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Panel location.


Robert Jones
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Hello to all. I have a question about location for a breaker panel. Is there something that says it needs to be readily accessible to the home owner? For example, the home I inspected this morning, listed as an unfinished basement from 1909, really just a tall crawl space, had the 200 amp FPE breaker panel in this area. The crawl/unfinished basement was wet and the cover/panel was rusting. The only way to access this panel would be to go to the back of the home, remove the lawn mower, and go under the house which you could stand in, to the panel on the wall. I am recommending replacement of the panel due to it being FPE/Stab-Lok, just looking for some opinions concerning access to the panel.

Thank-you in advance.

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Hi Robert, welcome to TIJ,

Well, the service disconnecting means is supposed to be "readily accessible". Aside from "moving the lawn mower" (?), you didn't really describe the "door" to the basement (slab or dirt?). On an existing home, unless you had to perform contortions or use portable equipment (ladders, etc), it's probably "legal". Even the headroom can be less than 6'6" on an existing home. The wet conditions are not nice (and probably a story in themselves), but really no worse than those parts of the country that regularly have exterior panels. Having said that, there's certainly no harm in suggesting a location improvement when they replace the FPE.

Emergency access for the Fire Department really isn't an issue around here. Almost all of our service disconnects are at an interior panel and I'm sure they just pull the meters when they need to shut off power in a hurry.

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Thank-you for the response and the welcome. The "unfinished" basement access is located under the addition which was of course added much later than the rest of the home. So I guess a good way to describe the entrance is that it is like going under the back porch then dropping(not much) into the "unfinished" basement, crawl space. Just an opening, no door, lots of moisture, dead rodent(s), cracks in the block foundation exterior visible from the interior, mostly along the mortar line. Did I mention the junk, like tires and other useful items:) It was just one of "those" type areas. I just thought the panel, if needed to be shut off, or even turned back on by the homeowner is awkward to get to. Especially if it were dark. This was a beauty I tell ya.

Thanks again.

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Originally posted by bootsan

Hello to all. I have a question about location for a breaker panel. Is there something that says it needs to be readily accessible to the home owner?

Yes. It's a basic requirement that's been in the NEC at least since 1944.

For example, the home I inspected this morning, listed as an unfinished basement from 1909, really just a tall crawl space, had the 200 amp FPE breaker panel in this area. The crawl/unfinished basement was wet and the cover/panel was rusting. The only way to access this panel would be to go to the back of the home, remove the lawn mower, and go under the house which you could stand in, to the panel on the wall. I am recommending replacement of the panel due to it being FPE/Stab-Lok, just looking for some opinions concerning access to the panel.

Believe it or not, I think that qualifies as accessible.

If they replace the panel, they should take out a permit. When they do that, I'll bet that the muni inspector requires them to relocate the panel. He's not about to crawl.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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