Is it wise to install service panel on outside of house?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by bobwilli, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. bobwilli

    bobwilli New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Salem, Oregon
    I need to have an upgraded service panel installed for my 1948 stucco house. Since the clothes dryer needs to be right under where the new panel would be and code doesn't allow this, an electrician suggests mounting the panel on the outside of the house. I am skeptical of the wisdom of this.

    How common is such an outside installation?

    This seems rather insecure and vulnerable to tampering by someone unauthorized. Is there something I'm missing?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,979
    Location:
    Ohio
    Personaly I would not have my box outside the home...
  3. jbfan74

    jbfan74 Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    131
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    In some locals, it is very common to place the panel outside.
    Have you driven around town and looked to see how many are?
    220/221 places all his panel outside!
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,357
    Location:
    New England
    Personally, I'd not want to go out in a wet, rainy night to reset a breaker...shouldn't happen often, but I'd rather do it in my shorts, in my own house in the middle of the night, if needed. Now, moving a panel can get expensive, so it depends on how much you're willing to spend, and convenience. You can buy lockable panels, so the neighborhood punks don't just shut you off, but then you have to find the key and hope the lock hasn't frozen up when you do need to get inside it.
  5. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Architect

    Messages:
    277
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Every place I've lived in the main panel has been on the outside of the house. It's never been an issue. I wouldn't worry about it.
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,303
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    panel

    As long as it is a weatherproof panel and you put a padlock on it, you should have no problem. Here, the panels are either outdoors, or there is a master switch/breaker at the meter controlling an indoor panel. The city/utility require an outdoor access after the meter to disconnect the entire house if needed.
  7. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Drive around back behind buildings. Drive behind shopping centers for example. And you will see plenty of main electrical panels mounted outside.

    Might be difficult to drive behind houses in your area since there may not be alleys, but if you drive around, follow the electric lines going to houses, then you should see many electric panels mounted on the sides of homes. Some on the front of homes in older areas.

    Quite common!
  8. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,979
    Location:
    Ohio
    While is some areas it may be common the question asked was is it wize...the answer is no..
  9. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    I'd never want a panel outside
    Here we don't even have a disconnect outside unless they pull the meter
  10. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Why would it not be wise to install an electric panel outside?

    I've lived on the west coast all my life and everybody I know has their main panels installed outside. I've never heard of anyone having any problems with this???

    Also no one I know has their outside electric panels locked (for their house). I don't have mine locked.

    Enlighten me please! :confused:

    (Also I know the fire department likes to switch off main power to buildings when there is a fire. Around here that is the first thing they do when they get to a burning building - switch off the main breaker on the outside panel...)
  11. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,979
    Location:
    Ohio
    I am surprised that you can't even see how inconvenient it is or could be to turn on a breaker should it trip...

    You have been lucky I guess...
  12. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Oh I see!

    Actually I have a main panel outside and a subpanel inside with easy to reach breakers.

    Also I have all 20 amp circuits for all the 120 volt things and dedicated circuits to all the power hogs, so I never have any breakers trip.

    Anyway that is a good point, having the individual breakers inside. I agree that would be a good reason to have a main panel inside.
  13. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    1,016
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    Also having the panel outside makes running new circuits MUCH harder. Similar to when the main panel is inside a finished space flush in a finished wall.

    Unless forced to, I see absolutely NO benefit to have the branch circuit panel outdoors and several drawbacks.
  14. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    A) How often do you trip breakers? :confused:

    B) How hard is it to walk outside and reset a breaker? :rolleyes:

    At least we don't have to climb the basement stairs and move a bunch of crap that is stacked in front of the panel :D


    Panels are always outside here in the Southwest. That's how we roll :cool:
  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,357
    Location:
    New England
    WHen there may be a 6' snow drift by the panel, flipping the breaker becomes a much more annoying task. So, those living down south or on the west coast may never have experienced the inconvenience. You flip the breaker for more things than just resetting it. It's wise to turn it off for certain maintenance operations as well, and while marking them is supposed to be pretty comprehensive, finding the right one can be a pain, especially if alone and you have to walk all the way around the house to figure it out if you got the right one. Nicer to work on in the rain or snow, too.

    I'll continue to have mine inside, thank you very much...
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,303
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    breakers

    One of the major differences as to where it is mounted is whether you have a basement or not. If not, then finding a good spot to put a panel indoors where it is not obtrusive or a nuisance, can be difficult. That is why we have them outdoors. But then, we do not have 6' of snow, 30 below weather, or blinding rainstorms either.
  17. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    When my Christmas display is setup it never fails that a heavy rain will trip a GFCI breaker
    I usually wait until the next day to reset them
    Other then that very rare a breaker trips
    But Murphy's law seems to indicate when one does trip it will be a circuit you need & pouring rain out
    I've never had anything stacked in front of the panels
    That's against code ;)
  18. bobwilli

    bobwilli New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Salem, Oregon
    You all have given me a good and entertaining education! Thanks. I have asked some more questions of one of the installation bidders, and he said that code requires only that there be a 30" clear space somewhere beneath the panel, not necessarily centered under it as I had thought based on what some contractors said. Since the clear space can start under the left edge of the panel and extend to the right 30", I can make that work inside since I can move the dryer just out from under left edge of the panel, and I can easily clear 30" to the right.

    Does that agree with what you all know about code, or could that be specific to Oregon or Salem where I live?
  19. jbfan74

    jbfan74 Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    131
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    30 inches side to side and it does not matter where you start the measurement, and 36 inches in front.
  20. tjbaudio

    tjbaudio Sound and Light Suppervisor for a School District

    Messages:
    162
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    I grew up in WI and moved back here after living in Oregon. Here in WI I have NEVER seen a branch panel outside. I have seen a pole mounted panel for farm distribution (4 to 6 large breakers feeding various buildings) When I lived in OR some of the places had out door breakers. Every single out door breaker panel I have seen has been corroded.
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