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Old 02-01-2009, 10:54 AM   #1
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


Can anyone explain to me what the different codes on a breaker mean? The first attached picture is of a subpanel I have in my attic. Outside of the breakers being made by Square D and they're 20 amp, I'm at a loss to what the other information means. The panel itself is a GE PowerMark Gold.

The second picture is of the main panel in my house and probably dates to the 1970's. Outside of being a Cutler Hammer, there is no information inside the panel itself or on the breakers to indicate anything about them.
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:04 AM   #2
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


Square D homeline 20 amp, can break up to 10,000 amps of short circuit current, 120 or 240v, up to 1 wire for Aluminum wire, but you can put 2 copper wires into it. UL listed (USA), CSA listed (Canada). HACR Type means it's ok to use with heating and A/C.

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Old 02-01-2009, 12:03 PM   #3
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


SWD means Switching Duty. It means it's OK to use it as a switch that gets turned on and off regularly.

This doesn't usually happen in a residential setting, but it's fairly common to use breakers as light switches in big commercial/industrial buildings.

Rob
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Old 02-01-2009, 02:20 PM   #4
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


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Originally Posted by PirateKatz View Post
Can anyone explain to me what the different codes on a breaker mean? The first attached picture is of a subpanel I have in my attic. Outside of the breakers being made by Square D and they're 20 amp, I'm at a loss to what the other information means. The panel itself is a GE PowerMark Gold.

The second picture is of the main panel in my house and probably dates to the 1970's. Outside of being a Cutler Hammer, there is no information inside the panel itself or on the breakers to indicate anything about them.

Only one issue you got there real quick there due you have GE Powermark Gold loadcentre and you got SqD Homeline breaker fitted in there and it not supposed to be in there { this is one of the most common cuprit you will see it } unless it have " classifed " breaker then it will fit in ok.

I know Homeline breakers can able fit in few other breaker box and viceverisa.

Again please do not mix diffrent breaker manufacters in the load centers and I allready have experinced with some of "will fit " breakers did failed in there.

on second breaker box the Cutler Hammer itself is a common breaker and you will have to use the CH series breaker and yes many big box store will stock this item.

Merci,Marc
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:08 PM   #5
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


Thank you for the info. Is the Square D breaker in a GE box a safety issue? What is the appropriate breaker to use?

On this subject, can somebody tell me if my current setup (see below pictures) is safe and/or correctly installed? To make a long story short... we used to have a fuse box in the attic that functioned as a subpanel. Our insurance company didn't like this, so we had an electrician replace it with this subpanel. He is a licensed & bonded Master Electrician with a very good reputation, so I *assumed* he did good work at the time.

I've been following all of these threads regarding this subject and I'm a bit concerned that he didn't install it correctly. He used the same cable that worked with the fuse box and I think there are some issues because of it.

The first picture is of the main panel. The large gray sheath cable has three internal wires: gray, black, and no insulation. Both the gray and the black internal wires are hooked to the double pole, 30 amp breaker (on bottom) and the gray wire has tape on it, which I assume indicates that it is also hot (it is also taped on the other end). The non-insulated wire appears to be serving as the neutral.

On the subpanel, the gray and the black wires are connected to the main lugs (sorry for the poor photos, the attic is very dark) and the non-insulated wire is connected to the neutral bus bar. There is no ground bus bar. For all of the branch circuits, the ground and the neutral wires are connected to what I think is the neutral bus bar.

From what I've read, this does not appear to be a correct setup as there should have been 4 wires run from the main panel to the subbox (2 hots, neutral, and ground) and the neutral and ground should be separate in the panel. Is this correct?

How safe is my current setup?
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:36 PM   #6
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


A few violations I see here are;

1) 4 wires are needed for a sub-panel. There are only 3. The neutral and ground must be separate wires.

2) In no case can a non-insulated wire ever intentionally carry current. The neutral of the 4 wire feeder must be insulated. A bare ground is OK, and in fact normal.

3) Neutrals and grounds cannot be terminated under the same screw.

4) There must be a separate neutral and ground bus in the sub-panel. The neutral must be isolated from the ground (as it is here), but there's no ground bus.

These are just a few of the most glaring violations, I'd bet some of the other guys will come up with more.

Rob
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:44 PM   #7
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


Is it just my eyes or has that top right homeline breaker got a 14 gauge wire in it? It looks thinner than the rest. On the other hand it looks like the yellow sheath romex so it might be 12 and just a weird angle. All the 20 amp breakers should have 12 gauge (minimum) wire.
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:52 PM   #8
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


In the cutler hammer panel you have grounds and neutrals in same lug, the feed to the sub panel is getting a little generous with the sheathing (it looks like its going over a foot into the panel!) which probably wont make a difference once you fix the sub panel.

You can turn the sub panel into a 120v panel if running new wire isn't an option.

I would run 10/3, if you have the sub panel breaker tripping a lot, then I would run 6/3.
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:05 PM   #9
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


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Is it just my eyes or has that top right homeline breaker got a 14 gauge wire in it? It looks thinner than the rest. On the other hand it looks like the yellow sheath romex so it might be 12 and just a weird angle. All the 20 amp breakers should have 12 gauge (minimum) wire.
That's the difference between the old TW insulation and the new THHN.
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:30 PM   #10
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


Thanks for all the great replies and the verification of my suspicions (my wife thinks I'm overly paranoid but every once in awhile, I'm actually right). I don't know what I would do w/out this forum!

After the Super Bowl, I will reply to all of the points brought up. I really want to fix everything so it's all safe and up to code. Ultimately, it sounds like I'll have to lay new wire which I anticipate being very challenging... It's currently only 30 amp, which likely isn't enough for future needs, so it's probably worth upgrading this anyways.

On the existing subpanel, are the two bars on the left both neutral? Does this mean I will need to install a separate ground bar?

I'm at a bit of a loss as to why an electrician would knowingly do something so blatantly incorrect. I realize he did it because it was the easiest option since that wire was already there for the fusebox but I wish he would have told me upfront, so it could have been done right.

I love my old house (ca. 1917) but I am sometimes so jealous of people in new houses, where everything just works.
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:42 PM   #11
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


You will need a separate ground bar, and the neutral bar needs to be insulated from the panel.
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:44 PM   #12
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


I only see one bar on the left. It does not seem to be bonded which is fine as this will remain the neutral bar. You need to get an add-on ground bar made for that panel. The holes will line right up.

I have to say, the HACK who installed that panel was NO electrician. If they claimed to be they should be reported as that is a blatantly illegal and UNSAFE installation!!!
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:59 PM   #13
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How to decipher the codes on a breaker?


After I did see the photos now that are few serious issues it needed to be addressed here.

1) wrong breakers in the subfeed box it supposed to use the GE THQD or THD breaker format that subpanel can take 8 full size or 16 twinners.


2) wrong feeder wire to the subpanel I do not know what size main breaker you are feeding to this subpanel however IMO it look like 10-2 NM and that is wrong type of wire to use in this set up.

3) Need ground bar { many big box store will have this item }

Whoever did that did not follow the codes it sound like hack work.

A real electrician will never go that route and will set up the subpanel in correct way.

Merci,Marc

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