View Full Version : Is it ok to prettify the breaker box?


BoCRon
02-11-2007, 01:44 PM
The breaker box in my garage is pretty unsightly. It is paint splattered and kind of dented and banged up. I was thinking about covering the outer part with contact paper and leave the door section just gray. Or can I just put some pics up there with magnets or is this going to cause problems?
The breaker box is dead center of the main wall and right over my workbench so it is very obvious.
Annette

bmwpower
02-11-2007, 01:56 PM
The breaker box in my garage is pretty unsightly. It is paint splattered and kind of dented and banged up. I was thinking about covering the outer part with contact paper and leave the door section just gray. Or can I just put some pics up there with magnets or is this going to cause problems?
The breaker box is dead center of the main wall and right over my workbench so it is very obvious.
Annette

I think that will be okay. Just don't cover it with something that doesn't allow you to open the door.

AGBill
02-11-2007, 01:57 PM
There are a few options here..

1. If the power panel is relatively new and a name brand panel, you could go to an electrical supply house and just buy a new replacement front cover.
2. The other option is the same as when you have a dent in a car fender:
remove the front cover, bang out the dents with your body working tools, bondo and repaint.
3. Have a nice big automotive poster your like? Frame the poster, put it on hinges and just cover up the whole mess...

putttn
02-11-2007, 02:46 PM
I noticed you said it was right over your workbench? I have heard that there can't be anything under the panel, like a workbench. Don't know if this is correct but that is what I heard so if someone in the know knows let us know. How do you like your Cooper - I've got a red one.

Charles (in GA)
02-11-2007, 03:09 PM
Older codes apparently were not clear as to panel location or other restrictions, but the current code is pretty clear on the subject.

2005 NEC section 110.26 defines the required working space in front of a panelboard.

The panel must have a working space width of 30 inches. It can (but is not required to be) centered in the 30 inches, or can be to one side of the other, but must be wholly within the 30 inch working space width. The 30 inch wide working space in front of the panel must be clear from floor to a height of six and one half feet, and the area in front of the panel must be clear outward from the panel for a distance of 36 inches for the full width and height of the working space. Therefore, there should not be any workbenches, washers, dryers, tool boxes or other objects in front of the panel, that intrude on this 30w x 36d x 78h clear working space. This is applicable to all panels, residential, commercial, and industrial.

The panel may be behind an open door, provided the above described working space can be achieved by closing the door. You cannot cover up the panel with a poster or anything else that obscures the panel.

The simple thing to do is shut off the power, remove the panel front, and sand, prime and paint it.

Charles

trovato
02-11-2007, 07:49 PM
I'm not trying to propose anything unsafe or illegal, but she may not have to comply with the current code. When any house is built, it is basically out of compliance as soon as the next code is published.

Charles (in GA)
02-11-2007, 07:57 PM
I'm not trying to propose anything unsafe or illegal, but she may not have to comply with the current code. When any house is built, it is basically out of compliance as soon as the next code is published.

And I agree 100%. Basically quoting the code because if you make changes, you can be held to the new code (either by the inspector, or your insurance company), and that usually the code says what it says for a good reason, safety. Certainly don't cover up or obscure the panelboard, but repainting it or decorating it (so long as you can still tell its an electrical panel) is not a bad thing.

Electrical panels are like fire extinguishers, they are really just in the way....... until you need them, and then you need them right now!

Charles

BoCRon
02-11-2007, 08:30 PM
Thanks all for the responses. Yep, breaker panel boxes are an ugly neccessity.
I have put my workbench and tall storage cabinet near the panel, but everything is on casters so can be moved easily to access the panel. I'm thinking I'll just put the contact paper on it and then I can always remove it if the need arises.
I'll post a few pics when all is complete.
Annette

D-Cal
02-12-2007, 05:47 PM
I built a wooden box with a door around mine. Got some hidden cabinet hinges and some G1S plywood. It's right next to the man door, so I also mounted and wired the 2 garage door opener buttons on the side above the light switches.

TorqueWrench
02-13-2007, 10:53 AM
Why don't you get a matching cabinet door that matches your storage cabinets and build a frame around the box to mount the door. When it is shut it looks like one of the cabinets.
I did this in my Media Room with my distribution panel that was in an electrical box.

Ryan Wilke
02-13-2007, 01:56 PM
Why don't you get a matching cabinet door that matches your storage cabinets and build a frame around the box to mount the door. When it is shut it looks like one of the cabinets.

One downfall of doing what you suggest is in the case of an emergency.

If someone - and it may very well NOT be you (like maybe a firefighter?) - needs to throw a breaker or the main QUICKLY - the task will be delayed for likely more than a few minutes while he/she is in search of the breaker box that "they know it's around here somewhere!" because it's basically hidden...

