Secondary suites: understanding rule 26-400

Secondary suites have become increasingly popular in the province and Technical Safety BC's safety officers often receive questions about the requirements for panelboards in dwelling units with suites. The explanation below provides the code, handbook and bulletin references to shed some light on these commonly referenced requirements.

 2015 Canadian Electrical Code

26-400 Panelboards in dwelling units (Appendix B)

(1) A panelboard shall be installed in every dwelling unit except for dwelling units in hotels and motels, and dwelling units that

(a) are not individually metered for electrical power consumption; and

(b) have been created by subdivision of a single dwelling.

(2) Every panelboard installed in accordance with Subrule (1) shall have a single supply protected by  overcurrent devices and this supply shall be capable of being disconnected without disconnecting the supply to any other dwelling unit.

 

In New Construction

Subrule 1 requires a panel board to be installed in every dwelling unit and Subrule 2 requires the panel board to be independently supplied.

Bulletin IB-EL 2012-03 considers the panel board within the dwelling unit when installed in a common room or area which is readily accessible to the occupants.

 

In Existing Buildings

Subrule (1) provides an exception to the requirement for a panel board when the installation supplies hotels/ motels or a suite is constructed within an existing building and is not metered by a utility. This exception permits the branch circuit wiring for the newly created dwelling unit to be supplied directly from the existing building panelboard, or supplied by a panelboard in the dwelling unit supplied from the existing building panelboard provided there is ready access by the occupants to the feeder breaker in the existing building panel board.

Bulletin IB-EL 2012-03 considers the panel board within the dwelling unit when installed in a common room or area which is readily accessible to the occupants. The requirement in 26-400(2) to be independently supplied does not apply in this instance.

2015 Canadian Electrical Code - Handbook
The handbook explanation provided for Rule 26-400 supports this interpretation.

 

Rule 26-400 Panelboards in dwelling units

When an existing single dwelling unit is converted into a structure containing an accessory suite(s), major modifications to the electrical system are often required to ensure that the occupants of the dwelling unit have complete control over all of their branch circuits. Rule 26-400 does not require an individual panelboard for the branch circuits in each suite, provided that the suites have been created by subdividing a single dwelling unit and the individual suites are not individually metered for power consumption.

Subrule (1) requires that a panelboard be installed in every dwelling unit to allow the occupant control over the branch circuits in their unit, except for dwelling units that

• are not individually metered for electrical power consumption; and

• have been created by subdividing a single dwelling.

If any overloads or faults occur in a particular dwelling unit, the occupants of other dwelling units should not be affected.  Subrule (2) requires that each dwelling unit have its own supply and disconnecting means so that no other dwelling unit is affected if the supply to the panelboard is disconnected, even temporarily to allow servicing of electrical equipment.

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