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We had an old fusebox replaced with circuit breakers in our (U.S.) house today. Its a 100-amp panel, everything very simple and standard. The electrician installed a regular receptacle just outside the breaker box (about six inches away), a GFCI on a dedicated 20 amp circuit.

I'm curious why he did this. It seems needless since there are other outlets in the basement. I'm guessing that he used a GFI because basements can get wet, but why so close to the breakers?

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    @Harper answer is, of course, 100% correct. It also means that you have a smart electrician. Some would only do this kind of thing if asked - and then charge a lot extra for it. A smart electrician tells you "You asked me to do X and Y, I'll do all that and I'm also doing Z because it is the right thing to do, don't argue with me, it won't cost much, and you'll thank me years from now when you realize I did the right thing." Oct 25 at 23:54
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    GFI not only because it can get wet, but new circuits have to be installed to current code, and 210.8 now requires GFI protection in basements. Oct 26 at 0:24
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That is the electrician's courtesy outlet. It is so the electrician can plug in extension cords for lights, saw, drill charger etc.

Why? Unlike some novices, pro electricians are well aware that existing houses are chock full of surprises in the electrical wiring. Bootlegged grounds, borrowed neutrals, crossed hots... those and others can result in power from other circuits crossing over onto the circuit you had thought you turned off.

The safest course is to turn the main breaker off. But then, you have no power.

So the workaround is to have one dog-simple circuit. One so simple that the electrician can effortlessly inspect it and confirm yes, this receptacle is the only thing on it. Normally they are in conduit for that reason. Then, the electrician can turn off every circuit but that one, and work reasonably safely.

Is it a Code requirement? No. The only Code that talks about this a) exempts houses, and b) is silent on the above points. It merely requires power in the vicinity, akin to outlets near HVAC units. Anything on a house can be done with hand tools. In commercial, not so much.

And that Code mandated outlet has no GFCI requirement. Yours probably is GFCI because it's in a basement, garage or outdoors - all locations requiring GFCI.

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    Having it (not necessarily having it as a single dedicated, etc...) is also a code requirement, I think, though the fact that you haven't quoted that is making me wonder if it's only the light for the panel that's technically required.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 26 at 0:35
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    In Europe, we put this receptacle INSIDE the breaker box so it is even easier to inspect. It is made in DIN rail format and takes 2 standard widths on the same rail where the breakers are mounted.
    – fraxinus
    Oct 26 at 9:28
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    @ChrisH Never trust anyone too easily unless you have been there. Maybe previous one was tired. Overworked. Had first day of cold, not sick enough to feel he's sick but sick enough to make that one small mistake... No matter how good and professional someone is, these things can happen.
    – Mołot
    Oct 26 at 23:51
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    @Mołot as a lot of it is due to labelling I suspect miscommunication between electrician and apprentice or similar. At least I can add a note to the labels without being qualified or fully analysing it. Anyway, I wouldn't even trust myself without checking. 230V hurts.
    – Chris H
    Oct 27 at 7:01
  • Now I am wondering, why isn't such an outlet built in to distribution boards themselves? This would have an even lesser cost. The only drawback I can think of is that the board would have to be a bit larger.
    – nigel222
    Oct 27 at 9:46

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