What's Protected?

Changes involving ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel have been present in every National Electrical Code (NEC) cycle since GFCIs were inserted into the 1962 NEC. The results of the January 2006 NEC Panel actions on proposals for the 2008 NEC state there will be more major changes involving installation requirements for these safety devices.

The time to submit comments is fairly short. The report on proposals (ROP) was sent on July 14, 2006, and the comment closing date is 5 p.m., Oct. 20, 2006. Individual proposals and the panel action on the proposed changes must be studied very carefully to determine the effect the proposed changes would have on electrical installations.

The technical substantiation for the proposal, as well as the panel statement for acceptance of the proposed change, should be taken into consideration before determining a technical reason to either support or reject the proposed change. A comment should then be submitted to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

GFCI protection for 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles for specific locations in dwelling units is covered in 210.8(A). Section 210.8(B) covers GFCI protection for 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles in specific locations in commercial and industrial facilities.

In dwelling units, receptacles installed in not readily accessible locations in garages, accessory buildings, and unfinished basements were not required to be GFCI protected.

Panel 2 has accepted proposals for the 2008 NEC to delete these exceptions and require GFCI protection for receptacles in these locations whether the receptacles are readily accessible or not. For example, a single or duplex receptacle for a garage door opener would now be required to have GFCI protection.

However, a dwelling unit receptacle supplied from a dedicated branch circuit and located in the eaves for electric snow melting or deicing equipment can still be installed without GFCI protection.

Section 426.28 still requires ground-fault protection for equipment (GFPE) on these circuits. A GFPE device saves the equipment, with the protection starting at about 30 milliampere levels and provides leakage protection for the electrical equipment.

In the 2005 and previous editions of the Code, there were exceptions permitting single receptacles or duplex receptacles to not be protected by a GFCI where supplying power for a single appliance or for multiple appliances not easily moved from one place to another and located within a dedicated space in garages, accessory buildings, and unfinished basements.

These exceptions have also been removed by proposals for the 2008 NEC. This proposed change would require GFCI protection for receptacles supplying electrical power for clothes washers, dryers and other similar appliances located in a garage, basement or accessory building. Freezers and refrigerators located in these same areas would also require GFCI protection.

There were a number of proposals that requested exceptions be added to exempt receptacles within 6 feet of a dwelling unit laundry, utility or wet bar sink where these receptacles supplied power for washers, dryers or similar appliances from requiring GFCI protection, but these were all rejected. The statements provided by the panel stated that the permitted leakage current level for these and similar appliances is approximately one-half to three-quarters of a milliamp.

Since a “Class A” GFCI device is set to trip at 4 to 6 milliamps, it would take about eight to 10 times the permitted leakage level for these appliances to trip a properly functioning GFCI device.

Proposal 2-81 was accepted for receptacles installed within 6 feet of any sink by the following text addition to 210.8(B) for “other than dwelling units”: “(5) Sinks-where receptacles are installed within 1.8 m (6 feet) of the outside edge of the sink.”

This requirement would apply to all receptacles within 6 feet of sinks in nonresidential facilities, such as janitorial sinks, floor sinks, general service sinks, mop sinks, lunch break areas with a sink and similar sinks.

An additional change has been proposed and accepted in 210.8(B) to require all outdoor 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt receptacles in “other than dwelling units” to be GFCI protected. The following exception has also been accepted for outdoor receptacles: “In industrial establishments only, where the conditions of maintenance and supervision ensure that only qualified personnel are involved, GFCI protection shall not be required on receptacles that are limited to use with equipment qualified under an assured equipment grounding conductor program as specified in 590.6(B)(2).”

These changes plus many others proposed for the 2008 NEC should be reviewed since the changes affect everyone in the industry. EC

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or via e-mail at mark.c.ode@us.ul.com.



About the Author

Mark C. Ode

Fire/Life Safety, Residential 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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