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My wife and I have a new construction with radiant heat installed on the underside of the floors between joists, which was in place before the electrical was installed. Electrical inspector burst a blood vessel on rough electrical inspection, saying the heat tubing violates the 3' clearance rule around the panel and demands it be moved (or removed) before final electrical inspection. Seems we can't be the only people on the planet with this issue. Is there any way to resolve the issue without ripping out and moving the radiant heat tubing and in doing so causing a huge cold spot in a main room on an outside wall? Wouldn't a layer (or two) of 5/8" Sheetrock qualify as a suitable barrier in the off chance one of the radiant tubes were to miraculously burst or leak right above the electrical panel?

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Radiant tubing is secured to the underside of the sub-floor. It is up in the joist bay. This tubing is ABSOLUTELY legal above a panel. Most homes I do these days have hot water radiant and ALL of them have tubing in the joist bays above panels.

This inspector is a renegade and sounds like he likes his power. Also, there is NO "3 foot clearance rule", whatever he thinks that is.

I'd politely ask him for a verification of exactly what code you violated with the radiant tubing.

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As in Tester101's link, this is a 110.26(E)(1)(b) violation (it moved between the 2008 and 2014 NEC):

(b) Foreign Systems. The area above the dedicated space required by 110.26(E)(1)(a) shall be permitted to contain foreign systems, provided protection is installed to avoid damage to the electrical equipment from condensation, leaks, or breaks in such foreign systems.

A structural ceiling such as drywall nailed to ceiling joists is considered sufficient protection against a leak -- contrary to what Jack says, though, there is nothing in 110.26 that prohibits pressurized piping above a structural ceiling over a panel, just the general prohibition on foreign systems above the 6'-or-structural-ceiling mark without effective protection against leakage.

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Plumbers usually go in before electricians, so I can see why it is there. Jobsite meetings with all the subcontractors to go over where each sub needs to go and who has to stay out of each others way. This may have been caught at this time. I have had this issue pop up once during one of these meetings and needed to move the electric panel to get it back to code. Code will not allow pressure pipes over an electric panel. I have had the inspector let us pass with non pressure drain lines over the panel. Somebody may be able to quote the exact code that says so. I do not know it, just what I have learned on the jobsites I ran.

If you feel strongly about keeping the pipe there, check the feasibility of moving the panel, a junction box can be added out of the way to extend the home runs to the new location. Your limitation will be how long the maximum length of unfused service cable can be run to the circuit breakers from the meter. To get past the issue I mentioned above, the meter was moved too, so it kept the service cable length short enough.

  • You could even, if there is room to do so, add a small wall to hold the breaker panel, somewhere.... My problem was in the basement, if yours is on the first floor, that may not work so well. – Jack Mar 6 '15 at 17:12
  • This answer includes the applicable code section. Note that the dedicated space is based on the width and depth of the panel. Which means that the plumbing would just have to be moved slightly, so that it's not directly above the panel. – Tester101 Mar 6 '15 at 17:27
  • @Testor101, I knew you would be able to find it! What resources do you have to be able to post these things? I have a .pdf of the 2012 IBC. I never dabbled in the electric codes, other than what I learned from the subs... – Jack Mar 6 '15 at 18:37
  • I didn't post that, another user did. I do have physical copies of the 2008 and 2011 NEC, and access to a copy of the 2014 version. Copies of IBC, IRC, and other international codes can be found on the web. – Tester101 Mar 6 '15 at 18:42
  • There is absolutely NO NEC code that prohibits "pressure pipes" over a panel. If you were dinged for this either there is a local amendment in your area, or the inspector made his own rule up. If the pipes were up in the joist bay they would be 100% code legal. – Speedy Petey Mar 8 '15 at 0:10

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