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What are the requirements for an electrical panel cover (dead front)?
Monday, April 18, 2022
There are three purposes of an electrical panel dead front: 1) keep any arcing or sparking that might occur inside the panel from escaping, 2) keep the exposed interior electrical connections out of reach, and 3) maintain a connection to ground so that it does not become electrically “live” and a shock hazard. That’s why they call it a “dead” front.
The dead front is just one component in the total assembly that is an electrical panel. The whole panel must be approved by a nationally recognized testing agency, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), before it can be authorized by a building code for installation in a home. If the original dead front goes missing, it must be replaced by an exact duplicate by the same manufacturer to comply with the UL-rating. A homemade dead front like the one at right, no matter how well it appears to be made, is not acceptable.
Another requirement is that the dead front must fit snugly over the box behind it. That’s not a problem with a surface-mount panel, unless it is damaged. But a flush-mount panel (recessed in the wall) that is mounted too far back in the wall will leave an unacceptable gap between the box and the dead front. See our article What is the maximum gap allowed between the front of a recessed electric panel box and the wall surface surrounding it? for more on this.
Missing dead front screws can also cause a gap—even just a single screw, like in the photo below.
And any screws securing a dead front to the box must have a blunt tip, because a pointed tip may puncture any wires directly behind it inside the panel box, and then the dead front is no longer “dead”.
Also see our article What is an electrical dead front?
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