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What is a service conductor?
Friday, March 5, 2021
The conductors that run from the service connection point with the electric utility to the service disconnect (main breaker) in the service panel are the service conductors. Service conductors are sometimes confused with feeders. Feeder conductors connect the load side of the service panel, or other downstream panel, to the final overcurrent protection device (breaker) for a branch circuit. So, for example, the cables connecting a service panel to a subpanel are feeder conductors.
It is important to know the difference between service conductors and feeder conductors, because a raceway/conduit with service conductors cannot be shared with feeder or branch service conductors. The reason for this is that service conductors do not have overcurrent protection, and a short between a service conductor and adjacent feeder or branch conductor in the same raceway may bypass any overcurrent protection for those circuits. Also, it is not allowed by the National Electrical Code (NEC 230.7).
The example shown above, with cables coming into the panel to a main disconnect below and branch circuits cables exiting through the same conduit, would be wrong if it is a service panel, but alright if it is a subpanel under certain circumstances. See our blog post What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box? for more on that.
Please note that none of this information is meant to advise homeowners about how to open their panel and check for defects or repair them. We urge you to hire a licensed electrician.
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