Today I look at my electrical panel and I realized it doesn't have a main breaker, but the ground bar and neutral bar are connected by a metal on the top (As I remember the ground bar and neutral bar need to be separated if it's a sub panel). I'm wondering if this electrical panel is a main panel or sub panel. I live in a townhouse and look like the main breaker is out side of building. Another question, if I want to install a new breaker, can I wire my ground to the bar on the left side (I'm not sure the left side bar is ground or neutral bar or it doesn't matter, please see attached picture)? Sorry if those questions are stupid, I try to learn more for my new townhouse : )

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  • You reconnoiter them back to their beginning. Which is either a meter, and it's a main. Or a panel's breaker, and it's a sub. - Main panels do not require a main breaker. Sub panels do require the neutral bar be bonded but we can't see any of that, nor is that a true indication either way unless we assume everything was done right... which is not how you do it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 5:41

2 Answers 2


Panels have 4 parts (not counting the wires going into them):

  • cover, which you have removed
  • "box" which is the box-shaped thing colored Sandalwood
  • accessory ground bars if installed directly onto the box
  • "Interior" which is everything else i.e. that huge black plastic thing.

The bars attached to the interior (and obviously insulated from the box) are neutral bars. From the height of them, they look like they are "Plug-On-Neutral" bars, indicating a very modern CH panel. That clearly explains why they are on both sides and run the full height of the panel - neutral bars for sure.

You are thinking the neutral and ground bars are bonded together, but they're not - they are both neutral bars and that bonding is essential.

Your panel appears to have accessory ground bars, hidden underneath the black and white wires on the left and right.

I don't see a bonding strap between neutral and the box, so I think your panel IS ACTUALLY isolated neutral to ground.

So now your question is "how the heck is my panel getting ground from the main? There is literally no ground wire in the conduit." And the answer is that non-flex metal conduit is itself a valid grounding path, and a ground WIRE would be redundant.

But feel free to retrofit it, if you're in a "belt and suspenders" mood.

  • I'm 90% sure there's a ground wire hiding behind the feeder on the right side. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 21:38
  • @Robert Quite possible, I'm getting bleary-eyed looking at that crowded panel. Would've been better if they'd bought accessory ground bars and installed them up top. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 21:47
  • 2
    You guys are awesome!!! Thank you so much. I opened my panel and carefully look at both side, I saw the ground bars with green screws!! It's hard to see from pic that I post. Those ground bars are hidden under the wire.
    – kiritoty
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 21:54
  • bonding strap? Usually just a giant green screw in one of the neutral bars. Half of which we can't see, so...
    – Mazura
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 5:24

I think you're confusing the two neutral bars for something else. From the photo, it looks like there are 2 neutral bars near the breakers and 2 totally separate ground bars near the sides. I looked for a main ground wire, but it's really hard to determine from that picture, possibly a stranded aluminum wire with black insulation and a green stripe looping from the right side over to the top left side.

  • Thank you so much, I think you are right. I missed the two bars near the sides. Do you think this is sub panel or main panel? I assume it's sub panel since ground and neutral are separated.
    – kiritoty
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 21:33
  • @kiritoty Correct. The main breakers are outside, like you said, so your panelboard is a sub. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 21:36

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