Most use the Nec as their basic electric code, and some make changes to fit
their specific demands. If they have supplemental codes, they have to be
documented and available for viewing, which is to say, they can't have an
inspector make it up as he sees fit. What state is Middlebury in?
[My first attempt to post this didn't seem to go through; apologies if
this is a duplicate.]
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
1966 house my father built in Indiana had meter base (buried service) on
outside of the carport storage cabinets, with the main disconnect inside
the cabinets. It went from there through conduit under carport slab, to
the service panel in the basement. From the houses I saw being built in
the area through mid 1970s, that was a pretty common arrangement. Only
downside to an outside disconnect is that kids can easily put you in the
*Common sense says that it is better to have the wire from the distant meter
to the house protected by a fuse or circuit breaker. It is not an
electrical code violation and as other have pointed out home inspectors have
limited knowledge of everything. Keep pressuring that guy for a code
reference. Better still have your brother's lawyer keep calling him for the
I once was handed a report by a home inspector that said there were loose
electrical wires all over the attic and they were a hazard. The new owners
asked me to correct the problem. I went up in the attic and the only wires
visible and loose were cable TV wires.
How far is it from the disconnect to the house? Every structure is
required to have a disconnect (see my previous post). If the pole
disconnect is 50 feet away, then I agree an additional disconnect is
required on the house. If the pole disconnect is 3 feet away, then it
seems fine as is. The exact distance at which an additional
disconnect is required is subject to interpretation by the local
The disconnect is about 150 feet away. It sounds like the gray area is that
the NEC does not define the distance. I guess some electricians might
interpret that it's ok anywhere on the property, others say it has to be
attached right to the house wall. It is interesting that the NEC doesn't
define the distance. My brother is mostly worried that if he doesn't take
care of it now, then he might be required to remedy it if he tries to sell
the house later. He just doesn't know if it would cost thousands of dollars
to replace the main lug panel in case the electrician determines it's not
possible or too costly to add a main breaker in between (because of where
the conduit is buried etc). But also since this is a "gray area" in the NEC
one has to wonder if there's even any problem or if it's left up to the
imagination of whatever local inspector decides the arbitrary distance
If the disconnect is 150 feet away, there is no question that the NEC
requires an additional disconnect on the structure itself. IMO, it's
not a grey area. The citations are 225.31 and 225.32, which I quoted
in my original response.
I agree, this house was built in 1999. If the house didn't meet codes at
that time, a certificate of occupancy wouldn't have been issued. Even if the
location of the disconnect doesn't meet their current codes, Grandfather
laws would keep it in compliance, until such time when the service is
upgraded, and would have to comply with any new code changes.
Is it 150 feet from the house or 150 feet from the breaker box? If it
is 150 feet from the house, then yes it sounds like a violation
according to what Seth G. dug up. If your brother is handy at all, he
could fix it himself after he owns a home. A new breaker panel isn't
that much money. Most of the expense is from labor, since it can be
time consuming to re- wire it, but it should be pretty simple. You
just have to keep all of the wires straight when you switch everything
It looks like the home inspector did a heads up job on this one.
There does need to be a Disconnecting Means for the building. As
someone already pointed out the first thing to check is if the
lighting & appliance panel board inside the home can be converted from
main lug to main breaker. If that is not possible then adding a
disconnect ahead of the main lugs is the next cheapest alternative.
In 1999 a four conductor feed from the service disconnecting means to
the house was not required. If it were installed today it would be
required. There is a possibility that no one has mentioned so far.
If the homes lighting and appliance panel board is of the split buss
type and it is listed for use as service equipment the present
installation would be code compliant. A split buss panel has a
section with twelve or fewer slots in it that will accommodate six
double pole breakers. One or two of those breakers control the
current to the rest of the panel. The six or fewer double pole
breakers in the main lug portion of the panel meat the requirements of
225.33 Maximum Number of Disconnects. The feeder supply breaker at
the meter meets the requirements of section 408.16 Exception 1.
"225.33 Maximum Number of Disconnects.
(A) General. The disconnecting means for each supply permitted by
225.30 shall consist of not more than six switches or six circuit
breakers mounted in a single enclosure, in a group of separate
enclosures, or in or on a switchboard. There shall be no more than six
disconnects per supply grouped in any one location."
"408.16 Overcurrent Protection.
(A) Lighting and Appliance Branch-Circuit Panelboard Individually
Protected. Each lighting and appliance branch-circuit panelboard shall
be individually protected on the supply side by not more than two main
circuit breakers or two sets of fuses having a combined rating not
greater than that of the panelboard.
Exception No. 1: Individual protection for a lighting and appliance
panelboard shall not be required if the panelboard feeder has
overcurrent protection not greater than the rating of the
If the panel in the house is neither split buss nor convertible to
main breaker then the only remaining remedy, short of replacing it
with a main breaker panel, is to install a separate enclosed switch or
circuit breaker at the house end of the feeder to control the current
to the house's Lighting and Appliance Branch-Circuit Panelboard. The
enclosed switch or circuit breaker would have to be listed for use as
service equipment in order to satisfy the requirement of Section
225.36 Suitable for Service Equipment.
225.36 Suitable for Service Equipment.
The disconnecting means specified in 225.31 shall be suitable for use
as service equipment.
This is in occordance with the NEC but possibly does not agree with
local code. Even the electtrical inspectors are sometimes wrong. As of
1990 all the house built where I lived were suppose to have the
breaker panel on the outside of the house. My house was built in '89
and had the panel inside. WHen I remodeled which resulteed in me
moving my current grandfathered in panel 48 inches the local inspector
wanted me to relocate it to the outside of the house telling me that
this was local code. I requested a copy of the reg and found this was
not the case, only the main brreaker had to be external. This saved me
a lot of money and I dispise having an external breaker panel as many
of my neighbors do.
Check the local code, read it yourself. I like having the exteral
disconnect, now if I have to go into the box I can do it know it is
abosolutely dead inside of it and I dont have to work about coming in
contact with the main feed.
I don't know about the code, (the answer to your question) BUT i can
tell you replacing the panel should not be over about $400 to replace
with a main breaker panel.
You could rewire the entire house for "thousands".
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