Fellow Inspectors,

I wrote up neutrals and grounds sharing terminations and Cutler-Hammer breakers installed in a GE panel. Home is 68 years old. Electrician says “Cutler-Hammer breakers are interchangeable with GE breakers” & " Panel installed prior to 2003 NEC code requirement for separating grounds and neutrals."
Any idea when 408.21 was introduced? The claim that the breakers are interchangeable is wrong, but he has the license…:shock:


Code is a minimum and code is updated due to safety concerns 9 times out of ten. Who cares if it wasn’t code before hand. Its code now and if you ask me good call.

As for breakers…

Breakers…What’s the Difference?
From time to time there may be a need to change a breaker or add one to your electrical panel. Most electrical devices, like switches, outlets and such, can be switched out with another brand without any problems. Breakers, however, are brand specific and require the exact replacement type to function properly in the electrical panel. Because of different mounting techniques, thickness of buss bars, and whether the breakers are press in or bolt on, it is necessary to use the appropriate breaker for the specific panel.

What’s Wrong With Using Another Brand?
Although a breaker from another manufacturer may fit in the panel you have, the differences that you don’t see may cause a electrical nightmare. Some breakers clamp over the buss bar, while other bolt onto the buss. Some breaker bases clamp onto a mounting bar, while others slide into a groove to secure the breaker. The tension that the breaker contacts are set for is brand-specific.

Will Another Brand Fit?
Yes, another brand, say Bryant breakers, will fit into a GE breaker slot. The manufacturer will tell you that they are not responsible for damage to the panel if you use a different manufacturers breaker.

Snap-in or Bolt-in?
Electrical panels come in different styles for residential, commercial, and industrial installations. While snap-in type breaker panels are used for residential and commercial installations, normally, bolt-in breakers are used for industrial installations where vibration may be a concern and a continuously tight contact is needed.

Same Manufacturer, Different Breakers
Square D has a Q0 series panel that has a different type breaker than their Homeline panel does. They both accomplish the same thing, but the construction is quite different. Notice in the photo how the Homeline breaker(left) physically mounts and how there is no way it could replace the Q0 breaker in the center of the photo. These breakers are even made by the same company, making the breaker selection even more critical. Also notice how the Cutler Hammer breaker mounts. It too is much different. That means, only replace a breaker with an exact match.

How Do I Know What Type Breaker I Have?
The breaker is maker on the side with type and amperage. If you open the panel door and look on the inside cover of the door, there is a label that should also tell you what type breaker that you need.

Q: What does the label say?

It never has been permitted technically by UL67 and under NEC 110.3(B).

It was clarified in NEC 408.21 *In 2005, this reference was moved to 408.41 *(I lack that copy.)

110.14(A) and 110.3(B)…“Terminals for more than one conductor and terminals used to connect aluminum shall be so identified.”
**[FONT=Verdana]408.21 Grounded Conductor Terminations. **Each grounded conductor shall terminate within the panel board in an individual terminal that is not also used for another conductor.

Thanks, That is what I thought…

The label says only GE Breakers, It is on the electrician as he put it in writing.

I cannot tell you exactly when the practice regarding landing grounding and grounded conductors under the same terminal came in to being but I can tell you that it was long before 2003. That was one of the first things I learned as an apprentice electrician in the mid 1970s. If I can find one of my old code books from then, I’ll look it up.

The oldest NEC that I have in my office is the 1987. 110-14(a) covering two conductors under a single terminal has been rewritten but the provision has remained essentially the same since then.

I would call the manufacturer of the panel. they will be able to tell you. I do it quite often, and they have people to answer the questions. I would check local codes about the shared wires. Here the code did not change until 03. Anything prior, doubling up is kosher.

Doubling up the neutrals was NOT kosher prior to 03. It was in the manufacturers instructions and would need to be followed under 110.3(B). It was added to the NEC as a specific requirement around 03.