According to the latest 2020 National Electric Code, the mounting height of breaker box should also consider the requirement that the working handle’s centerline should have a maximum height of 6 feet and 7 inches or 2 meters. Any panel box installed higher than that needs a dedicated platform.
In short, there’s no minimum requirement, even though some commercial buildings have a standard panelboard height of 6 feet and 6 inches. Read on to learn all the considerations.
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Does That Mean It’s Okay to Install Panelboards Close to the Ground?
Technically, yes, the breaker panel height can be as low as it can get from the floor, and don’t let your local electrician tell you otherwise. If they insist, ask them to tell you which specific breaker box height code requirement states that – not considering working space requirements, that is.
That being said, is it practical to mount a breaker box as low as possible and make it susceptible to environmental factors such as floods? It also undeniably creates unnecessary risks to the residents, especially if you’re taking care of a child. More importantly, it would be difficult to work on.
This is why many electricians install it at least 4 feet above the ground. Again, this is not a specific mounting requirement, but rather merely a decision guided by common sense.
Regarding Working Space Requirements
More importantly, the decision to install at those heights feet above the ground adheres to general working space requirements indicated in section 110.26(A) of the NEC. That specific guideline states that you should leave 6 and a half feet of working space or the equivalent height of all electrical equipment, breaker boxes included.
If you decide to forgo the 6 ½ foot requirement, you will have to consider the height of the breaker box. If it’s 5 feet and 5 inches, then you should have the exact height clearance regarding its distance from the floor.
What About “Local Amendments”?
If there are local amendments pertaining to the minimum height for the breaker panel, then you have no choice but to follow them. Building codes may be set by the state government, but local counties and cities may come up with additional laws.
For example, they may say that the electric panel height should be at least 5 feet from the ground to heighten safety. It’s best to adhere to these local laws since they can technically supersede the ones given by the state government.
Take note that while most states in the US follow NEC guidelines, they tend to follow different editions of it. For example, there was a time when New York followed 2008 NEC guidelines while Texas followed the 2014 edition. Some states may even choose not to adopt the NEC.
This is why the best course to take is to make sure you reference the NEC and follow the specific amendments done by your state, especially if they’ve set electrical panel mounting requirements. Grab a copy of your state’s electrical code or head over to their website to make sure.
Don’t Confuse Code From Other Countries
Part of why people fail to meet electrical box house requirements is that they don’t follow their specific country and local Code. Take note that USA Code differs from Canadian Code. Following height and panel installation requirements in Canada may put you in direct violation of state codes.
The point is, always be sure that you’re following recommendations in your country of residence or state.
How to Correct a Panel That’s Been Installed Too High and Violates Code
Many electrical panel installation mistakes involve putting the box above 6 feet and 7 inches from the ground. Now, you may be wondering, do you have no other choice but to have it redone so you won’t be violating code guidelines?
Not always. One workaround electricians suggest is to just build a permanent platform next to it. The platform’s height should be exactly the excess height that led to the violation.
For example, if the breaker box’s mounting height is 7 feet and 7 inches, then you should construct a platform that’s precisely 1 foot high. It would probably be best to add guard rails to ensure safety at that height.
As you can see, while there’s no minimum requirement assigned to the height of breaker box, it can still be affected by numerous other guidelines set by the NEC with regard to working space. Don’t forget about local residential electrical panel code requirements, too.
Listen to the advice of a professional electrician and encourage them to show you the specific passages in the Electrical Code that support their own recommendations.
I am Edwin Jones, in charge of designing content for Galvinpower. I aspire to use my experiences in marketing to create reliable and necessary information to help our readers. It has been fun to work with Andrew and apply his incredible knowledge to our content.