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I am wondering about the current location of my breaker panel in my 19th century Toronto, Ontario home. The code is not really clear on my situation;

Currently it is in the basement about 5" from a window, in a corner, beside the dryer, but the catch is that the basement has been benched. The bench sticks out from the wall about 2' and is 2' high.
So in order to access the panel one has to step up onto the concrete bench, step over the dryer vent and then turn to face the panel. The dryer is on the lower floor.
I am hearing that you must have at least 1m (3') of headroom on the panel, put when standing on the bench I only have about 1'...

I'd like to upgrade to 200 amp service, my question is from a code standpoint can the panel stay there? Fundamentally there is nowhere else to put it, unless it goes above in the middle of the living room or it would have to go in the next room about 20' from the meter base (which cannot be moved).

Any help/suggestions/ideas would be much appreciated.
 

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I don't know of ahead room rule. This is direct from the ESASAFE FAQ page.

Question

At what height does the Code require a residential electrical panel to be mounted?
Answer

Panelboards in dwelling units shall be mounted as high as possible but with no circuit breaker position higher than 1.7 m (5' 6") above the finished floor level.

Rule 26-402.

Ontario Electrical Safety Code 25th Edition/2012.
Here is another one that might apply to you regarding clearance in front of the panel. Ignore the water heater part and just read the actual clearances required. I hilighted them in red.

Question
How close can a water heater be placed to an electrical panel?
Answer

The code does not have any specific requirements for the minimum distance between a water heater and a panel board. Having said that, the following is the minimum code requirements around electrical panel:
- Rule 2-308 of the electrical code requires a minimum working space of 1 m with secure footing be provided and maintained in front of electrical equipment such as panelboards. This is interpreted as meaning a space that is 1m in depth in front of the panel, 2 m in height and at least the width of the panel board or 1m, whichever is greater. The panel board does not have to be centered in the width of the working space, it can be off center.
- The electrical code also requires that there be unobstructed access to and exit from the working space in front of the panel and that working space around electrical equipment shall not be used for storage and shall be kept clear of obstruction. (Rules 2-308, 2-310, 2-312, 6-206)

Ontario Electrical Safety Code 24th Edition/2009
 
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