Do you need clearance for a disconnect switch?

cppoly

Senior Member
Location
New York
If the disconnect for a piece of HVAC equipment doesn’t have any fuses, then can you make the argument the switch will not require maintenance so that 3’ clearance isn’t required?
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
If you were trouble shooting a problem at the equipment would you check voltage at the disconnect? Note that besides the word "maintenance", "examination" is in there too.

Roger
 

S'mise

Senior Member
Location
Michigan
I agree with your argument but its up to the inspector.
If there's no fuses, then you wouldn't ordinarily check the switch energized.
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
If the disconnect for a piece of HVAC equipment doesn’t have any fuses, then can you make the argument the switch will not require maintenance so that 3’ clearance isn’t required?
Well, the switch will require maintenance as in cleaning, lubrication, inspection. Does it require maintenance while energized? Assuming you meant "while energized":

Not sure where the three feet is coming from.
110.26.A.2 width is 30" (or the width of the equipment if greater) Which still is not necessarily enough to stand off to the side when operating.

Or is the clearance you are discussing 110.26.A.1 Depth. Some of those are 3 feet. Reducing the depth seems like poor design. How are you going to get in there to operate the switch handle?

Code minimums are not a great place to be.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
If you were trouble shooting a problem at the equipment would you check voltage at the disconnect? Note that besides the word "maintenance", "examination" is in there too.

Roger
My argument as well. Typically the first place you start when troubleshooting.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
You never have to maintain the switch while energized. There is always another breaker where you can turn the circuit off to work on the switch. Put a breaker lock and you're good.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
OK so the AC unit is on the roof with the disconnect next to it, the panel is two floors below in a mechanical room, which are you going to test first to see if there is power at the unit?
 

cppoly

Senior Member
Location
New York
Thanks.

I was referring to depth since it's about 6" short of the full 3' working depth. I agree about the code minimums but was wondering if it's a requirement for disconnects if you can make the argument it's not likely to be worked on while energized.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
Thanks.

I was referring to depth since it's about 6" short of the full 3' working depth. I agree about the code minimums but was wondering if it's a requirement for disconnects if you can make the argument it's not likely to be worked on while energized.
IMO this is where the NEC falls short. It gives us ambiguity that is open to interpretation when it should be clearly defined. For many, including myself, the disconnect is the first point of testing. I would check to see if the breaker were tripped if not then the next simplest thing to do is open the disconnect switch and test the terminals. I'm not going to remove all of the screws on the panel or at the unit to test for voltage when I can just open the door on the switch.
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
IMO this is where the NEC falls short. It gives us ambiguity that is open to interpretation when it should be clearly defined. For many, including myself, the disconnect is the first point of testing. I would check to see if the breaker were tripped if not then the next simplest thing to do is open the disconnect switch and test the terminals. I'm not going to remove all of the screws on the panel or at the unit to test for voltage when I can just open the door on the switch.
:thumbsup:

If I were an inspector I would enforce it.

Roger
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
Thanks.

I was referring to depth since it's about 6" short of the full 3' working depth. I agree about the code minimums but was wondering if it's a requirement for disconnects if you can make the argument it's not likely to be worked on while energized.
But it is likely to be examined while energized.

The next part would be, do you have enough 110.26 clearance when opening the equipment to test it and work on it? At some point in trouble shooting odds are you will have to have access to energized
terminals
.

Roger
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Seattle, WA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
I was referring to depth since it's about 6" short of the full 3' working depth.
That tells me that this is an existing installation. Is that right?

One could wonder how it was initially installed and how its permit inspection was passed. One might also wonder why the question is being asked now. Is this just something you came across, and are trying to learn whether it is code-compliant? Or is an inspector calling this out as a violation (perhaps because it was noticed while the inspector was inspecting some other nearby new work)?

I agree with those who say this item does require working clearance, and that 30 inches of depth is not enough. It would be interesting to learn whether it is possible to move something and thereby achieve code-compliance.
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
Thanks.

I was referring to depth since it's about 6" short of the full 3' working depth. I agree about the code minimums but was wondering if it's a requirement for disconnects if you can make the argument it's not likely to be worked on while energized.
Yes, you probably can make a plausible argument that the box is not, "likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized". The short depth meets code minimums. Plenty of small hvac has a local, non-fused, safety disconnect tucked up close. However, don't feel bad if the AHJ shows up and says, "Our interpretation is non-fused disconnects will likely require examination" This would be the troubleshooting mentioned in previous posts.

I've got one out there where the depth is ridiculously shallow with my name on it. It even has a placard that says "prohibited to open while energized".
That was a lot of years ago - I still don't like it. And yes, I'm sure that eventually someone opened it for T-shoot - or will, if it hasn't already happened.
 

ActionDave

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Durango, CO, 10 h 20 min without traffic from wing
Occupation
wire pulling grunt
Sounds like I'm the odd man out here but I see no need for working clearance. There are gobs of places that I've opened up boxes, switches, disconnects, et al that I have opened up for trouble shooting that didn't have required work space.

I'd rather see the A/C disconnect well mounted and in good shape when I go to open it up than worry about how much open space is around it.
 

Knuckle Dragger

Master Electrician Electrical Contractor 01752
Location
Marlborough, Massachusetts USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I agree the more working space the better. That being said.
110-26(a)¹ is referring to ....to keep it simple electrical circuit breaker panels.
By others definition of it we would need the 3' clearance for a simple light switch.. where do you draw line?
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
110-26(a)¹ is referring to ....to keep it simple electrical circuit breaker panels.
What makes you think that?
By others definition of it we would need the 3' clearance for a simple light switch.. where do you draw line?
By definition it could mean a simple light switch

" (A) Working Space. Working space for equipment operating
at 600 volts, 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."

Note the word equipment above and devices below

Equipment. A general term, including fittings, devices, appliances,
luminaires, apparatus, machinery, and the like used as a
part of, or in connection with, an electrical installation.

Roger
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
You can ask this question to ten different inspectors and you will get both answers. I know we always try and get clearance but what about in a crawl space. How do you get the height???? We always try and get the disconnect in the most accessible area.

The odd thing is I can install an entire panel 1 foot off the ground with a wp cover that hinges at the top and it is compliant. I have actually seen it like that before. I was not happy to have to work on it.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
You can ask this question to ten different inspectors and you will get both answers. I know we always try and get clearance but what about in a crawl space. How do you get the height???? We always try and get the disconnect in the most accessible area.

The odd thing is I can install an entire panel 1 foot off the ground with a wp cover that hinges at the top and it is compliant. I have actually seen it like that before. I was not happy to have to work on it.
As Roger pointed out that section includes equipment which could be a counter top receptacle which will never have the required clearance.

This all goes back to the point I was making in post #10, this entire section is horribly written. :slaphead:
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
What makes you think that?
By definition it could mean a simple light switch
...

Equipment. A general term, including fittings, devices, appliances,
luminaires, apparatus, machinery, and the like used as a
part of, or in connection with, an electrical installation. ...
Looking at the definition of "Device"
Device. A unit of an electrical system, other than a conductor, that carries or controls electrical energy as its principal function.​

It absolutely includes a light switch.
 
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