I'm building a well house/shop. It is about 150' from where the main house
It will have a subpanel that will be fed from the main panel at the house.
I will be running 6/3 with ground from the house to the well house.
I have an electrician friend who said the inspector made them install a main
breaker in a subpanel they just did and made them put a hold down screw in
But it is my understanding that you don't need a main breaker if it has 6 or
less breakers in the panel. Mine will have just 4.
To my knowledge that is true, HOWEVER local areas can and do amend/modify
the national code. So always ask to see the local amendments and rule
changes. In my state, these amendments are on the state web site. I don't
know about other states...
I installed a breaker box in our pump house many years ago that only has
four breakers (no main) and connects directly to the power company lines.
I don't know if codes have changed since then, but I had no problems with
However, the cost between a small panel with four breakers, and a small
panel with a main breaker is minimal. While an experienced electrician
wouldn't worry much about wiring a live panel, it's nice to have the main
breaker to kill power in the rest of the panel for additions/modifications
in the future. Small cost for added safety.
I installed a subpanel in our utility shed that gets it's feed from the
house. I could always run in the house and flip the breaker for the shed,
but it's nice to have the main disconnect right there in the shed. If I'm
remembering correctly, the panel has six breaker slots, plus the main. I'm
only using one at the moment for lighting.
Assume my four breaker panel in my pumphouse that is connected directly to
the power company lines. Now you have a breaker that quits working. What
do you do? You could call the power company, have them disconnect your
power so you could swap the breaker (which also kills power to any other
buildings on that line), then turn the power back on. That's a lot of down
time, and around here involves an extra service fee.
While I would personally think twice before messing around in a live panel,
I've watched the "pro's" handle live lines here all the time.
Regardless, I would still choose a panel with a main breaker for just that
reason. It's safer and easier to kill power to the panel before working in
Not always... We have three buildings on our meter.
When we bought our property, we built the pump house so we could have
water and a place to store tools. The power company mounted the meter on
the pole out at the road, then we ran an underground line about 30' to an
in-ground junction box behind the pump house. The pump house connects to
that junction box with a four breaker panel (no main breaker).
A couple years later, we brought in a mobile home and the power company
ran a 200' line from that first junction box down to a second junction
box near the mobile.
Several years later we built a detached garage, and connected the 200 amp
panel to the second junction box.
A few more years and we built our current house, disconnected the mobile,
and connected our 200 amp panel in the house to the second junction box.
So, we currently have three buildings (pump house, garage, and our house)
with three individual breaker panels that connect to the one meter out at
the road. (We have a detached shed too, but I ran that subpanel (6
position with main) off of our house panel).
This was all installed according to power company designs and state
inspection approved. It has actually proved to be quite flexible, allows
the power company to read the meter without entering our property, and we
have one electrical bill (not separate bills for each building like some
other properties in our area).
Also, based on the logistics of when the buildings were constructed and
the locations of the buildings, it's really the best way to handle it.
For instance, our pump house is about 30' from the power pole, but the
house is about 230' away from the pole. Even if the house was here
first, it would have meant running cable down to the house, then back up
to the pumphouse. A lot of extra cable and increased voltage drop.
Judging from other properties in our area, it seems to be a fairly common
setup for rural properties.
Assuming you could coordinate with the power company and pay the service
fee, I suppose so. I did have the power company disconnect the pump house
before we brought in the mobile so I could build a new pump house on a
real foundation. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight at the time
to replace the breaker panel with one that had a main breaker. So far, it
hasn't been a problem, but looking back I wish I had done it differently.
My biggest gripe with the small panels is they don't have trim covers
that work with drywall like the bigger panels do. Kind of makes it hard
to drywall around them and have it look decent. But I don't need a 200
amp panel for a couple of outlets and an overhead light. :)
On Mon, 19 Apr 2010 17:27:56 +0000 (UTC), HerHusband
You can have three buildings, but I'd be amazed if you didn't have a
main panel that feeds the other two buildings. Are you saying the
meter splits at the meter to the three buildings? If so, I'd consider
that rather unusual!
OK, I read the below. It was an interesting growth (look at old New
England farm houses for examples of building growing over time...)
pattern. I suspect the power company was (wrongly) thinking the pump
house was the only load that would ever exist.
