New main panel or sub panel in a mobile home

dalepresFebruary 5, 2011

I have a mobile home with a 100 amp main. In the course of a kitchen remodel, we are considering an electrical wall oven which will require a bigger service.

Whether or not we put in a larger service, we need more circuits so I am planning on a sub-panel for the kitchen.

So, my first question is, if I replace the main panel, does it have to meet NEC or does it have to meet HUD? The existing main breaker is in a closet in the bedroom. (Yes, scary, isn't it?) So can I replace it there with the new? And, more generally, do changes to mobile home wiring have to meet NEC or HUD?

Can I add the new sub-panel, if I don't do the new main, next to the existing main in the bedroom closet?

The existing panel is at the very back of the house. The kitchen is about 50 feet forward. I have considered putting the sub-panel in the kitchen behind a full-height utility cabinet (I would install the cabinet without a back). If the main can be installed in a clothes closet with clothes touching the door and a closet door hiding all of it, then why couldn't I get away with a cabinet door in front of the main panel without the clothes? It would definitely be safer.

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HUD has nothing to do with building and safety codes. They might oversee work in some cases, but that's about it as far as I know.

The allowance of putting a panel in a clothes closet has been long removed from the NEC. It is now expressly prohibited.

NO, you cannot replace that panel back into the clothes closet. It would have to be moved.

Absolutely NO, you cannot place a new panel in a clothes closet.

NO, you cannot place a panel in a pantry cabinet. Clearances must be met.

The panel must be in a place where it has a working space of 30" wide, 36" in front, and 6-1/2' high. It can be in a utility closet, but I doubt a mobile home has a utility closet be enough.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 8:14AM
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HUD does have to do with building codes for manufactured homes. They're not built to BOCA or NEC. In particular, HUD is the regulating agency because BOCA and NEC are only implemented by states or municipalities and mobile homes are built for use in any (virtually) state and can even be moved from state to state or city to city. It's that whole interstate commerce thing. Almost all states or municipalities accept homes built to HUD standards for mobiles or manufactured homes.

So my questions all revolve around whether changes made, once the home is set up, must be NEC or HUD standard. Any electricians out there that know about this topic that can at least tell what it is in their location?



    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 11:29PM
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I have never seen a HUD code book.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 7:03AM
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"I have never seen a HUD code book."

HUD standards for mobile homes are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (see link below) and provide modified standards for not only electrical, but also for plumbing, structural, painting, and so forth.

The electrical section is generally based on the NEC but then takes quite a few departures, some of which loosen requirements having to do with space and capacity. Other differences are in addition to the NEC to account for the effects of being mobile.

This is not an area in which I have much experience, but I can't recall seeing a mobile home main panel that would actually meet NEC requirements for space and access. I did some work on a MH owned by my sister a while back, and the main AC panel (noting that it also has DC circuits) is in a tiny corner cupboard above and to the left of the kitchen sink. It was a b1tch to work on.

I know that a few states have inspection programs covering work done to mobile homes and they are not necessarily the same department as the usual AHJ. (The authority may be something like a motor vehicles bureau or fire prevention office.)

Beyond that, I don't know enough to answer the OP's question intelligently.

Here is a link that might be useful: A sampling of HUD standards published in the CFR

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 11:26AM
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HUD definitely has the whip hand on the original construction. I don't often run across them, but once in awhile, I find a panel in a clothes closet & I'm wasting my time writing a violation if there is a HUD sticker on the home.

The interesting question becomes, what applies when you start remodeling? Do we go with the NEC or not? Maybe I should pitch this question at my next IAEI meeting. Out of all our members, I don't think any of them would be familiar with all the HUD requirements that vary from the NEC.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 3:08PM
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Where I live, I do not have to have any inspection, including electrical. It is completely up to me to do it right (safely).

And you're right about the space requirements. Like I said, my main panel is in a closet that is only about 16 inches deep. It has sliding doors in front of the closet and clothes right along the wall where the main panel is.

If I had to meet NEC to replace the panel then the home would be useless. Short of turning a bedroom into a utility room, there is nowhere in most mobile homes where you can get a dedicated 36 inch clearance in front of anything.

