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A crawl space can feel like a waste of square footage if you can’t use it for something. Some people opt to use it for storage, but can you put an electric panel in a crawl space?
Well, this depends on multiple factors, like the size of the crawl space, accessibility to it, as well as the type of electrical panel you want to install in the first place.
So, let’s go over what you can and can’t install in a crawl space, and why there are many regulations regarding this matter.
If the foundation of your house isn’t made of a single concrete slab, you either have a basement or a crawl space. A basement is easy to spot since you can walk around it like any normal, underground room.
A crawl space, on the other hand, is anything with a limited height that lies between the first floor and the ground. They’re usually under 4 feet in height, and you can’t really stand up in there, hence the name “crawl” space.
A breaker box, also known as the main service panel or a circuit breaker panel, is the main point through which electricity comes into the house and is distributed throughout.
Breaker boxes are usually pretty large, however, their height shouldn’t exceed 6’7″. That’s to ensure easy accessibility to the highest point in case of an emergency.
Speaking of which, accessibility is the main issue when it comes to crawl spaces. It’s why the 2021 International Residential Code (IRC) specified certain measurements for the suitable installation of electric panels.
If you want to put a breaker box in a crawl space, the height of the space floor to ceiling should be at least 6’6″. There should also be a 3-foot clearance in front of the panel—and the space for the panel should be at least 2’6” in width.
Additionally, the main panel should have a door that opens at least 90 degrees and be unobstructed by any items, such as furniture.
A subpanel is a division of the main circuit that’s meant to feed a separate area with electricity.
You can use sub panels as a way to reduce the number of circuit breakers in the main panel. That way, there’s less of a chance to overload the breaker box and cause a power failure.
Since sub panels can control an entire area’s electric supply, they are perfect to use in garages, sheds, as well as home theaters.
They fall under the same category as circuit breaker panels, which means they need the same 6’6” x 3′ x 2’6″ clearance as the main panel.
That said, there seems to be less of a problem with inspections when they’re installed sideways instead of upright. As long as the panel isn’t touching the soil underneath, the subpanel can be put in a crawl space of a 3 feet height with no problems.
The most important thing is that you can access the crawl space easily when there’s an emergency. Usually, these panels are installed near the crawl space’s entry point to ensure that.
Junction boxes are small electrical boxes that contain the joints between wiring so the wires are redirected from one place to another. These boxes typically don’t contain any kind of controls, just the wires and the wire nuts holding either end together.
You can place junction boxes in crawl spaces without any issues. The only two factors to look out for are the following:
- The sturdiness of the attachment point. Junction boxes could be connected to lighting fixtures of heavy appliances, so an anchorage point to a stud or a floor joist is recommended.
- Locate them away from water sources. If you’re installing a junction box in your crawl space, make sure it’s not directly under a bathroom or a shower. Any leakage from the plumbing can cause undesirable consequences.
This is less of a problem than it is with main and sub panels, but try to locate the junction box in a relatively accessible place in the crawl space.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll need to dismantle and rewire the connections within the box. Then you’d be thankful for your past self for making it less of a pain for your future self.
An important note: Make sure to cut off the main circuit breaker before doing any work in a junction box. Don’t try to guess which breaker it is, just use the main one. This is the safest way to avoid any fatal accidents while dealing with potentially hot wires.
Crawl spaces are usually unfinished and the floor portion is just the soil underneath the house.
That’s why it’s advisable to use a conduit for all wiring that passes through a crawl space, just in case dirt, moisture, or any kind of contamination happens.
This is especially crucial if you live in an area that’s known for flooding. You wouldn’t want the exposed wiring to get submerged even for a short time.
You can try to mitigate this problem by finishing and encapsulating your crawl space. This process includes covering the entire surface with a waterproofing material, using a dehumidifier to remove any ambient moisture, then sealing the crawl space completely.
Can you put an electrical panel in a crawl space?
You can put an electrical panel in a crawl space, it just depends on what kind of panel it is, as well as the space available for it and how much access you have to it.
Crawl spaces are limited in height and prone to flooding or dust retention. As such, this makes servicing a breaker box or subpanel a bit of a pain.
That said, if it’s the only option you have and the installation is up to code, then, by all means, go for it!
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