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  1. #1
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    Default Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    How long has it been prohibited by code for service panels to be located inside closets? I looked at a 61 year old house yesterday where the service panel was inside the bedroom closet.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    nick,
    my 1959 nec section 240-16 "overcurrent devices shall be located where they will be :
    (c) not in the vicinity of easily ignitible material.

    the " such as clothes closets was added later.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Thanks Brian.

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  4. #4
    David Newton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    1949 NEC

    Section 2435 - Overcurrent devices shall not be locagted where they will be:
    (c) - Not in the vicinity of easily ignitable material [ no mention of clothes closets - but it is inferred]....so this language was in place for the 61 yr. old home.

    ...same language in the 1947 NEC.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Basically ... for as long as the code as been in existence.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  6. #6
    Bob Winchester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    It all depends on the configuration of the closet. If clothes hang in front of the panel it is a problem. If they don't I don't have a problem with it. As stated here it's all about near flammable items, not the closet location.


  7. #7
    John Steinke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Forget this 'inferred' stuff ... if it didn't specifically mention CLOTHES closets, it was allowed.

    Well into the 70's, panels were commonly placed within closets and even kitchen cabinets. "Ignitably material" was understood to mean something like gasoline-soaked excelsior- at least from an enforcement standpoint. Your mother's wedding dress didn't qualify.

    Again, be careful of this 'inferred' stuff. I've seen folks attempt to apply the code citation to all closets, and small rooms that happened to have a hanging rod that was nowhere near the panel.


  8. #8
    Bob Winchester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    I consider clothing to be easily ignitable so they can not be close to an electrical panel. Panels get HOT sometimes. Sometimes there are sparks in them when they begin to fail. Clothes can catch on fire and burn. This is what the code means. I am the AHJ where I am inspecting and my fellow inspectors and I all agree on this. We have monthly meetings and discuss this sort of thing. This is just the facts. You are attempting to "interpret" something else into the code.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Winchester View Post
    It all depends on the configuration of the closet. If clothes hang in front of the panel it is a problem. If they don't I don't have a problem with it. As stated here it's all about near flammable items, not the closet location.

    Overcurrent devices were always 'not allowed in the vicinity of' "easily ignitable material".

    Later, the "such as in clothes closets" was added to confirm the intent that "easily ignitable material" included "clothes".

    As such, the panel is not allowed in a clothes closet regardless how the closet is configured - it is quite simply and implicitly stated as such in the code.

    Thus we are at, and have been at, this point:
    - 240.24 Location in or on Premises.
    - - (D) Not in Vicinity of Easily Ignitible Material. Overcurrent devices shall not be located in the vicinity of easily Ignitible material, such as in clothes closets.

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Technically your correct Jerry. I would have to agree with Bob W. that sometimes the configuration of the closet is such that clothes are not in the vicinity of the panel/over current devices.

    Even tho our codes would allow us to reject this installation, it is sometimes prudent to use our authority to better serve the need, if the intent of said code is still met.

    IMO, The intent is to keep flammable issues away, and, to keep ready access with clear work space to the panel. One particular situation I recall is where the closet area was the most logical place for the panel board.
    I had them install a dividing wall, ceiling to floor, to separate the space.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    next time you have the chance to pull a deadfront on a 30 year old panel in a clothes closet you will discover why the code added "such as a clothes closet". dust bunnies and fuzz balls everywhere inside the panel!


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Oh no Brian,... That means the panelboard I installed in my garage is in violation of 'floating debris'.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by bob smit View Post
    I had them install a dividing wall, ceiling to floor, to separate the space.

    I have had them do that too, and then the panel is 'no longer "in" the "clothes closet", but "in" the adjacent storage closet, which, of course, can no longer be used for "storage" as the panel working space takes up the entire floor of the storage closet, making it into simply and 'electrical room' (of sorts).

