electrical panel clearance issues

I have a house that has a waste pipe 28 inches in front of the electrical panel that goes into the basement slab. It was obviously there when the house was built, which was the 1940’s. It is a cutler hammer electrical panel. Can this be grandfathered in? Does the 36 inch rule of clear space in front of the panel not apply to this house; or would the panel have to be moved?

Equipment, piping and ducts shall not be placed in the depth of the panel area extending directly above the top of the panelboard from the panelboard to the ceiling above. :slight_smile:

I understand that nothing is supposed to be within the “36 inches space” in front of the panel; but what would there alternative be; move the panel? Or would they need to jack hammer up the floor and move the pipe? I don’t see an easy fix for the homeowner. It was like this when the house was built in the forties.

From here the panel looks newer than original (40’s). Is there local code enforcement where house is located? Is there an inspection tag anywhere on the panel? Explain to client if/when new electrical service is installed it may have to be re-located due to accepted clearance requirements.

What part of my post above did you not understand?

There can not be any pipes, duct within the depth of the panel to the ceiling. Anything in front of the panel is fine.

Look at this sketch here.


He didn’t understand the part of your post that is incorrect. A panel requires a working space of 30" in width, 36" of depth and 78" of height in front of it. You’re referring to the dedicated space requirement. They are not one in the same.

It would be incorrect if the pipe was directly in front of that panel in the 36 inch space.

I don’t follow you. If a pipe is above the panel at the ceiling within that 36" space, it is not above the panel and not infringing on the 36" clearance.

Your right; I am guessing the panel was changed out in the 60’s without regard to the the waste pipe within the 36 inch space in front of the panel. They are going to have to have the panel relocted to meet code.

If there is a single aspect of the National Electrical Code (NEC) that HVACR designers should be familiar with, it is the requirements that define the space around electrical equipment from which piping, ductwork, and other obstructions must be excluded. In spite of what some of the mechanical engineers 1 work with think, these requirements are not intended to make your life difficult, but to ensure that equipment can be safely operated and maintained and that adequate space is reserved above it to install conduits and cables.
Sections 110.26 and 110.34 of the NEC require working clearance in front of any equipment that may require examination, adjustment servicing, or maintenance while energized. This requirement, intended to allow an electrician to safely work on energized equipment, applies to switchgear, distribution panels, motor control centers, standalone motor starters, and most control panels. Required depth depends upon the operating voltage of the equipment, as given in Table 1. The clear space must extend from the floor to the greater of the equipment height or 6-1/2 ft, with a width equal to that of the equipment, but not less than 30 in.:slight_smile:

This house has a waste pipe 28 inches in front (depth). So 28" from front of panel is waste pipe. Code requires 36" (depth) clearance.

This house has a waste pipe 28 inches in front (depth). So 28" from front of panel is waste pipe. Code requires 36" (depth) clearance.

Well, I agree, if it is in front of the panel withing the 36". I was thinking that the pipe is at the ceiling way above the panel.

Well, that picture wasn’t there when we started. So my next question, was it a code requirement back in 1940 to have the 36" clear workspace in front of the panel?

Personally, I don’t see a big issue here at all. Even with the fact it does not meet the NEC code of today.

If you guys are doing a Code Enforcement Inspections, I would agree, but I am not a Code Enforement Officer, and I don’t see a safety issue here. :slight_smile:

Me either. :smiley: It fact it looks like pipe may be outside of 30" width requirement.

Code enforcement inspections? I realize we are not code enforcement inspectors; but should we not inform the home owner or future home owner if there is a infringement on the 36 inch rule regarding safety in front of the electrical panel. The NEC came up with 36 inches for a reason and anything infringing on that is a safety violation. I believe anything that dosen’t follow the NEC is a safety as well as code violation. I don’t let anything slide on electrical violations with the NEC. There is just way to much that happens to property because of electrical problems or violations then anything else. I would recomend having the panel relocated; just seeing what others in our group would see.

Thanks for the responses.

You continue to recommend to have Panel(s) relocated and you will not be in business for long, its best to use a lil common sense at times than worry about a couple inches of space according to a code book…you have no idea if this may have been approved by a AHJ do you?

Looking at the location, if someone has a problem working on the panel they would probably have to be laid-up in a daybed on rollers, otherwise there appears be be plenty of space to do about anything Possibly Necessary.

But write what you think is correct of course–:shock:

Here is what I was able to come up with.
Installations built before the 1978 NEC only require a minimum clearance of 2 ft in front of electrical equipment. The 30-in.-wide rule has been used since the 1971 NEC. Headroom clearance has been required since the 1965 NEC.

Write whatever you wish…neither of those two items will ever be moved.


So true Dale.
I see so many people living and dieing by code books here when we are not code inspectors.
I only try and reference code to assist common sense and win arguments .
Had a panel on the kitchen counter wall today.(1958-updated to breakers in 1998 )Required me to razer scrape off the paint seal and about 2 inches were covered by a newer cabinet from 2 year old kitchen rehab.
Agent cleared me to chance marking the wall and I got it off then had to whack the side to get it back.

My report will only state that it is a poor location and the cabinet should not cover it at all.(could do half size)
I told my client they are not allowed to be installed that way any more and she saw how it effected removal.
End of story and no exact code number needed.

I doubt it will be moved out of the kitchen as it is not practical with the expense.