Does NEC require a Main Breaker Panel inside the home?

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My brother is purchasing a home in Vermont and the following is holding up the negotiations after home inspection; he's trying to decide if the seller should pay for this (whether it's worth the risk in the negotiation because my brother has already negotiated a rock bottom deal on the house). The custom home was built in 1999. The general home inspector says that since the main panel in the basement doesn't have a main breaker, it is a code violation. Instead the main breaker is outside near the pole which the home inspector is calling a "supplementary disconnect." He says the main panel needs to be replaced which would cost thousands. He didn't tell us what NEC code section was violated so we asked him but it will take a few days for him to retrieve this info, but seller and buyer are anxious to proceed sooner.
I reviewed relevant sections of the 2008 NEC and it says that it is fine to have the main disconnect outside the house and the NEC chapter on the disconnects didn't say that the disconnect has to be inside the main panel which is attached to the home. I understand that in some installations the main disconnect is placed separately outside so that firefighters can get to it.
Is there a code violation that my brother should ask the seller to remedy? I am not sure how the electrical inspector could miss something so basic when the home was built in 1999. That makes me wonder if the general home inspector is correct or not. Or was there an update to the NEC in the past few years? What section/paragraph is not in compliance?
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where is the rule that says everything a home inspector says has to be changed actually has to be changed?
your brother is the buyer. he can accept or deny anything that he wants from the inspector report.
one would think that if it did not meet code when built, the inspection done for the occupancy certificate would have been denied.
what did the code enforcement department of your town say when you called them?
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Is this a home inspector hired by the buyer or seller, or was he sent by the bank?
I don't have my NEC book with me and I don't know the tchnical answer to your question, but around here, it would be unusual to have a main breaker inside the house. It is usually in a box attached to the outside of the house. If it's easily accessable from the property, from gound level, I fail to see why being away from the house is a bad thing... (Bu, that doesn't mean it isn't against code.)
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Home inspectors arent experts!!
Had 2 home buyers, first buyer backed out after home inspection.
First one wrote up no GFCI on sump pump in garage
So I upgraded but buyer backed out:(
Second home insoector wrote up GFCI, stating sump pump shouldnt be on GFCI
I couldnt win:(:(:(
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On Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 3:35:44 PM UTC-5, bob haller wrote:

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Did you get paid both times? If you did, I think you need to thank the ins pector for work paid. Just Saying, some contractor get upset but if you ca n do the right thing and get paid, so why not get paid with no complaint, b ecause the inspector has done most of the selling you as a contractor just need to set the price right.
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In Vermont anything goes, especially if it's between brother and sister.
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An important distinction to understand is that once the service conductors from the utility hit the first disconnect and circuit breaker, any conductors after that point are feeder conductors, not service conductors. Outside feeders are covered by Article 225, not Article 230 (Service conductors).
Another point to note is that generally if the main lug only panel has no more than six breakers in it, it can count as a disconnect; it doesn't need to have a main breaker.
The relevant part of the National Electric Code is Article 225 Part II. From the 2008 version, here are 225.31 and 225.32:
225.31 Disconnecting Means. Means shall be provided for disconnecting all ungrounded conductors that supply or pass through the building or structure.
225.32 Location. The disconnecting means shall be installed either inside or outside of the building or structure served or where the conductors pass through the building or structure. The disconnecting means shall be at a readily accessible location nearest the point of entrance of the conductors. For the purposes of this section, the requirements in 230.6 shall be utilized.
[230.6 defines when a conductor is considered outside a building.]
If the pole with the disconnect is right next to the house (some jurisdictions use a standard of within 5 feet), then usually that is interpreted to satisfy these requirements. Otherwise, you definitely need a main disconnect at the house which should be outside or inside "nearest the point of entrance of the conductors". This last phrase is open to interpretation and varying by jurisdiction; some might allow a maximum of 15 feet inside, others more like 15 inches.
I don't know the history of these requirements, but I expect they were in force in 1999.

Many panels can be field configured with a main breaker or as main lugs only, so it is possible that a simple kit will add a main breaker. Failing that, depending on the routing of the feeder from the pole disconnect to the main-lug-only panel inside the house, you might be able to install a stand-alone disconnect before the existing panel, so you don't need to mess with the panel branch circuits at all.
Cheers, Wayne
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iwdplz wrote:

My knowledge of NEC is kind of dated (1992).
The home inspector may be an idiot; this is not unusual. But it does raise an issue about grounding. If the main disconnect is not in the same panel as the breakers, the breaker panel becomes a subpanel. The neutral should be bonded to earth at the disconnect and separate ground and neutrals wires should be run to the house. Mobile homes are wired this way.
Is the main disconnect a breaker, or at least fused?
Bob
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You're correct, if the main disconnect isn't in the service panel, separate neutral and ground conductors are run from the disconnect to the panel, but now you're way over the capabilities of a home inspector
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RBM wrote:

There are other implications for any 120/240 circuits (most clothes dryers and ranges.) They can't use 3-conductor cables and NEMA 10 connectors. Have to be 4-conductor NEMA 14's.
Everything might be fine. But it's a red flag (or is it yellow?) that is worth having a real electrician take a look.
Bob (I am not an electrician)
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great responses so far. The main disconnect is a breaker..
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Keep in mind that house inspectors, are not by any stretch, electrical inspectors. Nec 230.70 A (1) allows the service disconnect to be outside in a "readily accessible location". It doesn't require it to be on the house or structure. My guess would be that in 1999, the electrical inspector having jurisdiction, found the current location acceptable. If the seller has a C/O on the house, I would not be concerned

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Unless there is a specific *local* code requiring that, the inspector is FOS.

