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With Electrical It's Important To Have A Big Finish!

If you're going to wire something incorrectly, why not go all the way!?  With electrical it's important to have a big finish!

The word "lug" has many definitions. 

One is the more common usage, where my wife would apply it to, well, me for instance!  "Can you carry this upstairs for me, you big lug?"  Well, if the shoe fits...

But another definition is the one used by the electrical industry - a projection on an object by which it may be fixed in place.

In a panel box wires are held in place in a buss bar by lugs, or flat screws, which put pressure onto the end and hold them in place.

These are the two neutral buss bars, or busses, in a panel box.

See all the lugs (screws) holding the wires in place?

Look closely and you will see four places where two wires are held by one screw.

This is called a "double lug," or, more commonly a double tap.

IT IS INCORRECT, AND LIKELY NOT DONE BY AN ELECTRICIAN.

It means someone was fooling around in the box, wiring up new circuits when "remodeling" was done in the house.

I often see multiple, multiple taps (no, not redundant) in panel boxes when there has been remodeling in a house.

But look on the left side!  We have a surprise!

There is the fabled TRIPLE TAP!

I don't see this much.  For me it's about the equivalent of seeing a leprechaun riding a pink unicorn pony led by Sasquatch to reveal the Pot 'O Gold.

Once someone sent me a photo of a quadruple tap, but the installer must have had to file off the wires to get them all to fit.

You can see that these three wires fill up the hole under the lug.

Now, looking at the two busses (strips) there are plenty of holes where they could have located these white wires. 

It IS appropriate to locate a white together with a bare ground wire.  And the buss bar underneath has unused locations.

But they chose to double up and triple up instead!

And they sure built to a big finish!

My recommendation:  remodeling often indicates that a contractor came in to do all the work.  While he might think he's a plumber and carpenter and HVAC specialist AND electrician, he probably is not.  So it's fun to check the panel box!  And see a Pot 'O Gold at the end of the buss bar!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 43 commentsJay Markanich • May 05 2013 02:32AM

Comments

Good morning,  Jay. I see that you have captured a photo of the rare triple lug. I heard that that species was extinct -- as well as it should be...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Alive and well Michael, and not just in the forests of the great northwest or Ireland.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, a new one for me as I have never seen a triple tap.  I wonder how often the circuit gets tripped on this.  Thanks for this.

Posted by John F Muscarella, Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast (RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC) over 7 years ago

It's one of the new things John, but I don't know what these wires correspond to.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay.... if there's any one phase of construction that's most dangerous, it's electrical....what are people thinking when they play with this dangerous stuff....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired ) over 7 years ago

Jay- I love these little electrical tips you give. Without them I would have no idea of the things people sometimes do..

Posted by Scott Fogleman, Greater Good Group (New Home Team 804-573-9592) over 7 years ago

Barbara - they are thinking they can do it!  I'm a contractor - I can do anything!

Scott - glad you like them!  Go check your box now!  But don't touch anything inside!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good catch. I always think it's much smarter and safer to bring in the specialists, esp when it comes to electricians and plumbers.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

Question>

I have been writing up the double and triple taps for years. Even for the Common side bar.

I have yet to have the repairs or switches made to the panel by an electrician.

They always say it's fine. Even the local electrical inspectors allows this to go on here.

Am I wasting my time, or do I just keep on writting the issues as double taps and let the buyers know?

I feel I am wasting my time when even the JHA will not "GIG" the electricians on this.

Have a great day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

Debbie - I would leave the trades to the trade professionals.  But that's just me.

I don't know why the jurisdictional inspectors would let that go Clint.  Just not smart.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Handy can be not so handy...know what you know and be sure to hire licensed professionals for what you don't know.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Sometimes I wonder and sometimes I know.  This one is a no brainer I know and if I know it has to be common sense. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 7 years ago

The best word for the electrician is Lazy.  To lazy to use the bottom buss bar..

Posted by Richard Burge Realty/ Burge Homes, Broker in Charge/Owner (Richard Burge Realty/Burge Homes) over 7 years ago

The problem, S&D, is that everyone thinks they know how!

James - it is not smart to double and triple many things, so your common sense comment is a good one!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

If this is an electrician Richard!  But you're right, it is lazy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Sadly, we see it almost everyday in the electrical field.  I've pulled one of those wire out without loosening the screw on many circuits.  The homeowners can't figure out why their lights dim when they turn on the disposal, sump pump, etc.  Loose neutral = dimming lights and worse.  The triple tap is rare and a lot of work.  Oy!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 7 years ago

It's rare for me Mike, but apparently some inspectors see them all the time!  Dimming lights are often a neutral issue.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good morning you big lug! :-)  I see we have written about the same subject this morning... more or less. Great minds think alike! Have a great Sunday!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 7 years ago

Hopefully, that "big finish" won't include repeated breaker problem or worse. 

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH PEOPLE that makes them believe that they are experts in everything???  Even tasks that could mean life or DEATH to folks. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Jay, Are you saying a single ground and neutral under the same lug is okay? My understanding is neutral wires are to be dedicated. One wire to a lug. 

