As usual, never consider the following commentary associated with these photos as a formal interpretation of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Without criticizing anyone or any product, the following scenarios present us with serious safety questions.

All references are based on the 2008 NEC.


Kirby Crews, president of KC Electric, LLC in Drexel, Mo., recently ran across this installation in a customer's basement located in Kansas City, Mo. “The water service comes through the foundation wall below the service panel, and runs up to the ceiling joists directly in front of the panel. There is about 2 inches between the back of the ¾-inch copper water line and the panel cover. I would say this violates the working space requirements in 110.26. I wonder which came first: the water line or the load center?”

I'm sure the load center was there first. Maybe the person who installed the water pipe thought it would be good to place it close to the panelboard so the grounding electrode conductor could be easily attached to it. As far as the Code is concerned, yes, it does “impinge upon the working space,” violating the requirements of 110.26, which states:

“Sufficient access and working space shall be provided and maintained about all electric equipment to permit ready and safe operation and maintenance of such equipment. Enclosures housing electrical apparatus that are controlled by a lock(s) shall be considered accessible to qualified persons.” In addition, 110.26(A) says, “Working space for equipment operating at 600V, nominal, or less to ground and likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized shall comply with the dimensions of 110.26(A)(1), (A)(2), and (A)(3) or as required or permitted elsewhere in this Code.”


Chad R. Nixon, an electrical engineer with Hurd and Obenchain, Inc. — a consulting engineering firm in Richmond, Va. — found this during a progress inspection at a local university. “This was the contractor's solution to modify the bus work in the 3,000A main switchboard,” says Nixon. “We showed in the contract documents to break the bus bar and rework the feed through the automatic transfer switch (ATS). When I asked the contractor for the UL listing on this modification, he looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Obviously, he didn't bother calling the manufacturer to see what they had to do to modify the bus. Luckily for the owner, the manufacturer's engineer was standing next to me when I took these pictures. He was not at all pleased with the contractor.”

I can definitely see why he wasn't pleased with this modification. We can easily cite a violation of 90.7, Examination of Equipment for Safety. A portion of this rule states: “It is the intent of this Code that factory-installed internal wiring or the construction of equipment need not be inspected at the time of installation of the equipment, except to detect alterations or damage, if the equipment has been listed by a qualified electrical testing laboratory that is recognized as having the facilities described in the preceding paragraph and that requires suitability for installation in accordance with this Code.” Fine Print Notes refer us to 110.3, Art. 100, and Annex A for further guidance.

Found a Code Violation? E-mail your photos (no cell phone images, please) to Joe Tedesco at