Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Images source the spruce
Height does matter when it comes to the installation of an electrical panel. Before you even install the panelboard, you must ensure that its height is in compliance with the National Electrical Code. This organization sets the electrical safety standards for both residential and commercial installations.
One of the subjects that NEC addresses is the minimum height for the electrical panel. According to the latest report from NEC, the minimum installation height should be 6 feet and inches. When you convert it will be 2 meters.
Does the height address the maximum height requirement? What about the minimum height required for the panelboard? What other height issues should I consider when installing an electrical panel? Keep reading as we cover all these issues.
Working space for the breaker box
The first thing that we need to address with regard to the ideal height for the circuit breaker panelboard is the working space regulations.
The good news is NEC has outlined several working space regulations that you should adhere to when it comes to choosing the ideal height for the breaker box.
The first common rule is there should be enough working space for the electrical panelboard. You should not install it in any tight space that will limit the movement of the handler.
The panelboard should have a minimum of 30 inches wide working space in front of them. Even though the electrical panel doesn’t have to be at the center of the working space, its door should be open for a minimum of 90 degrees.
Are there other panelboards in the working space? There is no problem as NEC states that the working space can be shared as long as each individual panel has adequate space.
The workspace requirements for the panelboard go further to stipulate the voltage rating of each electrical panel that is installed. The higher the voltage rating of the electrical panelboard, the more working space it will require.
To illustrate this, the minimum height requirement for a panelboard rated 0-150V is 36 inches. Electrical panels that are rated 151-600V have a minimum height requirement of between 36 inches to 48 inches.
In general, NEC stipulates a minimum workspace of 30 inches wide and 36 inches high. The regulations are cognizant of the fact that you may end up working on the panelboard when they are still on.
The image below outlines the space requirement
Image source ICC Digital codes.
Local codes for the height requirement
Even while sticking to the NEC height requirements for the electrical panelboard, you should always remember the local codes. Here are numerous situations where these local codes tend to override the NEC requirements.
Local codes are usually set by different entities in their respective areas of jurisdiction. This can be states, districts, counties, and even municipals. The issue of local codes may also be relevant if you are located outside the United States. Other than for safety reasons, local codes for the electrical panel height are set to ensure that the buildings comply with the local environmental regulations.
Failure to follow such codes could attract penalties and fines. Some codes may state the height requirement to be below or more than that of the NEC.
Why are some local codes different from the NEC codes?
One of the reasons could be the types of buildings in a particular area. The designs of buildings or houses could be different from those found in other areas hence initiating the need for a localized solution.
The size of the electrical panelboard could also make it necessary to follow the local codes when installing the panelboard.
You should also avoid confusing the local codes with those of other countries, states, and jurisdiction.
The safest bet will be to consult local electrical technicians about the local codes
Panelboard height vs type of the building
The type of building may also determine the height requirement of the electrical panel. There are many ways of classifying buildings in relation to the electrical panel height.
One classification method is the purpose of the building. Under this, you will have three major classes; residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
Electrical panel height requirements for these three buildings tend to vary greatly.
For most residential buildings, the electrical panelboard height tends to be lower than for the other two types of buildings. This is done to ensure that the panel is easily accessible to any homeowner. However, it should not be too low as it can pose a big risk to children.
Commercial and industrial buildings tend to have higher requirements than residential buildings when in it comes to the height of the electrical panels. One of the reasons is the large size of the electrical panelboards that are used in these two types of buildings.
Higher heights are preferred for industrial and commercial buildings because of the safety factor. There is a likelihood of rampant movement of machines and people in these two types of buildings hence it will be safe to have their electrical panelboards at higher heights.
How do I correct an electrical panel that has been installed higher than the recommended height?
Let’s face it, many technicians won’t hesitate to install electrical panels at higher heights than what NEC and other regulatory bodies recommend.
In most cases, they install at 7 feet high and even sometimes 8 feet.
How do I rectify such a mistake? Should I uninstall the breaker box and reinstall it at a lower point?
Most people will opt for redoing the whole thing-uninstall and reinstall it at lower points.
The good news is you can work around this problem in a smart and legal way: build a platform that can be used to access the panelboard easily and conveniently.
The platform should cover for the excess height and you will continue using the panelboard without using the electrical panel without worrying about any safety or legal issues.
Restrictions by the utility company
Your electric power supplier may also have a say on the height requirements for the electrical panel.
As an owner of the building, you may have your preferences regarding the location and even position of the electrical panel. However, your utility company will end up doing the installation depending on their rules.
For most utility companies, the height should not go below 4 feet and not higher than 6 feet 7 inches.
Also, most utility companies recommend that there should be at least 12 inches of clearance on both sides of the panel.
So, you should consider the views of your power supplier before deciding on the height of the panelboard.
Accessibility of the height
A major factor that determines the electrical panel height is accessibility. It should be at a convenient height that allows you full access when necessary.
Why does access to the panel matter?
The main reason is an electrical panel houses circuit breakers. When the circuit breakers trip due to current overload, short circuit or any other reason, you will have to go to the panel to reset them.
Also, the fact that the main switch is in the panel means that you should have easy access in case of any emergency.
The efficiency of the height
Another key factor that you should consider when it deciding on the height for the electrical panelboard is efficiency.
Here efficiency is mainly in relation to the electric circuit.
The height should not force you to use long wires running from the electrical panel to the loads.
Remember that the longer the wire, the more the voltage drop.
To deal with this, technicians will have to strike a balance between the safety and efficiency of the height. For example, it should be high enough but still not hamper the efficiency of the circuit.
Height requirements for the outdoor electrical panel?
We have discussed the indoor height requirement. Do the same rules apply when it comes to the minimum height for the outdoor electrical panel?
Yes, only that you still need to be stricter not to keep the panels at low levels where they will be susceptible to water damage.
What are the best places to install an electrical panel?
After considering all the height factors, remember that the location of the electrical panel will always matter.
After all, the height will be effective only when supported by the right location of installation.
Two critical factors should come to your attention when it comes to the location of the electrical panel: safety and accessibility.
Some of the ideal locations where you can install electrical panels include:
- Under staircases
It is not advisable to install electrical panels in busy rooms, or places where people tend to frequent them.
Again, you should stick to the electrical panel code requirements about the ideal location.
In overall, I hope that this guide has given you the vital information you need about electrical panel height.
Additionally, remember to buy quality electrical panels and electronic components from reliable suppliers and distributors. This combination will guarantee the highest safety levels of the electrical panelboard.
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