QIS Contruction News

2020 NEC Significant Code Changes

The Texas Electrical Safety and Licensing Act requires the TDLR to adopt the revised National Electrical Code (NEC) as the electrical code for the state of Texas. In 2020, TDLR will adopt the 2020 NEC as the electrical code for the state of Texas and establish it as the "minimum standard" for all electrical work in Texas covered by the Act. The effective date will be September 1, 2020.

Expectations are that any non-exempt electrical work started on or after September 1, 2020 will have to be installed in accordance with the 2020 NEC. For purposes of clarification, the “start” of electrical work is the day the electrician begins installing electrical materials or equipment within the residential or commercial building structure. Inside the corporate limits of a municipality, electricians must abide by city permitting requirements and adhere to any local code amendments.

There are several changes to the 2020 National Electrical Code that immediately impact the Texas homebuilder. A discussion of some of these revisions is noted below. The following information was excerpted from the IAEI magazine article on “Residential Changes for the 2020 NEC.”

230.85 Outside Emergency Disconnects at Residential Dwelling Units

New requirements were put in place demanding that an emergency disconnecting means (which could include the service disconnecting means) for a one- or two-family dwelling be installed and located in a readily accessible location on the outside of the structure. This required outdoor emergency disconnect can consist of the service disconnect(s), a properly marked meter disconnect(s), or other listed disconnect switches or circuit breakers on the supply side of each service disconnect that are suitable for use as service equipment. All of these options must be properly marked to indicate that they are service disconnects, emergency disconnects, etc. with the marking in compliance with 110.21(B). This new requirement for a required outdoor emergency disconnecting means at one- and two-family dwellings was primarily based upon providing first responders an outdoor accessible emergency or service disconnecting means in an emergency situation such as a fire, gas leak, structural damage, or flooding.

406.9(C) Receptacle Locations Around Bathtub and Shower Spaces

Receptacle outlets will now be prohibited from being installed within a "zone" measured 900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold with this identified zone being all-encompassing and including the space directly over the tub or shower stall. In bathrooms with dimensions less than the required zone, by exception, the required receptacle(s) will be permitted to be installed opposite the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold on the farthest wall within the room. The provisions of 210.52(D) demand that at least one receptacle outlet be installed in dwelling unit bathrooms within 900 mm (3 ft) of the outside edge of each basin. The new “zone” for receptacle outlets is very similar to the existing prohibitive “zone” established for luminaires, ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans, and track lighting at 410.10(D), which has been a part of the Code since the 1996 NEC revision cycle.

210.8(A) GFCI Voltage Provisions Increased

All 125-volt through 250-volt receptacles supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts or less to ground installed in the eleven (11) specific locations of 210.8(A) at dwelling units will now require ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel. Historically, this dwelling unit GFCI protection was limited to 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets. Notice that no ampere rating is specified with the 2020 NEC requirements at 210.8(A). The addition of up to 250-volt receptacles and removing the amperage limitations of 15- and 20-amperes will provide GFCI protection to most receptacles commonly used in the specified areas of 210.8(A). The necessity for GFCI protection for areas such and kitchens and laundry areas has been proven for these receptacles over several Code cycles. 250-volt rated receptacles, such as a typical laundry room dryer receptacle, present similar shock hazards. Substantiation submitted for this change demonstrated the need for GFCI protection for greater the 125-volt rated receptacles. Including these higher-rated receptacles for GFCI protection at dwelling units is compatible with the increased GFCI protection provisions that occurred for other than dwelling units at 210.8(B) during the 2017 NEC revision cycle.

210.52(C)(2) Receptacles for Kitchen Island and Peninsular Countertops and Work Surfaces

Revisions were created to the long-standing measurement requirements for determining the need for and/or the number of receptacles needed for residential dwelling unit kitchens countertops. For island and peninsular countertop and work surfaces, the horizontal measurements of a long dimension of 600 mm (24 in.) or greater and a short dimension of 300 mm (12 in.) or greater was changed to a square foot calculation to determine the number of receptacles required. At least one receptacle is required to be provided for the first 0.84 m2 (9 ft2), or fraction thereof, of the countertop or work surface. An additional receptacle outlet is required for every additional 1.7 m2 (18 ft2), or fraction thereof, of the countertop or work surface. At least one receptacle outlet must be located within 600 mm (2 ft) of the outer end of a peninsular countertop or work surface. It is not uncommon to find large to very large islands and peninsular countertops in today’s modern dwelling unit kitchens. The time has come to require more than one receptacle outlet at these large countertops to serve the electrical needs in today’s modern kitchens. That concept was the birth of the square footage model that was adopted into the 2020 NEC.

What does all this new square footage information mean? Depending on the square footage of the island or peninsula countertop will determine the required number of receptacle outlets for that island or peninsula countertop. For example, a kitchen island or peninsular countertop that measures any square footage (i.e., 5 sq. ft.) up to 9 sq. ft. will require at least one receptacle outlet. A kitchen island or peninsular countertop that measures more than 9 sq. ft. up to 27 sq. ft. (9 sq. ft. + 18 sq. ft. = 27 sq. ft.) will require at least two receptacle outlets. A kitchen island or peninsular countertop that measures more than 27 sq. ft. [first 9 sq. ft. (one), an additional 18 sq. ft. (one) and addition fraction thereof (one)] would require a minimum of three receptacle outlets to serve that particular countertop.

