I have a condo in a large building with many identical units. Several times other owners have mentioned that the original layout of the utility room isn't up to code due to the proximity of the water heater to the electrical panel--it comes up during sales inspections and some owners have spent quite a lot of money to relocate the panel.

In my research I haven't been able to find any such code; the nearest I can find is 110.26(A)(2) which dictates the free space around the panel.

NEC 110.26(A)(2) Width of Working Space.

The width of the working space in front of the electric equipment shall be the width of the equipment or 750 mm (30 in.), whichever is greater. In all cases, the work space shall permit at least a 90 degree opening of equipment doors or hinged panels.

By that standard the design is up to code, the water heater is just far enough to the side to provide the needed working space.

Is there another code that is specific to the proximity of the water heater?

  • Perhaps they have larger water heaters than the original model with which there was sufficient clearance in the utility room.
    – Dan D.
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:27
  • in researching this it seems that many people misinterpret the code as requiring 15" clearance from either side of the panel rather than from center, which would definately make the water heater an obstruction to the working space
    – STW
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:41
  • I should think a safe distance between the two units would guard against water leaking from a water heater and coming into contact with the electrical current in the circuit breaker box, resulting in the danger of electrical shock and/or shorting out the equipment. May 19, 2019 at 3:33

1 Answer 1


This is a VERY misinterpreted section of the code, especially by lay people and home inspectors. Most homeowners and likewise simply think a water heater cannot be near a panel, for what reason I don't know.

Basically, the panel can be anywhere in the 30" width working space. There is no mention of center of the panel or otherwise. Meaning, the panel can be at the extreme side of the 30" space as long as the space is clear for 30".

Here is a clear graphic from ©Mike Holt:

enter image description here

  • Thanks for clarifying! I suspect this is the right answer, but I'm going to give it a little longer before accepting it.
    – STW
    Jan 27, 2015 at 13:46
  • This is the correct answer ! Only those that do not know or understand the code would give it a - like I got below.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 27, 2017 at 19:44

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