A double tap is when two or more wires are attached to a single circuit breaker.

In most cases this isn’t allowed, because the circuit breaker is designed to accept only one wire.  So if two or more wires are attached then they might not all be making good electrical contact, and that can cause an electrical arc and overheating so it’s a fire hazard.  Any good electrician knows that a double tap isn’t allowed, so this is very poor workmanship and possibly means that the work wasn’t done by an electrician but by a handyman or homeowner.  That’s a problem because you don’t know what else he did wrong.

Some circuit breakers do allow two wires to be attached, and a good electrician knows when this is the case.  Keep in mind that you always have to follow the installation instructions from the manufacturer, so if the manufacturer says that only one wire is allowed then that’s the rule no excuses.

There are several options for fixing a double tap, all of which should be done by a good, qualified electrician.

The simplest option is to use a pigtail.  Remove both wires from the circuit breaker, and attach a single short piece of wire to the breaker.  Then take the two original wires and connect them together with the short pigtail wire, using a wire nut.  This is pretty simple and will always be acceptable (assuming all the other wiring is correct).  After all, most electrical circuits split off somewhere, so you might as well do it here.  This works because it follows the rules:  there’s only one wire attached to the breaker, the wire nut is sized to accept all three of these wires, and this short pigtail wire is big enough to safely carry all of the  current that the breaker is rated for (15 amps in this case).

 

Another option is to use one of the breakers that allows two wires.  These circuit breakers are always clearly labelled with the number, size, and type (copper or aluminum) wires that can be connected.

This breaker pictured below allows one aluminum or copper wire from 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) to 8 AWG, or two copper wires from 14 to 10 AWG (the smaller the gauge number the bigger the wire).

 

The problem with this solution is that you might not be able to find a breaker that fits your electrical panelboard and that accepts two wires.

Another option is to install an additional circuit breaker into your electrical panel and move one of the wires over to it.  This is a great solution, but there might not be any more space for additional breakers.

The last option is to use a tandem circuit breaker.  This is a device that fits two circuit breakers into the space normally used for one breaker.  The problem here is that some electrical panels don’t allow tandem breakers or they restrict how many and where they can be installed.  So there’s no guarantee that you can find one that fits your electrical panelboard and there’s no guarantee that there are more spaces for another tandem breaker.

With all of these options you need to be sure that the circuit’s neutral wire is dealt with correctly.  That and general safety concerns mean that you should have a good qualified electrician performing this work.

Inspection Overview
Why Get a Home Inspection?

Recent Posts

Don’t let your pipes freeze

I’ve heard the question many times: How low should I set my thermostat if I leave town in the winter, to save money but prevent my pipes from freezing? 65 °F?  60 °F?  50?  I

Wood shrinkage

Let’s talk about wood shrinkage. Your hardwood floors are the place where you’re mostly likely to see the problems associated with wood shrinkage, but old panel doors can also experience problems.  In floors, as the

Window condensation

Condensation on windows is a problem that I see a lot in the winter, and I see the damage from window condensation year round.  Here’s some information about the issue. Condensation will occur on a

Attic condensation

Water is your home’s number one enemy.  I’ve said that before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again. Water in your attic can cause problems including mold growth, deterioration of the roof’s plywood

Request Inspection

More Posts You May Find Interesting

Don’t let your pipes freeze

February 7th, 2024|Comments Off on Don’t let your pipes freeze

I’ve heard the question many times: How low should I set my thermostat if I leave town in the winter, to save money but prevent my pipes from freezing? 65 °F?  60 °F?  50?  I

Wood shrinkage

January 16th, 2024|Comments Off on Wood shrinkage

Let’s talk about wood shrinkage. Your hardwood floors are the place where you’re mostly likely to see the problems associated with wood shrinkage, but old panel doors can also experience problems.  In floors, as the

Window condensation

January 10th, 2024|Comments Off on Window condensation

Condensation on windows is a problem that I see a lot in the winter, and I see the damage from window condensation year round.  Here’s some information about the issue. Condensation will occur on a

Attic condensation

January 8th, 2024|Comments Off on Attic condensation

Water is your home’s number one enemy.  I’ve said that before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again. Water in your attic can cause problems including mold growth, deterioration of the roof’s plywood

Priorities

December 22nd, 2023|Comments Off on Priorities

Here’s a short quiz on energy efficiency priorities. Suppose you have two cars, and both get driven about the same number of miles.  One car is kind of old and only gets 20 miles per

Garage Fire Separation

December 18th, 2023|Comments Off on Garage Fire Separation

Separating the house from the garage against the spread of fire is an important part of home safety.  Here are some of the rules that the current version of the International Residential Code (2021) requires.