Article 210 - Branch Circuits

By Aug 15, 2002
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210.52(A)(3) Kitchen Receptacle Requirements

Requirements pertaining to the placement of receptacles inside and outside of dwelling units are covered in 210.52(A) through (H). This section provides requirements for 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets. June’s In Focus concluded with a discussion of the two or more small-appliance branch circuit provisions of 210.52(B)(2). This month, the discussion continues with countertop receptacles. As mentioned in June, a minimum of two small-appliance branch circuits are required in kitchens. [210.52(B)(1)] Kitchen countertop surfaces have the same requirement. At least two small-appliance branch circuits are required to feed the receptacles that serve countertop surfaces in a kitchen. (See Figure 1.)

Either, or both, of the small-appliance branch circuits that serve countertop receptacles can also supply receptacle outlets in the same kitchen. (See Figure 1.) Receptacles in other rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1) may also be fed from the same circuits that feed the kitchen countertop receptacles. The other rooms include pantries, breakfast rooms, dining rooms and similar areas. (See Figure 2.)

This provision is not limited to the two required small-appliance branch circuits. Any of the circuits feeding kitchen countertop receptacles, regardless of the number, can also supply receptacles in the pantry, breakfast nook, dining room and in the same kitchen.

The last sentence of 210.52(B)(3) places an additional restriction on small-appliance branch circuits. No small-appliance branch circuit can supply receptacles in more than one kitchen. This requirement is not just for circuits feeding countertop receptacles. A small-appliance branch circuit supplying receptacle(s) anywhere in one kitchen cannot supply any receptacles in another kitchen.

210.52(C)(1) Wall Counter Spaces

Receptacle outlets for counter spaces in kitchens and dining rooms of dwelling units must be installed in accordance with the requirements in 210.52(C)(1) through (5). [210.52(C)] These requirements specify receptacle placement for counter spaces in kitchens and dining rooms. A receptacle outlet must be installed at each wall counter space that is 12 inches (300 millimeters) or more in width. Any counter space in the kitchen of dining room having a width of 12 inches (300 millimeters) or more, must have a receptacle. (See Figure 3.) Remember, all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed to serve the countertop surfaces in kitchens must be ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected.

Receptacle outlets at countertop spaces must be installed in a location that complies with 210.52(C)(5)’s provisions. (This section will be discussed in an upcoming In Focus.) Countertops are installed in a variety of configurations. They can be freestanding (as depicted in Figure 3), or situated between a sink and a counter-mounted cooking unit (as depicted in Figure 6). Regardless of the layout, each counter space 12 inches (300 millimeters) or wider requires at least one receptacle outlet. No receptacle is required at a countertop space that is less than 12 inches (300 millimeters). (See Figure 4.) Although receptacle outlets are not required at kitchen countertops less than 12 inches (300 millimeters) wide, they are permitted.

The amount of countertop space is used to find the minimum number of receptacles for kitchen (or dining room) wall counter space. Wall counter space is measured horizontally along the wall line at the back of the countertop. Receptacles must be installed so that no point measured horizontally along the wall line is more than 24 inches (600 millimeters) from a receptacle outlet in that space. This requirement is similar to the “6-foot rule” for wall space discussed in Part II of this series. The requirement for counter spaces can be thought of as the “2-foot rule.” Since the maximum distance to a countertop receptacle is 2 feet (600 millimeters), the maximum distance between two receptacles is doubled. Therefore, the maximum distance between two receptacles for counter spaces is 4 feet (1.2 meters). (See Figure 5.)

An easy way to understand and remember the placement of receptacles for counter spaces is to imagine having a toaster (or coffee maker) with a 2-foot cord. Anywhere the toaster is placed around the countertop wall, a receptacle should be within reach. (See Figure 6.) A countertop that is 4 feet wide requires only one receptacle outlet. Two receptacles must be installed if the counter space is wider than 4 feet. Unless the counter is less than 12 inches wide, the 2-foot rule is applicable. Although the Code spells out requirements for the minimum number of countertop receptacles, it does not limit the number that can be installed.

Countertop spaces separated by range tops, refrigerators or sinks are considered separate countertop spaces. Therefore, each separate space must comply with the applicable requirements of 210.52(C)(1) through (3). [210.52(C)(4)] (See Figure 6.)

210.52(C)(2) Island Counter Spaces

At least one receptacle outlet is required at each island counter space with a long dimension of 24 inches (600 millimeters), or greater, and a short dimension of 12 inches (300 millimeters) or greater. Island and peninsular counter spaces are not counted the same as wall counter space. Unlike a long wall counter space, only one receptacle outlet might be required on a long island counter space. For example, an island counter is located in the kitchen of a dwelling. The long dimension is 52 inches and the short dimension is 24 inches. This countertop is not separated by a range top or sink; therefore, it is continuous from one end to the other. Since this is an island and the dimensions are greater than required by this section, only one receptacle is required. (See Figure 7.) Had this counter space been located against the wall, a minimum of two receptacle outlets would have been required.

Island counter spaces occasionally include range tops or sinks. As previously mentioned, countertop spaces separated by range tops, refrigerators or sinks shall be considered as separate countertop spaces. A receptacle is required for each separate island counter space with at least a 12-inch (300 millimeters) by 24-inch (600 millimeters) area. For example, an island counter is located in the kitchen of a dwelling. The width of the island is 24 inches, and the overall length is 52 inches. A cook top is located in the center of the countertop. The counter space on each side of the cook top is 12 inches by 24 inches. Since each separate counter space exceeds the minimum dimensions specified in 210.52(C)(2), two receptacles are required for this island. (See Figure 8.)

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

MILLER, owner of Lighthouse Educational Services, teaches custom-tailored classed 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 phone at 615.333.3336, or via e-mail at [email protected].





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