If you’ve lived in more than one place in your life, you’ve probably noticed that breaker panels are never in the same place. They might be in a utility closet, bedroom, laundry room, or garage.
Sometimes, they’re even outside on the side of the building.
Why is that? Is it better to put breakers inside, or is outside the superior option?
Let’s explore the answers to these questions in detail.
For a very long time, breaker panels were found almost exclusively on the interior of homes. While modern builds sometimes stray from this, it’s still plenty common to keep the panels inside. There are a ton of reasons for this, but we can boil it down to a few key points.
Above all else, putting the panel inside protects it from the elements. You don’t have to worry about storms, animals, humidity and rust, or extreme temperatures. As long as the interior of the building is climate-controlled, the panel benefits from that. Beyond that, it’s a matter of security. If a panel is outside, strangers can more easily access and mess with it. When the panel is inside, it’s protected the same as anything else inside the building.
Despite all of the advantages of inside breakers, you will find plenty of instances where breakers are placed outside. By and large, breakers are placed outside for exactly one reason, and that’s regulatory compliance.
It’s pretty simple. Plenty of counties and municipalities require breakers to be outside as a matter of building code.
Considering all the reasons to keep the panel inside, why would regulators do this?
Primarily, it’s so firefighters can access breaker panels in the case of an emergency. When they respond to a fire, the ability to cut power to a building can reduce risks and even save lives. That’s really the long and short of it.
Of course, there is a secondary consideration. In some cases, panels are placed outside because there isn’t enough room to safely place them anywhere inside of a house.
Regardless, if a breaker panel lives outside, it needs adequate protection. Typically, the panel is housed inside of an aluminum or coated steel enclosure. The panel itself might be made from fiberglass, PVC, or another appropriate panel.
The idea is to provide multiple layers of protection. A metal housing is easy to lock to keep animals and strangers out. Meanwhile, you want non-corrosive materials housing the important electrical components.
Which Is Better?
So, what’s the verdict? Which should you put in your home?
Mostly, it comes down to building code. If you have to place it outside for the sake of regulations, there is no argument. Do that. If you don’t have to place it outside, inside is usually the better choice. You have more control over the panel, and it gets all of the benefits of the protection of your home.
More than anything else, as long as you get a quality panel that is professionally installed, you’re going to be ok.