Suitable Only for Use as Service Equipment

Remote panel in garage… had it’s own GES etc…

Then I looked at the label… Suitable Only for Use as Service Equipment, I don’t think I’ve seen that too many times… kinda raises a few red flags. Who would have done this… I mentioned to the buyer to ensure an electrician has a very good look at this… the panel wiring was… well “creative” and “used space well”

I doubt it can be “fixed” and still be UL listed for remote use.

Narrative from Neca regarding use of “Suitable Only for Use as SE”

"This equipment has the grounded conductor bus (usually the neutral bus) bonded to the enclosure by the manufacturer. There is no main bonding jumper provided in equipment with this marking. There is a bonding jumper that can be removed for testing purposes only and this marking will be provided on the equipment (and it did :slight_smile: ). Equipment bearing this marking is generally only permitted to be installed in the service position. "

I agree with your assessment, using this as a subpanel goes against the requirements of it’s listing. A GES at a remote structure must not be connected to the grounded or neutral conductor.

Thanks Robert… I tried to explain exactly that, I kind of fear that the panel will get “fixed”… I guess that’s better than the way it is now, but still not right.

Correct BTW… the garage is detached.

Leave that up to a licensed electrician to figure out. Might be an easy fix. Since it’s existing wiring for a remote panel that has a GES, why couldn’t the electrician simply remove the ground wire on the feeder (with the grounds and neutrals connected at the remote panel) … assuming the feeder isn’t metal conduit.
IRC E3607.3.2 (NEC 250.32) …

The local AHJ would then have to make the call if that use is still in accordance with the panels listing … but that could be the “service equipment” for the garage since it’s a separate building. If your concerned about it recommend they get electrical permits for any repair work.

JMO & 2-Nickels … :wink:

I see your point about applying 250.32 under earlier additions of the NEC but that still makes using that panel outside of the scope of it’s listing since it is not being used a service equipment.

Kinda my thought too… Either way… the customer is alerted to a deficiency that I rec’d a lic’d sparky to look at.

Curious… would there be wiggle room for this? I could see if the panel was listed as SE, but ONLY SE?

The wiggle room would be if it were permitted to wire this panel as per Robert J’s graphic (prior to the 2005 NEC). That would mean that the neutral and ground buses would be bonded together or be one in the same. Then electrically it wouldn’t really matter, technically it would be a violation due to the listing since it’s not being used as service equipment.

Thanks Robert!! Always appreciated.

Even the latest NEC has the rule allowing a remote panel feeder without a ground … it is now 250.32(B)-Exception. The change is now that only applies to “existing premises wiring systems” … which is the case here.

Many would argue (myself included) that a remote panel in a separate building actually must be rated as suitable for use as service equipment … :wink:

JMO & 2-Nickels … :wink:

It just makes the repair a little more sticky, since it doesn’t look like the preferred method of running a feeder with a ground, and then separating neutrals/grounds at that remote panel can be utilized.

If that was all new construction you wouldn’t be able to use that panel at a remote building since it doesn’t look like the neutral bond can be removed.

The latest version of the NEC requires that a panel in a separate structure must have a separate EGC. As you’ve stated the exception now only applies to existing installations but the requirement for a separate EGC has been around for 2 or 3 code cycles. I guess you’re assuming that the exception would have applied to this installation when it was installed.

Regarding the listing for a remote panelboard as service equipment, that’s only when it’s being used as a disconnecting means. And in this case the words on the nameplate “Suitable Only for Use as Service Equipment” would prohibit it’s installation as anything but service equipment.

I was thinking in terms of codes in my area where like many areas (including CA) the 2009 ICC & 2008 NEC were just recently adopted that would prohibit running a remote building feeder without a ground wire, but would not prohibit repairing an existing feeder that improperly grounds a panel (by removing the feeder ground wire). Your local mileage may vary … :wink:

A remote building needs a feeder disconnect near the entry, that must be rated as suitable for use as service equipment. Im assuming that the main breaker of that panel is the disconnect, so the panel would have to be rated as suitable for use as service equipment. I would consider that panel as the “service equipment” for the remote building.

