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I'm totally confused by this. Looking for any help that anyone can provide.

I've attached a photo of the top of my recently-installed (inspection passed) service panel. The top of the panel sits about 8" below the bottom of the 2x10 floor joists. The basement walls and ceiling are unfinished. There are 2x4's nailed parallel to the inside of the joists (an old ceiling installation, since removed? it's a 1925 house), so you actually can't see the joists very well; in the photo, you can barely see them off to the right, sitting on the sill.

My questions are about code requirements for cable/wiring exiting a service panel.

In this installation, the un-sheathed NM cable exits the panel and runs through a 10" length of conduit; then the sheathed cable emerges from the conduit through an open conduit fitting (no clamp) and runs along/through the floor joists.

EDIT TO RE-PHRASE:

  1. How is this installation not in violation of 312.5(C)? Does that section somehow not apply here, or is there another section that takes precedence?
  2. Could sheathed NM cable exit this panel directly, without the use of conduit/raceway?
  3. Could flex conduit be used in place of the rigid conduit in this installation?

[[My original questions were:

  1. Are the 8" lengths of conduit necessary? Are they even allowed? I'm confused by 312.5(C), which seems to indicate that the NM cable should be secured to the panel directly unless it meets the conditions listed as an "Exception", one of which is that the conduit should be not less than 18" in length; another of which is that the end of the conduit should be sealed or plugged; and another specifies that the sheathing should extend at least 1/4" into the panel. Does 334.15(C) somehow take precedence here?
  2. If additional circuits are added, should the cables exit the panel in the same manner as those already installed? I assume it's not ok to have NM cable exit the panel directly, since it would then be unprotected for the 8" run along the basement wall up to the joists. 334.15(C).
  3. Is there some part of the code that disallows flexible conduit from being used to protect NM cable when exiting a panel? For any future circuits, it's going to be easier to bend and secure flex conduit to the joists than to use rigid conduit. (All the "easy" knockouts have already been used, the ones that allowed a straight run of rigid conduit to be secured flush with the joists.)]]

enter image description here

  • I take it the cables are secured to the floor joists? – ThreePhaseEel Dec 21 '16 at 12:46
  • Yes - stapled to floor joists. – PhilPDX Dec 21 '16 at 17:09
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Note: All code references cited in this answer are from NFPA-70:2014 (the 2014 NEC).

Question #1: It looks like you have it right that the installation is in violation of 312.5(C). The code reference is attached at bottom of my answer.

  • 312.5(C): There is less than 18" of EMT used. This rule was evidently introduced in the 2002 NEC because a number of electricians were stuffing a bunch of NM cables through a single hole. I have yet to exactly figure out from code history why 18" was the selected value, but I suspect it is because a generally accepted height that is no longer subject to physical damage is 8' and the maximum height of a breaker is 6'7" (hence the potential minimum height for the top of a service panel with a breaker at this maximum height) per 2014 NEC 404.8 (8' - 6'7" = 17"). It seems like the installer met the spirit of the rule given the low basement ceilings (but not the letter) by giving each cable assembly it's own EMT protection even though the length is only 8" -- this is perhaps why the inspector let it slide.
  • 312.5(C)(a): At least one cable is not secured within 12" of exiting the EMT (the orange one on the right).
  • 312.5(C)(d): The EMT is not sealed at the outer end (per your description)
  • 312.5(C)(e): There is no visible NM sheathing extending into the box and is definitely less than the required 1/4" of sheathing extending into the panel

Question #2: I could see an argument for installing NM cable outside of conduit so long as the cable originates from a punch-out toward the middle of the panel. The reason I say this is that you effectively have EMT providing protection against physical damage on all sides around it. That call would ultimately be up to the inspector's opinion though -- the same goes for all calls on "subject to physical damage" since the NEC doesn't define it.

Question #3: You will note that flexible conduit is not expressly allowed by 312.5(C) and expressly specifies only two allowable methods: securing the cable and specific uses of nonflexible raceways. Also, all flexible conduit options are subject to the same "cannot be used where subject to physical damage" restrictions as NM, so it wouldn't do any good in this case even if it were allowed since the NM cable is being protected because it is subject to physical damage.

Just to show the specific prohibitions on the various flexible conduit options:

ARTICLE 348 Flexible Metal Conduit: Type FMC

348.12 Uses Not Permitted. FMC shall not be used in the following:

(7) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 350 Liquidtight Flexible Metal Conduit: Type LFMC

350.12 Uses Not Permitted. LFMC shall not be used as follows:

(1) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 356 Liquidtight Flexible Nonmetallic Conduit: Type LFNC

356.12 Uses Not Permitted. LFNC shall not be used as follows:

(1) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 360 Flexible Metallic Tubing: Type FMT

360.12 Uses Not Permitted. FMT shall not be used as follows:

(5) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 362 Electrical Nonmetallic Tubing: Type ENT

362.12 Uses Not Permitted. ENT shall not be used in the following:

(9) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 320 ARMORED CABLE: TYPE AC

320.12 Uses Not Permitted. Type AC cable shall not be used as follows:

(1) Where subject to physical damage


ARTICLE 330 METAL-CLAD CABLE: TYPE MC

330.12 Uses Not Permitted. Type MC cable shall not be used under either of the following conditions:

(1) Where subject to physical damage

I think that has it covered.


