Electricity and water are undeniably deadly combinations. So, it’s always concerning when there is an electric fixture in the bathroom. But, can a breaker box be in a bathroom?
According to the National Electric Code (NEC), overcurrent devices like breaker boxes shouldn’t be in residential bathrooms as they are a safety and fire risk. Moreover, residential bathrooms are smaller and thus don’t offer you enough clearance around the breaker box.
Note that the keyword is residential. So, that means the restriction doesn’t apply to commercial bathrooms, what we know as general public washrooms.
It’s also worth noting that when this code was enacted, around 1993, there were already residential bathrooms with breaker boxes. So, the code doesn’t apply to them but bathrooms built after the enactment.
Let’s get deeper into the explanation!
Can A Breaker Box Be in A Bathroom? Why Not and The Exception!
Let’s discuss why a breaker box shouldn’t be in the bathroom and the exemptions from the code.
Why A Breaker Box Cannot Be in The Bathroom
At around 1993, the U.S National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) developed a National Electric Code (NEC) to govern every building in the United States. Surprisingly, other countries copied the code and are using it.
According to the NEC Code, a circuit breaker or any other overcurrent device shouldn’t be in the bathroom, closet, powder room, or any other limited space.
The code states that there should be enough clearance around the breaker box for you to access it and work on it. In that case, the box should be clear and accessible, but sadly, residential bathrooms don’t qualify.
According to the NEC, a breaker box should offer you at least 36x30x78 inches clearance (that is L X W X H). Mark you, this is not the bathroom dimensions but the clearance around the breaker box.
Sadly, most bathrooms don’t cut it as they don’t offer you such clearance.
While the NEC code is clear, there are a few exceptions where the code doesn’t apply. They include these three cases:
a) Spacious Residential Bathroom
Remember, the NEC recommends a space with a clearance of at least 36x30x78 Inches around the breaker box. So, if your bathroom allows you to fit a breaker box and offers you a 36-inch length clearance, 30-inch width clearance, and 78-inch height clearance, then you can install a breaker box.
b) Commercial Bathroom
Ironically, the NEC doesn’t forbid the installation of breaker boxes in commercial bathrooms, otherwise known as public washrooms, even though more accidents are likely to happen there.
While no one can understand the NFPA reasons for leaving out commercial bathrooms, there is always the chance that they may revise the code any time in the future.
c) Pre-NEC Enactment Bathroom
Though it’s not clear when the NEC code was fully implemented, there are suggestions it was around 1993. Logically, the NFPA didn’t expect bathroom owners to demolish bathrooms that were already in existence. So, it wasn’t illegal to install breaker boxes in bathrooms then.
But for the sake of your safety, it may be a good idea to observe the NEC protocol even if you have an old bathroom.
What’s The Perfect Location for Fitting a Breaker Box?
The NEC recommends a location that’s nearest to the service entrance. On the one hand, that offers you leeway access to the breaker box, and on the other hand, it restricts access from any other side and improves your safety in the bathroom.
While at it, you should avoid the opposite side of your home meter as that could pose a safety risk. Remember, the service entrance includes the meter box, meter, and the outside disconnect.
Also, the service entrance should not be closer to the gas meter. It should be at least 10 inches away from the customer’s gas meter to avoid fire risks. It should also be more than three feet away from the utility gas meter.
Why Observe the NEC Code?
Though the NEC code appears restrictive, its purpose is to protect you against any of these electricity-related risks:
- Electric burns
- Electric fires
- Death (in the worst case)
- Fuse blowups
What to Do If a Breaker Box is in Your Bathroom
If the breaker box is already in your bathroom, you can opt for any of these fixes.
1. Use A Waterproof Breaker Box
You can consider swapping your breaker box with a waterproof option. That allows you to protect the circuit breaker from moisture.
The Flameer Circuit Breaker Distribution Box is one special consideration
Though this distribution box is an outdoor choice, you can fit it indoors against the bathroom wall. It’s overall easy.