I would NOT recommend you hide it, cover it, or conceal it in any way.
Repaint the door with the same 'gray' so it is readily 'locate-able' by anyone/anytime.

Just my 2 cents......Good Luck!
Ryan W :beer:

volvo
02-13-2007, 05:05 PM
Please label it so that anyone can find it, also label all circuits insde...H

Ken P
02-16-2007, 02:29 PM
Also the door is supposed to be closed at all times. From what I understand it is designed to contain any sparks if there is a major short circuit. Please check me on this but I remember being drilled by my High school metal shop teacher all those years ago... Open door, flip breaker, shut door.


I've also heard that breakers are not light switches. They are not designed to be flipped on and off everyday. I will say the company I used to work for felt it was OK but I was never comfortable with it.

boiler7904
02-16-2007, 04:30 PM
I've also heard that breakers are not light switches. They are not designed to be flipped on and off everyday. I will say the company I used to work for felt it was OK but I was never comfortable with it.

When working on long duration commercial projects, breakers are used as light switches every day for temp power and lighting. Nothing you can do to get around it at least some of the time and still meet OSHA regs. Eventually, the breakers will wear out and need replacement if tripped enough.

The project I'm on now is 340,000+ sq ft and due to a new energy code requirement in Illinois, all of the lighting is on a low voltage lighting control system. Until entire control loops are completed, programmed, and fully functional, the breakers are the light switches.

Ken P
02-16-2007, 07:48 PM
Yes we used the breakers for light switches in a 103,000 sf plant for years. Because of the layout of the equipment line it would be difficult to light specific areas with conventional light switches. There is no excuse in a home garage environment for using breakers everyday. Wire it right the first time.

fefarms
02-16-2007, 11:17 PM
If the breaker is marked "SWD" (switch duty) in the fine print on the face of the breaker it is rated for routine use as a switch to control fluorescent lighting. The basic idea, even with a SWD breaker, is to switch the lights no more than a couple of times a day, not several times per hour day in and day out.

Charles (in GA)
02-16-2007, 11:21 PM
I've also heard that breakers are not light switches. They are not designed to be flipped on and off everyday. I will say the company I used to work for felt it was OK but I was never comfortable with it.

The use of breakers as switches is addressed in at least three places in the NEC. Most brands of circuit breakers in 15 and 20 amp single pole are rated for use as switches (and are usually so marked) in Flourescent and HID lighting circuits.

This Siemens brochure has footnotes (p.7) showing that virtually all of the single pole 120V circuit breakers in 15 and 20 amp are SWD (switching duty rated)

http://www.sea.siemens.com/resident/docs/RPBR-S0007-1003.pdf

Charles

optikal
02-17-2007, 08:04 AM
i'm not even sure it's ok for a man to even say prettify

Itzkwik
02-17-2007, 09:05 AM
i'm not even sure it's ok for a man to even say prettify
You're right, but we're all pretty sure Annette(thread starter) isn't a man.:thumbup:

Ken P
02-17-2007, 11:10 AM
Thanks for clarifying that issue. I guess it all has to do with garage lay out and the breaker box location / convienence. Since my box is at the far end of the garage next to the overhead door I prefer my conventional light switches at the bottom of the stairs ( drive under basement garage ). :beer:

Der Bugmeister
02-17-2007, 01:26 PM
Also the door is supposed to be closed at all times. From what I understand it is designed to contain any sparks if there is a major short circuit. Please check me on this but I remember being drilled by my High school metal shop teacher all those years ago... Open door, flip breaker, shut door.


I've got a 125 amp panel in my garage that doesn't have a door nor provision for a door. Likewise in the house, the heating subpanel has exposed breakers as well.

Might be a good theory/practice, but I don't think (at least in my area) that it's a requirement to have a door on the panels.

Willy Victor
02-17-2007, 06:50 PM
I've got a 125 amp panel in my garage that doesn't have a door nor provision for a door. Likewise in the house, the heating subpanel has exposed breakers as well.

Might be a good theory/practice, but I don't think (at least in my area) that it's a requirement to have a door on the panels.

Bugmeister that's scary not having a door on the breaker box. A small kid with a stick comes to mind.

Willy

wantedabiggergarage
02-17-2007, 10:35 PM
A lot of the old boxes that I see in commercial places, don't have doors. They still have the wiring covered, just the breakers are accessible.

We have a box, that the door lost a hinge on, and broke off. The fire inspector, wanted us to get a new box, but we fabricated a new hinge, and rehung it. He was happy.

Now I see the faces painted ALL the time. Normally just to try to make it blend in with it's surroundings. Once I saw one that paneling had been glued to the door, overlapping the area of the box, the door doesn't cover.

Cuprousworks
02-18-2007, 07:52 AM
One downfall of doing what you suggest is in the case of an emergency.

