Article 210 - Branch Circuits

By Jun 15, 2002
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210.52(A)(2) Wall Space

Receptacle placement provisions for dwelling units are stipulated in 210.52(A) through (H). Last month’s In Focus concluded with fixed and sliding panels in exterior walls. [210.52(A)(2)(2)] This month, the discussion continues with the third sentence that clarifies the term “wall space.” As used in this section, wall space includes the space afforded by fixed room dividers. [210.52(A)(2)(3)] Railings and freestanding bar-type counters are considered fixed room dividers and therefore count as wall space. For example, a short wall, installed as a room divider, separates the breakfast nook and the great room. The room divider is 3 feet high and extends 7 feet out from the main wall. Since this room divider is counted as wall space, a receptacle must be installed no more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) from the end of the wall. Because the breakfast nook is on one side of the wall and the great room is on the other, a receptacle must be installed on each side.

Railings are considered wall space and must be counted when determining the minimum number of required receptacles. Just because railings are open does not mean that receptacles are not required. If a railing extends more than 6 feet into the room, a receptacle is required within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of the end of the railing. For example, an iron railing divides the breakfast nook and great room. Like the previous example, this railing extends 7 feet out from the main wall. Because the railing is a fixed room divider, it is considered wall space. Installing a receptacle in the wall is too far from the end of the railing. A receptacle must be installed within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of the railing’s end. A floor receptacle installed close to the rail will satisfy the general receptacle placement provision. Since the railing is open, the floor receptacle can be counted as the required receptacle for both sides. Freestanding bar-type counters are also considered wall space and must be counted when determining the minimum number of required receptacles.

210.52(A)(3) Floor Receptacles

Because of various construction designs, not all receptacles will be installed in walls. Floor receptacles will be required in certain locations in order to comply with the general receptacle placement provisions. Receptacle outlets installed in floors can be counted as required receptacles if they are located within 18 inches (450 millimeters) of the wall. Floor receptacles located more than 18 inches (450 millimeters) from the wall (or room divider) are permitted, but cannot be counted as required receptacles.

Occasionally, no space is available for the installation of wall receptacles. For example, a sun-room in a dwelling has no wall space because of floor-to-ceiling windows. Receptacles are not usually installed in the ceiling because receptacles located more than 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) above the floor cannot be counted as required receptacles. Since no space is available in the walls, floor receptacles must be installed.

The installation of floor receptacles may also be necessary in loft areas with open-type railings. For example, a second floor den is open to the living room below. The open area contains a wood railing that is 18 feet in length. Since the maximum distance between receptacles is 12 feet (3.6 meters), a floor receptacle must be installed.

Not all types of device boxes are suitable for installation in floors. Receptacles located in the floor must be installed in boxes listed specifically for the application. [314.27(C)] Different types of boxes may be required for different types of floor construction. For example, a floor box designed for installation in concrete cannot be used in wood floor construction. Likewise, a box listed specifically for wood floors cannot be installed in concrete.

210.52(B) Small Appliances

In kitchens, pantries, breakfast rooms, dining rooms and similar areas, the circuits serving receptacles outlets covered by 210.52(A) and (C) must be 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits. Unless meeting an exception, receptacle outlets supplying refrigeration equipment must also be fed from 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits. While 210.52(A) covers general provisions, 210.52(C) covers counter spaces in kitchens and dining rooms of dwelling units. Section 210.11(C)(1) requires at least two 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits.

This provision contains two exceptions. The first states that if switched receptacles are installed in accordance with 210.70(A)(1) Exception No. 1 and they are in addition to the required receptacles specified in 210.52, then they are not required to be supplied by 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits. The second exception stipulates that a receptacle outlet for refrigeration equipment can be supplied from an individual branch circuit rated 15 amperes or greater. (As defined in Article 100, an individual branch circuit supplies only one piece of utilization equipment.) In the previous example, the receptacle for the refrigerator was supplied from one of the two 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits. If the receptacle outlet for the refrigerator is supplied by an individual branch circuit, the circuit can be rated 15 amperes.

Remember, the refrigerator receptacle must be supplied by a 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuit if there are any other receptacles are on the same circuit. Note: If the receptacle outlet is not behind the refrigerator and it serves the countertop surface, then it must be GFCI protected.

210.52(B)(2) No Other Outlets

Small-appliance branch circuits feeding receptacles in kitchens, pantries, breakfast rooms, dining rooms and similar areas shall have no other outlets. While general-purpose branch circuits can feed lights and receptacles, small-appliance branch circuits cannot. Small-appliance branch circuits can only feed receptacles in kitchens and other rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1). Lighting outlets and hood fans are not permitted on small-appliance branch circuits. Outdoor receptacles cannot be fed from small-appliance branch circuits.

Two exceptions pertain to this provision.

• A receptacle installed to supply and support an electric clock in any of the rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1) can be fed from a small-appliance branch circuit. [210.52(B)(2) Exception No. 1.]

• The second exception pertains to gas cooking equipment. A receptacle installed to provide power for supplemental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges, ovens or counter-mounted cooking units can be fed from a small-appliance branch circuit. [210.52(B)(2) Exception No. 2.]

Next month’s In Focus, resuming with 210.52(B)(3), will continue discussion of required receptacle outlets in dwelling units. EC

MILLER, owner of Lighthouse Educational Services, teaches custom-tailored classes and conducts seminars covering various aspects of the electrical industry. He is the author of Illustrated Guide to the National Electrical Code. For more information, visit his Web site at He can be reached by telephone at 615.333.3336, or via e-mail at [email protected].

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