Electrical hot water heater wiring

I have a 50 gallon electrical hot water heater, and I have read several comments on the web that a cutoff is required close to the unit. My house was built in 1976 and the breaker at the main panel is the only cut off. So my questions are these:
Is a electrical cut off required by code? The breaker panel is not visible from the water heater.
I currently have Romex feeding into the water heater. Several sites show BX coming from the cut off switch. If I install a cut off, is BX required rather than Romex?
I was going to install a non-fused cut off if required. Any suggestions for this? I think a 30 amp two pole switch should be fine.
Thanks.
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A 2 pole snap switch will meet the intent of the code. Romex is problematic because it can't be properly supported. You can use one of the armored cable methods (AC/MC), a flex conduit like FMC, ENT (smurf tube) or liquidtite (metallic or all plastic). You are still winking at the "support" requirement, stretching the "whip" loophole. It just looks industrial and gets the OK. I have seen it argued that if you put a cable clamp in the top of the heater, within a foot of the wiring compartment, then closely follow the building surface up to the disconnect, securing the cable within a foot of the disconnect and along the way, romex is legal.
The issue is whether it is exposed to physical damage
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Most likely when the house was built a cut off was not required at the water heater. If the code changes after the instalation and passed inspection, there is no requirement to update to meet the current code unless some changes are made.
Do you have any reason to want to install the disconnect switch ?
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On Monday, November 30, 2015 at 12:03:49 PM UTC-5, Ralph Mowery wrote:

+1
House here was built in 1984 and it has only the breaker in the panel as a disconnect. IDK what current code is, but like you say, there is no reqt to update existing circuits to current code. Having just the breaker in the panel works for me.
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On Mon, 30 Nov 2015 09:13:11 -0800 (PST), trader_4

Water heaters get installed by homeowners without permits all the time but a pro, who values his license will pull a permit and that will trigger the disconnect. A home inspector will tag it too.
There is an exception that allows a lock out kit on the breaker but that will cost more than a cheap disconnect in most panels.
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On Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:38:30 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

On my Square D QO panel (about as expensive as you can get) the manufacturer supplied lockout wholesales for under $4 canadian.
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That is about the same with my house. Built around the same time. I bought it about 20 years later. There is no disconnect near the water heater. It is located in the basement and the breaker panel is on the main level. I assume it passed the electrical inspection when the house was built.
A home inspector when I bought the house did not mention anything about a disconnect at the water heater. About a year before I sold my dads house after he passed away and abut the same thing then, no mention of not having a disconnect near the water heater when it was sold. That house was also built in the mid 70's.
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We built our house in 2003. I used a heavy duty appliance cord to connect our water heater to a dedicated wall outlet. It's flexible, safe, and makes it easy to disconnect the heater for servicing. I don't know if it meets code, but my electrical inspector looked at it and didn't say anything about it.
However, my breaker panel is just a foot away from the water heater anyway, so that works as a disconnect also.
Anthony Watson www.mountainsoftware.com www.watsondiy.com
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Ralph Mowery wrote:

I guess I was just trying to avoid a task that a home inspector might want done if the home was to be sold. If it is not needed, then I just might leave well enough alone.
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On 11/30/2015 10:27 AM, Ken wrote:

You shouldn't look at code with that "attitude". Most requirements are there for a reason. An "in-sight" disconnect is intended to allow the appliance to be serviced without fear that someone will FOOLISHLY turn the breaker (located someplace OUT OF SIGHT) back on while the service man has his hands in the unit.
For "permanently connected appliances" (ACbrrr, water heater, etc.) the disconnect makes life safer for that service man.
A colleague was working on a (legacy) AC and, of course, flipped the breaker. Then, put a sign on the panel: "Man on Line" (i.e., don't screw with ANYTHING in this panel unless you're sure you know who might have their hands on those BARE COPPER CONDUCTORS). While working, he got a shock. Ran back to the box and discovered that someone had flipped the breaker back on!
[Most folks dealing with electrical panels don't read the labels for each breaker -- *IF* they are even labeled AND the label is correct! Rather, they just flip breakers and see if that fixes THEIR problem. Of course, a breaker that is currently OFF (e.g., the one for the AC compressor my friend was servicing) is a perfect candidate to "flip" if you're currently without power and wondering why! :< ]
AFAICT, inspectors will flag a missing disconnect at the time of sale but only as an advisory issue -- not a "deal-breaker". Most of this stuff is grandfathered -- otherwise each reg rewrite would trigger a frenzy of (costly) updates all around the country! OTOH, if a potential buyer wants the house but conditions the sale on the disconnect being installed, you're now in a rush to get it done lest you lose the sale!
But, replacing the water heater, AC compressor, etc. will (i.e., should) cause the new installer to add the disconnect as part of the installation process. In theory, you should have no say in this matter. In *practice*, the installer may look the other way -- he's just looking for the job and will "settle" for a smaller piece of it.
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On Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:06:58 -0500, "Ralph Mowery"

Technically if he replaces the heater with a different brand, size, or model (not like for like) he needs to install the cut-off switch. (at least here in Ontario Canada) If it has aluminum wire he requires a permit and inspection. (even to replace a switch - like for like.
I found that out when I had my ESA SAFE inspection done.
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On Monday, November 30, 2015 at 2:26:39 PM UTC-5, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Technically, if he replaces it with any water heater, whether the same model or not, to be code compliant he would need the disconnect. I've never seen NEC have an exception for replacing equipment with the same brand/model.
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