Here's the "code book" for HUD:


    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 8:29PM
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Let me just add about not having an inspection where I live. I'm not saying there are no laws or rules about what I can do and can't do and how it should be done; I'm only saying it won't be inspected so it is up to me to do it right.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 8:33PM
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"Here's the "code book" for HUD."

LOL. Although labeled differently, I see we posted the identical link.

I, too, live in an area (rural Maine) that effectively requires no permit and no inspection for electrical work. When I asked my local "Code Inspection Officer" (a gravel and concrete guy), he said, "Oh, I verify set-backs and once or twice I've failed buildings for using 16' 2 x 4 rafters, but I don't do electrical." So I pushed him a bit and he agreed to inspect my new garage/workshop building. He had no clue what to look for so I even walked him around, pointing out the various things an inspector might look for (passing each one, naturally) and got him to sign off. That way, I can honestly tell my insurance company that the electrical work was inspected. We both thought the exercise was pretty funny.

Anyway, back on topic. Perhaps I shouldn't doubt you, but are you sure you need a service upgrade? A 100-amp service is typically plenty for a mobile home unless there is a lot of electrical heat (e.g., baseboard heaters or heat pump). Have you done a load demand calculation that includes the proposed wall oven?

The reason I ask is that I think if you can forego a service upgrade (to 200A?) and replace the panel with physical dimensions not too much larger than the original, you'd be in a pretty good position to argue that, although you've replaced a part (the panel) and added a circuit or two, you haven't voided the "HUD sticker." I think that position is much less defensible if you've upgraded the entire service.

But do I know this for certainty? Nope, sure don't.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 9:48AM
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Sorry Tom, I didn't notice that they were the same links.

In another thread about load calculations, a years old thread, someone suggested to the OP that there are dozens of load calculation programs and sites online. Well, I searched and didn't find any such sites that were from trusted sources. One site that I opened dropped a virus on my PC that Windows Defender found (the first time in 15 years online I have had a virus found on my PC). I'm still running all the major online scanners to make sure there is nothing Defender missed.

There was one site, not too professionally done but at least it didn't appear to harm my PC,, that said I needed 197 amps.

I wish there was a trusted calculation from a trusted site, such as iVillage, where I could just enter numbers and get a result. I guess I'll have to get the calculations from the NEC, plug it all into a spreadsheet myself, and see what I get.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 12:11AM
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Go to this site and scroll down to "Residential Load Calculations" to download the spreadsheet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mike Holt - Free Stuff

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 10:43AM
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Thank you, normel. A trusted site with a calculator. It worked well and recommends a minimum 100 amp service - no upgrade required. When we factor in the hot tub planned for later in the summer or next spring (depending on deck building progress) we go to 125 minimum recommended amps so we still need the upgrade for that.

I looked at cable for 125 feet. WOW. Copper has sure gotten expensive. But the good news is the local power co-op will do the service upgrade for twenty-five dollars.

So that leaves me back to the original question of what I have to do. Without better information to go on, I guess I will duplicate the safety of the original construction with even safer and better quality equipment. I can only end up more safe than I am now.



    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 8:49AM
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I don't know what the rules are in your area, but here in Oregon the following applies:

"(7) Alterations to manufactured dwellings after the initial sale to the first consumer must conform to the following:

"(a) The code that was in effect at the time of original manufacture;

"(b) The equivalent provisions of the Oregon Residential Specialty Code;

"(c) The 1972 edition of ANSI A119.1 Standard for Mobile Homes and the 1971 edition of the National Electrical Code NFPA 70 for manufactured dwellings constructed prior to June 1976; or

"(d) In cases where the original manufacture date cannot be determined or where it is impractical for the manufactured dwelling to conform to the strict letter of the code, a municipality may accept methods or materials that are substantially equivalent to the code. Engineering may be required to substantiate equivalency if structural components of the manufactured dwelling have been altered or replaced. "

Here is a link that might be useful: Oregon Adminstrative Rules--Manufactured Structures

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 10:46AM
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Thanks, Lain. That's good input.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 1:27PM
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