Looking at this panel

A home I inspected yesterday had a subpanel for the pool. The main service panel is outside at the meter. Wires into the main distribution panel from the “pool panel” are black, white, red, and green. Can I assume the green is the ground? and if so, it should not be on the neutral bass. Right?

The main concern with ground connections is not to have parallel ground paths. When inspecting these types of installations, look to see if there are parallel ground paths. If not, the grounding (normally non-current carrying) conductor and the grounded (current carrying) conductor need to be tied together. On the other hand, if connecting them together would create a parallel ground path, they need to be separated from one another.

It looks as though the feeder is service entrance cable inside plastic conduit. If this is the case, then that part of the installation is OK. The grounding conductors and the system grounded conductor should be connected together. The ground bars should also be connected together and bonded to the panel. Generally, there should also be a made electrode (ground rod, etc). However, an inspector may waive the requirement for an additional made electrode if the sub-panel is close to the service.

There are situations in which following the NEC to the letter, can result in an unsafe installation. One such situation is where there is a remote panel that might otherwise require a separate made electrode but that made electrode would be in close proximity to the ground from the main system. Even though they are not mechanically connected, electrolytes in the soil can create a ground path parallel to the feeder. In that situation, it is preferable to move the made electrode to the main service. Strictly speaking, that could result in a violation of the NEC.

In the legal system, a phrase that is used often is, “in the spirit of the law”. I once got a traffic ticket for going too far into a lane of traffic so I could see beyond a 15’ snow pile in an adjacent parking lot. When I went to court, the judge reprimanded the cop for issuing a citation that was “contrary to the spirit of the law” and he reprimanded the prosecutor for wasting the court’s time for the same reason. In other words, what I did was the safest thing to do under the circumstances and any reasonable person should have been able to see that. The cop and the prosecutor went by the letter of the law.

The key is to know the underlying reasons for code requirements. That is, the spirit of the requirement. Once you have a clear understanding of why the rules are what they are, it is easier to look at an electrical installation and make a good call. In the case of grounding, just remember that the ultimate goal is not to have parallel ground paths.


Is the white grounded conductor’s insulation discolored? I cannot tell from the photo if it is discolored or there is oxide inhibitor on the wire.

The wire was slightly discolored. Thanks for the help.

The connection must be loose (or was loose).

They are tight, but who knows - was put in in 1999.

The circuit for the pool equipment is not grounded properly. You’ve essentially got two hots (ungrounded conductors), two neutrals (grounded conductors) and no equipment ground.

The neutral terminal at a distribution (sub) panel cannot be used to ground circuits/panels that are downstream (load side) of that panel.

Having the grounding conductor on the wrong buss is not the only problem shown in that panel. There are multiple cables in knockouts without the proper clamps.

You can but you may not be correct. Are you sure the green is the ground? There are other possiblities. The only way to know for sure is to back trace the green wire. Maybe the electrician only had green wire when he ran it? Maybe he did not correct the colored coding within the panel when he wired it. Maybe it is the ground, if it is, it is wrong.

State in your report that the wiring appears to be incorrect with a possible grounding conductor attached to a neutral buss bar within a “sub” panel. Have the system further evaluated by the appropriate specialist.


Andrew, I hope I did not confuse you with my comments. when I read your original question, I thought you had a separate structure such as a pool house. In looking at the other responses and rereading your original message, I realize that the sub-panel is on the main house. That being the case, I agree with the others who answered your question. We do not have many pools here in Michigan but houses that have pools often have pool houses that are detached from the main house but are very close to the main house. I apologize if I caused any confusion.

No confusion, and yes, I reported the other issues - using basic language, and then recommended an electrician evaluate and repair the issues.
As always, I appreciate the help I get here.