Refrigerators and service panels don’t go together. In fact, they should go several feet apart. And the same is true for large boxes, furniture, and stacks of other junk. This isn’t an electrical issue, it’s an access issue.
It is good to have a second refrigerator in the garage or basement, and lots of people do. It just makes sense that when you buy a new bigger one, you keep the old one for a while. And sometimes, people put them in the wrong place without thinking about it.
Since homeowners normally never open the door on a service panel, they may forget that sometimes that door needs to be opened. An electrician can’t get to the panel and work on it safely when there’s a refrigerator in front of the door.
The requirement for working space is 36 inches directly in front of the panel, at least 30 inches in width, and 6.5 feet high. This gives the average-sized person enough room to step up to the panel, open the door, and work without feeling cramped. If you’ve ever tried to work on something when your arms are pinned to your sides, you know it isn’t safe. Also, the panel needs to be easily accessible. Builders should never locate an electrical panel in a storage area or up high where a ladder is needed.
Clearance Rule of Thumb
A good way to consider the space needed is to visualize a refrigerator sitting in front of the panel. If there is room for it to be there, then you probably enough cleared space. However, don’t put a refrigerator there to test it. Remember, refrigerators and service panels don’t go together!
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