White Wire to Breaker and Splice Inside Panel

Hi -

I’m just double checking here…

  1. White wire to breaker is ok IF it is wrapped with black electrical tape indicating that it is “Hot”. Please confirm?

  2. Splicing inside the main electrical panel - not permitted, right? The argument I got was that they were trying to avoid a double lug/tap condition. Please confirm?

Thanks in advance!!


  1. What argument did you get for using a white wire with black tape instead of the standard black wire? I wouldn’t consider it okay; sounds like a handyman job that needs the evaluation of a competant electrician.

  2. While not recommended, splicing in panels is not condemned by NEC as long as it is done properly (with proper sized wire nuts, etc.). Sounds better than double tapping to me too.

Thanks for the input…I maintained that a licensed electrician needs to investigate and verify.

For a straight 240v circuit, such as for a larger wall A/C or shop tool, it is/was very common and legal to run “2-wire” (eg: 12/2). This would put the black and white on a two-pole breaker.
Until the last code cycle there was NO requirement to re-mark the white wire. There is a new requirement to re-mark the white wire to a hot color, only tape is not an option for wires under #4. Typically we use a Sharpie marker, paint is also acceptable.
So, if this is a house that more than a few years old there is no issue at all with a white on a breaker if this is the situation.

As for splices in a panel, this is a wives tale long perpetuated by myth. Yes, it is very true hat you cannot use a panel as a raceway for certain condutors, and splicing is illegal under certain circumstances, but pigtailing is absolutely legal, safe and accepted. Actually it is required in some cases to avoid double tapped breakers.

How is it legal to have the neutral connected to the breaker with 240 volt circuit servicing? Is a ground wire used as the neutral? I just couldn’t condone this set up unless I had understanding as to why the three wire line (2 hots, 1 neutral) was not used and why it’s okay to use two wire.


Are you saying that the requirements of 200.7©, first came about in the 2002 edition? I seem to remember it being much earlier, but I can’t verify that at the moment.

As for your comment with regards to splices in the panel, I concur.

The NEC is quite clear that a panel board may not be used as a junction box, however, the simple presence of wire-nuts does not make a panel into a “junction box.”

When conductors are spliced in order to lengthen them, or to relieve a “double tap,” it is acceptable for this to occur within the electrical panel - the conductors are still being served by the breakers or panel components, which is the purpose of the panel.

When conductors enter the panel and are spliced to conductors which exit the panel, this is generally not acceptable. In this case, the conductors are not being served by components of the panel, and the panel is being used as a junction box for those conductors.

The basic “rule-of-thumb” for the home inspector is that all conductors entering the electrical panel, should terminate at a breaker or terminal bar/lug. There should be no “through and through” conductors within the panel, whether they are spliced or not. As we are not “experts,” this condition would warrant a recommendation for further evaluation and/or correction.


The ground wire would be used for ground.
A 240V circuit does not require a dedicated neutral to work properly.

There is nothing in the code about splices in the panelboard enclosure and a splice does not increase wire count in fill calculations.
The code 312.8 really quibbles on using the panelboard enclosure for conductors passing through. It says

and then goes on to specify some, virtually impossible to determine, specifications for available space.

Generally, as an inspector, I just look at the workmanship and whether the resulting installation is servicable. I wouldn’t get too concerned about a few “foreign” wires passing through if the box wasn’t crowded to the point that you couldn’t easily work in there or sort out what was going on.

It should be noted that you can only reidentify a white wire in a cable. If this is wire in pipe you need to use another color for ungrounded conductors.
This is only to give people using 2 wire (with ground) the ability to run a 240v circuit. I have seen red/black/bare romex but it is very rare.

Used current has to go somewhere, so the ground is basically a neutral?

Actually, the “neutral” is the unused “hot” conductor as the voltage alternates between the 120V legs. A separate neutral conductor would only carry any unbalanced portion of the load.

Anyone can jump in and correct me.

the neutral on a 240v circuit would be designed to carry the difference between the two “hot” wires.

since both “hot” wires are 120v, there is no difference to carry, therefore negating the need for a dedicated neutral on a 240v circuit

This is a much more precise and concise way of what I was **trying **to say.

Jeff’s always smooth with a capital SMOO.

thanks again…:slight_smile:

I have had this discussion with electrical inspectors, veteran home inspectors, manufacturers reps and electrical contractors, and while I agree with your logic Greg, I will tell you where I stand, and it has to do with the interpretation of this statement within the code.

Where I stand as a home inspector (electrical experts have much more latitude than the HI here) - if conductors enter the electrical panel (load center) and do not terminate within the enclosure, I will recommend verification that the application/installation is acceptable.

Here is my conclusion based on many conversations and debates on this matter (and remember, I like to stand behind the most restrictive interpretation and let the experts loosen it up).

“Adequate space” IS NOT provided - per the manufacturer. NO SPACE is PROVIDED by the manufacturer for through and through conductors, splice or no splice - in other words - they are designed as load centers only, and space is PROVIDED for use as load centers only.

If the equipment is listed as a load center/raceway, then space IS provided for that purpose. Then we fall back onto the capacity limits defined by the NEC.

It’s much easier for me to let you, Greg, decide whether or not the installation is acceptable :wink:

It all depends on the enclosure. If you look at a catalog you can find identical panelboards in different sized enclosures. Most of the extra space is wire bending space more than simply extra room for “fill”.
You really don’t know what you have until you put the breakers in there and see what wires are installed.

BTW the reason I say the amount of available space is virtually undeterminable in any real sense is you have a hard time measuring the cross section plus or minus the size of a few small conductors. I think, as an inspector, I would be very hard pressed to prove the extra ~.07 sq/in imposed by 6 #12s would bring the irregular space next to the breaker up to 40% fill. How would you measure the space to that accuracy?

There is no neutral on a 240 volt circuit. Just two hots and a ground. There is a neutral on a 120/240 volt circuit. I can’t believe you other electricians let that go.
Also, in the original question, since it is unclear of the level of electrical knowledge of the poster, someone should have asked him if possibly he was talking about an AFCI which does have a neutral connection.

I think Pete did address that when he said “straight 240” in his first answer

Yeah, I guess he did. Over the last year I’ve seen a lot of fundamentally wrong ideas some HI’s have about electrical (there are a lot of knowledgible HI’s also) circuits, so I just think it’s important to explain the fundamentals to unsure HI’s. The more reinforcement of the basics they get, the more confidently they can perform electrical inspections. You guys do a great service to HI’s on this board, keep up the helping out.

Yes, that is what I meant by “straight 240v”. Thank you guys for clearing this up today.
Some folks have a hard time grasping the fact that NO neutral is needed…at all. Also it is hard for some to accept the fact that a white CAN most certainly be a hot, AND be connected to a breaker, AND that it is legal and normal.

James, I certainly do agree about some H-I’s and fundemantal electrical issues. This thread is a prime example of this problem.