Noteworthy Code Changes Concern Branch Circuits

Several changes in the 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC) in Article 210, Branch Circuits, are worthy of comment. In Sec. 210-4(d), Identification of Ungrounded Conductors, the requirement for identifying the ungrounded conductors where more than one nominal voltage system exists in a building is now specifically limited to multiwire branch circuits, even though the heading of Sec. 210-4 itself is Multiwire Branch Circuits. The former fine print note describing the acceptable means of identification has been elevated to bold print and is now part of the requirements. 210-8. Ground-Fault Circuit-Inter-rupter Protection for Personnel. (a) Dwelling Units. Subsection (2) has been revised as shown, 1996 deleted text shown in [brackets], and new 1999 text underlined: “(2) Garages and [grade-level portions of unfinished] also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms [used for] and limited to storage areas, [or] work areas and areas of similar use.” This clarifies the locations where GFCI protection is required. In 210-8 (a)(7), Wet Bar Sinks, the requirement that receptacle outlets shall not be mounted in a face-up position in work surfaces or counter tops has been added. This echoes the requirement in Secs.: 210-52(c)(5), location of receptacles for kitchen counter tops; 550-8(f)(2) for Mobile Homes; 551-41(d) for Recreational Vehicles; and 552-41(f)(2) for Park Trailers. Sec. 210-11(c)(3) covers the required 20-ampere branch circuit for bathroom receptacles in dwelling units. Under the 1996 NEC, then Sec. 210-52(d), this circuit could have no outlets on it other than the bathroom receptacles. However, it could supply all of the bathroom receptacles in the dwelling unit, should there be two or more bathrooms. This requirement was new in the 1996 NEC, and resulted from the use of heating appliances such as hair dryers and hair curlers on 15-ampere general lighting branch circuits. These heating appliances often overloaded the 15-ampere branch circuits. The change in the 1999 NEC, now Sec. 210-11(c)(3), is an Exception to the above that permits this circuit to supply all of the load in any one bathroom, which would usually include lights and fans, but it could not extend to any other bathroom. Note that, under Sec. 210-8(a)(1), ground-fault circuit-interruption protection for personnel is required at bathroom receptacles. Note, also, that according to Sec. 220-3(b)(10)(a), no additional load need be calculated for the bathroom 20-ampere branch circuit. The bathroom receptacle load is included in the general lighting load calculated on the volt-amperes per square foot basis per Sec. 220-3(a). According to Sec. 210-52(d), bathroom wall receptacles are required within 36 inches of the outside edge of each basin. Sometimes a single receptacle can serve two basins if installed between them. 210-12. Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection. This new requirement is for a device similar in appearance to a GFCI circuit-breaker that interrupts the circuit when an arcing fault is detected. These faults are known to start fires because the current through the arc is often less than that necessary to trip the usual branch circuit overcurrent protective device. The effective date for the enforcement of this requirement in bedroom receptacle circuits in dwelling units is Jan. 1, 2002. By that time, the 2002 NEC will be available, and some field experience with the devices may be available because they can be installed in any receptacle circuit and before the required effective date. 210-19. Conductors—Minimum Am-pacity and size. (a) General. (This was 210-22(c) in the ’96 NEC.) Calculation of a combination of continuous and non-continuous loads requires that the conductor size be determined before the application of any adjustment or correction factors. This previously read “without the application of,” which could be interpreted, improperly, to mean that adjustment or correction factors could not be used. 210-52. Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets. (b) Small Appliances. In (3) the requirement that not fewer than two 20-ampere small appliance branch circuits appear in every kitchen, there is a new requirement that if there is an additional kitchen in a dwelling unit, then two more small appliance branch circuits are required for the other kitchen. 210-60. Guest Rooms. (b) Receptacle Placement. Under the 1996 NEC, all of the receptacles in a hotel or motel guestroom had to be accessible. Under the 1999 NEC only two of the receptacles need be accessible, a more practical rule. In addition, a receptacle outlet behind the bed must be guarded or so located that the bed does not contact the receptacle or the attachment plug(s) inserted into it. 210-70. Lighting Outlets Required. (a) Dwelling Units. In the 1996 NEC, lighting was required “at the exterior side of outside entrances or exits.” In the 1999 NEC, in (a)(2), the requirement is “to provide illumination on the exterior side of outdoor entrances or exits with grade level access.” Now the exterior lighting fixture need not be “at” the door, but must illuminate the exitway. Thus, a single fixture could furnish the light for two doors in one wall of a dwelling, and no lighting is required at doors at upper levels opening onto decks or balconies where there is no grade level access. SCHWAN is an electrical code consultant in Hayward, Calif. He can be reached at

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