P.S. In the end thats just my opinion. What matters is what the local AHJ thinks.

I just re-read some of this… Robert O’, do you feel that a panel downstream from the Main is actually in the Service Position?

I suppose at the end of the day, I still think where this was installed is totally wrong and the thought

applies more so than that of finding exception where it may be correct, but was likely not.


IMO your initial thought in post #1 was correct. This panel can only be used as service equipment. Since it’s not it’s in violation of its listing. The gray area is that in some installations the neutral is permitted to be bonded to the enclosure and used for grounding purposes so the use of this panel would satisfy that need, however it still doesn’t pass the test of using it per the label that states “Suitable Only for Use as Service Equipment”.

Is the main breaker in the panel being used as the garage disconnect?

And your kidding that you would write up the labeling semantics as an issue on a home inspection.

RJOC brings up a good point. I’ll let you HI’s hash this one out. On an electrical inspection the panel is NG.

The term “service position” isn’t defined, but I think the intent is the panel would generally only be permitted to be installed as the “service” disconnect for the utility power supply. Technically the power supply to the remote garage is not a “service”, its a “feeder”. But notice the wording states it “generally” would only be permitted for that use.

I think an exception would be an existing remote garage panel with a 3-wire feeder (no EGC) installed under prior UL/NEC editions, where “service equipment” was associated with the disconnect for “supply conductors” to a building.

The codes were changed to prohibit 3-wire remote garage feeders, and the definition of “service equipment” was changed to be associated with the disconnect for “service entrance conductors” which refers to the utility power supply. So RM is right that the install wouldn’t be allowed under current codes … but this is an existing installation where it might be acceptable. Thats just going from some slides, and I would have to look up when and why those changes were made to be sure.

A local NYBFU inspector I know thought it was a borderline situation for an older garage panel and would really depend on exactly when it was installed, but wouldn’t have split hairs over it for an older install because the label simply means the neutral is factory bonded to the enclosure and cant be removed … as opposed to a panel that is “suitable for use as service equipment” where that bond can be removed (or not installed).

However, in the end the bottom line is what your local AHJ thinks.

Feedback I received on this one was the panel was going to be replaced… ( no permit for existing install ). The bid was to leave feeders intact and replace panel AFAI was told.

If the label implied it’s incorrect use, I’m not sure why that would be “kidding” to write it up. Semantics wasn’t so much that I was implying, simply that looking for an exception where it may be OK wasn’t/isn’t productive in majority of inspection and our industry, except for obviously discussion or education. But for application in the field, it’s difficult to prescribe where exceptions may be OK or why/how a trade should fix something, when they may not want to fix it at all, in it’s current state. I’m not there to explain why it may be OK, if it’s not OK now. They may/may not get that information from the specialist that would come behind any of us (such as an electrician) IE, if the label implied incorrect use, and the install was incorrect (bonded neutral on a 4 wire feed for a remote) etc…, it’s defective in it’s current installation, and I write it up, semantics and all. I would think that labels point a lot of us in the proper direction to indicate the proper and safe installation of systems.

I assumed that the repairing contractor may simply install and float a neutral bar as a fix, but whadya know… they wanted to do it right…

Earlier in the thread it was noted that there was a defect, and it was suggested that the repair method be left up the a licensed electrician, with permits for the repair. After that the rest of the thread was really just for educational discussion.

I wouldn’t have written up the panel just because of the label, with no other defects. Others might. IMO that would really have been splitting hairs from an HI POV.

I agree the preferred method of repair would be to keep the 4-wire feeder and replace the panel … but that does cost more. Installing a new floating neutral bar is another option. But then there would be that sticky label issue, particularly for a permitted repair. But it comes down what the electrician doing the repair thinks, and what the local AHJ is likely to accept.

In the end a good thread with a good discussion of the issues encountered with some remote panels IMO … and your client will end up with a safe installation … good job … :wink: