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I was replacing defective/broken outlets in my folks' house this week, in preparation to sell it. So I went to the power panel and hit the appropriate breaker for the area I was working in. No problem until I got to the laundry room receptacles. There was no clearly marked breaker.

So I did the trial and error - plugged in a radio and started hitting breakers. None turned off the radio. So I turned everything off and worked backward and still no luck. So I went down the line 1,2,3,4 etc. turning breakers on. I hit breaker 17 (20amp) and the radio came on. So I turned on the remaining breakers. When I turned 17 off the radio did not turn off. Strange. So I tried a number of different on/off variations and found that when breakers 17 and 18 are off the outlets in the garage and laundry room are turned off. When on everything worked.

So I pulled the panel cover off and found a jumper (think that is the correct term) linking 17 and 18. I have no idea what that pigtail/jumper from breaker 17 (Garage/Outside GFI) and breaker 18 (D/S dining rm plugs). That pigtail basically keeps power running to both breakers unless both are turned off. I'm tempted to pull the jumper and see what happens. Won't hurt anything as the house is completely empty. Can anyone help me understand what that wire between the two breakers is doing there and if it will cause issues if removed?

Breakers

Notice

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    In addition to the issue described, there appears to be something odd going on with the neutral wire from the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter on circuit #18.
    – Theodore
    Feb 8, 2023 at 16:10
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    Ugh. From the picture and my experience it seems universal that breakers are labelled just well enough to seem like they have meaning to anyone besides the person who wrote it down without actually doing so. I always wind up creating my own floorplan / schematic which I leave behind when I move.
    – Michael
    Feb 8, 2023 at 17:22
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    That's a violation of NEC 240.8: "Fuses and circuit breakers shall be permitted to be connected in parallel where they are factory assembled in parallel and listed as a unit. Individual fuses, circuit breakers, or combinations thereof shall not otherwise be connected in parallel." Definitely not a factory assembly... Feb 9, 2023 at 21:52

4 Answers 4

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There is no telling why it was done without asking the person who did it. We can speculate that it was to run a a high amperage load, which on average would be more likely to be in the garage for most people, but we can't know that. It's just a guess.

It is a code violation and should be removed ASAP. Even with no-one in the house, it's a fire hazard in the event of a fault condition.

You should examine all the outlets and junction boxes on the affected circuits for any sign of damage from having 35A available before tripping rather than 15 or 20A, and replace any devices or cables/wires with signs of such damage.

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    Feels like a penny under a glass fuse… Feb 8, 2023 at 2:16
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    Watch out for those copper plated zinc pennys. They just don't hold up to defeating your overcurrent protection like a good old fashioned copper penny. ;^)
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 8, 2023 at 2:17
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    I agree with your answer but think it may have been a way around a GFCI problem.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 8, 2023 at 2:38
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    @EdBeal But there's no GFCI to be seen on those circuits, is it? That 15A CAFCI in position 18 also doesn't seem to have anything else connected to it than the jumper to position 17.
    – TooTea
    Feb 8, 2023 at 10:05
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    @tootea you are right I saw the breaker and did not expand it to see it was an AFCI not a GFCI , ok same thing as DIY fix for a tripping AFCI
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 9, 2023 at 14:20
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That looks like they are on the same lug or leg. This is a way that I have seen home owners bypass the GFCI, but then both breakers need to be off to kill the circuit. You have that figured out, but it is a code violation and could create a fire hazard as 2 20/15amp breakers are possibly in parallel - I'm not sure. However, removing the jumper will definitely be safe; the possible new problem will be a GFCI trip.

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  • This makes no sense. The breakers are obviously on the same leg/phase, because if they weren't they'd be creating a dead short circuit and both immediately trip. It's also obvious from the photos that both breakers are on the same bus stab. There is no chance they are not in parallel.
    – nobody
    Jan 14 at 14:20
  • There is also obviously no GFCI breaker involved: between the paralleling and the load-neutral terminal being connected to the neutral bus bar, a GFCI would immediately trip on the slightest load. Zooming in on the photo shows that the breaker with the "test" button is an AFCI HOM115CAFI unit.
    – nobody
    Jan 14 at 14:21
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That jumper is not needed. Remove it or a house inspector will. There is no reason that it is there. Leave the other wires where they are and just remove the jumper.

If you want the GFI breaker to work then take the wire from the left breaker and put it on the right breaker, but make sure the jumper is gone.

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  • A home inspector had better not be removing wiring from an electrical panel in someone else's house! Unless, of course, he's a licensed electrician and willing to take on the liability of doing electrical work under an inspection contract.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 14 at 15:23
  • "Will demand that you do so", if you prefer.
    – keshlam
    Jan 14 at 16:43
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From what I see, it looks like breaker 17 was the original. They probably wanted to add a GFCI breaker in the garage, so they added breaker 18 but never removed breaker 17. They left 17 in place as a terminal, but should have either removed it and wire nutted the wires together or swapped 17 and 18 and just used 18 as a hole filler in the panel cover with no wires attached.

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    You're allowed up to 30,000 characters in an answer. Please feel free to spell out words like "breaker" instead of abbreviating them - it makes your answer much more readable.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 10, 2023 at 18:21

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