The National Electric Code and Why It Matters

While most of us are unaware of the protections in place under the National Electrical Code (NEC), it’s a good idea to understand how it could affect you. The NEC—also known as NFPA 70—is a standard for safely installing electrical wiring. It was created and developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as part of its National Fire Code series.

Although the NEC is not written by lawmakers, it has become deeply influential around the country in allowing states, regions, and cities to standardize safe electrical practices. To address the latest technology and ensure that people remain safe, the NFPA revises the NEC every three years. Here are two of the most important NEC revisions over the last 20 years.

Tamper Resistant Receptacles

An estimated seven children are taken to the emergency room every day to receive treatment after inserting small objects into electrical outlets. Parents can protect their children from this risk with tamper-resistant receptacles. This type of device looks like a regular outlet, but it features an interior shutter mechanism that can only be accessed when you apply pressure to both sides as you automatically do when inserting a plug. The NEC has required that these devices be included in all new homes since 2008. They are affordable—costing less than $50 to install throughout a home. This standard affects you if you’re building a new home, but doesn’t apply if your home was built before 2008. However, if you have young children, we strongly recommend installing tamper-resistant receptacles immediately if you don’t already have them in your home.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters

Many readers will probably be surprised to learn that electrical arcs occur naturally and harmlessly in the normal operation of certain electrical components. However, an arc-fault is a hazardous type of electrical arc that happens because of overheated, stressed or damaged electrical wiring. Traditional circuit breakers aren’t designed to detect arc faults, but only overloads and short circuits. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) adds that crucial third layer of protection against electrical fires caused by arc faults.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, AFCIs can prevent almost 50% of the electrical fires that develop each year in the United States. An AFCI provides protection by recognizing when an abnormal arcing situation happens in-home wiring. It reacts by cutting power to the circuit immediately, preventing a fire from breaking out. These handy devices save property and lives by stopping fires before they have a chance to start.

The NEC first added AFCIs to its U.S. standard in 1999 by requiring them in all circuits that supply power to bedroom electrical outlets in residential dwellings. In 2008, the NEC updated this requirement to include most other types of rooms, and in 2014, expanded the requirement to include kitchens. As we mentioned previously, NEC standards are not law unless formally adopted as code by a local government or municipality. It’s important, then, before renting, buying or building a new home to know the local code regarding AFCIs. If you don’t already have them in your home, we strongly recommend installing them.

For Trustworthy Electrical Services, Call GVEC Home

Not sure if your home has tamper-resistant receptacles or AFCIs? The professional electricians of GVEC Home’s Electrician services can do a whole-home electrical safety inspection to help you know if you’re up to code. We provide a complete range of other electrical services, too, including electrical upgrades, wiring for interior lighting, whole-home surge protection, solar panel installation and much more. Call us today at 888.590.7773 to make an appointment.