An electrical panel acts as the center of your home’s electrical safety. The panel houses all circuit breakers, protecting you and your property from the effects of electrical surges. Most electrical codes mandate that an electrical panel should be somewhere accessible and easily identifiable.
You can put your electrical panel in the bedroom. You have to ensure your location is up to code. Also, ensure you follow all health and safety protocols and make the panel easily accessible in case of emergencies.
While in most jurisdictions there are no laws specifically outlawing locating a panel in the bedroom, some safety measures make bedroom panels impractical. Read on to find out when you can and when you can’t install an electric panel in the bedroom.
Can A Breaker Box Be In A Bedroom?
The National Electric Code (NEC) lists the standards for electrical wiring and safe installation in the United States. The NEC is published every three years by the National Fire Protection Association.
The NEC is silent about whether you can install a breaker box in the bedroom. So the NEC doesn’t explicitly prohibit locating an electric panel or circuit breaker in the bedroom.
However, the NEC is specific about some rooms where you can’t install a breaker box. For example, you can’t install a breaker in the bathroom, clothes closet, on stairways, and in fire-rated partitions.
Most residential building codes follow NEC codes. In most jurisdictions, the codes will require electrical panels to be mounted with some horizontal clearance. So you can’t install in corners and other tight spaces. If your bedroom has sufficient clearance, then you can legally install a breaker box in the bedroom.
NEC codes exist to ease maintenance, enhance safety, and facilitate inspections. According to NEC 110.26, a breaker box has to be installed in an area with sufficient working space. The rule states that the breaker box should have at least 36 inches clearance in front of the panel and 30 inches wide. So you can’t have beds and other furniture in front of the panel. The box should be at least 30 inches below the ceiling, and the ceiling should be a minimum of 78 inches from the floor.
The NEC also requires that the electrical panel be located in an area where each occupant has access to the disconnect serving the dwelling in which they reside. This means that if your bedroom is usually locked and inaccessible to other residents of the house, then that’s prohibited.
Can A Breaker Box Be In A Closet?
NEC regulations explicitly prohibit installing a breaker box in a clothes closet. According to the 2020 NEC code Chapter 2 on Wiring and Protection, overcurrent devices shall not be located in the vicinity of easily ignitable materials, such as a clothes closet.
This is because any loose connections or electrical surges may cause electric sparks. Even a small spark could easily set fire to a piece of flammable clothing, burning down your home.
Panels located in clothes closets are often covered by clothes. Additionally, the panel will most likely be behind a closed door, so it won’t be easily identifiable or readily accessible by all inhabitants of the house. A poorly located breaker box could also result in:
- Risk to your family’s safety
- High utility bills
- Poor energy efficiency
- Liability in case of fires
Is It Bad To Sleep Next To An Electrical Box?
An electrical box can be a fire hazard and can also put you at risk of electric shock. Additionally, electrical boxes constantly emit some Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) radiation. EMF exposure increases the nearer you are to the source of radiation.
Even though electrical boxes only emit a low level of EMF, being close for prolonged periods can be harmful. Some effects of EMF radiation from electrical boxes could be:
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Heart problems
- Fertility problems
- Memory loss
- Digestive problems
- Nervous system issues
According to one study, prolonged exposure to EMF radiation in the bedroom significantly impedes the production of the hormone melatonin. This is the hormone that regulates human sleep patterns and circadian rhythm.
What happens is the body senses the EMF and translates it as light. Then the pineal gland produces less melatonin. Because of this, it is advisable to place your breaker box far from sleeping areas. This makes your bedroom conducive to full and restful sleep.
Where Should Electrical Panels Be Placed?
According to NEC regulations, the electrical panel should be as close as practical to the service entrance. The service entrance is where you find the meter box, the outside disconnect, and the mast that connects the wiring to the grid. So you can’t run your service wiring too deep inside the house from the service entrance to the electrical panel.
Additionally, the electrical panel should be in an area accessible to all residents of the house. According to NEC 110.26, there should be ample clearance around the panel. So you can’t install the panel in tight spaces or in corners. The rules can be summarized thus:
Keep Working Space Clear
The area where you install the electrical panel should be free of any other electrical installations.
Keep It Accessible
The panel should be easy to reach and the box should be easy to open without keys. The panel should be at a height accessible to the average adult.
Locate the breaker panel in a suspicious room. Avoid tight spaces such as clothes closets, broom closets, pantries, and small storage rooms.
Don’t put any furniture and other obstructions in front or around the working space.
Don’t install the panel in dark spaces. Make it easy for residents to see the switches even in dim conditions.
Many people feel the temptation to forego some of these conditions because of aesthetics. An electrical panel can sometimes ruin the décor and beauty of a room. To place the electrical panel, you need to find a balance between safety and aesthetics. Some popular areas that conform to code without compromising décor are:
- Along corridors
- Under stairways with sufficient space
- In garages
- In basements
- Above alarm system boxes