Panel Mounted on Switchgear - Violation?

sfav8r

Senior Member
We recently installed a disconnect as per the attached photo. The removable panel that we mounted our disconnect on is a removable panel which obviously is not removable after we added the disconnect. We took this into consideration at the time of install and decided that the since the panel below our disconnect is removable and the six panels on the back of the switch gear are removable, that the panel we mounted our disconnect on was not required for access. You can literally walk inside the switchgear to access anything that requires servicing. The inspector is saying that we cannot mount the panel there because (1) You cannot mount anything on switch gear, period. (2) Even if #1 didn't apply, you have effectively blocked access to the switch gear.

I have to say that I see his point (#2 anyway), but I don't completely agree. There is more than adaquate clearance and accessability even with our disconnect. The Inspector feels that because the manufacturer put the panel there then by default it has to remain accessible. I feel that the manufacturer puts access on all sides because they don't know where good access will be and where it will be blocked. A good example of that is parking garage arms and ticket spitters that have access panels on both sides because that way they can be installed with one side against a wall, either the left or the right works because no matter which side is against the wall you have access from the other side. There is no requirement to access from both sides just because the manufacturer put an access panel on both sides.

I have two questions. Does anyone know of a specif NEC reference that prohibits adding a disconnect to the switch gear as we have done? Do you think this installation is OK irrespective the NEC? That is to say weather it's "legal" or not, do you have issues with it?

Since I know everyone must be wondering, the reason we put it there is it was literall the only spot in the electrical room that met all of the clearance requirements. We needed to be within 25' due to tap rules.

Thanks for any input.
 

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iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
... I have two questions. Does anyone know of a specif NEC reference that prohibits adding a disconnect to the switch gear as we have done? Do you think this installation is OK irrespective the NEC? That is to say weather it's "legal" or not, do you have issues with it? ....
No
Yes
No

Check the mfg installation specs. Unfortunately it looks old enough you will likely have to get them from the mfg.

What I expect you will find is:
There is no clearance requirements on the ends. It will show the switchboard mounted right up to a wall.
The removable panels are there for adding adjacent sections. This is where the bus connections would have been made.​

If it is okay to install the swb right tight to a wall, I'd say it is okay to put a disconnect there. I'd be really careful about the length of the screws. Probably want to visually check the clearance. And I suspect you already did that.

ice
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
Not part of this discussion, but I'm curious:
Where do the swbd feeder cables connect? If they connect in the back of the swbd, that working clearance looks really short.

I'm not in anyway suggesting it should be changed. It just looks tight if one wanted to get back there for a torque check (dead) or a thermal scan (live)

ice
 

sfav8r

Senior Member
Not part of this discussion, but I'm curious:
Where do the swbd feeder cables connect? If they connect in the back of the swbd, that working clearance looks really short.

I'm not in anyway suggesting it should be changed. It just looks tight if one wanted to get back there for a torque check (dead) or a thermal scan (live)

ice
The pic is a little deceptive. There is 36" of clearance. The feeders are actually on the opposite side.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Massachusetts
... I have two questions. Does anyone know of a specif NEC reference that prohibits adding a disconnect to the switch gear as we have done? Do you think this installation is OK irrespective the NEC? That is to say weather it's "legal" or not, do you have issues with it? ....


No
Yes
No
I agree and have done similar installations a number of times.

Meter sockets, combination motor starters, large panelboards etc.

I do try to use common sense when picking a location so that I do not block access to a needed area.
 

MichaelJ

Member
Location
Georgia
There are removable panels on top of the switch gear from the factory that become nonremovable after the installation of conduits.
 

Cow

Senior Member
Location
Eastern Oregon
I agree and have done similar installations a number of times.

Meter sockets, combination motor starters, large panelboards etc.

I do try to use common sense when picking a location so that I do not block access to a needed area.
Our shop has also done the same many times with no issues.
 

edward

Senior Member
....(2) Even if #1 didn't apply, you have effectively blocked access to the switch gear.
Your installation is OK. My only concern is 36" clearance in front of your disconnect. There seems to be step in front of the disconnect.


On a second note, question for your inspector, Assuming that side is not the only access, what if the switch gear was butted against the wall? Does that violate the installation?
 
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sfav8r

Senior Member
Your installation is OK. My only concern is 36" clearance in front of your disconnect. There seems to be step in front of the disconnect.

You are right about the curb. Technically we miss the code by 2". Relaisticall you wouldn't want to stand any closer to the panel than you can even with the curb. The inspector was OK with the curb.

