Neutrals ganged in service panel...?

jamesfjamesfFebruary 26, 2013

Hi folks..I bought a house in MA built in 1985. The service panel appears to have many neutrals tied together and then connected to the bus bar with one 12ga wire. In the attached pic on the left you can see one red and two yellow wire nuts. I haven't poked round and traced anything since it's night time :-) but wanted to get a sense of how accepted/absurd this was. My feeling is that since they are current carrying wires, they would be quite overloaded.

thanks,
jim

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Ron Natalie

You are quite right.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:20AM
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greg_2010

Are the 'many neutrals' from different circuits? If not, then it isn't a problem.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:20AM
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jamesfjamesf

greg_2010 - I understand what you're saying, but I can't picture a situation where they wouldn't be.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:26AM
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greg_2010

Is there a wire nut with a bunch of blacks tied together and one 12 gauge wire going to a breaker?

The breaker box can be used as a junction box to combine different cables together that go off in different directions but are on the same circuit.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:24AM
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greg_2010

Looking a little closer at your picture, there is another red wire nut but I can't see what it's combining. I'd guess that it's the black wires that are associated with the white ones in the visible red wire nut. But you should double check.

I don't see any additional yellow wire nuts to match the ones with the white wires, but maybe they are hidden somewhere. Or is the second yellow nut that is tucked behind actually combining black wires. It's hard to see.

You should definitely take a closer look at where the wires are coming/going. It may be fine. Or it may be a fire waiting to happen. :)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:43AM
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brickeyee

"Are the 'many neutrals' from different circuits? If not, then it isn't a problem."

Not seeing this.

A multiwire circuit still can have full current on the neutral.

If you combined the neutrals of multiple mutiwire branch circuits they could still be overloaded.

Combining multiple circuits onto a single breaker would not be an issue if both the hots and their matching neutrals are combined.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:06AM
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Ron Natalie

While the phrasing is awkward, the statement is correct.

Let me rephrase it for him:

If all the neutrals are for the same circuit, then it is not a problem to tie them together ahead of the bus bar.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:39AM
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greg_2010

I don't understand why you are objecting to what I said. Maybe it's the double negative that is throwing you off. Let me re-word it. If all of the neutrals are from a single circuit, then it can't be overloaded and it is fine.

Combining multiple circuits onto a single breaker would not be an issue if both the hots and their matching neutrals are combined.
Which means that they are no longer multiple circuits. They are now one circuit. That is what I was saying.

Edit : I posted this response at the same time as ron (but he beat me to it). It's basically saying the same thing.

This post was edited by greg_2010 on Wed, Feb 27, 13 at 11:44

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:40AM
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elltwo

On the right side of the picture there are two whites under a green wirenut which I thought was reserved for grounding, and at the bottom two blacks enter the panel with one doubled up on the third breaker from the bottom and the other on the ground/neutral bar, (possibly from a bell transformer). Is either of these on the level?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:10PM
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weedmeister

IIRC, and the real sparkies here will say otherwise if I'm wrong, the color of a wirenut depends on its size, not its usage. So using green on neutrals is perfectly fine.

From the picture angle, I don't think you can say much about what the blacks are doing on the left side.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Ron Natalie

Well, most of the colors other than green indicate size.
Greenies usually have a hole to make pigtailing a box ground easier. There's no provision that makes it illegal to use them on other conductors however.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:38PM
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btharmy

Two things would stand out to me not allowing green wire connectors for hot or neutral connections. The hazard presented by hole on the end that would allow current carrying conductors to protrude the end of the connector, and the fact they are listed with ul as "grounding connectors" while their other wire nuts are listed as wire connectors. Basically, wire nuts can be used on hots, neutrals and grounds but green grounding wire nuts are for grounds only. That's why I don't even buy them. They are proprietary, ground only.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 5:28PM
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elltwo

@weedmeister:
I was referring to the two blacks that enter the panel at the lower right of the pic. One goes to a location usually reserved for grounds or neutrals, and the other is doubled on a breaker.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 5:46PM
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jamesfjamesf

I took a closer inspection this morning. The black wires under the hidden red nut, that's just extending a single wire so it reaches the breaker.

The 3 nuts ganging the neutrals have 4, 3 and 3 wires, so it's possible two of these are a shared neutral though I don't trust it. The 4 wire one, maybe it's shared neutral for a double tapped breaker...

Anyway, thanks for all the comments and advice. I'm leaning towards getting some half height breakers and neutral/ground bars and cleaning it up rather than replacing it, depending on the availability and cost (they're Crouse Hinds and Challenger breakers now, rumor has it Murray will fit.)

jim

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 8:35AM
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Ron Natalie

The issue is NOT what breakers someone has crammed into your panel but who made the panel as to what is legal. Some of this is made murky by the fact that certain of the manufacturers have been sold to others over the years so you might legitimately find different manufacturer names.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 9:29AM
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brickeyee

" built in 1985"

Something is really wrong.

I do not see any grounds (green or bare), and they have been required since before 1985.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Ron Natalie

There appear to be a bunch of bare wires up at the top of the panel that are twisted together into two large hanks and then run into one of the upper positions on the bus bar. It's unclear if they have any listed connection device. There definitely seem to be a few up at the top (right above the service conductors) that appear to be just wrapped loosely around other bare wires.

Still looks like amateur hour to me.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:08PM
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brickeyee

"a bunch of bare wires up at the top of the panel that are twisted together into two large hank"

I see them now.

Should have had a grounding bar added.

Even if they had a "connection device" is makes it very hard to work on the panel later when done that way and provides a lousy ground connection.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:34PM
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