Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel or a similar protection technique has been in the National Electrical Code (NEC) since 1962 with specific reference to GFCI and its definition found in the 1968 NEC. Each subsequent edition of the NEC has seen expansion of the requirements for this very important safety device. Section 210.8 provides GFCI requirements for dwelling units, industrial, commercial and institutional facilities, and the changes in this section for the 2005 NEC may constitute the largest expansion of GFCI usage yet.

The definition of a ground-fault circuit interrupter is located in Article 100 of the NEC and is as follows: “A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.” A Fine Print Note immediately follows the definition and provides additional information on what constitutes a Class A GFCI device. It states that a “Class A GFCI trips when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 milliamps to 6 milliamps.”

Section 210.8(A) covers ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel for 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles in certain specific locations in dwelling units. Section 210.8(B) covers GFCI protection for certain receptacle outlets of the same voltage and ampere rating, as stated for dwelling units, in “other than dwelling units,” such as commercial and industrial facilities. Changes in both of these subsections for the 2005 NEC have some far-reaching consequences for the electrical industry and ultimately for the public.

Section 210.8(A)(7), which formerly covered GFCI protection for 15- and 20-ampere receptacles serving wet bar countertops and located within six feet of the wet bar countertop, has been revised. This subsection has been expanded to cover 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt receptacles within six feet of the outside edge of dwelling-unit laundry sinks, utility sinks and wet bar sinks at any height. Since this section now covers laundry sinks and utility sinks, as well as wet bar sinks, the reference to countertops has been deleted. This means any 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt, single-phase receptacle within six feet of these sinks must be GFCI protected. This would apply to receptacles located from the floor level up to six feet above the sink, including receptacles mounted in the ceiling but still located within the six-foot dimension from the edge of a counter-mounted laundry, utility or wet bar sink.

In Section 210.8(B) covering “other than dwelling units,” a definition of a “kitchen” has been inserted in the 2005 NEC. This helps delineate the parameters of a commercial or an institutional kitchen, which has been in question since this requirement was added to the 2002 NEC. This definition reads as follows: “For the purposes of this section, a kitchen is an area with a sink and permanent facilities for food preparation and cooking.” This clearly eliminates those food preparation areas with cord- and plug-connected cooking appliances, such as a counter-mounted microwave oven or a toaster, where the appliances are not permanently connected. The new text also makes clear a sink must be installed in the food-preparation area for this section to require GFCI protection of the receptacles in these areas.

A new Section 210.8(B)(4) has been added to require all 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt, single-phase receptacles located outdoors in public spaces to be GFCI protected. This is the most far-reaching change in GFCI protection since this applies to any of these receptacles installed in any outdoor space that is used by or accessible to the public. This could apply to areas within an industrial facility where public access would be restricted or not generally permitted but where public tours are sometimes conducted. This change will require the electrical designer, contractor, electrician and inspector to make decisions as to which receptacles will be accessible to the general public and those locations where the receptacles will not be accessible. An interpretation of “accessible to the public” will be a key issue in determining which receptacles must be GFCI protected and those not requiring protection.

In addition, Section 210.8(B)(5) now requires all 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt, single-phase receptacles installed at an accessible location either inside or outside a building for the servicing of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment in accordance with 210.63 to be GFCI protected.

Finally, a new Section 210.8(C) has been added requiring GFCI protection for all 125-volt 15- and 20-ampere outlets that supply boat hoists installed in dwelling unit locations. This requirement applies to receptacle outlets, as well as permanently wired boat hoists.

As can be seen by these changes, closer scrutiny of each installation is a necessity for compliance with the NEC. EC

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or at mark.c.ode@us.ul.com.