Panelboard cover vs. Dead front

Article 100 NEC definition: Dead Front. Without live parts exposed to a person on the operating side of the equipment.

NEC defines the term as an adjective, not a noun, as opposed to a “live front”. InterNACHI redefined the term “dead front” to mean the correct term for a panel board cover.

I see your point. I shall remove the panelboard cover at the dead front. The panelboard nomenclature is located at the dead front. Circuit breakers are accessible at the dead front.

And once removed, is it now a live front?

I think that may have been the intention of the authors of Article 100. A panel board with a properly installed cover will have a “dead” front.

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Personally, as in the case of a “smoke detector/smoke alarm”, I don’t care what you call it, as long as the person reading and/or interpreting my report understands what I mean.

@rmeier2, you encouraged me to create this thread. I suspect that you have an opinion.

What terminology do you use on your larger Commercial jobs, as they use multiple designs of covers?
Or do you just leave that up to your hired Sparky to properly describe the EQ?



It is a dead front because it has no “live” electrical components installed on it even when in place (installed on the panelboard).

NEC 2020 Article 100 Definitions
Dead Front. Without live parts exposed to a person on the
operating side of the equipment.

Didn’t we just do this in the alarm/detector thread?

Personally I like “panel cover” for simplicity and ease of client comprehension.

If it were to ever be “live”, or anything other than “dead” it would be a defect.


I use panelboard cover, switchgear or switchboard cover etc. I may have said “dead front” on occasion. I think they are pretty interchangeable in general terms without causing much confusion for the end user.
(I don’t think I have ever had the need to differentiate between the interior “trim” and cover in those two piece panel covers)


In Jeffery’s two photo’s the first one would still permit someone to reach in and potentially be shocked. We would call that center piece the trim. The panel cover would go over it as in the second photo. Could just be a regional thing but no one I’ve ever worked with calls anything the dead front. If you want to be really technical the panelboard is the interior part with the bus and the breakers. The enclosure is actually a cabinet. The cover can attach to either the cabinet, the panelboard, or both.


I am going to differ somewhat with Robert, i consider the first photo from Jeff as a deadfront since it blocks straight on access to live parts. The part installed and shown in photo 2 shows the panel cover in place.

I consider a residential panel to only have a cover.


Hot water heater, footer, drip leg, dead front…it’s all madness!!!


Dinner, or Supper?
Pop, or Soda?
Sub, or Hoagie?
Tennis shoes, or Sneakers?
Front Step, or Stoop?



I thought about what you’re saying but the definition is clear that there can be no access to live parts even if they’re behind the interior “trim” shown in photo #1.


I have always considered those shown, exactly as how Jim describes them.
That is why I chose those photos. I was curious how others describe them.
I see Robert’s POV, but now seeing Jims in writing, I feel good about what I’ve been writing.
Thanks to both of you for your expert opinions.

  1. Yes! (Same time of day… Supper is casual, Dinner is formal)!
  2. Pop!
  3. Hero!
  4. Gym shoes!
  5. Front porch!

Robert, i will admit i probably haven’t read the definition in a long time so did not consider someone reaching behind the interior cover even though i knew it would expose them to live parts.

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Where does “Load Center Cover with Door” or just “Load Center Cover” fit into all this?

I just perused HD, Lowes, Square D, and a couple others, and they all call them Load Center Covers.

What say you??

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Interesting point of distinction. Good info below.,of%20circuit%20breakers%20or%20fuses.


Good article. The industry calls it neither a cover nor dead front, but simply a “front” for the purpose of providing a “dead front”.

The ‘fronts’ or ‘trims’ are available in both surface-mounted and flush-mounted design. Fronts for smaller lighting and distribution panelboards are often one piece and include a ‘door-in-door’ design with a flush latch and lock assembly. Larger panelboards may use a three-piece design. Both the door-in-door and three-piece design provide a ‘dead-front’ to prevent exposure to live components.


Often I’m lazy and I don’t remove the inner cover when testing the panel to see if it’s energized so I know from experience that you can still access the live parts. We typically use hinged outer covers so you only need to remove a few screws from one side and you can hinge it open without removing the entire cover. This allows you to stick your hands in there around the inner cover to take the voltage measurement or get a nice shock in the process if you’re not careful.