I am wiring an old garage. I will have 5 circuits. I am trying to install a GFCI breaker and a GFCI receptacle on separate circuits and I can't get either one of them to work. I can get a regular 15 and 20 amp breaker to work, but not the GFCIs.

I think my problem is not knowing what to do with the white neutral pigtail wire. Because it had been previously used with both the ground wire and the neutral wires slotted together, I just thought the same would work for the GFCIs. What am I missing here?

Yes, I did read through the similar questions and threads, but they don't get after my question specifically enough. I understand that this panel comes in directly from the power pole right behind the garage.

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  • Can you post photos of the labeling on the inside left and right of the panel cabinet please? Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 3:54
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    Your question title should clarify whether this is a main panel (directly fed by a meter) or a subpanel (directly fed by a main panel somewhere else). You say that it comes directly from a power pole, so maybe it's a main panel. Is the line on that power pole coming from the power company or from a main panel on your property? The ground and neutral buses in a main panel should be bonded like they appear to be, so if this is a main panel, then it's okay.
    – popham
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 4:00
  • 1
    GFCI breakers and receptacles come with printed instructions that will tell you very specifically how to install them. Did you read the instructions?
    – nobody
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 10:48
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    Can we have photos of the rest of the label you posted a partial photo of please? Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 11:47
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    Does the ground wire coming in with the service wires connect to a suitable local grounding system, such as a pair of rods at least 8 feet apart?
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


This is your main panel. A tiny main panel - really a 12 space "subpanel" turned into a main panel using a backfed breaker. But that's OK.

The main panel is the one place where ground and neutral wires can go together on the neutral bar. However, when you connect a GFCI breaker (and possibly an AFCI breaker) it needs to have neutral go to the breaker first. Then neutral goes from the breaker to the neutral bar with the pigtail. Many panels have "plug on neutral" to simplify this process, but yours does not.

To connect a GFCI breaker:

  • Hot from circuit to breaker (as always)
  • Neutral from circuit to breaker (there should be a clear place for it)
  • Ground from circuit to neutral bar
  • Neutral pigtail from breaker to neutral bar
  • 1
    I was skeptical that this was a main panel because there's no feeder wires running off to the subpanel in the property's residential structure. I vaguely recall that there's a code requirement that rejects the possibility of two services for a single property except for very rare circumstances, so my intuition is that there can't be two main panels.
    – popham
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 4:26
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    I am working under the assumption based on (a) a marked "Service Disconnect", (b) OP's statement that this is on the other side of the power pole (presumably == meter) and (c) a hunch that this is a standalone garage with its own service. Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 4:28
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    I'll upvote you if it turns out that you're right. I was thinking that maybe the power came from another structure across wires elevated on private poles.
    – popham
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 4:34
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    It doesn’t actually matter if this is a sub-panel or main. Three-wire subpanel feeds were perfectly legal until fairly recently, and it makes no difference whatsoever to the installation and functioning of GFCI breakers in the panel.
    – nobody
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 10:47
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    Doesn't "neutral to breaker, then neutral pigtail to neutral bar" apply to all GFCI breaker installations whether main panel, sub panel, or any other type of panel? (No, there aren't other types that I'm aware of - that's hyperbole.)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 11:09

The pigtail from the breaker isn't the problem; the neutral wire from the circuit almost certainly is. Those are incorrect as shown (grounds can share a screw on the bar - neutrals cannot - neutrals are "one wire per hole," whether a pigtail from a breaker or direct from a circuit - that's a code issue, though, not a functional one, but it needs to be corrected) but the functional problem is circuit neutrals don't go to that bar at all with a GFCI breaker. Only the pigtail does.

image from breaker instructions showing connections

Image source https://download.schneider-electric.com/files?p_enDocType=Instruction+sheet&p_File_Name=48840-088-01.pdf&p_Doc_Ref=48840-088-01 because that's the correct breaker for this panel.

The other possibility (since you don't show the GFCI breakers at all and it's possible you are putting the circuit neutral where it belongs when you install those) is that you have an issue [a ground fault, even] in the circuit wiring that upsets a GFCI (but not a plain breaker) when properly wired at the panel. Those are typically either a ground-neutral short, or neutrals shared between circuits. Third possibility is that you need to throw the handle off and back on to reset it. If the breaker trips when you apply power, but does not trip when you apply power if you remove the circuit wires, the problem is with the circuit, not the breaker.

Also - you need a torque screwdriver (or torque wrench with low enough range) to do any of this correctly. Prompted by the prominently displayed "not a torque screwdriver." Get one, they are easily available in the electrical aisle as that's been called out for years now. Read the labeling on the right and on the breakers to find the torque values you should be using. Both too tight and too loose cause problems.

Separate issue: the main breaker/service disconnect should have a hold-down/retainer on it, and I don't see anything that looks like that here. I don't think that has a "not required before" date. Also missing a "Backfed Main Circuit Breaker Barrier" that recent code requires, and less opportunity to kill yourself even if the installation is old enough to be grandfathered makes a good idea. Both of those items would (IMHO) require a brief service disconnect for safe installation.

And yes, that [service disconnect, comes straight from the pole] means it's a main panel, so neutral and ground can share a bar.


First, it's a code violation to put each circuit's neutral and ground together on the same lug. Neutrals cannot share with ANYTHING especially their own ground. NEC 408.41. Grounds may be double-stacked if the panel labeling allows.

Also, this panel appears to have a 4-wire feeder. I'm not sure why it would unless it was a subpanel, but that conflicts with the "SERVICE disconnect" marking on the handle. Service (from the electric meter) is not the same as feeder (from main to other panel). Perhaps the marking is not proper, there are many other errors, fortunately I see none costly.

If this is a subpanel, the grounds need to be separated onto an accessory ground bar. That panel label will list suitable model numbers of ground bar which will dock right up to pre-made sites in the box.

Also, a backfed breaker must be tied down.

With GFCI breakers, the circuit hot and neutral need to go to the GFCI breaker. You may wonder, then, "how the beans can the GFCI breaker give neutral to the circuit, when it does not have neutral ITSELF?" The answer is that pigtail wire. That goes to the neutral bar.

Lastly let's talk about that main breaker and EV charging. If that's a subpanel, the main breaker is unnecessary and the wires can simply go to the main lugs on this subpanel. (It's a $20 breaker, no great loss). However if you do that, you must make sure to have no more than 6 hand throws to shut off all breakers in the panel. 1-pole breakers can be "handle-tied" in groups of 2 or 3 to make them 1 hand throw. EV charging is possible here, regardless of any Load Calculation concerns, using Load Management. Ask about that, and that might re-use the 60A breaker.

  • Awaiting a response on the question about where that ground goes. If it's "pole-meter-garage" it seems likely that the ground may just be sharing the hole in the wall on its way to the local electrodes. If it's 4-wire service from another panel it's missing the local ground required.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 18:11

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