Click Here to Receive Answers to Your Electrical Questions from a Master Electrician


Three Changes in the 2008 National Electrical Code That Will Drastically Affect Homeowners With Their Next DIY Electrical Wiring Projects

July 27, 2008

2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) 210.12(B) Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection (AFCI). Dwelling Units.

Probably the most important change in the 2008 National Electrical Code® (NEC®)is that Arc-Fault Circuit Interruption (AFCI) Protection is now required for all 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20 ampere branch circuits installed in most areas of your home. The requirements which applied only to bedrooms in 2005 have been extended to every habitable area of the house in 2008.

Arc-fault circuit interrupter protection is required in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways or similar rooms or areas.

AFCIs will not be required in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, unfinished basements, garages, attics or outdoors.

More than 20,000,000 arc-fault circuit interrupter devices have been installed to protect branch circuits in residential bedrooms since they were first required in 2005. The electrical loads in the other areas of a house where AFCIs are now required are similar to the electrical loads in a bedroom. Bathroom, kitchen, garage and outdoor receptacle outlets supply different types of electrical loads. In 2008, AFCI protection is not required in areas of a home where electrical loads may have different characteristics than bedroom loads. AFCI protection is only required in those areas of a dwelling with the types of loads that have a proven track record of being compatible with AFCI protection.

In locations where arc-fault protection is required in dwelling units, the entire branch circuit must be protected. That means all the branch circuit wiring from the panelboard to the last outlet on the circuit must be protected, because any of that wiring is subject to arcing faults.

Exception No. 1 permits a combination type AFCI device (receptacle) to be installed as the first outlet in the branch circuit, which provides protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit. This leaves the homerun wiring between the panelboard and the first outlet without AFCI protection. If Exception No. 1 is used, and AFCI protection starts at the first outlet, the homerun wiring must be installed in metal conduit or cable, Type RMC, IMC, EMT or Type AC cable. Type MC cable is not permitted because the walls of Type MC cable are thinner than the walls of Type AC cable. All these wiring methods meet the requirements for equipment grounding conductors in 250.118. Metal boxes are also required.

The 2005 NEC® permitted the AFCI device to be located outside the panelboard, but it had to be installed within 6 ft. of the branch circuit overcurrent device. The 6 ft. limit from the panelboard to the first AFCI device has been eliminated in 2008, and a combination AFCI device can be installed as the first outlet on the branch circuit at any distance from the panelboard as long as the homerun is installed in one of the metallic wiring methods described in the exception.

I agree and disagree with these changes. First, I agree because this will make for safer installations and less arc faults resulting in less fires. However, I disagree because, to my knowledge, there is not a tester out there that can simulate an arc fault. So, how do we know these things work? We are just supposed to take the manufacturers word for it? I understand the logic and theory behind arc fault protection, but does it really work?

210.8(A)(2) GFCI Protection for Personnel. Exceptions 1 & 2 Deleted.

Receptacle outlets installed in dwelling unit garages, accessory buildings having floors at or below grade level that are used for storage and work areas, and receptacle outlets in unfinished basements must have GFCI protection for personnel. In 2005 two exceptions were permitted, allowing certain receptacles to be installed without GFCI protection. Those exceptions have been deleted. In 2008 all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in garages, accessory buildings and unfinished basements must be GFCI protected. The only exception is for a receptacle supplying a fire alarm or burglar alarm system in an unfinished basement.

Exception No. 1 in the 2005 NEC® permitted receptacles that were not readily accessible to be installed without GFCI protection. The garage door opener receptacle was not required to be a GFCI protected outlet. Now it must be.

Exception No. 2 in the 2005 NEC® did not require GFCI protection for single receptacles for one appliance or for duplex receptacles for two appliances that were located in dedicated space and not easily moved in normal use. Freezers, refrigerators or other heavy appliances occupying dedicated space in a garage or unfinished basement were not required to have GFCI protection in 2005 under this exception. In 2008 these 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles must be GFCI protected.

