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
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
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?
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
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.)
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
I couldnt win:(:(:(
On Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 3:35:44 PM UTC-5, bob haller wrote:
ral home inspector
EC in the
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.
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
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
Is the main disconnect a breaker, or at least fused?
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
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)
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
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)]
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
This should be fun. <g>
<snort> No doubt it will. I imagine that *if* he ever answers, he'll say
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
Vermont has their own electrical based on the 2008 NEC with a few
modifications. You can find it referenced on the Vermont state web
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
(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".
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.
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?
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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