Does it make a difference which neutral bar that I use?

uniflowDecember 7, 2012

My 200A QO entrance panel has two ground/neutral bars, one on each side next to each 120V leg breaker stack. Most of the branches enter the left side but four of them for lack of available breakers on the left leg are landed on right leg breakers. My question is are both ground/neutral bars strapped? In order to make the box neater and shorten the wires may I land grounds and neutrals on unused taps on the left ground/neutral bar even though the hot is on the right leg? If the bars are just bonded to the panel but not strapped to each other I am concerned about putting potential on the box. I would think the bars must be strapped to handle unbalanced 240V loads though.
Thanks for your help, Jim

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Ron Natalie

Hold the phone here. Which bars are we talking about?

If we are talking about the ones on the plastic standoffs up by the main breaker, they are electrically equivalent and you can connect the neutrals to whichever one you want. If the bonding screw is installed (i.e., this is the service disconnect), you can also land your grounds there.

If you are talking a bar lower down by the breakers that is screwed directly to the case that is ALWAYS a ground bar. You can not land neutrals there.

QO panels come with only the combined neutral/ground bars on the plastic standoffs. There's a screw that bonds this to the case if this is a main panel. If you want to use this as a subpanel, then you take that screw out and you have to mount a seperately sold ground bar to the case. There are tapped, raised holes for this on both sides. You can install one on either side or both.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 8:46AM
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ronnatalie, Thanks for the reply. This is the entrance (service disconnect) panel and the bars in question are definitely neutrals/grounds. I know what you are saying about dedicated grounding bars to the case (I had to put one in my incorrectly wired out building to separate the neutrals from grounds), but the entrance panel has no separate ground bars. And being the main breaker the bonding screw is in place.
Thank you again for the answer.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Land the neutrals and grounds for each circuit adjacent to the breaker the hot is landed on.

If the breaker is very near the cable entrance to the panel, leave some extra wire folded back on itself.

While some of the jobs look very 'neat' with direct runs of minimum length, they turn into a nightmare as soon as anything needs to be moved.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 12:36PM
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