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While scouting my electrical panel to see if it had any free knockouts to add a circuit to my home, I noticed that the lower-right 20A breakers are tied together with a handle. Why?

As far as I know, this breaker turns off all outlets in the master bedroom, switched plugs in the guest bedroom, and all outlets in hallway.

Is it a multi-wire branch circuit? They don't seem to share any neutrals. There are two separate white wires going to the neutral bus on the left.

I am not planning to do my own work in the panel; I'm asking for my own curiosity.

In the picture below, I traced the hot wires from the two breakers using blue and red lines.

Breaker Panel, with wires traced in blue and red lines

Here is the panel diagram, which has seen...better days.

Panel Diagram

Here's the full panel:

Full Panel

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  • Can you post a photo of the labeling on the inside of the panel's door please? Sep 27 at 0:23
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    Could be that duplex outlets are running on two circuits, one feeding the top one and the other circuit powering the bottom, usually used for kitchens, not bedrooms.
    – crip659
    Sep 27 at 0:26
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    It looks to me like the installer "used what he brought", he ran out of single pole breakers and used a two-pole he had to feed two separate 120v circuits. Sep 27 at 1:16
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    Very hard to tell from the picture, so you might want to make sure that both cables involved have 12 AWG wire. 14 AWG must be on 15 A breaker, and if this was a "use what's on the truck" that could mean 20A double instead of 2 15A single which would be a real problem. Sep 27 at 1:36
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    I wouldn't doubt if those are all #14 cables that got breakered at 20A because some joker thought they were buying themselves an "upgrade". Like Harper noted, everything is the wrong breaker in that panel anyway, so it looks like a do-over one way or the other. Check your wire gauges on all those 20A breakers.
    – J...
    Sep 27 at 12:06
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That is a 240V breaker, not two singles handle-tied. You can tell by the labeling. They didn't bother labeling the other half.

Use of a 240V breaker is a perfectly legitimate substitute for a handle-tie.

One good reason

The usual reason to handle-tie two independent circuits is they both land on the same yoke. (A yoke is the frame of a switch or receptacle).

210.7 Multiple Branch Circuits. Where two or more branch circuits supply devices or equipment on the same yoke or mounting strap, a means to simultaneously disconnect the live/hot supply conductors shall (must) be provided at the point at which the branch circuits originate (the panel).

Removing this would be a Code violation and would place maintainers in danger. Normal procedure when de-energizing a device is to find a part that is energized, then turn off breakrs until it is not energized. That person is checking only one thing, not every wire on the yoke. That is normal.

The handle-tie is required to assure this method works. The handle-tie will assure the person turns off all circuits attached to the yoke. So they don't get nailed by a circuit they were unaware of.

This same rule also applies to multi-wire branch circuits (shared neutral).

Someone re-breakered this thing and did it wrong

There was never any suspicion of Crouse-Hinds breakers, so it's not clear why someone dropped $150 replacing all the breakers with the wrong thing.

The panel labeling plainly states it takes Murray MP breakers. Those are readily available, although it has been relabeled QP by Siemens.

The only BR family breakers allowed in thus panel are BRD (the pre-CTL tandems/quads, NOT to be confused with BD or BQ).

The only other Eaton breakers allowed in this panel are type CL. That authorization doesn't come from the label; it comes from UL Classification of CL as tested and approved for Crouse-Hinds. None of these are CL; I can make out where it says "Type BR / Type C".

All the breakers need to be replaced (again) with Murray MP, Siemens QP, or Eaton CL. If someone wants to "free up" some spaces or has an Eaton gift certificate to use up, they can also use Eaton BRD tandems and quads.

If the BRD option is taken, this may leave some empty spaces, with holes in the deadfront. You can't leave those open for curious fingers to find. The wrong BR breakers can be used as empty space fillers.

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    The breaker appears to be serving 2 individual 2c Romex cables.
    – DrSparks
    Sep 27 at 20:30
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    @DrSparks -- true, but doesn't stop someone from breaking both tabs off a receptacle and feeding the two halves from separate cables Sep 28 at 0:20
  • @DrSparks ... as a crazy person such as ThreePhaseEel or myself might do in a kitchen, for max usability for the chef :) yes, we've schemed on this :) in which case you might even have handle-tied GFCI breakers, making every inspector do a double take! Sep 28 at 4:47
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Yeah they appear to be separate Romex cables with their own neutral from the picture. It's likely they whoever made the installation had a 2 pole 20 amp on hand and used it in a pinch. There's nothing wrong with it other than the inconvenience of having to shut off two circuits for maintenance.

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