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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.

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