New Requirements for Residential Construction That Changed the Way Contractors Work

By Nov 1, 2022
PowerMark™ PRO plug-on neutral load center with GFCI (red button), DFCI (purple button), and AFCI (white button).
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Every three years, the National Fire Protection Association updates the National Electrical Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, which is part of the National Fire Code. The updates are made to help ensure safe electrical design, installation and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards. Although the revisions apply to several articles, three new requirements for electrical installations in residential construction changed the way contractors work. 

1. Expanded advanced protection electronic circuit breaker requirements, including GFCI protection up to 250V outlets

The 2020 NEC expanded the requirements on advanced protection electronic circuit breakers—arc fault, ground fault and dual-function (DF) circuit breakers—to more areas of the dwelling. Specifically, GFCI protection is now required for all 125V to 250V receptacles in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas, finished or unfinished basements, garages and anywhere within six feet of a sink, as well as outdoor outlets 150V or less to ground and up to 50A. GFCI protection guards against ground faults by detecting when a current is leaking somewhere outside its intended path. DF circuit breakers help prevent both electric shock and fire hazards and also meet the 2020 NEC requirements. The 2020 NEC inclusion of outlets up to 250V and elimination of amperage rating extends GFCI protection requirements to ranges, electric clothes dryers, dishwashers, sump pumps, pool motors and equipment that requires servicing, such as HVAC and refrigeration units. ABB offers a wide range of GFCI and DFCI breakers, both one- and two-pole, in a variety of amperages.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) guards the residential electrical installation against damage or fires that can result from arcing and sparking that arise from deteriorated wires, poor connections and breaches in wire insulation.

The image above shows circuit breakers installed in the PowerMark™ PRO plug-on neutral load center, the newest addition to GE by ABB offering.

2. Surge protection for all dwelling unit services

Surge protection devices protect sensitive electronic and home appliances against power surges. New for 2020, NEC Article 242 requires all dwelling units to be provided with surge protection. The surge protection device (SPD) must be either an integral part of service equipment or located immediately adjacent to service equipment unless it is located at each level of downstream distribution. Either a listed Type 1 or Type 2 SPD will satisfy the requirement, which applies to service equipment being upgraded or replaced in addition to new construction.

This change in the NEC is intended to provide greater protection from power surge damage for residents’ electronic devices. When considering SPDs, Type 1 SPDs offer the highest ratings and can be installed on either the line side or the load side of the load center. Type 2 SPDs must only be used on the load side.

The GE by ABB THQLSURGE SPD installs directly into the load center like a breaker. The GE by ABB SurgePro™ THOMESURGE SPD installs externally from a knockout in the enclosure. Both offer the protection needed to meet the 2020 NEC requirement for surge protection.

3. Outdoor emergency disconnect

Outdoor emergency outdoor disconnects are used to prevent a switch that will shut off the power coming from the utility power source to the entire house in case of an emergency. The 2020 NEC requires a readily accessible, clearly identified disconnect on the exterior of dwellings. This disconnect must have a short circuit current rating (SCCR) greater than or equal to the available fault current and can take the form of a service disconnect, a meter disconnect or other listed disconnect switch or circuit breaker that is suitable for use as service equipment.

This change to the NEC makes it easier for firefighters and other emergency responders to disconnect electrical service to the dwelling in case of a fire, gas leak, flood or another emergency.

To meet Code requirements, it’s necessary to choose a safety disconnect in an outdoor-rated enclosure, such as NEMA Type 3R or 4X. ABB has a robust offering of outdoor load centers including meter socket load centers, safety switches, disconnects and enclosed circuit breakers to meet the need of any application. 

Where is the Code enforced?

The Code is adopted at different rates depending on the state. As of July 1, 2022, a total of 18 states have adopted the 2020 NEC, and adoption is in process in 11 states. Furthermore, local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) and governing bodies may impose additional requirements or deviations, so it is important to confirm requirements with the local jurisdiction.

ABB has the expertise, products and solutions to help you comply with the Code. Check out our suite of residential products, including our NEW PowerMark PRO plug-on neutral load centers and circuit breakers.

Image: PowerMark™ PRO plug-on neutral load center with GFCI (red button), DFCI (purple button), and AFCI (white button).

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