05:36AM | 06/06/04
Member Since: 11/02/02
69 lifetime posts
My house has a surface-mounted service panel. When I run a new circuit, must I run conduit into the joist area before I can begin running NM-B cable? Somewhere I read that NM-B cannot be exposed on a basement wall. At the moment though, I can't find that in my copy of the NEC, so I remain open to being wrong.

The following links show three views of my panel: (front view) (left-side view) (right-side view)

The panel was put in two years ago by an electrician, who swapped out my old, 60-amp, 4-fuse box. Since then, I've added two circuits, one for each of two bathrooms. Those circuits are the two conduits you see in the photo. In each case, I ran conduit containing THHN up to the joist area, to a 4-inch box, and then ran NM-B to the bathroom outlets.

I don't have a lot of room to put in more conduit, and I wonder whether I really need to (or should) use conduit at all. On the one hand, it doesn't seem right to have exposed NM-B coming that far down the side of the box. On the other hand, the electrician two years ago ran one NM-B cable out the right-hand-side. It's the white one you see in panel3.jpg. So maybe ok to do that?

I did realize the other day that the electrician also ran most of the cables out the top of the box. Frankly, I hadn't thought about that. If I go out the top, does that obviate the need for conduit? Does it matter that the cables are exposed for a couple inches before entering the joist area?

Bottom-line, do I need to use conduit when running a new circuit, or does code allow me to run NM-B from the joist area down through one of the knockouts on the side of the box? What would best-practice be? How would you run the cables coming out of this box?

Jonathan Gennick
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Tom O

05:49AM | 06/06/04
Member Since: 09/17/02
477 lifetime posts
The requirement for protection is a judgement call. The likelyhood of damaging cables up high is far smaller than damaging an exposed cable on the wall at 3 or 4 feet above the floor.

I don't see any problem with bringing the cable to the panel without protection. Your panel looks fairliy typical & makes me wonder if you live in WV.

Cables are required to be secured within 12 inches of the panelboard, it appears that some of your cables aren't.

In the right view, if you were to run multi wire circuits in the conduit (looks like 1/2" EMT) you would have room in the conduit for a total of six 2 wire circuits. You would need a bigger junction box though.



06:02AM | 06/06/04
Member Since: 11/02/02
69 lifetime posts
Tom, Thanks for taking the time to look at my photos and answer my question. BTW, I'm in northern Michigan. That conduit on the right-hand side is 3/4-inch EMT. I'm not sure I want to mess with that again. I had the devil of a time knocking the 3/4-inch ring on the box. The 1/2-inch ring popped out easily, but the larger ring was a bit of a battle to get loose. I wonder whether there's some sort of knockout-removal tool that I can buy.

You're right. Some of the original wiring just hangs loose. In fact, none of the original wiring is secured near the box. I don't want to second-guess the electrician who installed the new panel for me, but I think his approach was to pop in the new panel, and as for everything else, I think he just left well-enough alone. Though he also didn't secure (nor GFCI) the kitchen counter outlet that he installed for me at the same time that he replaced the panel.

Jonathan Gennick
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