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Thread: What is a "rule of six" breaker box?

  1. #1
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    What is a "rule of six" breaker box?

    In reading about the dangers of Federal Pacific "Stab-lock" breakers at https://diy.stackexchange.com/questi...ls-be-replaced , I see the terminology "rule of six" for electrical breaker boxes. What makes the circuit in a breaker box a "rule of six"?

  2. #2
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    The "rule of six" refers to how many breakers or throws it takes to disconnect a building from the electrical supply, so if you have more than six breakers in a box at your service entrance there needs to be a disconnect upstream of it, either in the panel or upstream.

  3. #3
    I never heard of that rule in Pa.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beitz View Post
    I never heard of that rule in Pa.
    How old is your box? I live in NW PA When I upgraded our box 30+ years ago the new box had a main fuse block that would disconnect the entire house and all the breakers in the panel below. The panel was installed by a licensed electrician and inspected.
    Lee Schierer
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  5. #5
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    The Federal Stab-lok system is a disaster that never should have seen the light of day. If I had a dollar for every Stab-lok breaker that fell out of place when the panel was opened, I'd have more money than I have now :P And most of those panels will show evidence of arcing where the breaker plugs into the buss.

    If I bought a house with a Stab-lok panel, I'd definitely replace it. End Rant.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beitz View Post
    I never heard of that rule in Pa.
    Section 230.71(A) of the NEC unless PA has opted out of it.

  7. #7
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    I recently upgraded some rental property electrical service. The utility company now required a whole house breaker near the service entrance.
    Life's too short to use old sandpaper.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Glenn View Post
    I recently upgraded some rental property electrical service. The utility company now required a whole house breaker near the service entrance.
    That's a little "odd"? So there is now a separate panel in between the "Main Panel" and the meter face with a single breaker in it?
    Does it have to be outside, or inside, and which panel now has the neutral/ground bond in this scenario?
    Any" service entrance panel" installed in the last 50+ years, at least, has had the requirement to have a disconnect, or "main breaker" in the service entrance panel, the first panel "from the pole", or in reality, the meter.
    Last edited by Mike Cutler; 01-23-2019 at 12:31 PM.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beitz View Post
    I never heard of that rule in Pa.
    It's there, but as I said above, it has been a very, very, long time since a service entrance panel didn't have a "Main" breaker built into it, or a mechanical disconnect right next to it.
    You see some really old wiring in New England, and even the old 40 and 60 amp, four fuse, boxes have a disconnect next to them.
    Yep, there are still many houses in New England with 40 and 60 amp service. It's a little scary.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  10. #10
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    I just replaced a 1960 100A service panel (the old Pushmatic breakers) because it did not have a main breaker. The inspector who flagged it cited the lack of one main breaker (and indirectly the rule of 6) as the reason for requiring an upgrade. The electricians who replaced it said that adding a main breaker required a new panel, even if nothing wrong with the old Pushmatics.

  11. #11
    In our area, the rule of six only applied to exterior service panels, located adjacent to the meter. Usually the interior panel was fed thru this panel using a 100 amp breaker. Most of the 220 circuits (WH, AC, range, etc) were fed from this panel.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Wrenn View Post
    In our area, the rule of six only applied to exterior service panels, located adjacent to the meter. Usually the interior panel was fed thru this panel using a 100 amp breaker. Most of the 220 circuits (WH, AC, range, etc) were fed from this panel.
    What is your area?
    Lee Schierer
    USNA- '71
    Captain USN(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  13. #13
    I've only ever run into one of those old six-disconnect-breaker service panels, at my aunts house. It was probably from the 1960s; I think my uncle put it in when they remodeled. He probably replaced a 60A plug-fuse service panel.

    Quite the odd duck, I don't remember the brand, something not still made anymore I think. i couldn't wait to get it out. It turned into a nice Cutler-Hammer 100A panel, with a single main disconnect, as the good lord intended.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Calow View Post
    I just replaced a 1960 100A service panel (the old Pushmatic breakers) because it did not have a main breaker. The inspector who flagged it cited the lack of one main breaker (and indirectly the rule of 6) as the reason for requiring an upgrade. The electricians who replaced it said that adding a main breaker required a new panel, even if nothing wrong with the old Pushmatics.
    Not surprising the inspector flagged it and the electrician wouldn't touch it. For some people, the fact that they are Pushmatics is wrong enough on its own, and needs no additional reason to require replacement. I might be one of those people

  15. #15
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    As a home inspector most of the newer stuff I see is a one main breaker as a whole house shut off at the top the dead front of the main service entrance. Then the 240 volt circuits below, including one to a sub panel. The sub panel handles all or almost all the 120 volt circuits. This is not the only way to do it but most common in houses built over the last few decades in the central TX area. Having a panel with just a main shut off might be the least expensive way to upgrade older electric from before the six throw rule.

    I think local jurisdictions around here are requiring a single main shut off simply based on their presence when not technically needed. A 200 amp breaker is around a hundred bucks and most houses can be wired without one and still comply with the six throw rule. EX: one 240 volt breaker for the range, two for AC, one for water heater and one for subpanel.

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