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We purchased this house in Marlboro, NJ in 2019. It had finished basement with permit. Basement has drop ceiling and 2x2 fluorescent light containing U-shaped lights. I noticed that basement has a 20amp breaker but these lights were wired with 14/2 wires. (See attached image of the breaker panelenter image description here).

Solar Disconnect Outside

I am planning to remove those 2x2 lights and use the 14/2 cable that was feeding power to them in a junction box and take out 2 'branches' from that junction box to install wafer recessed lights.

Overall amperage will be lower than what the light fixtures were using.

My question was if I can use 14/2 for the new wiring coming out of the junction box or should I use 12/2.

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Breaker is the wrong size

The core problem is #14 wire on 20A breakers - you have to address that!

Extending the circuit with #12 does not fix the problem! You must deal with the #14/20A problem.

The only feasible answer is to replace the relevant 20A breaker(s) with 15A breaker(s). And this opens up another can of worms:

All the breakers need to be replaced anyway.

The "Challenger" breakers are known fire-starters and must be eliminated with the ferocity one would use on an FPE panel. The good news is, with Challenger, there's nothing wrong with the basic bones of the panel, so you only need to change the breakers.

And in even better news, the proper breaker is super easy to come by, since all BRyant/Eaton "BR" breakers are also Type C, the correct type for your panel. This is approved by UL, and fully documented.

Better news still, Eaton BR breakers are cheap - $5 a trip typically.

So you're talking under $100 to replace all the faulty breakers with the correct BR duplex breakers, either 15/15, 15/20 or 20/20 as the wires require. And you'll be able to take care of all the overbreakering wire problems at the same time.

You also need to replace the Siemens/Murray MHT breaker in lower left - that was never legal or safe in this panel. Someone went "Challenger is obsolete, I'll just use whatever" because they didn't know the above.


The main breaker is also of the Challenger type deemed a firestarter. Swapping that is more complicated. The power company will have to turn off power at the meter. Consult with the local Eaton dealer for the correct breaker for this; note the bolt-down feature which is required. I would expect a BR2100, and $40ish.

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  • Thank you.. Siemens/Murray MHT breaker - I assume you meant in the lower right, 20/20 one. And that's the one that's 20 amp with 14/2 wire I'm talking about. I wonder how did it approve inspection and permit. Also, to replace those brakers, turning off the main on the upper right, 100/100 one, should be enough, iis that right? FYI - We have solar panels installed. Do I need to ahut that off also from outside? – blackroses May 18 at 23:13
  • @blackroses -- shutting off the main will cause the inverters to kill the solar (anti-backfeed protection) – ThreePhaseEel May 19 at 0:03
  • @blackroses eyeroll yeah, that's typical of contractors like solar, hot tub etc. They don't want to carry 6 kinds of breaker on the truck, so they pick one 1" breaker type and pretend it's compatible with all 1" lines. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 19 at 1:35
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica - Sorry, if it came out like that but didn't mean to nitpick about the location. Just wanted to be sure. I am a newbie. I can change receptacles, some wiring for a new receptacle, remove can light and install wafer recessed, GFCI and like. If you could please, I am still not crystal clear on what should I shutoff to safely change breaker. Should I disconnect Solar AC disconnect outside home (see image above) only or PV disconnect along with the main breaker (100/100) in the upper left corner? – blackroses May 19 at 15:55
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    @blackroses pretty easy. A) switch off everything in this panel. B) Pop off the deadfront. C) switch off this breaker extra hard and it will actually rock out. Remove it altogether with the wires still attached to it. At this point, the breaker is stone dead and you can remove the wires and move them to the new breaker. Reverse to reinstall. The breaker doesn't need to be installed in the panel to attach the wires. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 19 at 21:28
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Replace the 20 A breaker with 15 A. If part of the branch circuit is 14 AWG, then it's good practice to use 14 AWG for the new part as well. That reduces the risk that someone will think it's all 12 AWG and upgrade the breaker to 20 A again.

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