Originally Posted by USP45
Same here. They say it is to prevent a water leak from entering the panel and causing electrocution. Makes sense to me. Gas line and HVAC? Now thats a different ball game of which I know nothing about as far as code goes.
The electrical code is written to do three things respective to panel clearance.
1) Protect the panel from leaks/saturation
2) Provide adequate safe working space for sparky.
3) Give sparky room to run his wires, and pull wires in the future.
To me, the biggest issue is saturation of the panel. Once a breaker has been wet, it no longer reliably performs at the listed ampacity...Even after it is dried off. Then there's the obvious hazard of water in the panel in the first place.
The other big issue is that sparky can't be squeezed in between gas pipes, water lines, ductwork, or appliances when he's working on the panel. Any of those really up the chances of an electrocution.