Around the House

In the past few cycles of the National Electrical Code (NEC), there have been numerous and substantial changes involving dwelling-unit receptacles and lighting outlets in 210.52 with general layout requirements in Part III enhanced by these text changes. There also are important changes involving dwelling-unit receptacles for the 2011 NEC, and a close examination of these changes will certainly help electrical contractors and electricians understand and use them.

In the 2011 NEC, 210.52 covers requirements for 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets in dwelling units. Receptacles required by this section are in addition to any receptacle that is part of a luminaire or an appliance. Any receptacle controlled by a wall switch and used for lighting is also not counted as referenced in 210.70(A), Exception No. 1. Any receptacles located within cabinets or in cupboards or located more than 5 feet above the floor also are not counted as the required receptacle outlets in 210.52(A) through (I).

Section 210.52(A) applies general requirements for the spacing of receptacles in kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sunrooms, bedrooms, recreation rooms or similar rooms within a dwelling unit. Generally, receptacles must be installed so that no point along a wall space, measured horizontally along the floor line, is more than 6 feet from a receptacle outlet. A wall space is considered to be any space that is 2 feet or more in width, including the space around corners, where the space is unbroken by doorways and similar openings, fireplaces and “fixed cabinets.” The addition of fixed cabinets is new for the 2011 NEC and means that receptacles are not required for those wall spaces where there are permanent cabinets installed, such as linen cabinets, cabinets that are mounted below library shelves, and bottom dish cabinets in a kitchen. There also is a new 210.52(A)(4) that states receptacles installed for countertop spaces shall not be considered as the required general receptacles for wall spaces. However, remember that receptacles along the floor line are not required where there are fixed cabinets, so only the countertop receptacles would be required.

A new type of listed flush-mounted receptacle outlet assembly is now permitted by 210.52(C)(5) to be installed in kitchen countertops and by 210.52(D) to be installed in a bathroom countertop despite 406.5(E), which seems to prohibit these installations. Informational notes have been added to both of these subsections to see the requirements for installation of receptacles in countertops in 406.5(E). That text actually states that receptacles shall not be installed in a face-up position in countertops or similar work surfaces; however, these flush-mounted receptacle outlet assemblies do not result in the receptacle being face up in the counter. These units are specifically listed for these applications with special features dealing with the issues involving countertop work surfaces. These pneumatic units can be pushed into the countertop, so they are semi-flush with a gasket that prevents water from migrating from the counter into the unit and does not permit water to enter into the unit as it re-emerges from the countertop. The unit contains a duplex ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacle that is de-energized when it is pushed back into the countertop. With the receptacle mounted in the internal tube of the unit and then emerging above the countertop, there is no possibility of food or other debris entering into the receptacle, as would normally be the case with a receptacle that was mounted face up in the counter.

For single-family dwellings, at least one receptacle outlet must be installed in each basement, in each attached garage, and in each detached garage or “accessory building” with electric power. In this case, detached accessory buildings have been added to the one receptacle requirement but only for a detached accessory building that may have a light or some other power installed in the building. This requirement will ensure a receptacle would be available within the accessary building for whatever use necessary, rather than using a receptacle adaptor for a luminaire.

The last substantial change in 210.52 is located in new subsection (I), covering foyers. Foyers that are not part of a hallway in accordance with 210.52(H) and that have an area that is greater than 60 square feet must have a receptacle located in each wall that is 3 feet or more in width and unbroken by doorways, floor-to-ceiling windows or similar openings. Only one receptacle is required per wall, but obviously, more can be installed. Remember, any receptacle located higher than 5 feet above the floor of the foyer, based on the general text at the beginning of 210.5, would require an additional receptacle at a lower height.

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., based in Peoria, Ariz. He can be reached at 919.949.2576 and

About the Author

Mark C. Ode

Fire/Life Safety Columnist and Code Contributor
Mark C. Ode is a lead engineering associate for Energy & Power Technologies at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and can be reached at 919.949.2576 and .

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