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main breaker located outside


Ken Meyer
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I've seen several older homes that have had new electrical service added, and the main breaker is located outdoors in an enclosure next to the meter. Is this required either by the municipality (Portland, OR) or the power company? Is it to allow emergency personnel to be able to disconnect power to the house or.....?

Can the homeowner padlock the enclosure with the main breaker in it? Anyone walking by could shut off power to the house.

Thanks

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Originally posted by Ken Meyer

I've seen several older homes that have had new electrical service added, and the main breaker is located outdoors in an enclosure next to the meter. Is this required either by the municipality (Portland, OR) or the power company? Is it to allow emergency personnel to be able to disconnect power to the house or.....?

It's really quite common. The reason is that you want to have the disconnect as close to the meter as possible so that you don't have unprotected conductors leading halfway across the house to the distribution panel. It was common for older houses to have the meter at one location and the service panel far distant from it. The NEC no longer allows this.

Be aware that there's a local exception to this rule that allows retrofit applications to have the new service panel distant from the meter. However, many electricians either aren't aware of this exception or they're just doing a good job by not taking advantage of it.

Can the homeowner padlock the enclosure with the main breaker in it? Anyone walking by could shut off power to the house.

Thanks

Yes, the homeowner can padlock it. There's really no good reason to though. The only time bad people shut power to the house is in the movies.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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It puzzles me that you guys out west have your electrical panels and/or main disconnects outside. I've heard of this before and every where I saw it mentioned said most areas forbid home owners from locking their main disconnect in case the fire dept. or other needs to get to it. A few mobile home parks around here, however, do have the main disconnect panel in the side yard, and these are almost always rusted out.

Heck, growing up, if I were out west, I would have had fun going around shutting off everyone's power and messing with them. ;-)

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Originally posted by msteger

It puzzles me that you guys out west have your electrical panels and/or main disconnects outside. I've heard of this before and every where I saw it mentioned said most areas forbid home owners from locking their main disconnect in case the fire dept. or other needs to get to it.

I've never heard of such a rule. If the fire department want's to shut the power, they just pull the meter. They don't need no pansy switch.

A few mobile home parks around here, however, do have the main disconnect panel in the side yard, and these are almost always rusted out.

Yes. Most manufactured homes aren't real property. So the lot needs it's own service, independent from the home. The only ones' I see rused out are quite old -- from the '70s. Then again, maybe our weather is kinder to these things.

Heck, growing up, if I were out west, I would have had fun going around shutting off everyone's power and messing with them. ;-)

It's a bit odd that no one does that. It may be that here, out west, homeowners are more likely to pull out the old 30-06 and fire a few rounds into the dark if they suspect a prowler.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I knew Jim would have the reason. My thought was that a burglar could shut off the alarm system easily with the outside breaker being so accessible, but I guess they haven't figured that one out. Matthew makes a good point, what a great Halloween prank! I grew up in a small town (a village, really), and we used to climb up the one utility pole where the photocell that controlled the street lights was, and shine a flashlight down on it until it activated and shut off all the streetlights in town. For a few brief minutes, we felt pretty powerful!

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Hi,

Sure, it's not like the plastic weatherproof covers on most exterior meter arrays can withstand a lot of force anyway. If it's padlocked and someone wants to get into it, all it takes is a chick cut with a Buck knife or a sharp whack with a hammer to break the plastic hinges. The covers are easily replaced.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Originally posted by msteger

It puzzles me that you guys out west have your electrical panels and/or main disconnects outside. I've heard of this before and every where I saw it mentioned said most areas forbid home owners from locking their main disconnect in case the fire dept. or other needs to get to it. A few mobile home parks around here, however, do have the main disconnect panel in the side yard, and these are almost always rusted out.

Heck, growing up, if I were out west, I would have had fun going around shutting off everyone's power and messing with them. ;-)

Its not just out west. At least 95% of the homes that I inspect that are 20 years old or younger have outside disconnects. This mornings inspection was the first (panel) I have encounteed that was padlocked.

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Most of the service disconnects I see around here are inside. It might have something to do with the homeowner, while in his underwear, needing to wade through waist-deep snow in order to get around the house to an outside disconnect near the meter, vs running down some steps to his basement.

In an emergency the FD is going to yank the meter.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Originally posted by Brandon Chew

Most of the service disconnects I see around here are inside. It might have something to do with the homeowner, while in his underwear, needing to wade through waist-deep snow in order to get around the house to an outside disconnect near the meter, vs running down some steps to his basement.

In an emergency the FD is going to yank the meter.

"Basements", what are those? Very few homes here have basements. Just scratch the surface, poor your footers, slab and away you go! I can remember, in the last four years of inspections, of finding just a couple older houses without having the disconnects outside. In fact, all older homes with new upgraded panels have the disconnects outside. It's just the way it is done here.

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