What's Wrong Here?

What’s Wrong Here?

Who is responsible for this working space violation? :slight_smile:

In the commercial world, HVAC has first crack at location. However, the panels were set in accordance with the architectural plans. The architect should have taken into account the clearance requirements when placing the panels on the plan.

The HVAC contractor, who came in after the electrician should have addressed the clearance issues before installing the equipment. Moved their equipment or had the service moved. They did not install the equipment with correct clearance to the building , or each other so they were not addressing anything.

Who was to fault?

  1. The architectural design is first. (slight overlook)
  2. HVAC contractor is second. (should have known better)
  3. The electrical inspector for allowing it to go.

But it “looks” nice!

Thank you for your reply, and I agree, just didn’t want to blame the electrician.

May I submit your reply to my article in EC&M, with credit to your company and other information, of course?

If I may I have many HACR and HVAC electrical images that I would like to pass by you for comments here, it is all for learning and to show what is acceptable.


Shure, anything I post on this bulletin board is for anyone to use. Thanks for asking.

HVAC and Electrician issues create a big gray area sometimes. The Electrician brings the electrical service to the unit, but it’s up to the HVAC contractor to ensure its suitability for use.

One additional note on your posted picture, mechanical clearances require an 18 inch access to service panel’s on HVAC equipment. However, even if the unit is 18 inches away from the wall it still falls within the clearance requirement area , 30" x 36" for an electrical panel access. This is a good example of how HVAC contractors (as well as home inspectors) must understand electrical code, even though we are not here to enforce it (and some refuse to even talk about).

The installation looks great and IMO is not a safety issue.

Before we get carried away lets look at the actual code rule.

Remember the local AHJ gets to decide if the disconect switches are going to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized.

There is a way to de-energize the disconect before performing examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance.

Not all AHJs use a ‘one interpretation fits all’ approach.

Some actually judge each installation on it’s own merits. :slight_smile:

Thanks Bob . I see no easy way that it can be made better.
These are normaly used a isolation switches for the trades to do work .
Looks sensible to me .
Roy Cooke sr … Royshomeinspection.com

I have been in the situation many times. It also comes down to the trades working together, and the electrician checking submittals on the heights of the disconnects. It could have been much better, but it appears you could work on the disconnect if needed. I guess a rack could have been built off the the side with all the disconnects on it, but talk about a price increase…

The rule would be better if it were for Service Equipment, and Load centers. There needs to be some allowance for Disconnects that are rarely used, and when used do not take long to trouble shoot, or repair.

Joe, How many panels have you seen mounted above the Transformer that sets on the floor? I have seen many, that passed inspection, I cant seem to find a picture though.

I agree and will add at some point we should also take into consideration how it looks. Well after we have left the job the building owner is stuck with our work.

Truthfully that looks like any number of Hotels we have down and sometimes we would mount the switches even lower.

And you know what?

The inspectors look at it and have no problem.

On the other side of the coin there are some local inspectors that must be disciples of Joe Ts classes as they force us to give three feet on pretty much everything.

To keep on rambling this examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized should be a moot point as that type of work almost always is an OSHA violation even with PPE.

I feel Joe could be helping HIs better if he quit trying to teach code.
He would have a better understanding of our profession if he went on a couple of hundred inspections
and saw the things we have to really be concerned about .
He is not helping the newer inspectors with all his posts it only tends to confuse them .
I and I guess a lot more just tend to ignore the larger amount of his posts.
Roy Sr


Transformmers are installed in front of panelboards at many locations, and it seems that this condition was overlooked or not cited because of some old school thinking.

What does the CEC say about this Roy?

There are situations that will come back to haunt us if someone gets hurt!

How would a Lawyer look at this issue, I agree that the equipment may be reached, but if the cause of the accident was determined to be electrical you lose!

I am on the Amtrak now on my way to Maryland to present a seminar, and the NACHI material I have gives this interpretation too.

I just don’t get it, why is this such a problem? The original argument was mentioned in the first post here and that’s why it is in the HVAC area, see the excellent comments by David.

It’s not a problem.:slight_smile:

But the world does not revolve around electrical installations.

As a mutual acquaintance of ours would say;

Theres a real world out there:cool:

The NFPA left this call up to the local AHJ / Inspector to determine if the equipment needs to be serviced while energized.

