Choosing A Location For Breaker Panels

The location of the breaker panel or box needs to be carefully planned due to strict regulations on their placement. Whether you are building a new home, shop, business or just replacing an old breaker panel, it is important to understand the regulations on where you can install the breaker box. These panels must be easily accessible, plus due to the electrical currents flowing through these panels, they must be carefully installed to reduce any type of fire hazard.

NEC Guidelines On Breaker Panels

The National Electrical Codes or NEC are produced through the National Fire Protection Association. Although the codes are not law, they are used as a reference for state and local authorities on which to base building codes relating to electrical wiring. The NEC specifically addresses breaker panels in Article 110 of the regulatory guidelines, addressed as “Requirements of Electrical Installations.”

  • -> For breaker panels, an area referred to as the “working space” is the area around the breaker panel that must be free of any other installations. According to the NEC, the working space around the breaker panel must be at least 6′ 6” high and 3 feet square away from the wall, with 30” width. This allows the door to be opened to the panel, with nothing blocking the area.
  • -> The working handle of the highest center grip should not be more than 6′ 7” from the floor.
  • -> Breaker panels should not be located in small, enclosed rooms such as a closet, bathroom, pantry or small storage room.
  • -> Breaker panels must be easily accessible. No furniture or other obstructions should be placed in the working space, making it easy to approach the front of the panel.
  • -> Illumination of the area is essential. Although having a light in the room of the breaker panel may be considered sufficient by code, it may be worth dedicating a circuit to a light above the panel. This gives direct light to make it easy to see switches in dim conditions.

Best Locations For Breaker Panels

When deciding where to position a breaker panel, a few factors should be considered. The panel or box will need to be easily accessible; however, most people also want the box out of view, especially in a home or business. The trick is to find an area that is large enough to meet the working space standards set by the NEC, and that is out of sight, while still easy to access. Some common areas that may meet these stipulations include:

  • -> Under stairways. If there is sufficient space, breaker panels can be placed under the stairs where there is easy access.
  • -> Garages. For homes with attached garages, this is the perfect place for installing a breaker panel. An area near the door that connects to the garage would be a good choice.
  • -> Basements. Many homes and buildings have the breaker panel in the basement. Just ensure that there is enough emergency lighting in case of a power outage to find the box in the dark.

Of course, breaker panels can be put in main areas of the home or business, although most people prefer to have them out of sight. If they are in main areas, it is possible to paint the door or box of the panel to match the décor. However, they should not be covered with pictures or other ornaments that could make them difficult to find or access. The main considerations should be that the working space is adhered to, along with easy accessibility and illumination.

Sources:

http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=70 http://www.compliance.gov/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/fastfacts_electricalpanelaccess.pdf http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/25917/is-it-code-legal-to-have-a-circuit-breaker-box-within-a-storage-room http://ecmweb.com/code-basics/article-110-requirements-electrical-installations http://www.ezdiyelectricity.com/?p=386