This is another change that will cause problems. We never GFCI protected motors because they will “leak” enough voltage to cause the GFCI to nuisance trip. The biggest problem that I see here is the garage door opener motor. Because these receptacles are typically above 8 feet, we didn’t GFCI protect them before. However, they are required to be GFCI protected now. I’ll bet that this change will cause several people to get locked out of their homes.

406.11 Tamper Resistant Receptacles in Dwelling Units.

In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation room, bathroom, garage, basement, laundry and outdoor area, all 125-volt, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles shall be listed tamper resistant receptacles.

This is a dramatic and controversial code change. Tamper resistant receptacles are designed to prevent a child from being injured inserting a foreign object into the receptacle. Manufacturers use several different techniques to make their receptacles tamperproof. Many children have been shocked and badly burned by sticking keys, hair pins and other objects into receptacles.

No exceptions to this requirement are included. Receptacles for dedicated appliances, like refrigerator outlets, kitchen countertop receptacles, and other receptacle locations which are above the reach of a child are all included. In a dwelling unit, the receptacle outlets specified in 210.52 must be listed tamper resistant receptacles. Tamper resistant GFCI receptacles are available.

This is the biggest change that I disagree with. I do not think that countertop receptacles, dedicated appliance receptacles or any other receptacle out the reach of children should be required to be tamperproof. This also adds an additional burden to people living in homes without children; like the elderly. What ever happened to those white plastic receptacle plugs that all responsible parents placed in their receptacles and you can pick up at WalMart for about $2.00? Our kids are grown and moved out now, but we now have grand kids. Because of this, every receptacle in our house that is accessible to the grand kids has two of those receptacle plugs in them.

Because of the cost of AFCI’s and tamper resistant receptacles, an executive order was enacted in Ohio to revert back to the 2005 NEC® from the previously adopted 2008 edition. By my estimates, AFCI’s and tamper resistance receptacle requirements in the 2008 will increase the cost of wiring a single family home by about $1000. Some of the changes to the 2008 NEC® are so controversial and increase the cost so much, that several states are either not adopting the 2008 NEC®, adopting the 2008 NEC® without AFCI requirements or reverting back to the 2005 NEC® if the 2008 edition was adopted.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are several changes in the 2008 NEC® that I agree with. The three that I outlined above, I think are the most controversial and increase the cost of your next DIY electrical wiring project the most. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the changes in the 2008 NEC® before beginning your next electrical wiring project. If your state has adopted the 2008 NEC®, then you are required to comply with these changes for all new electrical installations.

What is your state doing? Did they adopt the 2008 NEC®?

The Differences Between Fuses, Breakers, GFCI and AFCI and Which Are Best

January 12, 2007

I read an interesting article this morning in the Home & Garden section of The Clarion Ledger in Mississippi. The article is entitled “Circuit breakers for electrical safety“.

A lady asked Ms Builder to explain the differences between fuses, breakers, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) and which are best. Ms Builder offers a good, simplified explanation of these differences.

However, I found one paragraph that I disagree with. “Before you run out to buy them, make sure that they will fit into your load center breaker box. Many AFCI and standard breakers are interchangeable and will fit many boxes, but you cannot be sure. Try to find ones made by the same company who made your breaker box.”

It is an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and National Electrical Code (NEC) requirement to only use the same brand breaker as your breaker box. For example, if you have a General Electric (GE) brand breaker box, you are required to use a GE circuit breaker.

Some different brand circuit breakers and breaker boxes are similar. For example, a Bryant, Westinghouse, Cutler Hammer BR series and Square D Homeline circuit breakers will fit into each others breaker boxes. However, this will void the UL listing therefore also making it a NEC violation.

I still believe this is a good article for Do-it-Yourselfers and homeowners to read to understand the differences between fuses, breakers, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI). Click here to read the entire article.

