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We just purchased a home built in 1965. The house is very small and the Federal Pacific load center is installed in a kitchen cabinet. I'm considering replacing it and moving it outside at generally the same location but to save cost wondered about the code for replacing in the same location inside the kitchen cabinet. I assume the cabinet would have to remain empty to be compliant but not sure even that would make it ok. It isn't ideal but there is literally no where else to install except where it is or directly on the outside of the house.

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  • Is the existing loadcenter surface mounted or flush mounted? And just to clarify, you have to reach inside the kitchen cabinet to access the loadcenter, correct? Jan 29, 2023 at 20:19
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    Yes, it is mounted inside the kitchen cabinet.
    – Andy
    Jan 29, 2023 at 22:41
  • How tall is the existing cabinet, and how many a) 120V and b) 240V circuits does the panel have currently? Also, how many amps is your main breaker? Jan 29, 2023 at 23:42

3 Answers 3

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Panels need a working space that is entirely kept clear at all times:

  • the width of the panel but at least 30" (no need to center).
  • 36" depth for stand back room
  • 78" (6'6") high
  • flat, not on steps.

Inspectors will generally let you slide on a tasteful cabinet door which conceals the panel but invades the working space as little as possible.

Junction boxes have no such restriction, and are allowed to be in the back of kitchen cabinets. (as long as they remain accessible).

Your best bet will be to find an appropriate location for the panel, and use the existing panel as a large junction box to splice extension wires. Homemade junction box covers are permitted at the discretion of the inspector, so take your Federal Pacific dead-front to a guy with sheetmetal skills and have them make a new blank cover at least the same thickness and with edge screw holes in the same places. Hit it with a coat of rattle-can Rustoleum.

As far s location of a new panel, think around the working space. Places that sit on entries, halls and thresholds - so the working space is passively kept clear simply because it's a passageway. Indoors is better than outdoors - weather is hard on costly breakers such as GFCI, AFCI and the smart breakers that I expect will be coming soon. (driven next-gen demand management and also the benefit of being able to add stuff without a service upgrade).

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The cabinet must go. And also a counter, if there's one below. A breaker panel requires free working space in front at least 30 inches wide, 36 inches deep, and from floor to at least 6 1/2 ft high.

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In a class action lawsuit, a New Jersey State Court ruled that the Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Company “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards…” (To see the Class Action Settlement Notice issued for New Jersey Residents, click here.) An expert who investigated the potential hazards of Federal Pacific Electric panels stated under UL 489 test conditions, that FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels

We just purchased a home built in 1965. The house is very small and the Federal Pacific load center is installed in a kitchen cabinet.

If you paid for a home inspector to do a home inspection before buying, get your money back.

Further: You should have this panel looked at and/or replaced by a competent electrical professional immediately. "To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to replace any Federal Pacific breakers in your home."[1]

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