Rule of sixes

Does a sub panel need a main breaker if it has more than six breakers with the main panel & main breaker in the basement of the building? Does the main breaker need to be on the exterior of the building to be code compliant with more than 6 breakers in the sub panel on second floor of building? Any input is appreciated, thank you!

Never see them outside here so no to that.

6 Rule applies to Having one period.Sub does not need it is there is a main that has one.

Double breaker counts as one.

Condos have subs with lots of breakers but then one main breaker at the basement meter around here which is fine.

Got it, just wanted to make sure. Thank you Bob!

The “rule of six” (as you put it) does not appy to panels, it applies to the disconnect of a BUILDING/STRUCTURE.

“Panels” don’t require a “main breaker,” period.

A sub panel requires its feeders to be protected with an OCPD.

A building/structure requires a “disconnect” which is loosely defined as 6 or less switches or breakers that would disconnect all ungrounded conductors (service or feeder) to the structure.

Wow. I’m going to forward that to every electrician in San Diego County…

My hope would be that they already know this…

They don’t. They disagree with you completely.

Well, the codes are on my side. Your “wise old grandmother” is not an authority :wink:

Depends on what his Granny says about FPE…LOL

Pretty sure you said same as me so Jeff gets a gold star.

My wise old grandmother taught me to consult the authorities when necessary, and since there is no licensing for home inspectors in California, I have to consider LICENSED electricians in my neck of the woods as the authority. Pretty sure the court system and the State of California considers them authorities, too, so I’m not going to argue with them. They get the final say-so, not you.

So what is the “rule” the electricians in your neck of the woods use concerning a building’s disconnect requirements?

I am always willing and never too old to learn. If you have some information that contradicts what I posted, I’d love to hear it.

In my neck of the woods, the AHJ, and by definition the electricians who have to have their work inspected by the various AHJs, do require a disconnect for a “main panel” that has six or more circuit breakers. There are a few (Chula Vista, for example) that will accept six “throws” but they are inconsistent in defining what a “throw” is.

To say that The “rule of six” only applies to the disconnect of a BUILDING/STRUCTURE would send the AHJs and electricians here for a loop because we have so many condominium complexes here. Some of our condo towers are 40+ floors. There is one, Discovery, where I was doing phase inspections when it was being built. The first six floors don’t have disconnects in the condo panels. I kept calling it out and the building contractor kept disagreeing with me. Finally, I took it upon myself to have an AHJ from the City of San Diego meet me, the building contractor, and the electrical (sub)contractor at Discovery. The AHJ set the building contractor and electrical contractor straight. I found out that the electrical contractor was fired. Electrical panels for floors seven and above have disconnects in them. The only ones six and below that have disconnects in the electrical panel are those which have since been resold, have had home inspectors note the lack of a disconnect, and either the seller or buyer have had a disconnect installed. I have done inspections on 19 resells, 3 on floors 6 and below. I do know that those 3 now have disconnects in the electrical panels.

I live in La Mesa, and the AHJ here also uses the six breaker rule. Other jurisdictions where I know they use the six breaker rule include Chula Vista, National City, San Ysidro, Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside… just to name a few off the top of my head.

Remember that the AHJ is the final authority in most areas, and definitely here in San Diego County.

As an aside on the subject of the AHJ, many years ago I did an inspection way out in Jacumba. I called out all sorts of stuff, and the Sellers got extremely upset because, well, guess who the AHJ was. Yep. The Seller’s uncle. A week later I met the AHJ, the Seller and Seller’s Realtor, and the Buyer and Buyer’s Realtor at the property. I showed them in my code books all the issues. After I was finished, the AHJ looked at me, spit in his cup, and said, “Well, Sonny, that’s just not the way we do things out here.” My Clients canceled the purchase contract and called me a couple of weeks later for an inspection on a different house.

The condo panel should not need a disconnect. It is a panel, not a service panel. The disconnect would typically be in a meter room. Are you saying there is sometimes 6 floors worth of unfused cable in the buildings?

I was wondering the same thing, maybe Russel can explain and provide some applicable NEC sections.

Yes, I’ve heard this story before. It sounds to me as if you and the AHJ are having difficulty understanding the actual requirements. I’ve had disagreements with the AHJ in my area as well and you’re right, they do have the final say. In my area, however, the AHJ doesn’t seem to have any problem consulting with state authorities before making the final call.

Be that as it may, in accordance with the NEC and the CEC, sub panels located in individual units of a high-rise are not “main” panels and do not require disconnects within the panels, regardless of the breaker quantity.

AHJ’s and courts here use the “generally accepted and prevailing standards” rule, and the generally accepted and prevailing standards require a disconnect in condo panels. As I tell my Clients when I’m up in the penthouse of something like the Harbor Club with its 5,000 SF and electric panel with 40 circuits: “It’s just a wee bit inconvenient if you have to shut off all 40 circuits.” They understand then.

I find it extremely useful to know what the generally accepted and prevailing standards are. As a couple more examples, generally accepted and prevailing standards here dictate that an expansion tank is not needed at the water heater, and that dirt legs are not needed for the gas lines. That doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend them, but I also explain what the generally accepted and prevailing standards are when I know that around here we don’t do something that otherwise would be done.

Generally accepted and prevailing standards sometimes result in something not being done, and sometimes result in something being done.

I don’t quote codes, though. Rather, I’ll explain what “typically” is done, why something “generally” is wrong, etc., and then recommend the appropriate professional for further information. In 11,902 inspections since October 15, 2001, this tactic has served me well and is approved by my business attorneys, my real estate attorneys, my E&O provider, and, of course, according to my real estate attorneys, the court system here.

I also occasionally do some work to get those generally accepted and prevailing standards changed. So far I have been unsuccessful at getting anything changed. Why? Because I’m not licensed for anything, and the various licensed professionals and licensing boards aren’t too keen on an unlicensed yo-yo trying to tell them what should be changed or altered.

Oh, how I wish we had home inspector licensing in this state. I have to know all these licensed professions but don’t have to be licensed myself. Makes no sense whatsoever.

Unless you could show me adopted codes I would have serious issues with the “that is the way it is done” BS. There must be some basis for the ahj decisions. Without adopted documents I would throw the consensus based codes at the ahj and make them prove their stance. Also without those documents there is too much option for bias in enforcement.

Why would someone need to shut off 40 circuits all at one time? Obviously this has not been an issue in over 100 years of the NEC.

I understand completely.

Best practice in an electrical emergency is to shut of electricity now, ask questions later. So, yes, there sometimes is a need to shut off all electricity quickly, and a disconnect in the condo accomplishes that purpose, especially when circuit breaker labeling is faded, unreadable, not present, or, sometimes in the case of remodeling and renovations, just plain wrong.

It is useful to recommend having circuit labeling verified or done before move-in, but we all know how our recommendations are dealt with…LOL


Since I have the private and/or cell phone numbers for many electricians here in San Diego that I have worked with or recommend, I called one who works downtown where all these condo towers are.

He said (loosely quoted) that "the main problem with condo complexes and towers is Section 225.35 Access to Occupants which says that in a multiple-occupancy building, each occupant shall have access to the occupant’s supply disconnecting means with a notable exception, that being that where electric supply and electrical maintenance are provided by the building management AND where these are under CONTINUOUS building management supervision, the supply disconnecting means supplying more than one occupancy shall be permitted to be accessible to authorized management personnel only.

"Although the building management might provide electric supply and electrical maintenance, and many of them are secured with 24 hour on-site door guards and such, it is the electric supply and electrical maintenance that need to be under continuous building management supervision. Although the door guard often has a key to the electric room, many times they do not, so the CONTINUOUS building management supervision gets thrown out. We won’t even begin discussing Padres games downtown when so many people call in sick so they can go to the games, again leaving that CONTINUOUS building management supervision on the side of the road.

"We could also talk about electrical maintenance in and of itself. We don’t consider the door guard working the graveyard shift to be capable of electrical maintenance so the electrical maintenance is not under CONTINUOUS building management supervision.

“Since we don’t know what kind of management and maintenance will be present once the building has been constructed, the easiest way to solve the problem is to put a disconnect in each unit.”

He was familiar with the court’s use of “generally accepted and prevailing standards.”