These breakers are useful for simultaneously controlling two hot wire connections from two separate circuits when it’s important to be able to do that.
They are also used to protect and control 240-volt circuits, as they rely on two 120-volt hot wires in the United States.
Either way, you can wire them to the 2-pole GFCI breaker without a neutral connection.
In general, when wiring a 2-pole GFCI breaker without a neutral, you leave the circuit’s neutral attached to the neutral bar or the ground since there’s no neutral to attach. You only need to connect the two hot wires to the breaker’s terminals and leave the neutral terminal unused. Usually, the hot ones are the end terminals, and the neutral terminal is the middle one.
I will go into more detail below.
The NEC on 2-Pole GFCI Breakers
The NEC code requires GFCI protection for 240-volt circuits with either two hot wires and one neutral or two hot wires without a neutral.
In both cases, they will require 2-pole (or double-pole) circuit breakers, as there are two hot wires.
Wiring a 2-Pole GFCI Breaker without a Neutral
It’s possible to wire a 2-pole GFCI breaker without a neutral because double-pole breakers don’t always require a neutral connection.
It’s a straightforward procedure, as only a few steps are involved, but you must take a few safety measures before touching the breaker itself. I’ve outlined the steps below.
However, if you’re not confident about wiring the breaker, let an electrician do it. The risk of getting electrocuted is high if you don’t work carefully on the main panel.
Requirements and Estimated Time
You’ll need the following items:
- The new or replacement double-pole GFCI breaker
- A voltage tester (either contact or non-contact), voltmeter, or multimeter
In addition, for your safety, wear rubber gloves and boots, as you’ll be working with high voltages.
The expected time to do this is 15 minutes if you only install a new breaker. Double this time if you will remove an old breaker first and do additional testing afterward.
Outline of the Steps
The procedure involves the following five steps:
- Turning off the main panel breaker
- Testing for power (to ensure it’s off)
- Identifying the GFCI breaker
- Wiring it (the main part)
- Testing the breaker (to ensure it works)
Step 1: Turn Off the Main Panel Breaker
Turning off the power at the main panel breaker is essential for safety reasons.
Switch the main breaker off before proceeding to wire the double-pole GFCI breaker first. Don’t risk working with live wires without protecting yourself.
You do this by going to the main panel, opening the cover, looking for the main switch, and turning it off. It’s probably the largest one you see and is rated for at least 100 amps.
The main panel breaker is usually to one side and separated from the individual branch-circuit breakers. It will be at the top, bottom, left, or right.
The main breaker’s switch should be turned to the off position.
Step 2: Test for Power
After turning the main breaker off, you should use a tester to ensure the power is completely disconnected.
You can use a regular or non-contact voltage tester, a voltmeter, or a multimeter to check the voltage, which should be zero.
Even if you’re sure the power is off, keep the gloves and boots on and try not to touch the wire conductors directly. This also applies to the wire terminals, called ‘service lugs,’ because they still have power.
Step 3: Identify the GFCI Breaker
Identifying the right GFCI breaker is important, but this only applies if you’re replacing an existing one.
Most of the breakers in your panel will likely be single-pole ones, so spotting the few double-pole ones should be easy. There might only be one if you only have a single 240-volt circuit and no linked circuits.
The other thing to identify is which terminals are for the hot wires.
The breaker terminals should be labeled; otherwise, the two end terminals are normally out of three. The middle terminal will be for the neutral wire, which we won’t use.
The picture below is an open view of the same GFCI breaker, showing three terminals at the bottom. The ones on either side are the hot terminals. The two hot wires will connect to them. The middle terminal is provided for the neutral connection.
Normally, it’s arranged this way. If in doubt, check for the specific GFCI breaker model you purchased.
Step 4: Wire the GFCI Breaker
When wiring a GFCI breaker, there are two possible configurations concerning the pigtail wire.
It is shown in white and coiled in the picture below, with a clip on its end.
The two configuration options are to connect the pigtail wire to either the neutral bus or the ground.
Now turn your attention to the three terminals at the bottom. As mentioned earlier, the two end terminals are for the two hot wires, and the middle one (meant for neutral) will not be used.
Only connect the hot wires while the breaker is still in the off position. Please make sure they are secure. They should never be loose. Once connected, seat the 2-pole GFCI breaker firmly in place.
You can now connect the pigtail to either the neutral bus or the ground connection. Either will do, as both are safe exit points for current to flow through to the ground.
Leave the neutral terminal on the breaker as it is.
Step 5: Test the 2-Pole GFCI Breaker
Before you remove your gloves and pack the tools away to use the GFCI-protected circuit, test it to ensure it’s working.
Repeat the voltage test, but this time to ensure that the power has been restored after turning the main breaker switch on. The circuit on which you installed or replaced the 2-pole GFCI breaker should have power.
If, for some reason, there is no power, re-check the wiring. If something is wired loosely or incorrectly, quickly switch the main breaker off and redo the wiring. The wiring should be done correctly, and all the connections should be secure.
When the power passes through the new breaker, you can proceed to test its ability to trip. Press the TEST button on the breaker. It should immediately trip the breaker and disconnect the circuit.
Once the new breaker works correctly, you can switch it on again and close the main panel.
You should also check the outlet before starting to use it. Use the tester or voltmeter to see if you’re getting around 240 volts if it’s a 240-volt circuit. If the GFCI breaker was for two separate 120-volt circuits, test both.
Double Pole GFCI Breakers
A double pole breaker has a single switch combining two (or 2 joined as 1) to control the switching on and off of two hot wires simultaneously.
It allows you to connect two hot wires; a neutral wire can connect optionally. So double pole wires don’t always require a neutral.
This differs from a single-pole breaker, which has one switch but controls only one hot wire. The neutral wire is connected to it as well.
A double-pole GFCI breaker is often used for 240-volt circuits rated between 20 and 60 amps.
In contrast, single-pole breakers are normally used with 120-volt circuits rated for 15 or 20 amps.
240-volt breakers are normally required for heavy appliances, such as air conditioners, water heaters, and clothes dryers.
Another important difference between a single and double-pole breaker is when the breaker trips.
If a single-pole breaker trips due to a circuit overload or some other reason, only that breaker will trip, and only that circuit will be disconnected from the main electrical supply.
Double-pole breakers are designed to switch off two hot wires. It can be two 120-volt hot wires from two different circuits or, as in the case of a 240-volt circuit, from the same circuit. Both will trip together, as they are meant to, for safety reasons.
(1) 2-pole 30 amp GFCI circuit breaker. https://www.amazon.com/Murray-MP230GFA-Circuit-Breaker-Lockout/dp/B01N32XPMU
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