Can a panel be "too full"?

Would anyone call out a panel for being too cramped? This one was stuffed full. The cover was already off when I arrived also. Thinking even the electrician was afraid to put it back on. Sorry for the bad lighting, the lights did not all work in the utility room.

Absolutely! There is a fill limit. I’ll defer to the Sparky’s to better explain the if’s, and’s or but’s.

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The National Electrical Code (NEC) specified that a lighting and appliance branch circuit panelboard could not contain more than 42 overcurrent devices (circuit breakers).

That was the absolute maximum, unless the manufacturer specified a lower number, which was often the case for smaller panel boxes.

I count 40 in that one.

If you want to cover yourself you could insert a comment noting that the panel did not have any additional room for breakers, and if client was intending on adding circuits an electrician may need to upgrade the panel, install secondary panel, etc.

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I was referring more to the amount of wire in the box. I know you gotta get a wire to each circuit, but this seems ridiculous. Maybe it is just so disorganized it looks works than it is.

I see, I personally wouldn’t call it out, seems like they made due with the space they had. It seems like a poor design with the neutral bar on top where all the wiring comes into the panel though.


This is another one of the 4 panels in the home. Holy cowabunga! Why can’t I ever get those panels I see in pictures with all the wires put in nice?

This low voltage box was there too, lol.


Holy crap Ryan!


This house was pretty unique. All of the electrical fixtures, except the receptacles, were controlled with low voltage switches which ran a relay system that controlled the high voltage wiring. The owner said several electricians have came in and tried to fix things but they never come back!

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I’ve seen that once in my life. There was a big transformer in the attic.

I’d be tempted to include that in my report, after recommending an upgrade to Modern wiring

Oh yeah. The buyer was with me. And I told him several times to find a good electrician and get him on retainer. Report is also strongly worded.

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I also question the use and location of the tandem breakers in that panel. I feel they, along with the pigtails, are contributing to the overfill condition.

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As for OP’s question - I likely wouldn’t write that up as any defect but could see stating it’s full and future modifications or additions could be complicated (expensive).


I agree. I called out a few of the issues I could see but it was such a mess in all 4 panels that I referred to an electrician on all of them.


Well golly jee Walley, I wonder why??? :astonished: WOW just WOW …

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This was removed in NEC 2008 It would only apply if the panel doesn’t have a main breaker and is wired under a special exception described in 408.

The issue with the panel is not the number of conductors it is the fact that the work is ugly and sloppy. That panel could easily be cleaned up by an electrician who took some pride in his work.


Just asking. Would the red conductor draped across two breakers have to be considerably derated because the breakers could cause that conductor’s ambient to increase to the breakers’ max operating temp of either 50 or 60 C? Would that be sufficient grounds to avoid liability for this mess by referring to an electrician? Also, what about being unable to see the bundles of neutrals whose connections look like they’re hidden?

It looks like grounds and neutrals are mixed in non-service panels.

It is hard to exceed the gutter fill limits allowed by the code.

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