On a second note, question for your inspector, Assuming that side is not the only access, what if the switch gear was butted against the wall? Does that violate the installation?
I really agree with you here (I guess that's obvious). I would really like to hear from some inspectors on the original questions. I'm meeting with the inspector again tomorrow to take another shot at convincing him.
 

jap

Senior Member
I guess you could say technically this is alright although I would never do it unless I was completely out of other options.

If I was to come along after the fact and decide to mount a disconnect on the bottom access panel would I be in Violation just because somebody else got there first ?
Probably so, since I would then be rendering the access panel not accessible, and there seems not be enough clearance on the back side of this switchgear to meet the requirements either.

My first knee jerk reaction was the same as the Inspectors thoughts although now it seems from what I'm hearing, its not enforceable.
I know the engineers in the plants I work in around here wouldnt have allowed it regardless of what an inspector thought, but they're under their own rules.

Although convienient I would have placed the disconnect somewhere other than on the access panel of the switchgear, but thats just me.

JAP>
 

sfav8r

Senior Member
I guess you could say technically this is alright although I would never do it unless I was completely out of other options.

If I was to come along after the fact and decide to mount a disconnect on the bottom access panel would I be in Violation just because somebody else got there first ?
Probably so, since I would then be rendering the access panel not accessible, and there seems not be enough clearance on the back side of this switchgear to meet the requirements either.

My first knee jerk reaction was the same as the Inspectors thoughts although now it seems from what I'm hearing, its not enforceable.
I know the engineers in the plants I work in around here wouldnt have allowed it regardless of what an inspector thought, but they're under their own rules.

Although convienient I would have placed the disconnect somewhere other than on the access panel of the switchgear, but thats just me.

JAP>
You might not have seen it earlier in the post, but there are multiple (6) access panels in the back of the switch gear which has 36" clearance to the wall despite how it looks in the picture. Several people could stand inside. I think a previous poster made a great point when he mentioned that it is completely fine to bolt another section to the panel at the same location. If another section can block that access, then it clearly isn't required access. I won't say that it's "impossible" to put the disconnect elsewhere, but there isn't anywhere that I think is a better place. All other locations have some issue. I guess it's a mater of which issue bothers you the most.
 
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jap

Senior Member
You might not have seen it earlier in the post, but there are multiple (6) access panels in the back of the switch gear which has 36" clearance to the wall despite how it looks in the picture. Several people could stand inside. I think a previous poster made a great point when he mentioned that it is completely fine to bolt another section to the panel at the same location. If another section can block that access, then it clearly isn't required access. I won't say that it's "impossible" to put the disconnect elsewhere, but there isn't anywhere that I think is a better place. All other locations have some issue. I guess it's a mater of which issue bothers you the most.
If you bolted another section of gear to the existing you wouldnt be blocking off the access to the first one. The Access panel would be removed to access the buss bars.
 

sfav8r

Senior Member
If you bolted another section of gear to the existing you wouldnt be blocking off the access to the first one. The Access panel would be removed to access the buss bars.
Well yeah, but the points is you wouldn't be able to have access to the first section, or at least very limited access.
 

jap

Senior Member
I'm just curious what was tapped to feed the disconnect?
Is it tapped from an existing Larger fused switch in the Gear or is it tapped to the buss bars?
If tapped to the bussbars what is the amperage of the Switchgear ?
 

jap

Senior Member
Well yeah, but the points is you wouldn't be able to have access to the first section, or at least very limited access.
Why not?
I cant see how long the room is in the picture to know how much room is at the end of the existing switchgear but if there is room one could still go in behind or through the end of the new 2nd Section to get to the first one,,,,,, that is, after the disconnect that was installed in the picture was moved out to the way so you could install the 2nd section.:)
 

sfav8r

Senior Member
This picture is a perfect example. The far left section is against the wall. The far right section has a transformer immediately to the right. Neither section is accessible by the side panel but has access via the front and back panels. I don't think the manufacturer expects EVERY panel to accessible.
 

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north star

Senior Member
Location
inside Area 51
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In your OP pic., does that access panel have hinges on
it, or is it just to protect the internal parts from accidental
contact [ RE: Article 490.38, `08 NEC ] ?

I do not see any handles on it, for lifting away from the
metal enclosure itself, so it may not be an actual "accessible
panel".

FWIW, ...we inspectors question everything ! :happyyes:

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