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I think I may have found an instance of "hill-billy" wiring in my circuit box.

I have a 15A GFCI breaker. Strangely, it is hooked up to the up stairs bathroom AND the outdoor outlets. Recently it has started to perform poorly. It either trips easily or doesn't work after reseting the breaker.

I opened up the panel and was surprised to see what looks like two circuits wired into the breaker. That is, you have a two pairs of black/white (hot & neutral I presume). The hot lines are going into the breaker together (on the top) and the same with the neutrals (on the bottom).

Is there any valid reason for this? It seems like the installer was lazy and because there isn't much room left on the panel they wired these two circuits into one breaker.

UPDATE: This is a Bryant circuit breaker box from the late 80's. The GFCI breaker was a 15 amp Sylvania which raised a bunch of eye brows when I brought it into the electrical supply place. Now it sounds like everyone makes "BR" compatible breakers including Eaton.

I ended up getting an Eaton breaker from Home Depot and only wiring in one pair of wires (the wiring to the outside sockets). Seems to work fine. I am going to buy another breaker and put it in one of the open spots in the box.

My guess is that whomever was last in this box didn't want to spring $40 for a second GFCI breaker.

UPDATE 2:

Thanks for the comments! Giving that the house was built in 1986 it seems like it was standard to use one GFCI for multiple outlets. In my case - this certainly caused problems over time and I am replacing with multiple GFCI breakers.

  • Some breakers accept two circuits. Please update your post with more detail. A clear photo would also do the job. – isherwood Dec 5 '17 at 19:50
  • I don't see any indication of that. I believe that is a so called "cheater" breaker... wouldn't that have four wiring connectors? I only have two – cshimer Dec 5 '17 at 19:53
  • Well if the breakers only have one connector, there's your answer. I'm not confident enough to post an answer with what I have to go on, though. – isherwood Dec 5 '17 at 20:08
  • What make and model is the breaker? – ThreePhaseEel Dec 5 '17 at 23:12
  • If a pig tail was used the 2 circuits could have been totally legal and a good way to protect both areas even if the breaker listed for 1 wire. It depends on the year the home was built what the requirements were. GFCI'S do go bad, if the outside outlets were daisy chained from a another outlet it would be having the same issue and this is not a hillbilly instal. – Ed Beal Dec 6 '17 at 0:34
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If it's on one breaker, it's one circuit.

It's true that you often see circuits wired as daisy chains, one linear thing, like a vine. Actually, we wire in "tree" topology, a vine is just one kind of tree. You are welcome to have as many branches as you please. What's more, there's nothing wrong with those branches splitting right at the service panel.

Can you land two wires on one breaker? Maybe. It all depends on whether the breaker is listed (UL tested) for two wires, and this must be in the instructions or labeling. For instance, Pushmatic breakers are indeed listed for 2 wires, it's one of their charms I will miss. If the breaker is not listed for two wires, then you have a 6" pigtail to a wire-nut.

Yes, you are allowed to wire-nut inside a service panel.

  • Right, my bad in terms of terminology. This is obviously one circuit that happens to be connected through the breaker. Of course, the problem is that it so happens because part of the outlets are outside or in the garage, you tend to have things that draw a lot of current. The other part of the circuit is the bathroom so you have things like hair dryers! Seems an especially bad combination. – cshimer Dec 6 '17 at 2:00
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Depending the year your house was built, it was usual and customary to put the bath room receptacles on the same circuit with outdoor receptacles. They had one thing in common. They all required GFI protection. It is not acceptable today because of the loads we not put on bathroom receptacles. But that was not always the case. For years we put bathroom receptacles together with outdoor receptacles, it met the code and saved money on breakers.

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