Any circuit supplying either 120/240 volts (with two hot wires and one neutral wire) or pure 240 volts (two hot wires) is required to be GFCI protected by the National Electrical Code (NEC).
But, how to wire a 2 pole GFCI breaker without neutral?
There are a few steps to properly wiring a double pole GFCI breaker without a neutral wire. Such as turning off the main panel breaker, testing for power, wiring the GFCI breaker, and troubleshooting.
In this article, I’ll go over these steps in detail in order to give you a thorough understanding of the entire procedure of wiring a double pole GFCI breaker. So, let’s begin.
Single Pole VS Double Pole GFCI
A single pole breaker is typically used with 120-volt circuits which are rated to use for 15-20 amps. On the other hand, a double pole breaker is primarily used with a 240-volt circuit, rated for 20-60 amps. Single pole GFCIs contain one hot wire and one neutral wire and double poles contain two hot wires.
Single pole breakers are those narrow switches you see in your electrical panel. They serve regular everyday household appliances such as TVs, computers, lights, fans, etc.
The single pole breaker is wired with one hot wire and one neutral wire. If a single-pole GFCI breaker experiences an overload, only that breaker will trip. But, can you wire a GFCI without a neutral? Yes, double pole breakers do not always require a neutral connection.
Breakers with two switches are known the double-pole breakers. Both the switches are joined together. They can be used to serve appliances such as central air conditioners, dryers, water heaters, etc. to name a few.
So, how do you wire a double pole GFCI? Two hot wires are connected by a single neutral wire in double pole breakers. If a short circuit occurs on the wires of either of the poles, both will trip with this type of connection. Double-pole breakers are commonly used to serve a single 240-volt circuit, but they can also serve two separate 120-volt circuits.
Shutting Down the Main Panel Breaker
Before proceeding with the installation of the double pole GFCI, you must turn off the power from your main panel breaker. It is strictly forbidden to work with live wires in any circumstances.
How to Turn Off the Main Breaker?
- Locate the main panel of your household.
- It is advised to wear safety equipment such as rubber boots and rubber gloves to avoid any sort of electrical hazards.
- Open the main cover panel to gain access to all the breakers.
- Locate the main panel breaker. It will most likely be at the very top, separated from the other breakers. It is usually a very large breaker, rated for 100 amps or more.
- Cautiously flip the switch on the main breaker to turn off the power.
- Use a non-contact voltage meter, a multimeter, or a tester to ensure that the power has indeed been cut off from the rest of the breakers.
Identifying the Terminals of a Double Pole GFCI
It is crucial to properly identify the terminals on a double pole GFCI breaker. Because in order to know how to wire a 2 pole GFCI breaker without neutral properly, you must know which terminals to use.
How to Identify the Terminals on a Double Pole GFCI Breaker?
- First of all, you will notice the pigtail wire coming out the back of your double pole GFCI breaker. This is to be connected to the neutral bus of your main panel.
- Then at the bottom, you will notice three terminals.
- Two of these are for the “Hot” wires.
- One is for the “Neutral” wire. But we will not be using the neutral terminal this time. But, can a 2 pole GFCI breaker work without a neutral? Yes, it can.
- The neutral terminal is most commonly the one in the middle. However, be sure to recheck with the specific model of GFCI you are buying.
- The two terminals on the side are for the hot wires.
Wiring the Double Pole GFCI Breaker
There are two configurations you can use. One is where the pigtail goes to the neutral bus, the other is where it goes to the ground. I will describe the wiring in detail below.
Wiring the Double Pole GFCI Breaker
- Locate the install location, where you want to install the breaker.
- Make sure that the breaker is in the OFF position.
- Push it down inside the socket.
- Connect the pigtail to the neutral bus of your main panel for configuration 1.
- Connect the pigtail to the ground of your main panel for configuration 2.
- Secure it tightly with a screwdriver.
- Connect two hot wires to both the leftmost and rightmost terminals.
- Secure the wires with screws.
- The middle terminal or the neutral terminal is not used.
This is how you can wire a double pole GFCI breaker with no neutral wires. You are free to choose whichever configuration is most convenient for you.
Troubleshooting the GFCI Breaker
It is an essential step to troubleshoot any electrical installations or procedures to ensure the proper safety of the component. The steps to troubleshooting a double pole GFCI breaker are simple.
Testing the Double Pole GFCI Breaker
- Turn on the power from the main panel.
- Check to see if the power has come back up again.
- You may use a non-contact voltage tester to check for power.
- Now, flip the switch on the breaker that you installed to the ON position.
- Check the circuit you have installed the breaker, to see if it has power or not.
- Alternatively, you may use a tester to test for power too.
- If the power has not come back on, check to see if your wiring was accurate and rewire if needed.
- If the power is on, push the TEST button on the breaker. It should trip the circuit and power should be cut from it. Flip the switch to OFF, and then ON again.
- Check to see if there is power in the circuit. If so, then the installation has been completed properly. Otherwise, recheck the wiring.
These are the steps to troubleshoot a double pole GFCI breaker.
Throughout this article, I have discussed all of the steps necessary to know how to wire a 2 pole GFCI breaker without neutral. The steps have been broken down in detail so that you can complete this task on your own.
However, as with any electrical work, you should proceed with extreme caution and take all necessary safety precautions before beginning. Do not hesitate to call an expert electrician to help you out if needed.