Avoiding Kitchen Nightmares: Adding extra outlets and circuits to bathrooms, kitchens and garages

Published On
Jun 15, 2021

When a homeowner ASKs an electrical contractor to add extra circuits and receptacles to an existing home, does the 2020 National Electrical Code permit them to be added to bathrooms, kitchens and garages? Adding new circuits and receptacles is always an issue, especially due to limitations on the types and sizes of circuits permitted for certain parts of the home. In the past few NEC cycles, permission to add receptacles and circuits within a home has become slightly more lenient, but the electrical contractor may have to dig to find it in the NEC .

Many of the restrictions for dwelling units can be found in Section 210.11, which deals with the number and sizes of branch circuits for lighting and appliances, including motor-operated appliances. Section 210.11(A)(1) provides the requirements for the minimum number of branch circuits for a dwelling unit. It is based on the total calculated load and requires the load be evenly proportioned among all the branch circuits, based on the dwelling unit’s volt-ampere load per square foot.

However, the remainder of 210.11 provides more specific requirements for various parts of the dwelling unit. For example, 210.11(C)(1) requires at least two or more 20A branch circuits be provided for all receptacle outlets specified by 210.52(B), such as kitchen, dining and breakfast room circuits (to serve all wall outlets with walls 2 feet or wider and any floor receptacles located within 18 inches of the wall and to have a receptacle outlet within 6 feet horizontally on any wall space).

Receptacles for countertops are not considered as the receptacle outlets required for the floor or wall receptacles covered in the past sentence. Section 210.52(B)(1) also requires that the two or more 20A small appliance branch circuits serve all countertop outlets covered by 210.52(C) for countertops and work surfaces and receptacle outlets for refrigeration equipment.

Two exceptions to 210.52(B)(1) permit installation of extra circuits and receptacles in the kitchen, dining and breakfast rooms. The first exception permits switched receptacles to be installed in these rooms from general-purpose 15A or 20A branch circuits. For example, these circuits could supply undercabinet lights or indirect lighting above cabinets that are switched.

The second exception permits a receptacle outlet to serve a specific appliance from an individual branch circuit rated 15A or greater. An example of this would be a special circuit for a reverse-osmosis water unit, freezer, microwave, refrigerator, appliance garage or any number of through-counter-mounted appliances. The applications for GFCI protection in 210.8(A) and other locations would still apply.

Section 210.52(B)(2) states that the two or more 20A small appliance branch circuits in 210.52(B)(1) shall have no other outlets. Two exceptions again permit certain loads to be connected to these branch circuits. A receptacle installed solely for the electrical supply to and support of an electric clock in the kitchen, dining or breakfast room may be connected to the two or more small appliance branch circuits. In addition, receptacles installed to provide power for supplemental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges, ovens or counter-mounted cooking units can be connected to the kitchen circuits.

Bathroom branch circuits are covered in 210.11(C)(3), which states: “In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of 210.11, one or more 120V, 20A branch circuits shall be provided to supply bathroom(s) receptacle outlet(s) required by 210.52(D) and any countertop and similar work surface outlets in these areas. These circuits shall have no other outlets.”

An exception to this rule states, “where the 20-ampere circuit supplies a single bathroom, outlets for other equipment within the same bathroom shall be permitted to be supplied in accordance with 210.23(A)(1) [dealing with 15A and 20A branch circuits supplying cord- and plug-connected equipment not fastened in place] and (A)(2) [for connecting utilization equipment, other than luminaires, where the equipment doesn’t exceed 50% of the branch circuit rating].”

This exception permits the heating lamp/exhaust fan and other similar equipment to be connected to the bathroom receptacle circuit, but only where the 20A circuit is dedicated to that single bathroom.

Section 210.11(C)(4) calls for at least one 120V, 20A branch circuit to be installed to supply receptacle outlets “required by 210.52(G)(1) for attached garages and in detached garages with electric power. This circuit shall have no other outlets.”

An exception is that this circuit may supply readily accessible outdoor receptacle outlets, permitting the outdoor receptacles at a home’s front and back to be connected to the garage-dedicated circuit.

There are very real restrictions to adding additional electrical equipment to the small appliance branch circuits in kitchens, bathrooms and garages. However, following the rules will still permit some extra loads on these circuits.

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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