Plug It Up

Tamper-resistant receptacles will significantly reduce the number of injuries that result when someone inserts a foreign object into receptacles within a residential occupancy. While that is a foregone conclusion, there are some skeptics within the electrical and building industries who fear that requiring these receptacles will increase the cost of a home at a time when prices are declining and home sales are down. Other skeptics maintain that physically challenged and older adults will not be able to insert appliance cord caps into the receptacles. All of these questions were issues discussed and resolved, among many others, at the proposal and the comment stage of the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) by NEC Panel 18 and the NEC Technical Correlating Committee. To analyze this change for the 2008 NEC, one first must determine exactly what the text states and the implications of the change. There are times when the intent of the text and the change would seem to dictate other actions, but the basic concept of the NEC is to determine the exact text and how to apply it.

Section 406.11 in the 2008 NEC reads, “406.11 Tamper-Resistant Receptacles in Dwelling Units. In areas specified in 210.52, all 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles shall be listed tamper-resistant receptacles.” Based on the new text, tamper-resistant, 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt receptacles must be installed for all specified areas in 210.52, covering such receptacles in kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sunrooms, bedrooms, recreation rooms, or similar rooms or areas of dwelling unit. The receptacles required for those areas specified in Section 210.52 must be tamper-resistant, and in addition, other receptacles not specifically listed in 210.52 now are required to be tamper-resistant.

For example, any 15- or 20-ampere receptacle that is part of a luminaire or appliance—those receptacles totally controlled by a wall switch in any habitable room, those located within cabinets or cupboards, or any receptacles located more than 5½ feet above the floor—is required to be tamper-resistant. Receptacles for garage-door openers located more than 5½ feet above the floor are required to be tamper-resistant. Floor receptacles located more than 18 inches from the wall are required to be tamper-resistant, even though 210.52 does not specify these receptacles as required receptacles. In Section 210.52(A)(2)(1), a wall space is considered to be a wall that is at least 2 feet or more in width. However, a wall space less than 2 feet with a receptacle installed in that space also is not required by 210.52, but compliance with 406.11 necessitates a tamper-resistant receptacle. In addition, countertop spaces less than 12 inches wide are not required to have a receptacle. But, if the receptacle were installed, the receptacle would be required to be tamper-resistant.

Receptacles located above kitchen countertops are required by 210.52(A) and 210.52(C). However, switched receptacles supplied from a general-purpose branch circuit and located above the countertop for under-cabinet lighting are not required or specified by 210.52. They are simply permitted to be installed for indirect or direct lighting, so these receptacles require tamper-resistant receptacles. Section 210.52(C)(2) and (3) require only one receptacle for either an island or peninsular countertop; however, technically any extra installed receptacles also are required to comply with 410.11. In addition, based on Section 210.52(C)(5), “receptacle outlets rendered not readily accessible by appliances fastened in place, appliance garages, sinks, or range tops (as covered in 210.52(C)(1), Exception), or appliances occupying dedicated space,” such as a dishwasher with the receptacle installed behind the appliance shall not be considered as required outlets but are required to be tamper-resistant based on this new text.

Any 15- and 20-ampere, 125-volt receptacles installed outdoors at dwellings and any located more than 6½ feet above grade level would require

tamper-resistant receptacles. Receptacles installed in a dwelling unit attic for use as service receptacles for HVAC and air-handling units are covered by 210.63, not 210.52, and would not be required to be tamper-resistant. Receptacles installed for snow melting equipment near the roofline of a dwelling unit are outdoor receptacles, based on 210.52(E), and would require tamper-resistant receptacles. Balconies, decks or porches with a usable area of less than 1.86 m2 (20 ft.2) are not required to have a receptacle installed, but if a receptacle were installed, it would be required to be tamper-resistant.

There has been some discussion that hotels, motels, dormitories and similar occupancies also must comply with 410.11, but the actual text in 210.60 requires compliance only with 210.52, not 406.11. Changes must occur in Section 406.11 in the 2011 NEC for any applications in 210.60, along with the other questionable receptacles mentioned above.

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 at


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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