I am replacing my main breaker panel and want to add a cutoff breaker inline before the new panel. To do so I will need to lower the new panel about a foot. The problem is that the sheathing on the 14/3 feeder wiring does not extend down the wires into the panel. It has been stripped off and stops right at the bottom of the cable clamps. The wire above the new lower main panel would have the hot, neutral and ground wires exposed above the top of the panel where the sheathing stops. Is it acceptable to run these wires inside stubs of conduit coming out of the top of the new main panel? I'd rather not have to wire nut new Romex onto all the runs above main panel and have them secured in junction boxes.

  • 1
    May I ask why you feel the need for a cutoff breaker before the main panel? I also think you are going the run into more "short wire" problems moving your main panel down a foot. Pictures would help. I don't know about your plan to use conduit stubs to cover the wires without the sheath...not doubting you, just not familiar with the code regarding this. Mar 20, 2020 at 17:33
  • Is there a cutoff breaker somewhere else, like outside? You can get a new panel with a cutoff breaker already installed... why make it difficult?
    – JACK
    Mar 20, 2020 at 17:45
  • JACK - There is no cutoff outside....just the meter. The panel I have does have a 100amp breaker installed. I want to be able to disconnect the entire house before the main panel without the need to have the power company come out and pull the meter. I anticipate needing a sub-panel in the future and would like to have complete and total shutoff in the main panel when the time comes.....not just from the 100amp breaker down.
    – roasthead
    Mar 20, 2020 at 19:06
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    Why do you want the cutoff to be indoors? Mar 21, 2020 at 0:07
  • TBH I didn't think about putting one on the outside of the house. That would solve the problem of having to lower the new box and as a result the 14 gauge wires being too short to fit in the new box. I will definitely talk to the inspector and see what that would require. Thanks for asking that question!!!!!
    – roasthead
    Mar 21, 2020 at 1:22

2 Answers 2


Can't do it. There must be at least 1/4" of sheath past the cable clamp. No cable clamp.

Also there are painful limits on number of jacketed Romex cables in conduit. You can't just cram 'em in.

Only if you put a junction box at the top of the conduit

Fit a junction box there, then use a less-than-2-foot run of conduit called a "nipple".

Consolidate all the grounds into a single ground wire (of the largest size) that you carry through the conduit. If you use steel boxes and EMT conduit (if indoors) or Rigid conduit (if outdoors), then the conduit itself carries the ground, and you can terminate at the junction box itself (get a box with a raised nub for the ground screw).

Given that all your cables are 14/2, each cable splice takes 8 cubic inches (2" x 4 wires), and you lose another 4 cubic inches for all cable clamps and all grounds. That means:

  • A 4" square box takes 2 splices
  • A 4-11/16" square box takes 4 splices
  • A 6"x2" box takes 8 splices
  • A 6"x4" box takes 17 splices

"But I'm not splicing! I'm rolling the individual Romex conductors right on through to the panel!" Yeah, that's not allowed by Code because those individual wires are not rated for conduit use. You're meant to splice to another wire type (THHN). I don't seriously expect you to do that... however I want to make sure you already have the cubic inches in the junction box, in case you get flagged and are forced to do them. If you don't have to replace the junction box, then you could do it one pair at a time and not get too confused. Otherwise, what a mess!

One thing you really must do, in any case, is bundle/group your wire pairs/triples. You can't simply have a spew of blacks and a spew of whites raining down from the conduits. You have to mark, in the main panel, which hots go to which neutral. That's as easy as wrapping the pair/triplet with electrical tape positioned so it'll be visible in the main panel.

As mentioned, grounds can be consolidated in the junction box to a single wire (of the largest size), and if metal, can simply be pigtailed to the box itself.

This may be moot, though. Outside may be mandatory

The upcoming NEC, 2020, has only been adopted by one state (Mass.) AFAIK. Once your state adopts it, you must put the disconnect outdoors. Mind you, all the existing houses are grandfathered, and aren't required to retrofit a disconnect... but even under grandfathering, any step must be in the right direction. Once NEC 2020 is adopted in your state, the disconnect will have to be outside. Word to the wise: get that permit pulled soon if you want it indoors.

  • So are you saying one big 6"x4" junction box connected to the main panel with all my feeders spliced there to new sheathed 14gauge so I can then run them down the conduit into the new panel? Or maybe a couple smaller boxes and split the runs up between them? I have room for several junction boxes. Would the ground wires in the new Romex splices be grounded inside the junction boxes as well.....I am assuming that would be the case?
    – roasthead
    Mar 20, 2020 at 19:33
  • @roasthead Yeah a big box would handle 17, but you may run out of knockouts if it even has knockouts. Myself I split the runs to about 4 per box. But many of my conduit runs are >2' which means I am limited to 4 circuits per pipe. If the pipe and box is metal, you can just ground the romex to the box and you're complete. Running 1 ground wire would be "belt and suspenders" which is also fine. Mar 20, 2020 at 19:53

Put the cutoff outside, at the meter socket

I can understand wanting a cutoff ahead of your panel; this is a very nice thing to have, as it makes servicing the actual panel a snap compared to the more conventional configuration where the service disconnect is in the main panel with always-hot service entrance conductors coming in from a separate meter base.

The solution, though, isn't to try to wedge another thing in inside the house. Instead, the better place to put it is outside, next to the meter, as that positions you quite nicely for compliance with the 2020 NEC's emergency-disconnect requirements, and also allows you to accomplish this relatively inexpensively using a device called a meter-main or Combination Service Entrance Device (CSED). Note, though, that the installer of this will have to run a full four-wire feeder from this new cutoff to the existing panel, and they also may have to relocate the termination of your Grounding Electrode Conductor into the new meter-main from where it lands right now. Finally, before you go shopping for new hardware, you'll need to consult your utility's service equipment rules, as utility requirements for metering equipment can be somewhat idiosyncratic.

  • Oh, good point. It hadn't occurred to me that since OP is installing a disconnect, if OP is under NEC 2020, putting it outside would be *mandatory; installing a disconnect obviously ends the grandfathering that says you don't need a disconnect, so you'd have to comply with any modern NEC requirements about location.) However NEC 2020 has only been adopted by 1 state so far, and I don't expect any other states will adopt it in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Mar 26, 2020 at 1:57

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