NEC® 110.3(B). Clause 12.3.10 of UL 67 (Panelboards) states, “An individual terminal shall be provided for the connection of each branch-circuit neutral conductor.”

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, i can see where many contractors don't have an electrician's license.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

They do Fred.  I have many times had posts similar to other inspectors here!

Not living there I don't know how often anything might trip Lenn, but people see things on TV and think it can all be done in a half an hour!

I have had both electricians and the local JAs say to me that grounds don't count there Jim.  I see them doubled all the time, approved by the county in new boxes.  So I asked once at a class I had with a bunch of them.  But then, apparently, 26mm metal gage ducts in garage ceilings and walls now includes flex ducts!

That's the rule of thumb out there Mike!  But hey, how important is a license anyway?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Electrical panels are usually a treasure trove for inspectors.  Everyone thinks it's easy to just wire up anything they want. 

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) over 7 years ago

Not the way I interpret that clause. I call them out if there is a ground with the neutral. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, these are the same folks that try and tape the breaker so it doesn't trip. Like in the past with screw in fuses putting a penny in the socket.

Posted by Mark Horan, "The Resident Chef" - Resident Team Realty LLC & (Resident Team Realty, LLC & Toni's Property Management LLC) over 7 years ago

I too have never seen the code interpreted that way---grounds and neutrals should never be terminated together---two grounds are usually OK but not multiple neutrals or neutrals and grounds.  This becomes especially critical on multi-wire circuits where loss of the neutral will result in creating a 240 volt circuit where there is not one.  Here is a picture of the most egregious double lugging of neutrals that I have come across---7 neutrals under one lug.

7 neutral wires under one lug

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Marc - they are fun for us inspectors, especially after "remodeling."

Jim - I did too until I got shot down by so many electricians following me that I asked the county guys at a CE class.  Since then I have ignored it.

Mark - I remember seeing a movie about that in one of my shop classes in school and I always wondered how they got that penny in there without getting zapped!

That looks almost like they drilled that hole out Charlie!  But at least that top wire has an arrow on it showing which direction to insert the wire!

Forget the leprechaun and the triple!  That's an alien encounter there!

And I have never before seen flex ducts in the garage ceiling, or the code interpreted that way!  I have often wondered if I could do inspections in other parts of the country!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, I have another one with 6---and more impressive because they are all aluminum conductors :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Wow Charlie!  You are the Shadowy Character your avatar purports!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

alum double lug

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Looks like they drilled that one out too!  And where's that braided copper center left going?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, it is not drilled out---what you are likely seeing is the edge of the screw that is compressing the wires.  It is merely the larger location for a much larger wire that someone found convenient for a whole bunch of wires meant to be under indivdual screws.  The braided copper was interesting because someone apparently soldered the end so it would make a better connection under the screw.  I don't any longer remember what the circuit was.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

If you look close you can see it is just the threads of the screw showing past the edge of the hole..

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

I see the threads but what looks drilled out is the hole into which the copper ends are inserted.  Looks like they stuck a rat's tail in there and reamed it larger.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

Excellent blog and thanks for the expanation with pictures as it helps us to understand and look for issues. 

Posted by Robert Bob Gilbert, Your Katy TX ( West of Houston) Real Estate Expert (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties) over 7 years ago

Well, Robert, next time you are inside a panel box you have some ammo and know what to look for!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, Here is an explanation of why connecting the ground wire is not allowed and creates a similar hazard. Perhaps you could pass this along to those electricians and JAs. 

http://ecatalog.squared.com/pubs/Electrical%20Distribution/Panelboards/0100DB0705.pdf

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

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Thanks Jim!   THAT is a great resource.  I now see where you got the reference in the comment above (I wondered how you got the circled R into the comment!).  In this regard, and because of your link, I have just added the following to my report for anyone that contests me.  You can see that I wrote it for a buyer to understand.

Similarly, it is not appropriate to double tap a neutral (white) cable along with a ground (bare) wire.  When that is done the proper isolation of the neutral under a lug cannot be accomplished.  Here is a good reference to explain this:  http://ecatalog.squared.com/pubs/Electrical%20Distribution/Panelboards/0100DB0705.pdf

This is great!  I am thinking that since it was not totally adopted until 2008 it might be that I am seeing it on older connections, and not newer construction.  Maybe that's where I was getting the refuffs from.

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

You're welcome. Sharp eyes, I hadn't noticed the circled R.

Yes, I think that since it is a relatively newer requirement or at least clarification, that may explain your experiences. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jim - maybe that's it.  But still, I will begin again.  I have ammo!  Just today (see above) I had four doubles, and a couple of white with grounds.  So they got noted.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Does anyone but me think this reversal of comments is just plain wrong?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay, It's good to have a place to hang your hat. 

Charlie, I agree. When did this start? You have scroll down to comment. Bad idea. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Charlie - I saw Jim's comments of a little while ago and answered it without being able to find it!  I don't think I like this reversed idea.

Jim - I like the NEC mention on my reports.  That will end any contention later when the other party wants to contest it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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