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Agreement on Main breaker Box location?

edwardh1's picture

IS there any national agreement on where the main electrical panel (breaker box) should be in a residential home?
-Do all the codes say something different?
Some places its inside and some they seem to be outside (so the fire dept can turn off the electricity? Anyone else could too!!)
- Do they keep changing? Seems when I was a kid, it was
near the kitchen sink (dumb- near water),
then my first two homes it was in the master bedroom closet (dumb- lots of clothes to burn),
then my third house its in the utility room (behind a shower stall (dumb- water again)
some I see in garages
and a time in the 80s for 2 stories they said put it on the stairs between 1st and 2nd floor.

Whats going on, has it been standardized?
Seems due to the EMF scare it should be away from where you sleep

(post #116285, reply #1 of 10)

The code is pretty much silent on this. It just says
"The service disconnecting means shall be installed at a readily accessible location either outside of a building or structure or inside nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors."
... and then goes on to say it can't be in the bathroom.

I am seeing a whole lot of panels being installed in the garage in new construction. It usually avoids clearance issues, until the homeowner starts stacking their junk in there. Outside disconnects are a local thing in new construction but become more common on retro upgrades since they don't have as much trouble finding room for the bigger panel.

Greg

(post #116285, reply #8 of 10)

I put mine in my garage ... however, due to the configuration of the service entrance, which was on the other side of the house, I ran 3" conduit from meter to service panel ... under my dining room (I did NOT want my service panel in my formal dining room), across a hallway and up into the inside wall of my attached garage. No code issues w/ it. I had to simply be willing to pay for the conduit and the wire.

There ain't NO free lunch. Not no how, not no where!

(post #116285, reply #2 of 10)

"Nearest point of entrance" covers it around here. The point of entrance is usually determined by the power company. Here in Va Power territory, meters can no longer be installed on the rear of a new single family house. If the house has a basement, then the panel typically goes there below the meter location. If no basement, then garage is a good choice. No garage? Anywhere except bathrooms and clothes closets. A broom closet would work, but only if it meets space requirements. Laundry areas are also popular, just no table or appliances in the working space (NEC defined). In townhomes, they usually end up in the family room, as that is the "nearest point of entrance" in a finished basement townhome. Homeowners hang a picture over it or extend the sliding door curtains to hide it. Of course neither of these are approved! Stairs? That can't satisfy working space requirements, unless on a landing.

Near water is fine, just don't hose it down! Or use a NEMA 3R if you plan to...

Outside location being required is a local code thing. Never seen it required in VA or MD. Same with meters having main breakers, not here.

Frank DuVal

Frank DuVal

(post #116285, reply #3 of 10)

What you're seeing is the growing list of places you are not allowed to put the panel.


Places currently forbidden are: Closets, bathrooms, stairways (the landings are OK), above any sort of counter, above the washing machine or dryer, and within most mechanical spaces/ utility rooms (clearance issues).


There seems to be a continuing desire to place the panel in the most concealed, least used part of homes. This will only become more of an issue as continuing changes in the code will necessairily result in homes having not one, but several panels in them. For example, the last house I wired had four panels - in addition to the 'main' panel.

(post #116285, reply #4 of 10)

I have a customer who bought a $500k condo last spring and the breaker box is located on the master bedroom wall. She's having her daughter (an artist) do a painting that will hang over the thing.

(post #116285, reply #6 of 10)

My panel is in the master BR too. I just embraced it and build a shallow closet in front of it. With the door closed it just looks like any other closet and with the door open I have working space. I lined the closet with pegboard and we use it for storing packs of batteries, tools, flashlights, cords and other electrical sorts of things. I also have the telecom stuff, LAN and TV amp/splitters in there.

Greg

(post #116285, reply #7 of 10)

That's an OK solution so long as the space in front of the panel is so narrow that no one would reasonably be tempted to install shelves in front.


A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity. --Jimmy Carter


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #116285, reply #9 of 10)

That wouldn't work for my customer. There's no room for something like that and any "obstruction" would be a code issue. According to the building management, hanging a picture or painting is about all that can be done.

(post #116285, reply #10 of 10)

A common trick is to place the panel where it will be concealed by a normally open door.

(post #116285, reply #5 of 10)

No breaker/disconnect panel can be in a location that is not "readily accessible". Inspectors now generally interpret this to mean that it can't be in an ordinary closet, since closets tend to get filled with stuff that would block access to the panel.

Note that the breaker panel does not have to be the "service disconnect" -- the disconnect can be a separate box. So the breaker panel does not have to be near the service entrance (though it's a good idea, to cut down on wire length).


A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity. --Jimmy Carter


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville