Sub Panel

Had a unique inspection today at a condo complex that used to be a motel. There was a meter bank at the rear of the building with individual main disconnects. The panel inside the unit (inside a bedroom closet) only had 3 incoming wires. 2 hots and a neutral. Now shouldn’t this first of all be a sub panel installation? The neutrals and grounds were on same bus bar, bonded to the panel. I don’t want to call this out as defective if it isn’t. No service grounding wire was observed either entering or leaving the panel. I was able to see down the wall, below the panel opening and several pigtails were seen, with wire nuts, inside the drywall, with no bushings for the panel knockouts. The unit is a 60 amp service and the crappy little electric range had a 60 amp breaker. Ungrounded outlets and so on. A real mess. I’m fairly confident about calling out these issues, but the panel should be a sub, right?


You say 3 wires coming in, but were they in some sort of metallic conduit, by chance?

Nope. Not at least as I could see. Pretty sure it was the normal cable sheathing.

It’s either “service” equipment, or it’s “other” equipment.

You are correct. An EGC is required (whether conduit or conductor), and the grounds should be bonded to the enclosure while the neutrals are isolated. . .

Thanks Jeff you’re the best!! I thought that it should be wired as a sub. I felt a bit guilty taking this inspection since there wasn’t a whole lot to inspect and the husband is a HVAC contractor. I thought I wouldn’t found anything he couldn’t. Only goes to show.

Not sure what you meant when you said

I have sooo much to write up on this one. Thanks again Jeff.

What I said was in reference to this. . .

The only place where the neutral can be (and must be) grounded (bonded to the enclosure and/or grounds) is at the “service” equipment (service equipment is often referred to as the “main” panel). The service equipment is where the service disconnect is located (often referred to as the “main” breaker).

All panels past the service equipment are considered “other” equipment, or load side equipment (often referred to as “sub” panels). At “sub” panels (other equipment), there must be an equipment grounding conductor (EGC) bonded to the enclosure, and the neutrals must be isolated from the enclosure (floating).

Too many inspectors are confused by the term “sub” panel. So it’s easier just to lose the term “sub,” and call it what it is - an electrical panel. Then ask youself the question - Is it the “service” panel, or is it an “other” panel?

Great explanation, Jeff… thanks.

Thanks again Jeff.