If someone - and it may very well NOT be you (like maybe a firefighter?) - needs to throw a breaker or the main QUICKLY - the task will be delayed for likely more than a few minutes while he/she is in search of the breaker box


I thought during fires they simply removed the meter, thereby diabling the power to the entire house? Easily found, consistently on the outside of the house. Given the variability of home designs and box placement it's hard to imagine they would be wandering through a burning home searching for a non-prettified breaker box cover. I'm not ready to 'prettify' mine just yet, but this wouldn't be the reason to stop me.

Mike

Charles (in GA)
02-18-2007, 08:13 AM
I thought during fires they simply removed the meter, thereby diabling the power to the entire house? Easily found, consistently on the outside of the house. Given the variability of home designs and box placement it's hard to imagine they would be wandering through a burning home searching for a non-prettified breaker box cover.

Indeed, this is why almost all local codes now require the main disconnect to be located OUTSIDE the house at the meter, even though the NEC still allows the main service disconnect to be inside. Local fire departments want to be able to pull the power right now, and that is best done with an outside disconnect.

It makes no sense to hide the breaker box however. Its bad enough that thousands of them wound up in closets and other odd places due to the lazyness and cheapness of the electrician or installer. Again, local codes realized the futility of trying to enforce the NEC's requirement about the clear work space in front of the panel when the meter is allowed to be inside the house, and again, many local codes now require the panel to be in a garage or utility or mud room, where it is less likely to be blocked or hidden.

Charles

BoCRon
02-18-2007, 09:32 AM
My house currently has 3 breaker boxes. The one that is in the garage is mainly for the garage and the third floor of the house. The main breaker box, that controls the main floor of the house and the furnaces, the pool,etc is in the basement. There is also the third box in my husband's woodworking shop which has his shop and one or two breakers for the exercise room.
I guess I should have clarified that the breaker box in the garage isn't the main unit for my house.
I have now "prettified" it to some extent. I think I'm going to have "Crazy Phil my vinyl guy" make me a cool label for it next time I have him make something for my car.
The fact that my husband didn't have a kitten when he saw what I did to the box is a bonus (my husband is the ultimate safety guy, takes absolutely EVERY precaution, very annoying ;) ).
Here's a pic showing the box, I just covered the outer portion with contact paper and put a pic of my MINI up with some magnets.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v690/BoCRon/Design/EPSN1087.jpg

Annette

Ken P
02-18-2007, 12:20 PM
Off topic but it looks like you've run at Road Atlanta? Do you do track days or was this some other event?

W-Cummins
02-18-2007, 12:31 PM
I thought during fires they simply removed the meter, thereby diabling the power to the entire house? Easily found, consistently on the outside of the house. Given the variability of home designs and box placement it's hard to imagine they would be wandering through a burning home searching for a non-prettified breaker box cover. I'm not ready to 'prettify' mine just yet, but this wouldn't be the reason to stop me. Mike

If they pull my meter and think that the power is off they will be in for a very rude supprise. My power is CT metered and removing the meter face will not do any thing to shut off the power. They want it off they will have to pull the large fuse units down at the pole.

Also my panel does not have covers over the switches but I think I may add a plexiglass cover over them to prevent small hands turning them off when they can reach them...

William....

wilbilt
02-18-2007, 01:01 PM
I'm curious as to why you have industrial-looking cabinets, tools, droplight, and even duct tape hanging on the wall, but you don't want to look at an electrical panel cover?:headscrat:

BoCRon
02-18-2007, 04:41 PM
Off topic but it looks like you've run at Road Atlanta? Do you do track days or was this some other event?


I am addicted to DEs. That pic was at a BMW Driver's School last March. I'm signed up for another in a couple of weeks. I'm also hoping to do Barber in May and little Talledega and Roebling this summer.

Annette

BoCRon
02-18-2007, 04:47 PM
I'm curious as to why you have industrial-looking cabinets, tools, droplight, and even duct tape hanging on the wall, but you don't want to look at an electrical panel cover?:headscrat:

Well, it was pretty dinged up and paint splattered. Also, as you can see from the pic, there isn't much room on the walls for anything decorative. The space above the cabinets in only about 13" so I wanted somewhere to hang at least one pic of El Kabong!
The other side of the cabinets is my husband's "side" so while there is more room above the Storewall there, I didn't want to put my MINI stuff on his Nissan side :lol_hitti
We briefly debating switching sides, but my side is where the door into the house is and if his truck was on that side it would be a pain manuevering around it since there is only about a foot of space in front of it.

Oh, and this is the roll of "duct" tape you see in the pic-http://racechex.com/images/product_art/tapes.jpg
Annette

Cuprousworks
02-18-2007, 05:45 PM
If they pull my meter and think that the power is off they will be in for a very rude supprise. ...

