Island Receptacles, AFCIs in Closets and More

By Jim Dollard | Mar 15, 2023
A kitchen island with a receptacle on the side wall. SHUTTERSTOCK / KRISTI BLOKHIN

Jim Dollard has an extensive background in codes and standards. Send questions about the National Electrical Code (NEC) to Jim at [email protected] Answers are based on the 2023 NEC.

Jim Dollard has an extensive background in codes and standards. Send questions about the National Electrical Code (NEC) to Jim at [email protected] Answers are based on the 2023 NEC.

Kitchen island receptacles

At a recent Code seminar, I learned that the 2023 NEC has big changes to the number of receptacles required on a kitchen island. The 2020 NEC is in effect in my area, and some islands now require four or five receptacles, while 2023 would allow none! Can we somehow use the revised rule and install just one as we always did? This is a real challenge to comply with in some cases. How are others meeting this requirement? We have added two or three receptacle outlets next to each other to comply.

The requirement in the 2023 NEC you are referencing is in 210.52(C)(2) and applies to island and peninsular countertops. The revised rule requires any receptacle outlets installed in an island or peninsular countertop to comply with 210.53(C)(3). However, the parent text does not require any receptacle outlets at all. Where the contractor does not install a receptacle outlet in an island or peninsular countertop, provisions must be made for the future addition of a receptacle outlet to serve the island or peninsular countertop or work surface. This would (should) allow for a homeowner to easily add a receptacle outlet at a later date if they choose to do so.

However, requiring that “provisions be made for the future addition” of a receptacle outlet will likely lead to confusion in installation and enforcement. As stated in your question, the 2020 NEC is in effect in your area and the requirement is for one receptacle outlet to be provided for the first 9 square feet and additional receptacle outlets for every additional 18 square feet, or fraction thereof, of the countertop or work surface. There is a huge difference between the 2020 and 2023 NEC requirements. The electrical inspector (the AHJ), through Section 90.4, may waive specific requirements in the NEC or permit alternative methods where they can assure that equivalent objectives can be achieved by establishing and maintaining effective safety.

In this case, the inspector could exercise 90.4 and require just one receptacle outlet. In my opinion, most homeowners will still want at least one receptacle outlet located on each island and peninsular countertop. 

The problem addressed by the 2023 NEC revision allowing no receptacle outlets is that the vast majority of island and peninsular countertops have the receptacle outlets installed in the cabinetry just below the countertop. This allows children easy access to appliance cords for coffee pots, fryers, slow cookers and more, resulting in serious injury.

The 2020 revisions for multiple receptacle outlets drove some kitchen designers to come up with creative solutions. Coring a hole in the flat portion of a countertop for a receptacle assembly is not appealing, so homeowners and designers took little interest. One interesting solution is to raise the counter height for seating on one side. This creates a vertical area in the countertop (4 or 5 inches) for receptacle outlet placement. Appliance cords plugged into those receptacle outlets are out of children’s reach.

AFCI protection in closets

The local electrical inspector is demanding that older panelboards in clothes closets in an apartment house be relocated before or during scheduled renovations. We can move the panelboards to the other side of the wall into the hallway. In this case, will arc-fault circuit interrupters be required? The extensions from the old panelboard to the new can will be about 4 feet.

No, AFCIs will not be required. The general rule in 210.12(E) requires AFCI protection where branch circuit wiring is modified, replaced or extended. However, the exception provides significant clarity for extensions of the branch circuit. As long as the branch circuit conductors (likely Type NM cable) from enclosure to enclosure are not more than 6 feet long and no new outlets or devices are installed, other than splicing devices, AFCI protection is not required. The exception provides even more clarity by stating that the maximum 6-foot conductor length does not include the conductors inside an enclosure, cabinet or junction box.

Emergency lighting location

In a retail store we are working on, there are no emergency lights on the drawings. I have struggled to locate where the requirement is for the location of emergency lighting in the NEC. Can you point me to it?

See the scope of Article 700 (700.1) for emergency systems. The NEC does not have purview over the need for or location of emergency lighting. See Informational Note No. 4 following Section 700.1 that explains that NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, has purview over locations where emergency lighting is considered essential to life safety. Where required and located in accordance with NFPA 101, the NEC has purview over emergency lighting installation, operation and maintenance.



Jim got more questions this month than we had room for in print. Keep reading for additional web-exclusive content:

Is surge protection necessary?

In a hotel, we are upgrading multiple units at a time. Because they are all extended stay and have kitchens, this includes a new 60A feeder to each unit and a complete rewire. The inspector informed us that surge protection of the service is required. How can that be when we are not replacing the service? Is he right?

No, see the parent text of Section 230.67(A), which limits this requirement to services. The hotel rooms you described are supplied by feeders, and 230.67(A) does not apply to them. However, if the project included replacing the service equipment, Section 230.67(D) would require surge protection.

Horizontal snap switch?

We are having a debate in our office. Where a single device with two snap switches is installed (looks like a receptacle) for lighting, does the on position have to be up and off down? Can the device be mounted with other single-pole switches in the same box in the vertical position with the switches operated horizontally?

The single device with two snap switches referenced in your question may be installed in the vertical or horizontal position. When installed vertically, each switch will move horizontally to open or close. The NEC does not prohibit this installation. See 240.83(D), which addresses the use of circuit breakers as switches. Circuit breakers in a typical panelboard will also be operated (on/off) horizontally. Where used as switches, circuit breakers must be marked SWD or HID. Article 404 does contain requirements for switches, and there are multiple rules for the position of knife switches. However, those requirements do not apply to the snap switches in your question.

Sizing standby generator

Am I required to size an optional standby generator with automatic transfer the same as my service using Article 220? All of the cooking, heating and clothes drying is natural gas. Seems like overkill on the generator size at 200A.

No, see Section 702.4(A)(2), which permits Article 220 to be applied or another “approved method.” Where the calculation method in parts I–IV of Article 220 are applied, the calculation can be done at full load or with the use of an energy management system (load shedding) to manage the connected load.

An example of another approved method is to provide the electrical inspector (“approved” is defined as being acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction) with documentation, such as a full year of utility bills showing peak demand. The use of another approved method allows for a smaller standby generator supplying a feeder protected at a value below the rating of the service overcurrent protective device. In reality, the 200A service described in your question will likely have air conditioning as the largest load and may never see a load close to half the rating of the service overcurrent protective device.


About The Author

DOLLARD is retired safety coordinator for IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia. He is a past member of the NEC Correlating Committee, CMP-10, CMP-13, CMP-15, NFPA 90A/B and NFPA 855. Jim continues to serve on NFPA 70E and as a UL Electrical Council member. Reach him at [email protected].


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