OK, I see what you have. That is not typical, at least around here.
What state is this?
One issue that is to be considered is that it is possible that some of
the feeds may become overloaded. But I suspect that's not your
problem. BTW, at least around here, 'you' own the wires on the load
side of the meter.
Dang, you're right about that, maybe there is a market opportunity
Well, at least bigger boxes are not that expensive... A Homeline box
can be gotten at HD for an attractive price.
The meter is at the road, then each building has it's own main panel that
connects to the line that runs into our property.
If that's not unusual enough, our meter is a "multiplier" meter and our
power doesn't actually feed through the meter. It uses a transformer to
pick up the current flow, then multiplies that X40 to determine how much
electricity we use. Weird, huh.... :) That part is strange to me and I
don't know why they didn't just use a normal feed through meter, but it
seems to work fine.
Oh, and our well was already drilled on the property before we bought it,
or else we may have located it somewhere closer to the house.
We made it clear when we first got power that we planned to build a house
at some point down the road. They said it's not a problem and this is how
they usually handle situations like ours.
Clark County, Washington
Yes, we had to supply our own cables on our side of the meter, dig the
trenches ourselves, and connect the cables to our breaker panels. After
the electrical inspector approves the installation, the power company
makes the connection at the junction box.
As for the load situation, the last power company guy to come out said
the incoming line should have been bigger for two 200 amp panels, but
unless we were maxing out both buildings we shouldn't have a problem.
We've lived here about 19 years now and have never had issues with
voltage drop or dimming lights, even when I fire up my woodworking tools
out in the garage.
This is called a current transformer, and is used in high current and/or
voltage circuits, along with potential transformers. For example, the
substation that feeds half Iraklion Ithe city I live) is rated at 150 kV
(150,000 volts) and 150 A. To feed meters, instruments, circuit breakers
control circuits etc. these kind of transformers are needed. Or for medium
voltage consumers (industry, large companies, hotels etc) 15/20 kV which of
course can't feed the meter directly:-)
major in electrical engineering
On Tue, 20 Apr 2010 19:38:58 +0300, "Tzortzakakis Dimitris"
Yes, true. They are commonly used here in the USA for any service that
uses more than single phase, or more than a certain current draw, or
for services that are greater than 240 volts. So a company or factory
with a 440 three phase feed will have a remote meter using current
On Tue, 20 Apr 2010 15:40:12 +0000 (UTC), HerHusband
Ah, I can answer that: it is both cheaper and safer to use a remote
sensing meter (which is what you have). The current transformer can be
kept up high on the pole, away from interference and possible
For residental around here, a pole mounted meter is unusual. IMHO,
(and I've lived where all meters were pole mounted) they'd save a
bundle as houses can be spread out quite a bit. In our case, there is
one drop from the street pole, a second pole located in my neighbor's
yard (nice it's there and not mine!) and that splits to the two
houses. Each house then has its own meters (two, for different rates
for different usages).
I'm in NH, been in Washington, but never looked at rural installations
I always figured my lines in were too small, too. I'm an EE so know
wire gauge and voltage drop. But, even at maximum usage I've not seen
any significant drop, so that's good.
In your case, you pay for the voltage drop (because it is on your side
of the meter), in my case, they do.
That said, I'd sure try to always have boxes that have main breakers!
Especially since as in your case, it is not trivial to open the
circuit (unless they were smart enough to put in a cut-off (breaker)
at your feed. Pull your meter and the power still goes to the house!
Well, here (EU, Greece) I always protect the cable that goes to a subpanel
with a circuit breaker in the main panel ( a usual size here is 25 A, 3 X 6
mm^2, #12), and on the subpanel a main breaker (not with magnetic and
thermal trip, also a switch in fact) and a blow fuse, 25 A. That's the greek
code, obviously. IMHO, it would be a good idea to put a main breaker, it
wouldn't cost more than 20 bucks, no?
major in electrical engineering
You are correct about the number of circuit devices not requiring a
main. This panel should be set up as a sub-panel with grounded
conductors (neutral) not bonded to the case or to the grounding
conductors (bare grounds) in the panel. The inspector may require a
ground rod at the well house, I would.
Dan, Electrical Code Official
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.