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Old 07-16-2010, 10:30 AM   #1
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


I had a few questions about my ground (green) and neutral (white) in my electrical panel.

1) There is a set of screws on top of my panel for neutral and ground wires. Almost all of my grounds are twisted together and screwed to a single screw. Almost all of my neutrals have their own screw. There are a few exceptions. Is there any rhyme or reason to which screw is used for a ground or a neutral or how many wires go to 1 screw?

2) I know multiple hots to the same terminal is illegal, they need to be pigtailed (1 wire to the terminal, connected with a wire nut to 2 different circuits). Neutral and ground do not need to be pigtailed, but I am not sure if pigtailing is allowed.

3) I am a little uncomfortable with uninsulated grounding wire in the breaker box, although I am not sure what the alternative is (other than not using wire with an uninsulated ground). It is too easy to picture this wire somehow touching a hot connection and shorting out, even though I know that won't happen. Am I just being silly?

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Old 07-16-2010, 11:02 AM   #2
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


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Originally Posted by bvbellomo View Post
I had a few questions about my ground (green) and neutral (white) in my electrical panel.

1) There is a set of screws on top of my panel for neutral and ground wires. Almost all of my grounds are twisted together and screwed to a single screw. Almost all of my neutrals have their own screw. There are a few exceptions. Is there any rhyme or reason to which screw is used for a ground or a neutral or how many wires go to 1 screw?
Neutrals need to be one per hole. Grounds can be more than one if the label allows. There is no difference electrically which hole is for a purpse in the buss.

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2) I know multiple hots to the same terminal is illegal, they need to be pigtailed (1 wire to the terminal, connected with a wire nut to 2 different circuits). Neutral and ground do not need to be pigtailed, but I am not sure if pigtailing is allowed.
Some breakers do allow up to two conductors under the terminals. Others are limited to only one. Pigtailing is acceptable. Any wires connected to the same breaker would only be one circuit.

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3) I am a little uncomfortable with uninsulated grounding wire in the breaker box, although I am not sure what the alternative is (other than not using wire with an uninsulated ground). It is too easy to picture this wire somehow touching a hot connection and shorting out, even though I know that won't happen. Am I just being silly?
Once the wires are formed into shape there is little risk of inadvertant contact with a hot part of the panel.

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Old 07-16-2010, 11:10 AM   #3
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


Only one white wire can be under a screw in the panel but they can be pigtailed prior to the screw.
Is this the main panel with a main breaker and no other breakers between it and the meter? If it is a main panel there should be two bars for grounds and neutrals and the two bars should be connected. Maybe it is really old?
Do you have empty spots on the neutral bar for more wires?
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Old 07-16-2010, 11:29 AM   #4
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


"Neutrals need to be one per hole"
"Only one white wire can be under a screw in the panel but they can be pigtailed prior to the screw."
This contradicts what a certified electrician I paid good money for, and I have several violations. I need to find a code book and check. Might be easier to fix the problem than find a book.

"Is this the main panel with a main breaker and no other breakers between it and the meter?"
yes

"...there should be two bars for grounds and neutrals and the two bars should be connected. Maybe it is really old?"
There is 1 "bar" which is not bar shaped. It is relatively old (late 1960's).

"Do you have empty spots on the neutral bar for more wires?"
Nope

"little risk of inadvertant contact with a hot part of the panel" is exactly what I am afraid of. No risk is what I want.
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Old 07-16-2010, 11:38 AM   #5
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


Could you explain the contradiction?

When I said little risk, I could have said no risk. The wires hold there shape and there are not outside forces acting on them to somehow move them into contact with the hot busses.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:00 PM   #6
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


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Originally Posted by a7ecorsair View Post
Only one white wire can be under a screw in the panel but they can be pigtailed prior to the screw.
Just a quick question, don't the neutrals on circuits of opposite phases in order to pigtail?
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:03 PM   #7
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"Could you explain the contradiction?"
I paid an electrician to replace a Federal Pacific subpanel. While he was at my house, I had him fix multiple hot wires to each breaker and asked him about the grounds and neutrals. He said they don't matter. This was 5 years ago, in case code changed.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:20 PM   #8
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


You cannot pigtail 2 neutral (white) wires to a single white wire then terminate to a single screw. Each grounded leg or neutral must terminate to its own individual screw. See 47 47's reply.

The panel in question sounds like a push matic or older GE panel where slot headed screws are used to terminate the grounded legs and equipment ground wires (the bare ones) to a buss plate.

It is quite common to only have one neutral terminal assy (bus or terminal bar) in a panel used as the service equipment. Both can exist together on the same bar/buss without problems as they must be bonded at the SE.

Techically if you cannot prove that the panel allows multiple grounds under one screw then you must only terminate a single wire under a screw. It is common to see multiple grounds twisted together with a single wire in the bundle to the screw. This generally is not an accepted practice though a few inspectors will let it be if your only talking a few wires and the termination method for the pigtail to the other grounds is acceptable. It would be better to field install an additional grounding bar.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:24 PM   #9
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by bvbellomo View Post
"Could you explain the contradiction?"
I paid an electrician to replace a Federal Pacific subpanel. While he was at my house, I had him fix multiple hot wires to each breaker and asked him about the grounds and neutrals. He said they don't matter. This was 5 years ago, in case code changed.
Sub-panels matter .... if the panel is not service equipment neutrals and grounds must be on separate terminal busses/bars ...ie...not bonded to each other.
The ground bar will be bonded to the metal panel but the neutral will be on insulators not bonded to the equipment grounds or the metal panel.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:27 PM   #10
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


"Sub-panels matter"
I want to clarify I am not talking about a sub panel. I have a sub panel, and that is the reason I had an electrician out and asked him questions about the main panel, but I am only working on and asking about the main panel.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:39 PM   #11
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


3) I am a little uncomfortable with uninsulated grounding wire in the breaker box, although I am not sure what the alternative is (other than not using wire with an uninsulated ground). It is too easy to picture this wire somehow touching a hot connection and shorting out, even though I know that won't happen. Am I just being silly?

So worse case... the ground comes into contract with a hot and the breaker trips.... you know there is a problem and you fix it. (problem being the hot wire energizing the ground). There is nothing wrong with bare copper grounds.
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Old 07-16-2010, 12:45 PM   #12
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


If the neutrals are from the SAME circuit you can pigtail them. Otherwise the current would add and you could have 30 amp through a singel #14 wire if you pigtailed whites from two circuits together.
Pigtailing hots automatically makes them on the same circuit so the current adding problem does not exist.
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Old 07-16-2010, 01:06 PM   #13
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


Joed - thanks for a very practical reason I hadn't thought of.

Stubbie - I have "slot headed screws" "to terminate the grounded legs and equipment ground wires" to a metal plate. The panel is made by Bulldog.
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Old 07-16-2010, 01:07 PM   #14
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Ground and Neutral in Panel


Quote:
Originally Posted by bvbellomo View Post
"Sub-panels matter"
I want to clarify I am not talking about a sub panel. I have a sub panel, and that is the reason I had an electrician out and asked him questions about the main panel, but I am only working on and asking about the main panel.
I think then your questions have been answered any more questions or confusion?
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Old 07-16-2010, 01:10 PM   #15
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No risk is what I want.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-risk_bias

The NEC is way conservative. The risk is effectively zero.

To increase your safety in the overall scheme of things, don't smoke, don't go into a hospital, avoid guns, don't go in a motor vehicle. And, get married.

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