If you need help with an electrical installation or have an electrical question feel free to post your question to this blog. I’m also starting a new website that I hope to launch this weekend. The domain is Here we will offer electrical consulting services for all of your DIY electrical wiring projects via email or a toll free number for a small fee. Look for the announcement of this new website and phone number in this blog and on our corporate website next week.

Room Air Conditioner Requirements

June 6, 2006

Q: Are all cord-and-plug connected window air conditioners that are being sold now required to have AFCI or LCDI protection? Is this requirement based on the date of manufacture of the air conditioner or the date the permit is issued?

A: The requirement for Leakage Current Detection and Interruption (LCDI) or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) protection for single-phase, cord-and-plug-connected room air conditioners appears in 440.65 and is new in the 2002 NEC. It may be awhile before room air conditioners with this feature appear in appliance stores.

This is recognized by a paragraph in 90.4, which reads: “This Code may require new products, constructions, or materials that may not yet be available at the time the Code is adopted. In such event, the authority having jurisdiction may permit the use of the products, constructions, or materials that comply with the most recent previous edition of this Code adopted by the jurisdiction.”

If, in your area, electrical products have to be tested and listed by a recognized independent testing laboratory, you will soon see room air conditioners with LCDI or AFCI protection in the supply cords; therefore, I would not be concerned about the date of manufacture of the air conditioner or the date that a permit was issued for the wiring.

Do you have an electrical question you would like us to answer? We will answer the first question posted to this blog daily. Your answer will be posted in the next day’s blog. If you need your question answered sooner, visit

National Electrical Code Requirements and Wiring Standards for Solar Installations

May 7, 2006

Even though PV arrays produce low-voltage direct current (DC) power, PV systems can be hazardous if not installed correctly and are therefore addressed in the NEC. In almost all applications, the low-voltage DC power produced by the PV array is converted to standard alternating current (AC) voltages to serve building loads and may also be interconnected with the utility grid through the building’s service entrance.

Chapter 6 addresses special equipment and includes Article 690: “Solar Photovoltaic Systems.” Article 690 covers the wiring of the PV arrays as well as the installation of inverters and controllers. The method for determining the minimum conductor sizes and overcurrent device ratings throughout the PV system based on the characteristics of the PV panels, inverters and other equipment is provided Part II. Part III states the requirements for the location, rating and installation of disconnect switches throughout the PV system. Parts IV and V address PV-system wiring methods and grounding. Interconnection with the building’s distribution system and ultimately the utility grid is covered in Part VII. Part VIII addresses the installation of storage batteries and chargers.

Article 705-“Interconnected Electric Power Production Sources”-applies to PV systems that are interconnected to other power sources such as the serving electric utility’s system or on-site generator.

Interconnection standards

Connecting the facility’s PV system to the serving utility’s system provides a number of potential advantages to both the facility’s owner and utility. A grid-connected PV system allows power to flow to and from the building depending on the building load at any instant relative to the amount of power being produced by the PV system. Excess power can be sold to the utility at a predetermined rate or exchanged for utility power when the facility has a power deficit such as at night. PV system output usually tracks utility demand. Its peak output occurs midday when the utility experiences its peak demand and the cost of utility power production is highest. A grid-connected PV system can also eliminate the owner’s need to install expensive battery banks or backup generators that have ongoing operating and maintenance costs, which will make the PV system a less attractive investment.

A major barrier to grid-connected PV has been the lack of standards for interconnecting the facility’s PV system with the utility’s system. Different utilities, even with adjacent service areas, often have different policies and requirements for connecting on-site distributed generation to their systems. Two standards have been developed by the IEEE aimed at standardizing the requirements for interconnecting PV systems with the serving utility’s system:

1547-2003: Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electric Power Systems

929-2000: Recommended Practice for Utility Interface of Residential and Intermediate Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

IEEE Standard 1547 establishes recommended practices for interconnecting distributed generation technologies with the electric grid. The goal of these recommended practices is to promote the use of alternative energy sources and make connecting to the utility grid economical for the building owner.

