Preliminary question:

I am doing an inspection on Saturday. Dropped off the radon monitor this morning, and took the opportunity to check out the house while I was there.

I noticed, that in the garage, (opposite the meter) there was a panel with a single shut off. It appears that this is the main.

In the basement, the panel with all the breakers for the home also has a “Main” shut off.

I haven’t opened the panels yet, but will do so on Saturday. When I examine this further, should this be wired with the single breaker in the garage being the “Main” panel, and the one in the basement as a sub? I’m thinking thats what it is, and how it should be, but wanted to make sure.

Also if this is the case, the neutrals and grounds should be separate in the sub, with no panel bonding on the neutral bar, and no ground and neutral connection correct?


I find main SE’s in many garages.

You sound like you know what you’re looking for. The LSE should contain bonded grounds with floating neutrals.

Ok, heres an update with the picks. It seems to me that the first panel (pics 1 & 2) is simply a pass through, with a whole house shutoff, and is not actually a “main” panel.

The second panel (pics 3 & 4) actually acts as the “main” panel. Can that be right? I did see the double taps, double neutrals and the neutral/grounds doubled.

So is this a main panel followed with a sub panel (that has it’s neutrals and grounds incorrectly on the same bus bar), or is it a pass through panel (1&2), with the main panel (3 & 4) generally wired ok with the exception of the doubles?

I’m confusing myself :frowning: Can someone help?


Looks like the neutral and ground should be separated to me. The problem/issue is that the neutral wire and the ground wire between the two panels create a parallel circuit. Any current going through the neutral wire will be split between the neutral and ground wires. Anytime current passes through a wire you have a voltage drop, so the ground is no longer ‘at ground potential’.

Yes, the first is the service equipment (main) that contains the service disconnect and the next is loadside equipment (sub) where the grounded conductors (neutrals) can not be grounded.

Typically, neutrals are to be grounded only at the service equipment (with some exceptions that I am not familiar with).

That basement panel is improperly fed and wired. Since the service disconnect is in the garage, the basement panel should be fed with 4-wire and the grounds and neutrals separated.

Thanks guys! I really appreciate it!

The “whole house disconnect” is the service equipment. Everything else is a “sub” panel (load side equipment) and should have isolated neutrals and bonded grounds.


Another way to un-confuse yourself in determining which panel is the SE, is to look for the panel that is right after/behind the exterior meter. That will be your SE panel. From there you can determine the validity of the wiring methods that are being used in the LSE and the SE’s.

Thanks again guys. That’s where I was at. What got me confused was the LSE was wired like I see most SE wired. And then there were problems there too.

I think you guys missed the most important aspect of the inspection he has the “Handyman club of America” sticker right on the panel. That is a huge red flag! When I am told, O yea I am a handyman or my dad was a GC, electrician, plumber… I just shrill inside! :wink:

That concerned me at the beginning too :D, but I believe the owner. He is a retired county inspector. When I shared my concerns with him, he didn’t sound surprised and said that he had never been in the boxes himself. There were numerous upgrades to the home, many documented to be “professional” and many of the “homeowner” upgrades were done well. Over all, the house was very well taken care of. I think this foul up happened at construction (17 years ago) and no one caught it originally, and no one since then paid any attention to the fact that it didn’t look right. (I’m actually feeling kind of smug this weekend;-):D. Even though I confused myself, I did recognise something wasn’t right, and thats really what we are being paid for.)

Nothing wrong with confusion…Not knowing and admitting it and finding the correct answer is what it is all about…