Disconnect and main service

I have been inspecting since october. I’ve come across two instances during my electrical inspection that has me a little baffled now that I’ve read some comments on some other forums.

Can a main service disconnect ever be placed in a panel that is not the main service panel?

For the first time about a week ago I came across the main disconnect that was located outside of the home and inside that panel there weren’t any breakers. They fed a panel inside the home.

I have been referring to this panel with the main service disconnect as the main service panel and the panel inside the home as a subpanel. I’m being told that I am incorrect now. That even though there is a panel with the main service disconnect outside of the home, the main service panel is actually inside the home with the majority of breakers. There are no other panels.

I’ve tried doing Google searches but I believe the wording makes it hard to find a reliable answer. I’ve also searched through some electrical books with no luck. Can anyone enlighten me?

Panel with disconnect but nothing else = ?
Panel inside home with breakers but no main disconnect= ?
No additional panels


The actual electrical code term is the service disconnect. That is where the point where the neutral is bonded to the enclosure by the use of a MBJ (main bonging jumper) and is usually where the GEC’s or grounding electrode conductor(s) are connected to the neutral. It also is the point where the OCPD is present, typically a circuit breaker.

Can you post some photo’s of what you’re referencing it may help to answer some of your questions.

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Sure thing!

Picture 1, 2, & 3 I would refer to as the service disconnect. Normally I would refer to picture 4 as the main panel (on a 4-point form, for example) but I thought that the main panel had to also be the location of the disconnect. So instead, since the disconnect is outside, I would refer to what I would normally call the main panel a sub-panel instead.

No. …

A panel inside can have a main breaker, but this does not make it the service if there is a disconnect ahead of it.


Would it be wrong to state that the “main breaker panel” be referred to as the " Main Distribution Panel" with or w/o main service disconnect. Downstream panels as “Sub Panels” ?

The confusion seems to lay with with the word “service.” The “main service disconnect is located in a panel next to the meter…” Or, “the main service disconnect is located in the Distribution Panel…”

Footers…Footings… :thinking:


That is the service disconnect…the 1st point of disconnect.(what you are calling the main).

Other cabinets down stream are remote distribution cabinets (sub panels) and should be wired as such.


Larry has the correct descriptions.


Thanks, guys. I was told that I was wrong and it had me scratching my head a bit. It appears as if I was correct. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing!

Thanks again, I appreciate you!

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