That is *explicitly permitted* by the National Electrical Code: "The service disconnecting means shall be installed at a readily accessible location either outside of a building or structure or inside nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors." [2008 NEC, Article 230.70(A)(1)]

Nonsense.

Let me guess: this "inspector" is *also* a general contractor, right? And he's probably already offered to make your brother a good price on the job, right? Which, when you get competing bids, will turn out to not be such a good priceafter all.

This should be fun. <g>

something along the lines of "I can't find the exact paragraph, but I know it's a violation, just trust me on this, I have __ years in this business and I know what I'm doing and blah blah blah blah".

So ignore it, and close the sale. Even if the inspector were right -- which he definitely is NOT -- it doesn't matter. Real estate contracts are nearly always contingent on the home passing an inspection, but that's mostly so that a buyer isn't committed to buying a house that has a previously unknown (or undisclosed) serious flaw, with no way to back out of the contract. If the buyer is aware of the flaw and wants to buy the house anyway, so what? *Any* provision of *any* contract can be changed if all of the parties to the contract agree to the change. Your brother can probably *unilaterally* waive the inspection contingency clause; there's certainly no reason why the seller should object, so even if both of them must agree to the waiver in writing, obtaining the seller's signature should be only a formality.

Exactly so.

None that I can see.

The electrical inspector didn't miss something. Like I said before, the home inspector is FOS.

It wouldn't matter even if there was. Electrical installations are required to comply with the Code that is in effect at the time the work is done, not with whatever Code changes might occur later.

None.
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iwdplz wrote: ...

...
No NEC violation; all NEC says is a device must be provided "at or near" the point where the service wires enter the building to disconnect the entire building from its source of supply. The other requirement is that there be overcurrent protection for the entire installation. If that outside disconnect is fused or a circuit breaker, that's done as well. Inside/outside location of this service equipment isn't mentioned.
There could possibly be local restrictions in addition to those of the NEC but it would seem unusual this one would be one.
As for the what to do question, as somebody else noted, check w/ the local jurisdiction as to the actual requirements. All you really need is the ability to get any required COO to close the deal safely; while could just ignore it and go on wouldn't really want to do so until know there won't be an issue in occupancy in areas that may require such a thing.
_IF_ (the proverbial "big if") the need to install an inside disconnect were to actually arise, it would seem that the simplest would be to simply add a disconnect in front of the existing panel, run the feed to it and then to the panel. That could be a few hundreds, not thousands. There is some convenience in the rare occasions that one does want to shut power off for some maintenance activity perhaps, but if the above requirements are met and meet any local code, you're good to go.
--
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excellent info, thanks. The home is in the town of Middlebury if that makes any difference. Do all homes in all states in the US comply with NEC, or do the regulations of states and cities ever override anything in the NEC?
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Some localities require more than the NEC. None will allow less that I'm aware of.
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2009 15:52:59 -0700, iwdplz wrote:

The NEC is not, in itself, law. It is adapted, usually with some (sometimes many) modifications by individual localities. Some places don't use the NEC at all, preferring their own code. NYC had their own code until a few years ago, and I think Chicago still has their own code.
Vermont has their own electrical based on the 2008 NEC with a few modifications. You can find it referenced on the Vermont state web site: http://www.dps.state.vt.us/fire/licensing/Electrical.htm
Interestingly, there is a slight variance in the Vermont Electrical Code about the location of the main disconnect. The VEC says:
"-delete and replace as follows - article 230.70 (A)(1) (1) Location. The service disconnecting means shall be installed at a readily accessible location either outside of a building or structure, or inside a building or structure nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors, not to exceed 10 feet of conductor length from the point of entrance."
Note that this amendment *still* allows an outside disconnect. It is possible that Middlebury has their own electrical code over and above the VT code (if that's possible in VT). It's not mentioned on the Middlebury town web site, under "Ordinances".
http://preview.tinyurl.com/mg8llz
You might want to call Middlebury city hall, just to confirm.
Like most of the other people have stated in this thread, I think the inspector is wrong, and there's no problem here.
--
Seth Goodman

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Depending on how one reads this it is at least a little unclear whether the 10 foot limit applies outside, or only to inside installations... The requirement would certainly make sense for inside. But then 150 feet is a ways to run while the ceiling fan that just came loose is showering sparks on the carpet, so I can see where it could be an issue.
Where is your meter? It it at the pole or by the house?
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I was wondering what the "safety" issue is regarding the distance. Sounds like if there is a faulty major appliance, the main breaker provides a quick convenient shutoff. Couldn't he also just shut off -all- the individual circuit breakers in the basement instead? Maybe this would take 10 seconds longer than flipping one breaker. I am not sure where the meter is. Based on the info my brother has told me so far I am painting a picture in my mind (mostly a guess) that electrical service was at the pole with a meter before the house was built, possibly as part of the vacant land deal, and that's the reason why the meter/disconnect is not attached right on the house. Vermont gets heavy snowfall so it could be hard to go outside in the winter sometimes. But couldn't one simply just shut off all individual breakers if the faulty circuit is not known?
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As I have pointed out in a previous post the buildings disconnecting means must consist of six or fewer switches, breaker handles, or fuse pull outs. -- Tom Horne
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