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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®?

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6 Responses to “Three Changes in the 2008 National Electrical Code That Will Drastically Affect Homeowners With Their Next DIY Electrical Wiring Projects”

  1. New York Renovator on July 29th, 2008 8:18 am

    […] in the National Electric Code that will affect electric installations (and costs). It’s the official introduction of AFCI circuit breakers. Probably the most important change in the 2008 National Electrical Code® […]

  2. Carol on November 5th, 2008 9:12 pm

    Just to let you know, I really do read your blog posts! This one caught my eye because we are eventually changing one end of our family room into a bathoom/laundry room. Thanks for the updates. 🙂

  3. francis on November 21st, 2008 5:26 am

    1. how many ampere maximum that can use for 1mm2 cable size
    2. could send me all of electrcal cable size list and ampere capacyti.
    3. could you send me all electrcal protection list

  4. Thomas Flynn on February 9th, 2010 6:15 pm

    did new jersey adopt 2008 code

  5. Frank on May 27th, 2010 8:24 pm

    There is a device that creates an arch in the circuit. Its cost about $175.00. You can find this product at your local supply house.

  6. Michael Barski on March 1st, 2011 4:15 pm

    When replacing a fuse box with a circuit breaker box do you need to upgrade
    wiring from 60 amp?(what it is now) to 100 amp. (wiring from meter to circuit box)
    If it is upgraded to 100 amp. wire would that cause any problems if the old wire through the house has the cloth insulation?