Is Your Breaker Box Up to Code?
The breaker box in your home divides up the electrical current entering the house into individual circuits protected by circuit breakers. Breaker boxes are rated for a certain maximum amperage. Many boxes in older homes are rated for the electrical demand that was common at the time the house was built. However, as time has passed, everyone knows that household electrical devices have multiplied exponentially. If your breaker box hasn’t been updated, it may be out of date by one or more current code standards, as well as insufficient for today’s demand.
- The National Electrical Code recommends that all residential breaker boxes be rated for a minimum of 100 amps. Old boxes in existing homes, however, may be designed to handle only as little as 60 amps. Upgrading to a box with a higher rating that meets the National Electrical Code recommendation—as well as accommodating today’s increased electrical demand—can be done by a qualified electrician. Upgrading the breaker box does not mean you have to rewire the entire house.
- To protect home occupants from the risk of electrocution, the National Electrical Code stipulates that rooms where water is present—kitchen, bathrooms, spa, etc.—or appliances are in use must be served by circuits with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection. This safety measure can be added to circuits by upgrading the box to incorporate GFCI-rated breakers.
- The National Electrical Code also includes requirements for location of breaker boxes. In older homes, it may be situated in almost any indoor room. The NEC states that breaker boxes installed today must be in a safe location—no bathrooms—that is easily accessible. The box must have a minimum of three feet of open space clearance in front of it—no cramped closets and no large furniture obstructing the panel. If plumbing pipes are routed nearby, the box must be waterproof.