What is a Double Tapped Breaker?

A double tapped breaker is found when there are two supply wires placed under one breaker lug or connection. This is found typically in the electrical sub panel breaker box and also can be found at the main breaker. Someone has purposefully installed an extra circuit into one that is only supposed to have one going to it.

Why would someone double tap a breaker?

Essentially, someone is trying to make the installation of a new circuit, oftentimes when people add an extra piece of equipment, but don’t have the space to install a new breaker in the panel. So, they end up taking the wire for the new equipment and jamming it into an already existing breaker. This will overload this breaker and will put your building at risk for fire or damage.

What is wrong with a double tapped breaker circuit?

Majority of the breakers found inside electrical panels are only rated by the manufacturer for accepting one wire. If the wire is loose or the load is too much for any breaker, a resulting fire can occur. Picture an air conditioning (AC) unit that requires a 50 amp breaker for the installation. Now the homeowner decides to install a hot tub but takes its wire and puts it into the 50 amp AC breaker that already has a wire going into it. You now have 2 high powered devices drawing energy from one underrated circuit and a fire could result.

How do I fix a double tapped breaker?

There are a few ways to fix this issue. Some are more costly than others, however. We always recommend consulting with a licensed electrician before making any repairs.

  • Option 1: Have an electrician install a tandem breaker. These can oftentimes fit in an existing spot on the breaker panel and contain two separate circuit lugs for the two wires.
  • Option 2: Have an electrician install a breaker that can accommodate two wires. These are not as common but are easily available and will be safer than double tapping a breaker. There is a special designation symbol on the front of the breaker that shows two wires are allowed.
  • Option 3: Add another breaker to the panel. However, if no room exists in the current breaker panel, a new panel would have to be installed. This would be the most expensive option and would require the skills of a licensed electrician.
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