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Impossible to meet correct breaker box height with the size box I have

derekr | Posted in Building Code Questions on

I’ve read the breaker box needs to be atleast 4 feet from the floor but also no higher than 6 feet from the top

My 42 space breaker box is almost 4 feet long,
if I place the top of it at 6 feet then the bottom of the box isn’t even close to 4 feet from the floor it’s only around 2 feet

if I make bottom 4 feet from the floor then then top is almost 8 feet from the floor not 6

what am I supposed to do here?

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  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    Standard practice it to measure off the floor, then let the top go where it needs to go. If you have a particular local code requirement, I would try to hit the height off the floor as the priority measurement, but you can always check with your local building dept to see what they want to see.


    1. user-6623302 | | #14

      Use several panels, like a main panel and adjacent sub-panels. More expensive, but will get you there. Much better than getting on your hands and knees or finding a ladder to check a breaker.

  2. Expert Member


    Does the NEC still have a minimum height off the floor? Ours doesn't. It just says how high the top breaker must be so you can still reach it.

    If you are correct, then one alternative is to mount the panel sideways.

    1. derekr | | #3

      Ok so only 2 feet off the floor might be ok then?

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #4


        I would find out what code you are under and then see what it says.

      2. Patrick_OSullivan | | #9

        Yea, where are you? NEC doesn't have a minimum stipulation, generally. In fact, you'll often see large panels close to the floor in mechanical/electrical rooms because otherwise they wouldn't fit.

    2. Patrick_OSullivan | | #5

      Can't mount panel sideways in NEC land. (That is, any "normal" panel...) NEC 240.81: "Where circuit breaker handles are operated vertically rather than rotationally or horizontally, the “up” position of the handle shall be the “on” position."

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6


        I only know NEC requirements for searching them online, but are you sure? This seems to imply otherwise:

        1. Expert Member
          BILL WICHERS | | #7

          It would certainly be non-standard here to mount a panel sideways, and would certainly get a lot of questions. The Canadian "mount it sideways" trick is pretty much unknown here, even though I do like how it can help make wiring inside the panel a little cleaner. I admit that when I first saw a sideways panel while in Canada, it was a "What the ...?!" moment for me :-)

          I have never seen a panel in the US mounted sideways in 25+ years. That doesn't mean it's prohibited though (although it certainly was prohibited in the past). I'll have to look into this. I do think mounting a panel sideways is going to get an inspector really curious about what other unusual things you might have done, so that is a consideration here.


          1. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #10


            They get used a lot here in sloped crawlspaces, or partly buried basements where half the wall is concrete, and there is only a framed knee-wall above for the panel.

          2. Expert Member
            Akos | | #11

            It is funny how these regional difference are. Sideways panel is so common that it never even occurred to me that it could be an issue elsewhere.

            Maybe the problem is the imperial electrons, they don't like flowing downwards.

          3. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #12


            When you turn them sideways, you do have to be careful the electricity doesn't spill out.

          4. Expert Member
            BILL WICHERS | | #13

            Malcolm, everyone knows the real problem is that the electrons all pool up in the low spots and then start fires :-)

            I actually had a crew fail inspection for conduit that wasn't level once many years ago. It was a state-level inspection, since it was in a school. The crew was ticked about that, and was joking "what's gonna happen, is the electricity gonna pool up in the low spot and start a fire?". The inspector had failed them on the "must be installed in a workmanship like manner" part of the code, thought it wasn't professional. It was just not quite straight, not really bad. The next inspector on the job thought that was stupid and green tagged it. It's a fun story though :-)


        2. Patrick_OSullivan | | #8

          Latest code book I have handy is 2017. It's still prohibited. The only way you could make a case for it would be to use only half the breakers in an enclosure.

          240.33 Vertical Position. Enclosures for overcurrent devices shall be mounted in a vertical position unless that is shown to be impracticable. Circuit breaker enclosures shall be permitted to be installed horizontally where the circuit breaker is installed in accordance with 240.81. Listed busway plug-in units shall be permitted to be mounted in orientations corresponding to the busway mounting position.

          240.81 Indicating. Circuit breakers shall clearly indicate whether they are in the open “off” or closed “on” position.

          Where circuit breaker handles are operated vertically rather than rotationally or horizontally, the “up” position of the handle shall be the “on” position.

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