Insulating the electrical breaker panel?

Old 10-26-04, 02:18 PM
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Location: Ontario, Canada
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Insulating the electrical breaker panel?

I am doing some renovation work in my basement. I have a fairly standard surface mount electrical breaker panel. The panel itself is mounted on a piece of 4 foot by 4 foot plywood, which is attached to the basement wall on 2 pieces of wood (2x4) mounted vertically. So the plywood is mount 1 from the wall, with an air gap. All the wires arrive from above, and enter the panel from each side, and are attracted to the plywood. All fair normal. The main 200 amp supply enters though the basement wall at the back of the panel, and is not visible from the front.

I have a few questions. The whole things looks fine, is safe (I think!) and well constructed. However, there is no insulation, either behind the plywood, or indeed for a few feet around the panel. All the electrical wiring is un-protected, and just stapled to the plywood. I would like to insulate the panel, and provide some protection for the wire, but how best to do this? I could try to place 1 solid insulation at the back of the plywood, and seal the sides of the plywood to the vapour barrier covering the pink insulation I plan to add to the stub walls. I will attract the vapour barrier to the plywood with 1x2 furring strips mounted on the edge of the plywood. The wires I plan to protect by screwing on a thin piece of plywood to the furring strips to cover the wires. I still need access to the panel to add and change things around. I have also seen where the insulation is installed right up to the panel itself, and sealed to the panel using the red vapour barrier tape. However, although this looks neat, how can you access the wiring?

Are there better methods? How is this normally done? Any and all suggestions on how to best do this would be welcome.
Old 10-27-04, 08:46 PM
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If I understand what you are asking, you are just trying to cover up the wires to protect them and make it look better. First off, a panel must have and air gap if it is surface mounted. Panels need room to breath, thats probably why it has an air gap. Panels in walls are a different story however and I do not prefer to use them as they cannot breath much, not to mention the hell you must go through to add a new circuit if the previous electrician didn't add extra conduits to go through That said, you don't just want to put a board on the wires and attach it on the edges, for one thing, if you sell the house or someone is remodeling, etc. They may not know that there are wires behind that board as they won't be able to see them, a simple warning isn't suffecient. There are some not so smart people, and it could be a deadly experience if they were to nail or screw into that board. Also, a board placed on the cords I'm sure is a violation anyways, as it can compress the wire and cause a fire hazard, etc. If you decided to box around the wires, that would be ok, however as you said you may need to access that area, which could be a problem unless it is hinged in some way.

Another thing, which may be a bit costly and will probably require an electrician, is to have all the wires placed in conduit, the conduit could attach to the panel and go the a height that the wires are no longer visible or exposed. That will protect the wires more if that is what your trying to achieve. You don't want to insulate around a bunch or wires entering a panel, with that many wires in a tiny area, they can and will generate some heat, and that must be able to be disappated. As far as insulating behind the plywood, I see no reason you cannot do that, it isn't and air gap for the electrical equipment, so go ahead and insulate it. Do not place insulation all around the panel, especially insulation with paper backing.

I really am not sure whether your just trying to make it look better, make you feel safer or whether your trying to insulate it to keep your utility bills down in the summer and winter. If the heat loss or a/c loss is the problem, your best bet is probably to build a small room around the panel and insulate that. If it is just for protection, putting the wires in conduit will surley help.

If you have any more ?'s or details, please do post back.

I hope this helps, let us know how it turns out.

Best of luck,

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