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I live in a very, very old home. The electrical panel has been upgraded at some point and has circuit breakers (not fuses). What concerns me is that the neutrals (about 5 wires total) are all joined together to the thick neutral wire coming into the panel using a wire nut. No neutral bar installed and no space to install one either. I wanted to add 2 more independent circuits to my panel (there is space for it) but I don't know what to do with those neutrals. What would be the correct way of going about this?

Location: USA Uploaded photo of panel. This is the elctrical panel, on the left you can see the neutrals

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    Can you add photos of your panel, including with the cover off, and of any labels inside and/or outside the panel?
    – maples
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:38
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    Your location in the world(country) and a picture of your panel will be quite useful. If not enough space in the panel(they do not take that much) for a neutral bus, then most likely you are looking for a replacement panel.
    – crip659
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:38
  • Thank you for the suggestions, edited question.
    – Afff
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:46
  • @crip659 how would you install a neutral bar if there are no holes to screw it in (added photo of panel)?
    – Afff
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:57
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    @Afff can you provide more photos of the inside of the panel in question please, as well as photos of any labeling that might be on it? Dec 15, 2022 at 4:36

1 Answer 1

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Having all neutrals come together in a "floating" splice which is not physically attached to the panel in any way... APPROVED

Having wires joined by a wire nut NOT approved for anywhere near that size and number of wires... VIOLATION

Having aluminum and copper wires joined on a splice NOT rated for that... VIOLATION

Another possible violation is that this thing looks like it is outdoors. It needs a NEMA 3 (outdoor) rated enclosure.

If it was 4 neutral copper wires, the ILSCO "Mac Block Connector" could handle that nicely, because you could put the #6 aluminum in port 1 and four #12-14 copper in port 2.

I see 7 handle throws and zero handle-ties (as would be used for 240V circuits or MWBCs) so I expect to see 7 neutrals. Neutrals cannot be branched off - each must be presumed to be carrying 100% current. I don't see 7 neutrals on that nut.

I also think I see white wires on breakers, so either someone is using ground for current return, or is wiring 240V circuits without handle-ties. This panel takes Siemens QP breakers (noting all existant breakers seem to be Murray)

If you don't see any grounds at all, that's not necessarily a problem. The wire entries I can see look like conduit. Installations of this age are most likely steel conduit which is itself a valid grounding path. I work 99% in that stuff, and you won't see a ground wire anywhere. I own 10 colors of THHN wire and none of it is green LOL.

How to fix it?

First, I would take a hard look at the existing panel and ask "Surely they provided a neutral bar as part of the panel. Why is it not being used?"

If this panel is installed in the post-2008 style, it may have neutrals and grounds separated. If those are on the factory neutral bar, evict them and move them to an accessory ground bar. Siemens may still make ground bars that fit right up to pre-drilled sites on the panel. Then, isolate the netural bar from chassis (pull any bonding screws if those exist) and use the panel conventionally.

To be usable, the neutral bar needs to be isolated from the enclosure metal (assuming the panel is separately grounded via metal pipe).

If the panel does not provide enough neutral spots for 8 circuits, it's possible this panel is not actually approved for tandem breakers. That would be another violation, then. This is why we recommend the largest possible panels - so one doesn't need to do things like this! Although most 4-space panels like this are approved for tandems and should provide enough neutral spaces.

How to make that splice, though?

Well, as lazy as this is, one option is to obtain an accessory ground bar with at least 8 terminal spaces. One wire per terminal, torque with a torque screwdriver to spec, then wrap the whole thing in about a mile of electrical tape LOL.

Another option is that #6 aluminum and #8 copper THHN wires have the same ampacity. So you could join the #6AL to #8CU via any appropriate connector* , and you have crossed off the dissimilar-metal problem vis-a-vis splices. Now you are splicing #8 to those neutrals and you can do that with wire nuts. The nuts would need to be UL Listed for the wires they are accepting - a data sheet lists each approved combination of wires, e.g.

enter image description here


* Appropriate #8Cu to #6Al connectors are, unfortunately limited to hacked down neutral bars, or Polaris connectors, or the marvelous ILSCO Mac Block Connector.

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