Building codes are used to improve the safety of of our homes (read: Short History of Building Codes). The latest electrical building code, the 2020 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), was recently published by the National Fire Protection Association.
Builders, remodelers and licensed electricians are responsible for staying up to date on changes to the building code. This is one very important reason why …
Changes to building codes make our homes safer. These changes also increase building costs which ultimately get passed on to home buyers. The trade-off is a good one if you consider how many house fires and deaths are avoided with better building codes like smoke alarms.
Some of the changes targeting residential electrical service include:
- Electrical service to homes will need to have a surge protect device installed. This will apply to all new home builds and remodeling projects.
- All basement receptacles must have ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. This extends the current electrical code which only required GFCI outlets in unfinished areas of basements.
- Outlets serving 250-volt appliances like stoves and dryers, will need GFCI protection when located in certain areas. This section previously applied to outlets up to 125 volts only.
While the new electrical building code has been published, it has not been widely adopted. Individual states and local jurisdictions like towns and counties, each have a process for reviewing and adopting new building codes.
During the adoption process, builders have the ability to influence the adoption process at their state and local levels. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is recommending to it's members “… changing the new GFCI requirements back to only unfinished portions of basements and for the surge protection language to be struck altogether.”
This is just a small glimpse into the construction industry (learn more about building codes in this brief, 10 slide presentation). There are many different regulations that control where and how houses, condominiums and apartment buildings are built. My first experiences seeing and understanding what was happening occurred while running my handyman business. I watched the US government tighten the guidelines for energy efficient windows. It was also fascinating watching the shift to today's LED light bulbs.
PS For help finding and hiring an electrician, read: 5 Ways to Check Contractor Qualifications.