312.5 Cabinets, Cutout Boxes, and Meter Socket Enclosures. Conductors entering enclosures within the scope of this article shall be protected from abrasion and shall comply with 312.5(A) through (C).

(C) Cables. Where cable is used, each cable shall be secured to the cabinet, cutout box, or meter socket enclosure. Exception: Cables with entirely nonmetallic sheaths shall be permitted to enter the top of a surface-mounted enclosure through one or more nonflexible raceways not less than 450 mm (18 in.) and not more than 3.0 m (10 ft) in length, provided all of the following conditions are met:

(a) Each cable is fastened within 300 mm (12 in.), measured along the sheath, of the outer end of the raceway

(b) The raceway extends directly above the enclosure and does not penetrate a structural ceiling.

(c) A fitting is provided on each end of the raceway to protect the cable(s) from abrasion and the fittings remain accessible after installation.

(d) The raceway is sealed or plugged at the outer end using approved means so as to prevent access to the enclosure through the raceway.

(e) The cable sheath is continuous through the raceway and extends into the enclosure beyond the fitting not less than 6 mm (1⁄4 in.).

(f) The raceway is fastened at its outer end and at other points in accordance with the applicable article.

(g) Where installed as conduit or tubing, the cable fill does not exceed the amount that would be permitted for complete conduit or tubing systems by Table 1 of Chapter 9 of this Code and all applicable notes thereto. Informational Note: See Table 1 in Chapter 9, including Note 9, for allowable cable fill in circular raceways. See 310.15(B)(3)(a) for required ampacity reductions for multiple cables installed in a common raceway.

  • Amazing response - thank you! We're adding some circuits over the coming months, so I wanted to make sure I understood the general picture here. What I may do is install a wooden enclosure between the top of the panel and the bottom of the joists, with a removable front "access door". Then just have the cables for the new circuits exit the panel directly via sheathed NM cable, stapled to the sides of the enclosure for neatness. (I won't change what's already been installed/inspected.) – PhilPDX Dec 22 '16 at 1:04
  • It does seem strange, though, doesn't it? If unprotected NM cable is out, and FMC is out, and if the EMT would need to be at least 18"... what options does that leave? Other than constructing an enclosure for protection, I can't see how anything would meet code. (I realize that's a different question from what an inspector will/won't approve. I do think the current installation is "close enough", and doesn't pose any obvious safety hazards.) – PhilPDX Dec 22 '16 at 1:11
  • And sorry for all the comments, but thanks for pointing out that FMC does not meet code in terms of protecting wiring from physical damage. Things I didn't know! Makes me wonder what FMC is even for... – PhilPDX Dec 22 '16 at 1:50
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When the panel was installed the area may have been "open" and the conductors need to be protected so they ran the EMT up to the ceiling. The fittings they used should have a small insulator to protect the wiring from getting cut by the pipe or fitting. A fitting to protect the cable is all that is required no clamp is needed. There is 1 fitting in the box that is correct (insulated), the one with a yellow insulated ring to the right of the main feeder is correct. All the uninsulated fittings should have a plastic bushing like the main has the gray plastic ring. The ends at the top should have the insulation or a bushing ring this is the only thing I can see that the inspector missed. If the area is covered no conduit would be required. Added, I did verify the bushing/ insulation requirements I mentioned they are local requirements when the no clamp is used to prevent the insulation from being damaged.

  • 1
    The fittings without bushings entering the electrical box are correct for EMT provided the wire size is smaller than 4 AWG. Section 358 for EMT lists no restrictions. 300.4(G) which requires bushings or equivalent then applies to 4 AWG or larger wire. – statueuphemism Dec 21 '16 at 16:26
  • Thanks for the response. So - NM cable not in raceway (unprotected) would be prohibited? Would flex conduit be acceptable, assuming appropriate bushings/fittings? Does 312.5(C) just not apply for some reason? – PhilPDX Dec 21 '16 at 17:40
  • The bushings may be a local requirement, I am at a remote job and don't have my books. This county is nuts on some residential requirements. – Ed Beal Dec 21 '16 at 20:09
  • Addendum to my earlier comment: My earlier comment only applies to wire that is individually listed (e.g. THHN). Individual conductors from a stripped NM cable directly coming out conduit is never allowed by code (bushing or not). – statueuphemism Dec 22 '16 at 15:07

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