We opened a panel in our commercial building this morning to trace a few circuits. While in there, I found that one of the neutrals on a branch circuit had been spliced. It is a soldered connection and insulated with what looks like heat shrink tubing. It looks as though a GFCI breaker was removed and a standard 20A breaker installed in it’s place, and they spliced the neutral to reach the bus. Is this legal? Do I have to re-pull this incredibly long branch circuit to correct it or could this be considered a repair to a “damaged neutral”?
It is perfectly legal to splice a wire in a panel, that being said, solder is not an approved method. Also find out where it goes and why it had GFCI protection to start with. The GFCI breaker was there for a reason, and probably needs to be put back.
Life is tough, Life is tougher when you are stupid
110.14 (B) Splices. Conductors shall be spliced or joined with splicing devices identified for the use or by brazing, welding, or soldering with a fusible metal or alloy. Soldered splices shall first be spliced or joined so as to be mechanically and electrically secure without solder and then be soldered. All splices and joints and the free ends of conductors shall be covered with an insulation equivalent to that of the conductors or with an insulating device identified for the purpose.
As a matter of fact, soldering is one of the only approved methods for some applications.
The exceptions to this are for service conductors (230.81), grounding and bonding conductors where the connection relies solely on solder [250.8, 250.148(E)] and connections to grounding and bonding electrodes [250.70].
Solder is a perfectly acceptable method - but not just solder alone. Where solder is used, the wires must have some other means physically holding the wires together - such as twisting them together. Solder will make the 'electrical' connection; the 'mechanical' must come from elsewhere.
Back in the olden days you made a western union splice and soldered it. You can see why they invented wirenuts. Assuming this splice was twisted and soldered the thing I might question would be the shrink tubing. Is it "equivalent to that of the conductors". Shrink tube comes in different thicknesses.
Heat shrink does not meet 110.14(B) regardless of thickness, as it is applied after the splice is soldered, vice before. Seems a pretty nitpicky point, though. Is twisting the wires sufficient, though? If so, the heat shrink may only be required to function as electrical insulation. Not sure how you'd check up on that.
Steve, I'm not sure I follow you. Tape is a proper means of insulation, and it's certainly applied 'after' the splice is made. I don't have any problem with heat shrink tube as covering for a splice.
I would have a problem is the tube was left with an open end. Otherwise, use it.
For the mechanical connection, twisting the wires is generally enough. Sure, there are exceptions ... where you need to use a hydraulically crimped or welded connection ... but for most purposes, twisting is plenty good.
Naturally, for larger wire (like you might see used in a service), the practice is not to simply try to twist the wires, but rather to braid the strands together. There's an entire art to these splices, that's pretty much been lost.
I thought tape was not UL approved to "replace" the original insulation. That was why you have rubber tape and then a outer layer of electrical tape. But why wouldn't the person(s) just have used a wirenut. Seems to me that they must have been "nervous" about electricity, probably a handyman special.
All electrical tape, of whatever form, pretty much has to pass the same tests. The only real variable is the voltage rating - and that's based upon only a two-layer thickness.
"Ordinary" electrical tape is listed for 600v. So are the usual splicing tapes and putties. The 'self fusing' nature of the splicing tapes does make the final set waterproof, and the thickness is a real help to building up thickness.
There are reasons for building up some thickness, apart from electrical insulation. For example, to cover sharp edges.