210.8(F) GFCI Protection Expanded for Outdoor Outlets

As determined by 210.8(A)(3), GFCI protection is now required for all 125-volt through 250-volt receptacle outlets supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts or less to ground installed in outdoor locations. Addition provisions added at 210.8(F) call for all outdoor outlets for dwelling units that are supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts to ground or less, 50 amperes or less to be GFCI protected (with exceptions). A branch circuit dedicated to deicing and snow-melting equipment or pipeline and vessel heating equipment is not required to be GFCI protected under very specific conditions as this receptacle outlet is exempt from GFCI protection by the requirements of 210.8(A)(3), Exception to (3) and 426.28 (fixed outdoor electric deicing and snow-melting equipment.) and 427.22 (electric heat tracing and heating panels). GFCI protection is also exempted for outdoor lighting outlets other than those covered in 210.8(C) (crawl space lighting outlets).

The most dramatic effect this new requirement will have is requiring GFCI protection for dwelling unit outdoor-installed heat pumps and air-conditioning units. With this requirement applying to “all outdoor outlets” (not just receptacle outlets), this would include outdoor hard-wired AC units. This new section requiring GFCI protection on outdoor outlets for dwellings is related to the submitted substantiation detailing a couple of facilities associated with outdoor outlet connected equipment, such as an outdoor HVAC condensing unit. Outdoor dwelling unit outlets typically serve loads that are comprised of 240-volt motor-driven pumps or compressors that are in operation for many years without maintenance. The time has come to encompass these outdoor dwelling unit outlets under the safety umbrella of GFCI protection. GFCI protection has a long-proven history of enhancing safety on outlets serving comparable loads.

314.27(C) Boxes Acceptable for Ceiling-suspended (paddle) Fans

All outlet boxes mounted in the ceilings of habitable rooms of residential dwelling units are now required to be listed for the sole support of a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan or an outlet box complying with the applicable requirements of 314.27 and providing access to structural framing capable of supporting of a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan bracket or equivalent. This requirement is applicable only in locations acceptable for the installation of a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan, such as a ceiling box installed 300 mm (12 in.) or so from a wall for perhaps track lighting since this ceiling-mounted box would not be “acceptable for a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan.”

230.67 Service Equipment Surge Protection at Residential Dwelling Units

All dwelling unit services are now required to be provided with surge protection. The surge-protection device (SPD) must be an integral part of the service equipment or located immediately adjacent to the service equipment unless it is supplied at each next level distribution equipment downstream toward the load. This SPD is required to be either a Type 1 or Type 2 SPD. This new SPD requirement will apply to residential service equipment being upgraded or replaced as well. A surge protection device (SPD) is a device designed to protect electrical equipment from voltage spikes. An SPD attempts to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold. An SPD is defined as a protective device for limiting transient voltages by diverting or limiting surge current. It also prevents the flow of current while remaining capable of repeating these functions.

This new SPD requirement aligns with the recognized need for surge protection to protect sensitive electronics systems found in most appliances and equipment used in today’s modern dwelling units. Additionally, the expanding use of distributed energy resources (DER) within electrical systems often results in more opportunity or greater exposure for the introduction of surges into the system. DER refers to smaller generation units that are located on the consumer’s side of the service point. Examples of DERs include rooftop solar photovoltaic units, wind generating units, battery storage systems, batteries in electric vehicles used to export power back to the grid, and fuel cells. Electronic life-saving equipment such as fire alarm systems, GFCIs, AFCIs, and smoke alarms may be damaged when a surge occurs due to such things as lightning. In many cases, electronic devices and equipment can be damaged and rendered inoperable by a surge, and yet this damage is undetected by the homeowner. It is a practical next step to require service equipment SPDs at dwelling units to provide a base level of surge protection.

210.8 Measurements for GFCI Protection

For determining if ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel is required and a measurement is involved, the distance from a receptacle is required to be measured as the shortest path the supply cord of an appliance connected to the receptacle would follow without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling, or fixed barrier, or the shortest path without passing through a window. For the 2017 NEC, this measurement was to 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.

These GFCI measurement requirements were revised for the 2020 NEC by removing “doors and doorways” as items the supply cord of an appliance connected to the receptacle should not pass through in order to complete these GFCI-determining measurements. Is a cabinet door a “door” that would qualify for this measurement requirement? Most in the electrical industry would have answered “yes” to that question. To eliminate all doubt, “door” and “doorway” were removed from the list of obstacles that should not be measured through for this Code cycle. The removal of the words “door” and “doorway” addresses the confusion that a cabinet “door” is not intended to eliminate GFCI protection. By removing the word “doorway,” this opened up GFCI protection to something like a receptacle located in a bedroom that happens to be located within 1.8 m (6 ft) of a bathroom sink when the measurement is taken from the top, inside edge of the bathroom sink, through the bathroom doorway to the bedroom receptacle located around the corner from the doorway. A bedroom receptacle outlet has never drawn requirements for GFCI protection but would demand GFCI protection under these unique circumstances.

Please contact us should you require assistance on these or other code related issues. Qualified Inspection Services provides third party residential inspection services designed to keep builders code compliant. To find out how our services may benefit your company, contact us today.

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