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My main panel has a couple unused slots, but the metal tab covering those slots has already been removed. One of those slots has an unused breaker, the other one used to have a plastic filler panel, which eventually broke off (it's sitting on top of the panel, one of the tabs that holds it into place is broken off). So now there's an empty hole, which is obviously not very safe.

I know I could just buy a new filler plate, but for less than I'd pay for a 3-pack of filler plates, I could just fill that slot with an new 15A breaker (which I can use as a spare if I ever need it). The breaker seems like it'd be a better solution since it'll never break off like the plastic filler piece.

Is there any code restriction or other reason that would prohibit leaving unused breakers in the panel (I'll mark them as unused).

Note that the one unused breaker that's already in the panel appears to be a defunct GFCI breaker with the neutral wire clipped off, so as a secondary question -- is it ok to leave that defunct breaker in the panel?

  • Yeah, the basement gremlins could use it to power up a jackhammer and start working on your foundation. – Tyler Durden Jul 20 '15 at 21:49
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    @TylerDurden - I'm not sure if you're implying that I should just ignore it since simple common sense says that an unused (or even a non-functional) breaker is not going to hurt anything. But I'm looking for some guidance from code or other best practices since not everything dealing with electrical work matches simple common sense and you have to dig deeper to understand the reasoning behind some code requirements. – Johnny Jul 20 '15 at 22:16
  • I don't think so, but I'd discard that failed breaker on principle. Other than working space requirements, I can find nothing about load centers. It may be left up to the maker, who prob says use the silly plastic things. I agree, a breaker would be better, those things always fall out or break. – Mazura Jul 21 '15 at 0:24
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National Electrical Code simply states that all openings must be closed. An unused breaker or cover likely both meet that requirement, so either should be fine.

I don't think there's a rule that says "Thou shalt not leave unused breakers in thine panel.". But I could be mistaken.

Remove and discard the bad breaker.

National Electrical Code 2014

Chapter 4 Equipment for General Use

Article 408 Switchboards, Switchgear, and Panelboards

408.7 Unused Openings. Unused openings for circuit breakers and switches shall be closed using identified closures, or other approved means that provide protection substantially equivalent to the wall of the enclosure.

It's possible that the AHJ could argue that a breaker does not meet this requirement, but that would be completely dependent on the opinion of the individual.

  • Could you provide a reference, i.e. the name of the code which you are answering in relation to? – AndyT Jul 21 '15 at 12:40
  • Perfect, thanks -- I'll swap out that bad GFCI for a new 20A breaker and put a 15A in the other slot, then I'll have a 15A and 20A spare breaker in the panel. – Johnny Jul 21 '15 at 15:31
  • I find it hard to believe that anyone could argue a breaker wouldn't meet the requirement; if the breaker were in use no one would have a problem with it being there, and it not being in use doesn't present a fire, electrocution, or property damage hazard that I can see. This is just my opinion of course ;) – Doktor J Mar 28 '17 at 20:50
  • Just mark the not in use breaker as a spare on the panel directory and you will be 100% code compliant. – Ed Beal Dec 5 '17 at 23:38
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This is perfectly FINE. In fact, many commercial panels do not have knockouts and have to be ordered FULL of breakers, even if many of them are not being used.

I would however replace that bad GFI breaker with a standard piece. For a few bucks this ensures it will never even be considered to be used.

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