing wrong with this configuration.

The 60 Amp device is a disconnect switch, not overcurrent protection. Its rated amperage is irrelevant as along as it is at least as high as the minimum rating required. The 40 Amp breaker in the panel is properly sized for the A/C unit. the 10AWG copper conductor is appropriate for the minimum ampacity requirement on the A/C label. I would not be concerned about a Federal Pacific disconnect mounted on the outside of the house, provided the terminals are not corroded or show signs of overheating at the connections.

Seasoned or not, the inspector’s comments are less than stellar based on the information that you have provided. If this is truly representative of his report findings, I would personally consider him incompetent.

Now what to do about it: If I received an addendum full of crap findings and requests like this, I would declare the inspector incompetent and push back. However, if you only have a few, or this is the only nonsense request, I would just go ahead and replace the FPE disconnect with a non-fused disconnect such as this. This will be the easiest solution and the least likely to cause an issue which might screw up your contract to sell.

Replacing the disconnect will resolve both the FPE complaint and eliminate the 60 Amp “breaker” which we know isn’t a breaker. With no 60A breaker present, there will be no need to upsize the conductor which is perfectly adequate to meet the 25A minimum ampacity requirement.

As a seller, I would be more likely to just roll with this rather than get into a debate with your buyer over whether their inspector is competent or not. I would request that the wording be modified in the addendum to require the conductor be made appropriately sized for the circuit (which it already is). Get the sparky to document that it is appropriately sized when he installs the disconnect. Use the opportunity to establish a relationship with the electrician so that you can use him as a resource or refer clients to him, if they need one.

Not for a motor load it isn’t

Haven’t been too concerned with minimum requirements as most of these installers seem to go too big, not too small.

What is the Maximum circuit breaker size as noted on the label?

OK, thank you very much, all, for the insight. The only reason I balk at hiring an electrician is that about a year ago I could not find a licensed one who would do a small project. I’m in Red Oak so if anyone nearby has a good referral, I’d like to get it done as you said, Chuck. Yes, we do not want to lose the contract over this.

Ricky another solution is to write down what was said here and actually “educate” the “seasoned” professional so that other home owners are not being mislead with this information and people having to spend money needlessly.

I too once mentioned the wire size just as this guy did and until someone educated me, I was ignorant about this myself (many moons ago), But to be silent will only lead to more and more of the same.

Good point, as I, too, as a new inspector, will make mistakes and would like to be corrected. Thanks

Here is your chance to make a good impression!

OK. Not disagreeing with you Chuck. Here are fewdifferent opinions from some knowledgeable members.

“If the wire to the unit is rated for the breaker size at least you won’t have a fire hazard to the unit”.

“every HVAC guy and electrician I speak … want to see that the wire size is consistent with the higher size.”
and then,

“The minimum rating for the appliance accounts for the “undersized” conductors.”

I agree with Chuck except for the FPE.


Jim, I have an electrician who is going to change the exterior disconnect box to one with a pull-out. However, for my learning, are you saying that even an FPE exterior disconnect box is problematic? I skimmed through the link you provided but it’s late in the night and I’ll have to pick up my reading when I’m more alert.

Christopher, as you said, my electrician is adamant about having the wire size match the breaker in the main panel. So if the wire is a #10 on a 40-amp OCPD in the main panel, and the data plate calls for Min and Max 40 amp HACR, a new larger wire would have to be run?? Also, the house was built in 86. Did HACR breakers exist back then?



Well, I stand by original post because this is a motor Driven unit.

Do as you like, but once again do not believe me, but instead of listening to any of us, research it in the NEC and find out for yourself…

You might email Wayne Rogers with this info. He teaches electrical for ce hrs and this is part of his 8 hr course. feaynerogers@juno.com

I agree

The 60 breaker is not protecting the conductors. It is being used as a disconnect device.

10 AWG meets the minimum circuit ampacity and the 40 A breaker in the panel meets the maximum protectionist called for on the label.

Unfortunately, it appears that your electrician is as ill-informed as your buyer’s inspector. The requirements for A/C branch circuits are defined separately from general use branch circuits in the NEC.

You may well be stuck if your electrician doesn’t understand this. If you have the opportunity switch electricians.

Take a lesson from this rare glimpse that you are privy to from the consumer’s side of a home inspection. As a home inspector, you have a duty to the public to not only find and report observable defects, but also to know your subject matter well enough not to call out defects where they don’t exist. As a seller, you’re the victim of an inspector who doesn’t know what he should and are having to deal with the repercussions of an erroneous report finding.

Here is the relevant article from the NEC (2008) and a link to a related article. Good luck!


Related Article: http://www.mikeholt.com/mojonewsarchive/NEC-HTML/HTML/Article-440-Air-Conditioning-and-Refrigerating-Equipment~20040102.htm

Russell, I noted your comments and agree with them based on a class I sat through with Wayne Rogers and an InterNACHI online video. I was simply mentioning that the electrician I know is adamant and won’t “bless” it the way it is. Yes, this would be a good time for me to buy the NEC, no? Right now, though, I want to get my house sold and move on. :slight_smile:

Gary, thanks for the email for Wayne. Just to double-check, is his email really feaynerogers@juno.com or should the “e” be a “w”? Thanks.

Memorize this.

Tell me thats not an awesome business. Hey you cannot sell your house until you pay me to fix something that is absolutely acceptable. That is a scam and he should be reported after you sell your house, that is downright extortion in my book!