My (main) GE panel's ground bus bar is full. Is it better form to

a) put multiple ground wires in the same hole

b) put some of the ground wires in the neutral section

My research seems to suggest that either option is safe and code-legal. Is one considered a better approach? Some people seem to be wary of putting ground wires in the same hole, but this seems to just be a misapplication of the rules for neutral wires?

  • It sounds like your panel has separate ground and neutral bars. Double-check that the neutral bar is "bonded" (connected to the ground bar either with a bonding wire or though the metal chassis) before using the neutral bar for ground wires. – Hot Licks Sep 13 '15 at 14:44
  • Yep, they are bonded. I wasn't comfortable using the term "bonded" because I wasn't sure of the exact technical definition, but, it is as you describe. Thanks! – Phil Esra Sep 13 '15 at 15:08

Seeing that this is your main panel the ground bar, neutral bar and the metal of panel should be bounded, usually with a bonding screw, in some way. So putting the new ground wires on the neutral bar is okay. Now with that said, if you don't want to do that, why not add another ground bar if you have the space? If you look at the sides, top or bottom of the panel you may see holes (with a ground symbol) for another ground bar to screw down to. If you see this turn off the power and add the bar.

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  • Thanks, I'm ok with the original (a) or (b) options as long as they're legit. It just seems like, in a lot of cases, things that can be handled multiple code-legal ways often have one way that is favored by those with experience. I'm trying to avoid doing things that meet the letter of the code but would look weird/amateur to an inspector or electrician. – Phil Esra Sep 13 '15 at 15:18

There is no "misapplication of the rules for neutral wires" since neutral and ground are two different wires with two VERY different purposes, regardless of the fact that they connect to the same place in the main panel.

A main panel does not typically have separate neutral and ground bars, so if yours are separate then someone either needlessly put them on separate bars, or they added a dedicated ground bar. A photo of your panel would clarify this.

Either way, either of your choices is FINE and a safe and legal solution. There is NO problem with putting two, or even sometimes three, ground of the same size into one hole in a ground/neutral bar. As you know, the same is NOT true for neutrals.

A third option as War stated is to add a new ground bar to the back of the panel. Add-on bars screwed to the back of a panel box are to used for grounds ONLY.

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  • 4
    Sorry, I probably didn't phrase that correctly. Since they have very different purposes, applying the rules for one of them (neutrals) to the other one (grounds) is "wrong." Thanks for the very useful clarification--I thought this was true but I wanted confirmation. – Phil Esra Sep 13 '15 at 15:13

Make sure you check your ground bus literature. I have yet to see one that allows more than 2 grounding wires under one screw, and as previously mentioned they must be the same size when putting more than one under the same screw.

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