Main Disconnect/Service Entrance Distance


Old 11-13-04, 05:33 AM
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Main Disconnect/Service Entrance Distance

Hello Folks, I just purchase a home, and I am in the planning stages of finishing the basement. The previous owner started but never finished the project. A room was created which I would like to finish and use as an office.
There is a main service disconnect switch as well as a breaker panel with main breaker installed within that area. Here is my question; How far can the switch and panel be relocated from the service entry point on the basement wall? I want to move the panel and switch aprox. 6 feet from it's present location so it will be located in the "utility" area which will remain unfinished. In this way, I could have access for wiring any addition circiuts in the future, as well as repairs if needed without have to rip open the new drywall in the office.
I have read in another thread something about a 5 foot maximum distance from service entry point to the first main disconnect...If I move the disconnect & panel to the location I want, the distance would be about 8 feet away. If this is too far, would I meet code if I put service feed wire in conduit? Thanks for any help.
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Old 11-13-04, 08:54 AM
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I think you're out of luck here. If you want to move the panel, you'll need to also move the service entrance outside.

However, there are probably creative ways to leave it where it is and install some sort of quickly removable access panel which would allow you the access you need while retaining some sort of finished look.
Old 11-13-04, 08:58 AM
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I'll simply quote the relevant Code-Article, 130.70(A) (1), Readily Accessible Location---- " THe Service Dis-connect shall be installed in a readily accessible location, outside, or inside nearest the point of entrance of the Service Conductors."
Old 11-13-04, 10:23 AM
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The code in both the U.S. and Canada does state that the service panel must be as 'close as practicable' to the location where the conductors enter the building. However, there is no set limit that specifices how close that has to be. Different local inspection authorities can (and do) apply different interpretations to this rule.

In Canada I work to code in Ontario. The ESA inspection authority here allows a max interal run of 59" (1.5m) into rooms of wood construction. (ESA bulletin 6-1-9) In Alberta they allow 10', and in the city of Vancouver (locally) they also allow 59". (1.5m) Even if you do short pipe the run of main conductors inside, you can't cover them (enclose them, cover them, wallboard them or box them in) since this would be a hazzard should the next owner decide to mount some shelves etc. So the pipe run would best (and usually must) be left exposted IF your local inspectors do allow short runs inside. Keep this in mind if this will be a finished area.

I had a situation like this recently when I had to relocate a panel since the owner was installing a residential lift. (indoor elevator for the handicapped) The only viable location for the elevator just happened to be smack dab in front of the service panel. I was asked about running the hookup for it, but I initially refused since the elevator would have been only 2 inches in front of the panel, and this violates code in the US/Canada that requires working clearance in front of panels. (not to mention being quite unsafe if someone needed to quickly access the panel and found an elevator in front of it at the time) So I suggested we move the panel, and I did it internally since there was a gas main outside, windows, and an eavestrough downspout in the way outside. The inside run was about 4' and allowed for proper clearance of the elevator near the panel. (I also made sure that the carpenters understood that the pipe was to be left exposed.) Inspection went without a hitch.

You may want to call your local inspection office and see what their opinion is on the rule, and see if they allow minor deviations. Can't hurt to get clarification right? They may have certain allowances for limited short internal runs. In the end they are the ones who will be inspecting it, so best to ask first.

However, a simpler and more feesible method would be if you have the open space available to run the conductors (from the meter) along the wall to the point where you want the new panel. To clarify, I'm not saying to move the entire mast or the service drop, but from the bottom of the meter you would run new pipe outside, along the wall, and then run it indoors at the point you want the new panel to be. The only problem is if you have windows, doors, gas meters or other things in the way. In Canada there is no electrical code limit on outside runs, I would suspect there shouldn't be serious restrictions in the NEC. (although I don't have the code in front of me right now) The above suggestion would need to be done by an electrician since you would have to work on the meter, and safety would mean temporary disconnection of the service drop and/or use of other safety measures when running new lines to the meter.

If you want to go this route, check the outside of your house where your meter is, and see if you have a clear horizintal run from the point where the pipe enters the house now to the point where you want it to enter the house. If you do have a clear run across the wall, call a local electrical contractor and ask for a quote on moving the service panel conductor run from the meter to the new location. This is by far the best way (if allowed by your local code) since there is no risk of damage to the conductors inside, and you won't have to worry about exposed pipe.


Old 11-13-04, 07:52 PM
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Just so that you are clear on the issue: the service entrance conductors are essentially unfused, and in the event of a short circuit can burn away without tripping a breaker. This is why the NEC requires the service entrance conductors to be short once they enter the building.

As others have mentioned, different jurisdictions have different interpretations of just what is 'short enough'. I would like to offer two other options:

1) The main service disconnect does not have to be what you use as your main panel. One approach uses a combination meter base which incorporates the main disconnect/breaker. Then what you think of as your main panel (the one with most of the circuit breakers for your house) becomes legally a subpanel. The conductors that feed it are no longer unprotected service entrance conductors, but instead are protected feeder conductors. If you do this, then these conductors could be as long as you wish.

2) If the service entrance conductors are buried in enough concrete, they become legally 'outside of the building'. This will again depend upon local interpretation, but if you run the conductors in metal conduit, and then surround the conduit with a minimum of 2" of concrete on all sides, most places would consider that 'outside'.


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