Not to hijack the post, but most homes don't have 480V service! :)

But seriously, in addition to that situation there's plenty of backup generators, co-generation, and simple electrical theft that make moving around a burning and smoke-filled structure hazardous. We are all lucky that there are men and women brave enough to risk their lives in order to protect our lives and property. Their jobs are difficult enough, I know I wouldn't want to make things worse by obscuring a service panel door. I don't think that's what the 'prettifying' entailed.

Mike

W-Cummins
02-18-2007, 06:37 PM
Not to hijack the post, but most homes don't have 480V service! :)
Mike

True, but more and more homes are running over 300 amp services. Here, ( and a lot of other locations) that also requires a CT metered service.


William...

Ken P
02-18-2007, 07:13 PM
My local Mustang club has Talladega booked for June 2nd. We're open to all vehicles so contact Patrick and he should be able to get you fixed up.

www.Georgiaregionalmustangclub.com

BoCRon
02-18-2007, 07:26 PM
Thanks Ken, will do. That may be the same weekend as the Audi club at Barber, I'm supposed to get an email this week or next.
Annette

wilbilt
02-19-2007, 07:39 AM
Oh, and this is the roll of "duct" tape you see in the pic-
Annette


Haha...sorry, I couldn't quite make that out from the photo.

I guess I am a believer in functionality over aesthetics, especially where safety is concerned. I think things like electrical disconnects and fire extinguishers should be readily visible and easily accesible.

Stuart in MN
02-19-2007, 09:51 AM
If they pull my meter and think that the power is off they will be in for a very rude supprise. My power is CT metered and removing the meter face will not do any thing to shut off the power. They want it off they will have to pull the large fuse units down at the pole.

It may not be a bad idea to call your local fire department and invite them to stop by sometime so you can show them your electrical setup and anything else that may be good for them to know. Then if there is a fire, they'll be prepared.

This sort of thing is done all the time (at least around here) on commercial or municipal construction projects - the firemen will do a walkthrough and take notes on where the main disconnect is, where the exits are, if there are any specific hazards they should be aware of, etc. I'm sure they'd appreciate the offer.

Someone else mentioned how main disconnects are often located outside the building; this is apparently a regional thing as I've never seen it done in the upper Midwest. There is one local electrical utility, that besides the usual main breaker in the panelboard, will under certain circumstances require a second disconnect on the upstream side of the meter. That is pretty unusual, and even they aren't very consistent about it.

cc_rider
02-19-2007, 10:47 AM
If it was me (which it isn't), I'd paint the breaker box bright red and add some kind of lettering or symbol indicating what it is. Maybe 'HIGH VOLTAGE'? A big white 'thunderbolt'?

Here, new code requires the main breaker box to be outside the house, for the reasons listed. My garage has it's own breaker inside, but it is obviously the breaker box, it's just painted white (like the walls). It is accessible according to the code.

We have some particularly draconian inspectors around here, and I don't want to run afoul of them (again). My garage opens to a fairly busy street, and with all the new construction going on there's inspectors going by all the time. I can just imagine an inspector taking his lunch break and seeing something he can red flag. Of course if he comes into my garage without permission he's going to face trespassing charges; I've had just about enough of those jackboots not knowing and mis-reading the codes.

BTW, your garage looks awesome!

c.

Charles (in GA)
02-19-2007, 05:07 PM
In some areas of the west it is apparently the norm to have not only the service disconnect (main breaker) on the outside of the house, but the entire circuit breaker panel, in a weatherproof enclosure, as evidenced by this Siemens "West Coast Metering and application guide". It shows numerous different meter socket/disconnect/breaker panel all in one units.

http://www.sea.siemens.com/resident/docs/West%20CoastMeterS&A%20WCMSA.pdf

I know it is quite common in Georgia, and from what I am told, other parts of the south to require the outside disconnect. It is actually a good idea, allowing you to safely work in your insde panel without being close to the hot terminals. It also allows the power company to install a meter and provide you with power (if for some reason it was removed, such as change of owners with a lull between occupancy) without someone having to be at home. Here, Georgia Power will not turn on power unless there is either an outside disconnect that they can turn off, or if someone is home. They don't want to put power inside a house unless they are assured all is OK. Having the outside disconnect allows them to do this, putting the "monkey" on the owners back to assure that all is well inside the house before closing that main.

Charles

chaingang
02-19-2007, 05:32 PM
When I built 4 years ago here in GA the local EMC gave me my 400 amp meter base with a disconnect built in. I then set a 200 amp main breaker panel with 8 breaker slots on each side of this. There are two main lug panels in the house, one for each floor.
The codes are enforced when you are in the construction stage. I don't know of any situation that allows county code enforcement to enter a completed home that has been given a CO. Commercial/Industrial is another story. If you are comfortable with disguising the panel then it's your choice.