As of March 1, 2020, Massachusetts was the only state working off of the newest edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). However, there are 16 states that have started the process of shifting to the 2020 NEC and joining Massachusetts in enforcing the latest requirements for safe electrical installations. This means that over the next few months, those who will be responsible for installing electrical systems will need to learn and understand the changes between their previous edition and the 2020 NEC. Depending on the type of work that they do, this might be a lot or they might do work in an area that was minimally affected by the most recent revisions.
What areas of electrical installations were most affected by the 2020 revisions? Let’s take a look at a few of the corners of the electrical industry that were the most impacted and the changes installers really need to be aware of and understand. We can start in residential-type occupancies as many of the more significant changes took place in areas that either only apply to dwelling units or have an impact on dwelling units in another way. The following list is a few of the big changes directly related to dwelling units that installers will need to know:
- The expansion of GFCI—In dwelling units, GFCI protection for personnel has been expanded to include any receptacle rated up to 250 volts in the areas listed in 210.8(A). The list of areas requiring GFCI protection has also been revised to include all areas of a basement, not just the unfinished spaces or areas not intended for use as habitable rooms. Lastly, outdoor outlets up to 50 amperes will need GFCI protection as well on systems that are 150 volts to ground or less, which is most residential systems. This applies to both receptacle outlets and hardwired outlets, with the exceptions of snow melting equipment and outdoor lighting.
- The emergency disconnect—One- and two-family dwelling units are now required to have a disconnect mounted in a readily accessible, outdoor location so that emergency responders are able to safely disconnect power to the building. This can be the service disconnect but there are other options as well that can be found in 230.85.
- Surge protection—All services supplying dwelling units are now required to include a surge protective device. New section 230.67 outlines where the SPD must be installed and what type it has to be. This also coincides with Articles 280 and 285 being combined into the new Article 242 for overvoltage protection.
This list of course, does not cover all changes that affect residential installations, but is hitting on some of the big ones. But what about everywhere else? There were a lot of major changes that will affect the installation of electrical equipment in non-residential settings. Here are just a few of the major revisions and again, this isn’t all of them, nor is this in any particular order:
- Lighting load values—Table 220.12 has been revised to now only apply to non-dwelling type occupancies and the list of occupancies has also been revised to align better with the occupancy types in ASHRAE energy codes. The values based on VA/unit of area have also been revised to align better with lighting density values determined through case studies performed in the various occupancies.
- Six disconnect rule for services—Section 230.71 has been revised to require that each service have only a single disconnecting means unless the two to six disconnecting means are in their own separate space, such as a single disconnect enclosure or separate section of switchgear. This is to prevent the situation where the bus in service equipment cannot be de-energized without involving the utility, a condition that led many workers to not place service equipment in an electrically safe work condition even though there was no justification do perform energized work. Also, this is not specific to non-dwellings, but is a situation more commonly found outside of one- and two- family dwelling locations.
- Reconditioned equipment—The idea that equipment can be new, used, rebuilt, refurbished, or reconditioned came about in the 2017 edition of the NEC. However, many revisions were made to the 2020 edition with respect to the reconditioning of equipment. Section 110.21 was revised to clarify what must be included on the marking for reconditioned equipment and throughout the code, sections were added to specify what specific equipment is allowed to be reconditioned and which equipment is not permitted to be reconditioned.
These are just a few of the highlights from the many revisions that occurred during the 2020 NEC revision cycle. Understanding what changed, why it changed, and how this will affect electrical installations going forward will help all of us make the transition to the latest edition of the NEC.
The NEC has evolved quickly from edition to edition, prompting some areas to perhaps skip an edition as they move forward in electrical safety. When this happens, it is imperative to be able to communicate how the code went from Point A to Point B. This is all the more reason to encourage our local jurisdictions to stay up to date with the NEC revision process and to not lag too far behind. As our industry evolves, so does the document that guides our day-to-day. Staying up-to-date with the current edition of the NEC helps us install systems in alignment with latest set of requirements aimed at keeping us all safe from the hazards that our use of electricity presents.
If you found this blog helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to our electrical world, as well as fire and building and life safety information.
As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.