Or, 13 Things to Love About the 2014 NEC Updates!
Welcome to part one in what has wound up being a three-part series on the 2014 NEC Updates. Not all areas are implementing these at the same time – not all areas are implementing them at all. Regardless, this years updates are going to continue to shape and improve the future of construction – specifically in the electrical field. Awareness and knowledge of these changes will only strengthen the future face of building across the country.
Every three years, the National Electric Code updates its codes; it does this by soliciting public input, and anyone can participate – industry experts, professional inspectors, firemen, lab and field technicians, even electrical students can write in and request specification or clarification on rules, suggest completely new ones, or point out sections that can be expanded or improved upon. The NEC is written by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and is utilized as a standard by regional laws. It introduces a consistent level of safety, expectations, and effort into electrical work so that not only do workers know the why, what, and how of doing good electrical work – but it can also be enforced unilaterally, regardless of region or the skill level of the contractor, inspector, or safety personnel. NEC standards are quoted by fire departments, building code, and countless industry experts. Not all regions will enforce the same year of Electrical Code, either, so be sure to check your specific area’s rules and regulations.
This year there were over 3,745 proposed changes to the National Electric Code (NEC), 1,625 comments addressed to those proposed changes, 3100+ changes implemented, and 4 completely new articles introduced to the code itself. Code-wide, the threshold for voltage has been moved from 600 volts to 1000. This upgrade is mostly intended to help incorporate photovoltaic and wind power generation systems more widely and into more applications. The word ‘switchgear’ has been formally defined and incorporated; and the code is now more specific in its request for markings and labeling of wires, fuses, circuits, etc.
The new changes have been available to browse and review across many sites and sources – you can even view an entire copy of the new NEC itself at archive.org, and peruse code and standards for free at NFPA.org (not just electrical, but fire protection as well). I’ve decided to briefly touch on the things I found fascinating – or those that encouraged me to ask, “What exactly happened that someone had to make a code to not do that or let it happen again?” To be frank I played favorites, so I’m only going to share the changes I really, really loved! (1000 pages of electrical code is pretty dry stuff, to be fair.)
210 GFCI’s, AFCI’s, and Electronic Vehicles
Alright, let’s just get in to the nitty-gritty here. The 210 Article is almost entirely about ‘whole home (or building) safety’; this years NEC updates are pushing even further with their emphasis on GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and AFCI (Arc-fault Circuit Interrupter) protection. GFCI’s are now required in laundry rooms, and in kitchens, on dishwashers, and all GFCI’s must be ‘easily accessible’. (This means no GFCI circuit run through garage, kitchen, and bathroom with one test/reset spot on the ceiling of the garage. My last house was like this – awful!) AFCIs are referenced as ‘protective devices’ and will be required on any branch circuit for living spaces and now for the kitchen and laundry room. If using an AFCI outlet, it MUST be the 1st outlet on the circuit – and all dormitory circuits must be fully AFCI protected as well. Last, but not least – Electric Vehicle chargers (in garages) must be wired to a SEPERATE branch circuit on which no other outlets can be added (most especially not outside outlets). Each garage space can have an EV receptacle on the branch circuit, but nothing else can be plugged in on that circuit. Note: Since there are still some regions of the country that have not accepted the 2008 and 2011 NEC rules on GFCIs and AFCIs, I foresee there will be continued resistance to the rule of AFCI+GFCI circuits combined due to the known false trips and regular false positives they tend to trigger in each other.
Article 250 deals with marking, bonding, jumpers, etc. Not particularly thrilling stuff – but it is important to note that the new updates change the minimum sizing of non-grounding conductors, and clarifies the maximum size for grounding conductors in DC systems. Also, the NEC expects DC systems to provide ground fault detection and a current path for the disconnect. Most likely this is a response to the rise in solar systems and DC micro grids being installed; enforcing some uniform expectations across the nation.
314 Covers and Canopies
The new 314 is very specific that all boxes must now have some kind of a cover – either a faceplate, a lampholder, a canopy, etc. – just something to protect wires from being tampered with or touched. In addition, the screws used on boxes must be the appropriate and correctly sized machine screws (specifically no more drywall screws) in order to ensure that everything is installed correctly and less likely to malfunction. It is safe to say that utilizing wrong-sized screws must have become recently problematic.
Three down and ten more to go – join us next week for more 2014 NEC Updates to look forwards to!
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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