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Ducttapeman 04-03-2006 08:34 AM

inspector says cir brkrs wired incorrect, wont trip
Hi all,
my sister is selling her 1960's style brick ranch.
She had an offer rather quickly which is a pleasant suprise in our area right now.
Inspection showed a couple minor problems, one of them being that the service panel had some breakers that were wired incorrectly, resulting in rendering them useless in case of overload.
As in they would not trip as intended.
I did not speak to the inspectors, nor get over there yet to look at the breakers, to see how to correct the problem.
What signs should i look for?
I am assuming the wiring should be managed in such a way that the hots are running from the breakers, and the neutrals and grounds are run to their respective 'bars' on the panel.
I need to view it in person, but have to find time to get over there.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Square Eye 04-03-2006 09:02 AM

Maybe the wrong amp rating? 20amp on AWG14? Maybe some ground fault breakers not grounded? As you said, you need to look and see.

Let us know what you find.

inspectorD 04-04-2006 05:34 AM

I agree.
I think you are looking at wire sizes and breaker sizes not being compatible.
Easy fix with some new breakers.
Are you sure they are not fuses? Dont put the greenies(30) in the 20 amp cuircuts folks. You can start fires by not blowing the fuse in an over powered cuircut.

Keep the pennies out of the fuse boxs......


petey_racer 05-21-2006 08:21 PM

I know this thread is a bit old but I'll reply anyway.

There is no way to "wire" a breaker wrong, rendering it inoperable. There is only one place to land a wire so even if you cross the hot and neutral wires it will still operate.

I'm not sure what this H-I is talking about. I'd be curious to know. :confused:

Square Eye 05-21-2006 10:15 PM

Yep, A breaker can be wired wrong.

If I put a big stranded wire on a 15 or 20 amp breaker, I'll have to splice a smaller wire onto the wire before It goes into the breaker. Otherwise, I have to cut strands off of the large wire to make it fit in the small hole.

Inspector says; NO

I share a neutral between two circuits. I use two individual breakers instead of a 240 volt breaker.

Inspector says; NO

I put a 14ga wire on a 20amp breaker. Or any breaker rated for more than the wire.

Inspector says; NO

The last one is most likely the case. He said that the breakers would be useless in an overload situation. I was in a house several years ago where the owner had decided that he liked the idea of using White wire for Hot. All of the breakers had white wire attached. I shut the panel and refused to work on it.

Yep, a breaker certainly can be wired wrong.

petey_racer 05-21-2006 10:48 PM

Sorry, none of those thigns will render a breaker useless as the OP's inspector stated.

1) Splicing a smaller wire to a larger one, provided the smaller one is rated for the breaker in question, is NOT againt code.

2) You do NOT need a two-pole breaker for a multi-wire circuit, as long as the two circuits do not terminate on the same device yoke.

3) Undersizing the wire for a given breaker will NOT render a breaker useless. Sorry, but this is just nonesense.
NEC 240.4(D) tells us that we must put small wires on breakers well under their actual amperage rating. Also, articles in the code regarding motors, welders and A/C units allow us to install breakers much larger than conventional. I myself do not apply these articles to residential applications as it can get confusing to later owners.

A breaker cannot be wired wrong so that it does not function. A breaker can be wired incorrectly and not to code though.

inspectorD 05-22-2006 07:02 AM

It depends on what your definition of "is" is.
I think what You guy's are discussing are two different things actually, but close, very close.
The breaker is always meant to Function, It should always trip when a load is put on it that exceeds the breaker rating for a certain amount of time. When it is underrated for the wire it becomes a nuisance breaker cause it always trips. Is it code is another story.
We can have an underrated breaker on an air conditioner condensing unit because the unit only uses more power on start up. Say It is rated at 38 amps and it is installed on a 30 amp breaker. This is for start up only and is only a couple of seconds at most. Then the unit continues to run at a lower rating than the breaker and does not trip.
When you connect a small wire to a larger wire in the panel to accommodate the breaker hold down or lug, it has to be in the panel and a certain size and length. This is allowable as far as I know.
I have seen with my own peepers where a breaker does not trip and starts to smoke. It was the correct wiring and not a different company breaker. Me thinks it went bad.
So as far as not functioning that would go in this area of the conversation.
What Square Eye is saying is that HIS inspector such as county or town says no. He can do that because he is in charge....even Petey has to do what he wants him to if he works in that town.

I have seen many strange things in a panel. The reason we inspectors call things out is to cover our assets we work hard for. I let the pro come out that is licenced in their area of expertise. This may cause some inconvenience but it is safer in the long run, and the pro will probably get some legitimate work out of it. No harm done.

Is it done to manufacturers instructions is another.

Now about those Federal Pacific panels...........:D

PaPaDan 05-22-2006 09:12 AM

As stated, A breaker can not be wired wrong. There is only one lug to connect to. A breaker can be sized wrong for the usage or the wires to the breaker can be wrong, but a breaker can only be wired one way, that is breaker plugged into panel and wire attached to the lug.:eek: :cool: :D

Square Eye 05-22-2006 12:48 PM


Originally Posted by Ducttapeman
Inspection showed a couple minor problems, one of them being that the service panel had some breakers that were wired incorrectly, resulting in rendering them useless in case of overload.
As in they would not trip as intended.
I did not speak to the inspectors, nor get over there yet to look at the breakers, to see how to correct the problem.
What signs should i look for?

We're talking about an inspector's report here. "As in they would not trip as intended." I realize that a breaker has only one termination, but there are variables in wire size and amp loads that will make it a right or wrong situation. I have personally seen a fire resulting from a 60 amp breaker with #12 wire, feeding a storage shed from a mobile home disconnect. Any inspector I know will agree that there are plenty of mistakes that can be made when simply connecting a breaker. These same inspectors will fail an inspection for very minor details.

Swap the wires around on a 3phase breaker sometime and take the heat from the HVAC man and the property owner for reversing the rotation on an A/C compressor. No tandem breakers on residential circuits with shared neutrals, will net you a red tag from many inspectors. The reasoning is that people move breakers around. They make room for tandems for their new electric ovens and dryers, air conditioning compressors,,if the breakers end up on the same 120 volt leg, the neutral wire will be by code under-rated. When I was doing commercial electrical work, my inspectors were demanding larger neutrals siting harmonics on shared neutrals.

Can you wire a breaker wrong? Well, it seems like it would be hard to mess up one connection, but the original post didn't specify if it was a single, a tandem, aluminum wire or copper, The rating of the breaker compared to the wire size.

Can a mistake be made when wiring a panel? Ask your local inspector. Everything done by an electrician is right or wrong according to the local inspector's translation of the code. Look it up, it's in the NEC code book. I tell people all of the time that even the code book has a dis-claimer. It's several pages long.

If you wire a breaker at my house or on one of my jobs, you'd better do it right.

inspectorD 05-22-2006 08:56 PM

No way !!
I'm not wirin anything in your neck of the woods, sounds like you Hatfields and Mcoy's are wirin each others homes....
We cant have 3 phase in our residential homes...not enough juice to go around in CT.
That and the infra-structure would not hold up at the sub-stations with all the shops everyone would want around here.(bunch of wannabees)
Has Ducttape man figured this quandry out yet to see what the Inspector was actually refering to?

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