That is why those words are in the requirement.

Each AHJ gets to use their own judgment on this issue.:slight_smile:

Life is good.


JR or LM?

How would the answer on an examination be considered, go ahead and make up four stems, a., b., c., and d., and tell me which one will get the answer scored right?

This working clearance thing on HVAC disconnects is certainly a local case by case call. I see it going both ways, sometimes depending on the location.
If you have an air handler in a closet or in the attic there is no way to get full working clearance so the same guy who would tag those condensers seems to not see that air handler as being a problem.
I like the clearance, mostly to make them convenient enough that the tech will actually use them.

So… (in an everyday situation) Is this installation fine?

Your good.:cool:


I would check with your State’s Home Inspector’s Chairman, the Massachusetts rule in their SOP will surely identify this installation as a defect.

:roll: %between%

**Incident: **5-31-88 has been Responded to.

**Topic: **General Information
**Category: **Inspection
**Subject: **Working Space at AC Units

**Question: **

Does the Code require working space in front of a disconnect for an AC Unit so that there will be the clearances including width, and depth, or is there some exception to this rule that give the AHJ to permission to waive that rule?

**Answer: **

— (brightwk) 6/28/2006 3:14:27 PM
Ontario Electrical Safety Code Rule 2-308, Working Space About Electrical Equipment states: (1) A minimum working space of 1 m with secure footing shall be provided and maintained about electrical equipment such as switchboards, panelboards, control panels, and motor control centres which are enclosed in metal, except that working space is not required behind such equipment where there are no renewable parts such as fuses or switches on the back and where all connections are accessible from locations other than the back. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines “about” as meaning “on all sides” or “around”. Paraphrased using this definition, the rule states "A minimum working space of 1 m with secure footing shall be provided and maintained on all sides of or around electrical equipment such as. Although not specifically mentioned in the rule, disconnecting means are usually included in it’s interpretation. Rule 14-406 also requires control devices to be readily accessible. Electrical Inspectors may provide some latitude in the 1 m requirement for smaller equipment such as an AC disconnect provided the intent of the rule is met and the disconnect is readily accessible.

Ken Brightwell
ESA - Code Specialist
ESA encourages the use of Licensed Electrical Contractors.
**All electrical work requires a Certificate of Inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority. **

I think I agree with Roy. I think Joe would be one of the “Licensed Electricians” that we refer to in our reports that needs to further evaluate/repair something…he certainly knows electric code…but due to the fact that as HIs we are NOT specialists and certainly shouldn’t be quoting code, it would probably just get most of us in trouble…just my 2 cents…

In 2 more months, I’ll have been doing home inspections for 30 years. I have a simple rule. I could care less in most cases what the code guys say or do. Over 65% of the defects I see were done by a licensed somebody and approved by a city or county codes guy.

My simple rule is this: Forget what the code guy, or contractor, or engineer, etc says is right or wrong - when I walk into the house, I am the home inspection expert or guru - not them. If I think its wrong, I report it as such and recommend repairs, modifications or replacement. After that I don’t honestly care what anybody does or does not do - I’m not gonna be living there, they are. If they believe the engineer when he tells them that a foundation wall that has moved in 2.5 inches doesn’t look significant; or if they believe the codes guy who tells them the water heaters doesn’t need to be raised off the garage floor because its 20 years old and “grandfathered” - good for them. If somebody ever gets hurt - its gonna be somebody elses problem and their lawsuit - its not gonna be my problem.

Dans Rule #1 - Is it right or wrong? Do I like these people enough to wanta pay for repairing this if it becomes a problem? The answer is always NO.
Therefore I recommend repairing, modifying or replacing it.

I agree with Dan. However, though we are not here to enforce code, where can we come up with the idea that something is wrong? Make it up? Sometimes we do! So long as we can justify it, that’s fine! To site a building code for explanation is not “enforcement” of that code. Understanding the code gives you a better understanding of what is right and wrong in accordance to a particular standard. So yes, we do need to know the code. And we need to know the code in every single state whether it’s used in your particular area or not. We don’t do seismic building code requirements in Tennessee. However, Ben Kelly lives out there on one of the biggest faults around. It caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards! It’s a different type of fault then you have in California but it’s still a fault! Should we be paying better attention to shear walls and seismic straps on gas water heaters which results in catastrophic fire damage during an earthquake?