A relative just moved into an apartment. I am a little unsure about the small, old GE panel:

Panel Image

with this information page:

Panel Information

Space 1 has a tandem 20A breaker.

As I understand it, the top row (1,2,3/4, 5/6) is not supposed to have any tandem breakers, but the bottom row (7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13/14). Obviously with just a single tandem pair, there isn't an overload issue, but it still appears to be wrong to put a tandem in 1, 2, 3/4 or 5/6. A little confusing actually for 3/4 and 5/6, but maybe the same front cover was used for some other panels that allowed tandems in 3/4 and 5/6, or maybe I am just confused about the diagram and 3/4 and 5/6 actually can have tandems. And staring at it a little more, I think I finally understand the left vs. right diagram - the difference is whether 1 & 2 are a main breaker or not - simply depends on whether the hot feed wires go to a main breaker and middle lugs used for a subfeed vs. hot feed wires to the lugs and everything just branch circuits.

  1. How serious a problem is the tandem in space 1? My hunch is that it has been this way for a very long time, and I am a little leery of becoming the "problem tenant's problem relative". But if this is a real problem and not just "GE limited the total number of tandems to avoid certain types of problems" then it is a different story.
  2. The breakers look like three groups: (a) 1, (b) 2, 3/4, 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13/14, (c) 5/6. Do those all look like valid GE or legitimately listed alternatives?
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Interesting possibility. I'm not eager to pull off the deadfront from a rental panel... And I knew you were not the downvoter! Feb 1 at 15:23
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    If the cover were upside down, the reset/tripped wording would be upside down, too.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 1 at 15:26
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    As a member of the "main breaker on the bottom" club (but I had to point out to my licensed electrician installing the panel that putting it on top was going to be stupid and annoying and I didn't want that, whatever his knee-jerk inclination might have been) I concur. @FreeMan note the "split into two lines" .vs. "single line" for the breaker spaces on the diagram. 7-14 are allowed to be tandems, while even though the cover says 3-4 and 5-6 there's only one line to those.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 1 at 15:33
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    Ah, got it, @Ecnerwal, thanks. It's even more clear from the labeling stamped on the panel. Spaces 1 & 2 are full-size spaces, each with a single slot number while the rest are a pair of numbers for a single full-size slot. That, though, lead to the confusion about putting tandems in 3/4 and 5/6 which is clarified by the label inside.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 1 at 16:12
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    Does the apartment have any 240V loads? Breakers 11/12 and 13/14 appear to be handle-tied, which should make it easy to figure out if it is a main and the cover is upside down, or if the panel is lug-fed and thus the cover is right-side up and the tandem is in the wrong place.
    – Chris O
    Feb 3 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Yeah, this tandem doesn't belong there

Considering that from the logo being on top we can assume that the loadcenter is mounted right-side-up, and that the intended space numbering is stamped on the cover as well, the tandem/double-stuff TR breaker in space 1 is in a space that is not intended to hold tandem breakers. Switching it with the T(H)QL breaker below it in spaces 7/8 will correct this problem for now, but this panel will need to be replaced if you want anything more done with it since it doesn't support current production THQL or THQP breakers. (As an aside, UL classified Eaton CL breakers would work with your panel, but there are no Classified double-stuff breakers out there, so it doesn't solve the problem of that ancient TR double-stuff being unobtanium/a barrier to additional functionality.)


This could be a multi wire branch circuit. This practice is generally frowned upon, although it was often used in commercial environments.

When a MWBC is present, both will need to trip together to be safe. That might be why its a tandem, but you'll need to trace the wire.

  • 2
    "This practice is generally frowned upon" [citation needed]. Unless you're putting a *FCI breaker on which are very expensive, there's nothing at all wrong with MWBCs.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 8 at 13:37
  • If MWBC hots do not trip together, they are quite unsafe and that is certainly problematic. Apr 8 at 14:04
  • That doesn't mention the issue of neutral overloading, but I don't think that's typically a big issue in residential split phase. Apr 8 at 14:12

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