How far would you let this exception go? You can't stand up straight? Or, you crawled in on your hands and knees?
110.26(E) Headroom. The minimum headroom of working spaces about service equipment, switchboards, panelboards, or motor control centers shall be 2.0 m (6½ ft). Where the electrical equipment exceeds 2.0 m (6½ ft) in height, the minimum headroom shall not be less than the height of the equipment. Exception: In existing dwelling units, service equipment or panelboards that do not exceed 200 amperes shall be permitted in spaces where the headroom is less than 2.0 m (61/2 ft).
Mark Heller "Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
If it's existing, the inspector has to let it go. The code is not retroactive. Assume it was approved at one point in time and let it go. Check the records at the building department and make sure it was not bootlegged in.
New work must comply witht the current code IMHO, If you are replacing a panel located in a clothes closet or other location I would expect the installed (replacement) panel to comply with the current code, out of the closet. If the basement only had a 5 foot depth I guess I'd ask for it to be relocated to a more practical location if there was one. There are always going to be hardship situations that would require special considerations. I heard of a case where the contractor dug a hole 1 foot deep in the dirt basement floor in front of the panel to get the height requirement.
[This message has been edited by George Little (edited 06-21-2005).]
George, the purpose for the exception is to allow installation of new equipment in an otherwise non-conforming space. I agree we should be helping them find a better solution if possible. I would certainly want more lateral space if the height was low. I got into this at the Ca-D-Zan mansion in Sarasota. They had several "tight" equipment rooms. In one of the ugly ones I required a disconnect at the door so they could kill all the equipment before they went in. It was a 1920s Otis elevator controller that they wanted to restore. If you ever saw the movie "Hotel" that was the thing that was arcing at the end. This building was restored as a museum and they wanted the original equipment. The room it was in was the only place it would go but the head room was more like 5'5 than 6'6. We did remove everything else we could to open the room up. They had "in sight" disconnects on all mechanical equipment in the project. When I left it they had documented LOTO procedures in place for the maintenance staff but we know how that works.