2. Expand Your Bathroom Space
According to the NEC code, you shouldn’t fit a breaker box in a residential bathroom because residential bathrooms are naturally smaller and don’t offer you enough room around them.
So, if you can stretch your bathroom and make it spacious, you can create enough clearance around the breaker box. However, it’s essential that you observe the measurements not to contravene the codes.
3. Convert Your Breaker Box into A Mass Junction Box
If you cannot expand your bathroom space, you should consider converting your existing breaker box into a waterproof mass junction box. You need to buy the conversion kit and use it.
So, ask your local technician about the best mass junction box converter and use it.
4. Reverse the Breaker Box
This approach is not as technical as it sounds, and it is the most cost-efficient. In general, it won’t cost you a cent unless you plan to call an expert.
You need to remove the breaker panel and then reverse it, which will keep you safe. In such a case, the box will be against the wall, meaning it won’t be considered a part of the bathroom.
5. Cover with Gasket Seal
If all the above options don’t work for you or you want to avoid expensive costs, consider covering the breaker box with a gasket seal. The seal keeps moisture out, preventing potential fire risks and electrocution.
You can get the Birllaid Foam Outlet Insulation Gasket Seal. These 100-pack sealers do not require installing tools and generally keep moisture and dampness out.
What to Do with A Wet Breaker Box in the Bathroom
Given the risks of a wet breaker box, nothing is better than avoiding such a case. But if it accidentally happens, you should act fast using these steps:
1. Shut Off the Power Supply
By shutting off the power from the main, you automatically stop the current flow across your entire home, preventing the risks.
If you can pass air on the breaker box, do it quickly to evaporate the water from the electric fixture. Just ensure that the air is not moist, which may worsen the issue.
3. Rub Off with Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol has dehydration properties, which means it can take moisture from a surface. So, if you have it, consider soaking a piece of cloth in it and then wiping the wet fixture.
Use 99% rubbing alcohol for best results. It’s a high-purity choice.
4. Rub Off with Rice
If you cannot find rubbing alcohol near you, grab some rice and rub it on the fixture. Rice also has dehydration properties like rubbing alcohol.
People Also Ask
1. Can You Have a Fuse Box in A Bathroom?
According to the NEC code, you shouldn’t have an overcurrent device in your bathroom, bedroom, closet, or hotel room. And since the fuse box counts as an overcurrent device, you shouldn’t have it in the bathroom.
2. Where Can a Breaker Box Be Located in The Bathroom?
Ideally, a breaker box shouldn’t be located in a bathroom as it could get wet and result in fire risk or electrocution. But if you must put it there, ensure it’s near the service entrance and preferably facing away from the wall.
3. Can A Breaker Panel Be in A Bathroom?
A breaker panel can be in a bathroom if it’s facing the outside wall or if the bathroom is spacious enough to offer you a clearance of at least 36x30x78 inches around the box. Moreover, it should be near the service entrance.
If that’s not the case, then you shouldn’t put the breaker panel in a bathroom.
4. Is It Against Code to Have an Electrical Panel in The Bathroom?
Yes, it’s against the NEC Code to have an electrical panel in a residential or hotel bathroom.
5. Can I Put a Breaker Box in A Closet?
The NEC code also forbids the installation of a breaker box in a closet as the room doesn’t offer you enough clearance around it. You need to have a clearance of about 36x30x78 inches around the breaker box, which is quite unlikely in most bedrooms.
6. How Much Does It Cost to Move a Breaker Box?
Generally, a new electrical breaker box cost about $500-$1500 to install. But if you are moving one without buying anything, you’ll only pay for the labor, which could be $50-$150, depending on location.
Can A Breaker Box Be in A Bathroom? Final Remarks!
While there are a few exceptions for installing a breaker box in the bathroom, it’s generally not a good idea. But if it must be there, you should observe the safety tips I’ve shared. But if you aren’t sure about anything, talk to your local technician.