Main Panels in Closets

When did the rule against them take effect? Are they grandfathered in any way? The home was built in 1988.

The installation may have been proper at the time, but there is reason why the code was changed. That reason is–it is apparently a safety issue. It may have been ‘safe’ in 1988, it is not considered safe now.

Safety is not grandfathered.

I find such things all the time, and I report them as safety concerns and hazards. Recommend licensed electrician.


I can’t recall the specific date but I believe it was in the 1990’s NEC Cycles that they began to really define it. I know that 1996 and 1999 started to clarify it and then 2002 and 2005 define it.

If the house was done in 1988 and was approved by the local AHJ chances are they were working off an older NEC if any at all.

The NEC basically is not retroactive in that what was done at the time of the installation was current with the codes of the era…you can’t force them to upgrade it to the standards of today…

However always fine to suggest it for reasons of potential contact, maybe it is a combustable area and signs of ignitable hazards and so on…if you feel it is a safety concern based on it’s looks and proximity you are always free as a HI to suggest and advice on safety enhancements.

BUT is it technically required to be moved…not simply because it would not be allowed today. You will have to be the ultimate judge on this in terms of safety…many electricians will obeserve it and say…it was fine then…it’s fine now…SO you have to protect the consumer if you feel it is a hazard…any pictures to provide?

OPPS…been a LONG day…where on EARTH did I get bathroom in the Closet reference…

Personally…I am one of those electricians who would say…YES, I believe it should be moved…not always the easiest choice as it really depends on the location and so on…can get tricky but once you make a safety call…the electrician should step in to provide WHAT is possible to ease the clients concerns…either way you protected yourself…which is important also.

Thanks for the clarification Paul.

I have some pictures but need my “little ladies” help in uploading it. :smiley: Will post tomorrow.

In the meantime, I meet with the buyers later this afternoon. The inspection took so long last night (1045) so I told them to come back today to go over everything.

The FPE panel looked to be in good shape considering it’s an FPE. The master closet location appears to me to be ok. The reason I say ok is that the panel was not installed close to the hangar rods therefore the clothes should not get within a few feet. I will explain to the buyer the importance of keeping the clearance around the panel with storage, shoes, etc. but will not recommend that it be relocated. I will give them the change in requirements to what todays standards are and the history of FPE’s and leave it at that.

The 87 code included “clothes closets”, in 240.24(D) as an example of places that contain “easily ignitable material”.
The latter language language has been there for many years prior to that. It is in my 1975 book.

I received a set of plans for bid that passed plan review with a subpanel in a large walk-in closet (15 x 24). It was ruled that the walk-in closet of that size was not a clothes closet. They called it a storage room. Funny, when it was all fitted out with a zillion dollars worth of California Closets gear, it looked just like a clothes closet.

Why do people need so many clothes?

This question pops up now and then, mostly concerning what kind of lights you can have in there. When is a closet big enough to be a dressing room. I have had motel rooms the size of “walk in closets” and they had a place to hang clothes too.

I have a 1965 NEC and it does not appear anywhere in reference to a closets except for lighting. So it had to evolve after that cycle atleast.

Actually it was 1981 that it first appeared about Panels not being in Clothing Closets…

Well the buyer surprised me and just suggested that the part of the closet near the panel would just be left unused. I always assume people feel the need to fill up closets. It makes it look like having more stuff or something.

This panel brought another question? The house was 5800+ sq ft built in 1988 and only had a 200 amp main. Seems severely undersized to me.

Greg, what are some ex. of “easily ignitable material”.