IEEE Standard 929

IEEE Standard 929 specifically addresses the interconnection of photovoltaic systems generating 10 kilowatts or less to the utility grid but can be applied to PV systems of any size. Many utilities require that small- to medium-sized PV systems comply with the same interconnection requirements that apply to very large rotating generators such as those found in industrial cogeneration. These requirements are not practical for PV systems and can be a roadblock to PV installation. IEEE Standard 929 simplifies the PV system interconnection with the utility grid with the objective of safety for linemen, safeguarding the utility’s equipment and protecting the utility customer. The use of PV inverters that comply with IEEE Standard 929 reduces the cost of meeting interconnection requirements and helps remove another barrier to widespread PV use.

Receptacles in Crawl Spaces and Unfinished Basements

May 3, 2006

210.8(A)(4) Crawl spaces

Receptacles must be GFCI protected where located within crawl spaces. There is no exception accompanying this location. This section is not saying that a receptacle must be installed in the crawl space, but if one is, it must have GFCI protection for personnel. Requirements for receptacle placement in dwellings are located in 210.52.

A receptacle may be required if the crawl space contains heating, air-conditioning, or refrigeration equipment. Where heating, air-conditioning, or refrigeration equipment is installed in a crawl space, a 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle must be installed for servicing the equipment.

The receptacle must be located on the same level and within 25 feet (7.5 m) of the heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration equipment. [210.63] The receptacle could be installed outside the crawl space if located on the same level and within 25 feet of the equipment. Regardless of where the receptacle is located, it must be GFCI protected.

210.8(A)(5) Unfinished basements

Receptacles must be GFCI protected where located in unfinished basements. This same section defines unfinished basements as portions or areas of the basement not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and the like.

In areas of dwellings defined as unfinished basements, all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles must be GFCI protected unless meeting one of the exceptions. Receptacles must be GFCI protected, even if future plans include converting the basement into a habitable room.

When the unfinished basement is converted into a bedroom, den, recreational room, etc., the receptacles no longer need GFCI protection. For example, two rooms are located in the basement of a dwelling. While one room contains only one receptacle, the other contains four.

The room with four outlets will eventually be converted into a bedroom. Since the room is an unfinished basement, when the receptacles are installed, they must be GFCI protected.

Three exceptions pertain to unfinished basements. The first two exceptions are identical to the two exceptions for garages (covered in last month’s In Focus.) The first exception states that receptacles that are not readily accessible are not required to have GFCI protection.

The second exception is for receptacle(s) feeding appliance(s) located within a dedicated space. A single receptacle supplying power to a single appliance that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another does not require GFCI protection.

GFCI protection is also not required if a duplex receptacle is installed for two appliances that, in normal use, are not easily moved from one place to another. A duplex receptacle, supplying power to only one appliance, must have GFCI protection. In both cases, the appliance(s) must be cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6) through (8).

The third exception (new in the 2002 edition) pertains to fire and burglar alarm systems. A receptacle installed to provide power to a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm, and nothing else, does not require GFCI protection. A similar requirement, also added to the 2002 edition, stipulates that fire alarm circuits shall not be supplied through GFCIs. [760.21 and 760.41] A single receptacle located in an unfinished basement supplying power to a fire/burglar system does not require GFCI protection.

Since most alarm-system transformers attach to a duplex receptacle with a retaining screw, another option is available. By removing the tabs on both sides of the duplex receptacle, the receptacle can be installed without GFCI protection. Removing the tabs will disable the other receptacle outlet. Therefore, since only one outlet is energized, no GFCI protection is required. By installing a duplex receptacle, the transformer can be attached with the retaining screw.

Although receptacle placement is not stipulated in this section, it does clarify a requirement pertaining to receptacles in basements. Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(5) will not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G).

This is understandable, since the receptacles covered in the exceptions are not used as general-purpose receptacles. Section 210.52(G) stipulates that at least one receptacle outlet must be installed in each basement of a one-family dwelling. Since at least one receptacle outlet is required, it must be GFCI protected.

Next Page »