Roll With the Changes: Required Lighting and Receptacle Outlets

Each National Electrical Code (NEC) revision cycle seems to result in a multitude of changes in Article 210, Part III, which covers required lighting and receptacle outlets. There are so many changes in each new Code that electrical contractors, electricians and inspectors have a difficult time keeping up. With many jurisdictions skipping a Code cycle or two, especially in a multiplex area, keeping track of the changes can be challenging.

Recently, I taught classes on the 2014 NEC changes and on the 2017 NEC changes for electrical inspectors in the same city. I tell electricians, ECs and inspectors in cities that have skipped a cycle that they may want to take a changes class on the skipped cycle so they can catch up on all of the changes for both the 2014 and 2017 NEC.

In this column, I highlight the changes for receptacles in the 2017 NEC. However, if you are in an area that has skipped a cycle, I advise first reviewing the changes in Part III of the 2014 NEC. Comparing the highlighted text in the 2017 NEC side by side with the 2014 edition will help you totally understand the overall changes and how these changes will affect your next installation. An alternative would be attending a two-day class that covers both editions.

In the 2017 NEC, a major change for dwelling-unit receptacle layout occurred in 210.52(A)(2)(1). The text requires a wall space to include any space measuring 2 feet or more in width (including space measured around corners) and unbroken along the floor line by doorways and similar openings, fireplaces and fixed cabinets that do not have countertops or similar work surfaces. In other words, if the cabinets are fixed and do not have countertops or similar work surfaces, receptacles are not required for those spaces. The change did not specify how deep or how long the countertop or work surface must be, so any countertop or work surface must have a receptacle.

Related to the change that occurred in 210.52(A)(2)(1) was a clarification in 210.8. A paragraph was added that applies to both dwelling-unit and nondwelling-unit ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel.

This new paragraph states: “For the purposes of this section [210.8], when determining distance from receptacles, the distance shall be measured as the shortest path the cord of an appliance, connected to the receptacle, would follow without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling or fixed barrier, or passing through a door, doorway or window.”

Similar text found in 680.22(A)(5) was adapted for application within 210.8. One of the results of this change is that a receptacle located behind a cupboard door or similar door does not require GFCI protection and fits well with the change in 210.52(A)(2)(1), where fixed cabinets with doors are not required to have receptacles located behind the doors.

The title of 210.52(A)(4) was changed from “Countertop Receptacles” to “Countertop and Similar Work Surface Receptacle Outlets.”

The text within the subsection was changed to: “Receptacles installed for countertop and similar work surfaces as specified in 210.52(C) shall not be considered as the receptacle outlets required by 210.52(A).”

“Work Surfaces” was added to 210.52(C) and (C)(1), so the sections now cover both countertops and other work surfaces. This also ties into what I mentioned in 210.52(A)(2)(1) for fixed cabinets with countertops or other work surfaces. Receptacles are required for countertops and “other work surfaces.”

A change was made to 210.52(B) Exception No. 2, where the base section applied to two or more 20-ampere (A) branch circuits for small appliances in kitchens, pantries, breakfast rooms, dining rooms or similar areas of a dwelling unit. The change states, “In addition to the required receptacles specified by 210.52, a receptacle outlet to service a specific appliance shall be permitted to be supplied from an individual branch circuit rated 15 amperes or greater.”

This was more of a clarification, since certain appliances, such as refrigerators, warming ovens, large built-in mixers, etc., may only require 15A circuits.

Peninsular countertop measurements in 210.52(C)(3) have changed so that the peninsular countertop is now measured from the connected perpendicular wall, rather than from the connecting edge of the base countertop. This clarifies measurements from countertops that may not have a 90-degree connecting edge but raises other questions that the 2020 NEC may deal with.

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 Mark.C.Ode@ul.com .

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