Article 210 - Branch Circuits

By Apr 15, 2002
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Required Outlets

Provisions stipulating the placement of receptacle outlets are covered in 210.52 through 210.63. [210.50] These sections provide requirements for receptacle outlets located in dwelling units (inside and outside); in guestrooms of hotels and motels; above show windows; and around heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Section 210.52(A) through (H) contains general and specific requirements for the placement of receptacle outlets in all dwelling units.

Provisions listed in 210.60 apply to guestrooms in hotels, motels and similar occupancies. The installation of receptacles in guestrooms must comply with 210.60 and some of the dwelling unit requirements.

The next section, 210.62, contains one receptacle placement requirement for show windows. This is a stand-alone section and is unrelated to the two previous sections. The last section, 210.63, stipulates that a receptacle must be installed for the servicing of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. This month’s In Focus will begin a series covering the required receptacle provisions of 210.52 through 210.63.

Receptacle outlet, as defined in Article 100, is an outlet where one or more receptacles are installed. A receptacle is a contact device installed at the outlet for the connection of an attachment plug. Although there is a variety of receptacle configurations, the most common is a 15- or 20-ampere duplex receptacle. Receptacle outlets can be fed from four types of branch circuits. The four types include appliance, general purpose, individual and multiwire. Most receptacle outlets in dwellings are fed from general-purpose branch circuits. A general-purpose branch circuit (also defined in Article 100) supplies two or more receptacles or outlets for lighting and appliances. (See Figure 1.)

Section 210.52(A) through (H) provides requirements for 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets located inside and outside dwelling units. A dwelling unit, as defined in Article 100, is one (or more) rooms that will be used by one (or more) persons as a housekeeping unit. A dwelling unit must include space for eating, living and sleeping. Permanent provisions for cooking and sanitation must also be provided.

Types of dwellings listed in the Code include one-family, two-family and multifamily. While a building consisting solely of one dwelling unit is defined as a one-family dwelling, a building consisting of two dwelling units is a two-family dwelling. A multifamily dwelling, also defined in Article 100, is a building containing three or more dwellings. (See Figure 2.)

Most rooms in a dwelling must comply with the general receptacle placement provisions listed in 210.52(A). These rooms include, but are not limited to, kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, great rooms, recreational rooms, dens, sun rooms and bedrooms. Although kitchens are included in this list, countertop surfaces are not. The requirements covering receptacle placement for kitchen countertop surfaces are listed in 210.52(C). The remainder of this section, 210.52(D) through (H), covers provisions pertaining to specific rooms or areas. These areas include bathrooms, the outdoors, laundry areas, basements, garages and hallways.

210.52 Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets

Section 210.52 provides requirements for 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets located in dwelling units. Although there are certain locations where receptacles are permitted, counting them as required receptacles may not be allowed. The first paragraph of this section covers several instances where receptacles may be installed but cannot be counted. For example, receptacle outlets that are part of a luminaire (lighting fixture) are permitted, but cannot be included as part of the required receptacles.

Likewise, appliances with built-in receptacles are permitted, but cannot be counted as required receptacles. Just because a receptacle is part of a luminaire (light fixture), or is built into an appliance, does not mean it is exempt from the Code. Receptacles that are part of luminaires (light fixtures) or appliances must comply with all applicable provisions. For example, a luminaire (light fixture) containing a single receptacle has been installed in the bathroom of a one-family dwelling. Since all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in bathrooms must have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel, this receptacle must also be GFCI protected. [210.8(A)(1)] Receptacles located within cabinets or cupboards are permitted, but are not counted as required receptacles. (See Figure 3.) Receptacles located more than 5½ feet (1.7 meters) above the floor are also permitted, but cannot be included as required receptacles. (See Figure 4.)

210.52 Electric Baseboard Heaters

Permanently installed electric baseboard heaters may pose a problem when laying out receptacles in dwellings, especially when they take up more than 12 feet of floor space. Since the maximum distance between receptacles in any dwelling wall space is 12 feet, the receptacle must either be installed above the heater or included as a part of the heater. Although the Code does not prohibit installing electric baseboard heaters below receptacle outlets, the instructions included with the heater might. The installation instruction, included with listed baseboard heaters, may not permit installing the heater below receptacle outlets. [210.52 FPN and 424.9 FPN] (See Figure 5.)

Receptacle outlets installed above permanently installed electric baseboard heaters could create a fire hazard. For example, an electric baseboard heater has been installed below a duplex receptacle. A lamp on a table is located directly in front of the baseboard heater. The lamp’s power cord is dangling below the receptacle and is touching the front of the heater. If the heater is energized and the lamp cord is too close to the heating element, then the insulation on the lamp cord could melt. If the insulation is damaged, then a shock hazard or fire hazard exists.

One option for not having a receptacle above a permanently installed electric baseboard heater is to use a heater with a factory-installed receptacle outlet. Another option is to install an outlet that is provided as a separate assembly by the manufacturer. Receptacles installed by either of these options can be counted as required wall-space receptacles. (See Figure 6.)

A receptacle outlet that is a component of the permanently installed baseboard heater must not be connected to the circuit feeding the heater. Regardless of the heater’s source voltage, the receptacle outlet must be fed from a source other than the heater’s circuit. (See Figure 7.)

Next month’s In Focus, resuming with 210.52(A), 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 also the author of Illustrated Guide to the National Electrical Code. For more information, visit his Web site at He can be reached by phone at 615.333.3336, or via e-mail at [email protected].





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