    Doing that meets the intent of the code, the wording of the code, and no one is liable for allowing something against code as it is no longer against code.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Jerry, I was giving an example, and yes the AHJ can then call it a 'separate room' at that point. Glad to see your of the same mind in offering alternatives. I believe that Bob W. as well as I, find other non-standard situations and alternatives that one could construe as in the same room as long as the intent of the code is fulfilled. This is where we may differ.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by bob smit View Post
    Glad to see your of the same mind in offering alternatives.

    I am always (it seems ) telling them how NOT to do it, but I never tell them how TO do it - I give examples of different options which MIGHT work, and then tell them that they are the contractor, that it is up to them to decide how THEY want to do it and that it is up to them on how they execute doing the work. They are the contractor, they are responsible for it, not me.

    I then go back and either say 'Good job.' or ... let's just say that I again tell them how NOT to do it ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Better said Jerry!


  17. #17
    Bob Waysack's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Winchester View Post
    I consider clothing to be easily ignitable so they can not be close to an electrical panel. Panels get HOT sometimes. Sometimes there are sparks in them when they begin to fail. Clothes can catch on fire and burn. This is what the code means. I am the AHJ where I am inspecting and my fellow inspectors and I all agree on this. We have monthly meetings and discuss this sort of thing. This is just the facts. You are attempting to "interpret" something else into the code.
    Very common in older mobile homes. Safet issue- Keep ignitables away from panel.


  18. #18
    Bob Winchester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    But a mobile home is HUD approved when it is built and is never subject to inspection again according to the Chief of the Mobile Home Division of the State of Michigan. I would take this to mean that every state is the same way because the feds told them they were that way. We don't mess with HUD and it is a lifetime inspection. When mobile home has a closet with a fuse box in it and it is HUD approved there is nothing we can say about it.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Jerry, do you know what year the words " such as a clothes closet " were added to the code?

    Barney

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Barney Bienz View Post
    Jerry, do you know what year the words " such as a clothes closet " were added to the code?
    Barney,

    I would have to go through my old codes and look it up again, but first ... Why?

    The intent to include those areas was always there.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Because intent is subjective, prone to interpretation. I prefer facts when i have to argue a point. and because in this area (west Tennessee) the 2 most popular places to put an electrical panel are in the garage and the master bedroom closet. Makes about as much sense as our putting most of the water heaters up in the attic.

    Barney

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Barney Bienz View Post
    Because intent is subjective, prone to interpretation.

    Not when intent has been clarified by the addition of those words to the code.

    (I keep hoping that someone who can search this site better than I can will magically link to the thread where I've posted that before. )

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    at our beach condo the panel is located right in one of the bedrooms


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by derek anthony View Post
    at our beach condo the panel is located right in one of the bedrooms
    And the problem with this would be what?


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Ahh, yes Jerry, you are correct. However, prior to the clarification, the code was either ambiguous or subject to different interpretations thereby necessitating the additional wording. Seems like the most common response I get to this kind of situation is " when did that become code?" I'm sure you've heard that before.
    And I would just like to add that I can learn more in a few minutes on this site than any where else I know. You are all a great resource.

    Barney

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    And the problem with this would be what?
    C'mon Jim. The problem is quite obvious. They'll need to stand there in wet swimsuits to reset any tripped breakers and likely get sand inside the panel box.



    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Service Panel Inside Bedroom Closet

    Quote Originally Posted by Barney Bienz View Post
    Seems like the most common response I get to this kind of situation is " when did that become code?" I'm sure you've heard that before.

    I have heard that many times, and my reply is always similar (different wording, same meaning): In a house built in 1920 with the electrical panel in the clothes closet, the risk of fire is the same OR GREATER than in a house built in 2010 if the electrical panel had been installed in a clothes closet. "Time" is not a safety device, thus 'passing the test of time' (as many people will say) is really better stated as "Time is running out, the risk of failure (fire) is closer than ever, and gets closer every day-week-month-year."

    This gets back to the same discussion over guardrail openings: If a guardrail is installed in an old house and has 12" openings, does that make it safer than if that same guardrail with 12" openings were to be installed today?

    The answer is, obviously, "No, it is just as unsafe in an older house as it would be in a new house." (In fact, it is likely more unsafe in an older house than if installed in new house.)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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