***Dear Barry: **The home inspectors in my area, myself among them, have an ongoing debate with local electricians. When we see two wires connected to a circuit breaker, we report this as “double-tapping.” As far as I know, only Square D brand type QO breakers are approved for use with two wires, but the electricians say it’s OK with other brands as well, such as Cutler-Hammer type CH breakers. But when I checked the Cutler-Hammer website, I found nothing about double-tapping being OK with their breakers. To make matters worse, some of the electricians in my area seem openly hostile toward home inspectors and say that we are clueless on this and other issues. Could you please provide some clarity on this point of contention? *
*Barry’s Response: *
In determining when double-tapping is or is not acceptable for a particular circuit breaker, a simple rule of thumb is to check the design of the connecting hardware at the breaker. If the hardware is specifically shaped to accommodate two separate wires, as with Square D type QO breakers, then the connection is acceptable and should not be cited as double-tapping in a home inspection report. But if the connecting hardware is a simple screw or lug, it is reasonable to assume that the manufacturer of the breaker intended there to be one wire only at the connection. In that case, double-tapping would be the proper disclosure for a home inspector. The only way to connect two circuits to a single breaker in that instance would be by indirect means. The accepted method would be to connect a short wire (known as a “pigtail”) to the breaker and to join the other end of that wire to the two circuit wires with an appropriate connector, such as a wire nut.
To avoid future disagreements over double-tapping issues, it may be necessary to change the wording of your disclosures. For example, if you find what appears to be a faulty double-tap, your report might say, “Double-tapping was observed in the main breaker panel. These breakers may not be rated for double-tapping. Therefore, further evaluation by a licensed electrician is advised.”
Question: Does everybody agree with Barries approach? If not what would you do different?