Requirements for kitchen island and peninsula receptacle outlets have been a part of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) since the 1990 edition. At that time, 210.52(c) stated: “Island and peninsula counter tops 12 inches (305 millimeters) or wider shall have at least one receptacle for each four feet (1.22 meters) of counter top.” Over the course of the next 30-plus years, there were many significant changes made around island and peninsula receptacle outlet requirements within the NEC. Perhaps no changes to these requirements represented a larger swing of the pendulum than those we have seen over the past three cycles: the 2017, 2020, and 2023 NEC.
2017 NEC Requirements
The following are the relevant sections and requirements for island and peninsula receptacle outlets based on the 2017 NEC. They have been paraphrased in this blog.
· 210.52(C)(2) and 210.52(C)(3) require at least one receptacle to be installed at each island or peninsula having a countertop with a long dimension of 24 inches (600 millimeters) or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches (300 millimeters) or greater.
o The peninsula countertop dimension is measured from the connected perpendicular wall.
· 210.52(C), Exception to (5) allows for receptacle outlets to be mounted a maximum of 12 inches (300 millimeters) below island and peninsula countertops and work surfaces as long as they are not located where the countertop or work surface extends more than 6 inches (150 millimeters) beyond its support base, in either of these two scenarios:
o Where the construction is for the physically impaired.
o On island or peninsula countertops or work surfaces where the surface is entirely flat (e.g., no backsplash) and has no means to mount a receptacle within 20 inches above the countertop or work surface, such as on an overhead cabinet.
One of the significant changes between the 2014 and 2017 NEC requirements was in 210.52(C)(3) addressing peninsular countertop spaces. In the 2014 NEC, the peninsular countertop was required to be measured from the “connecting edge,” which was then changed to measuring from the “connected perpendicular wall” in the 2017 NEC. In the 2017 NEC, 210.52(C), Exception to (5) was revised to also include “work surfaces” as being a part of the requirement, along with countertops. This is consistent with changes in other areas within 210.52 of the 2017 NEC that added the term work surfaces, including changing the title of 210.52(C) to “Countertops and Work Surfaces.”
2020 NEC Requirements
In the 2020 NEC, island and peninsula receptacle outlet requirements saw a major overhaul from those in the 2017 NEC. Where the 2017 NEC required at least one receptacle outlet to be installed in islands and peninsulas with a long dimension of 24 inches or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches or greater, there was never a scenario that required more than one receptacle outlet to be installed in these locations. Changes to the 2020 NEC required at least one receptacle outlet to be installed in all islands and peninsulas, and potentially more depending on the overall square footage of the countertop or work surface for the island or peninsula. Here is an overview of the changes to 210.52(C) in the 2020 NEC (paraphrased):
· 210.52(C)(2) has been revised to cover both islands and peninsulas and has added the following requirements:
o At least one receptacle outlet must be installed within an island or peninsula for the first 9 square feet (0.84 square meters), or fraction thereof, of the countertop or work surface.
o An additional receptacle outlet must be installed within an island or peninsula for each additional 18 square feet (1.7 square meters), or fraction thereof, of the countertop or work surface.
o At least one receptacle outlet must be installed within 2 feet (600 millimeters) of the outer end of a peninsula countertop or work surface.
o Additional required receptacle outlets are permitted to be located as determined by the installer, designer, or building owner.
o A peninsula countertop must be measured from the connected perpendicular wall.
o The location of the receptacle outlets must be in accordance with 210.52(C)(3).
The picture below depicts a 3-foot by 8-foot island. Based on changes to the 2020 NEC, the first 9 square feet (represented by the light blue area) require a receptacle outlet to be installed. That leaves a 3-foot by 5-foot area remaining in the yellow area. That area totals 15 square feet, therefore falling into a fraction of an additional 18 square feet and requiring an additional receptacle on the island, for a total of two. The locations that these two receptacles are installed must be done in accordance with 210.52(C)(3).
For the 2020 NEC, 210.52(C)(3) was revised to cover receptacle outlet locations, which were previously covered in the 2017 NEC by 210.52(C)(5). Revised 210.52(C)(3) provides three different list items identifying where island and peninsula receptacles are permitted to be located (paraphrased):
1. On or above countertop or work surfaces, but no more than 20 inches above.
2. In the countertop or work surface using a receptacle outlet assembly that is listed for the application.
3. Where installed not more than 12 inches below the countertop or work surface and not located where the countertop or work surface extends more than 6 inches beyond its support base.
Receptacle outlets that are not readily accessible or are located in assigned spaces for appliances within the peninsula or island (e.g., dishwasher, mini fridge, etc.) are not permitted to count as the required receptacles outlets for the island or peninsula.
2023 NEC Requirements
Section 210.52(C)(2) saw extensive revisions between the 2020 and 2023 NEC. All of the requirements around receptacle outlets being installed based on the square footage of the countertop and work surface of islands and peninsulas were removed. Perhaps more significant, the requirement for any receptacle to be installed within islands and peninsulas was removed. You read that right: No receptacle outlet is required to be installed within islands or peninsulas based on the 2023 NEC—with a caveat. The revisions to 210.52(C)(2) in the 2023 NEC essentially changed island and peninsula receptacles to have two requirements (paraphrased):
1. Receptacle outlets in islands and peninsulas, if installed, must be done in accordance with 210.52(C)(3).
2. If a receptacle outlet is not provided for islands and peninsulas, provisions must be provided for the addition of a receptacle outlet in the future.
Note: The means by which the provision is made for a future receptacle outlet is not stated by the NEC; therefore, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) will need to be consulted to determine what they will consider as meeting this requirement.
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Section 210.52(C)(3) has also been revised for the 2023 NEC, essentially to provide the following three options for where island and peninsula receptacle outlets can be installed (paraphrased):
1. On or above countertop or work surfaces, but no more than 20 inches above.
2. In a countertop using a receptacle outlet assembly listed for use in countertops.
3. In a work surface using a receptacle outlet assembly listed for use in work surfaces or listed for use in countertops.
What can be noted as a major change in the 2023 NEC from the receptacle outlet location options for islands and peninsulas in 210.52(C)(3) of the 2020 NEC, is the ability to install receptacle outlets below countertops and work surfaces. Receptacle outlets for islands and peninsulas are no longer able to be installed below the countertop and work surface level.
As part of its substantiation for the change, NEC Code Making Panel 2 cited Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data showing that between 1991 and 2020, an estimated 9,700 people, many of them children, were treated in United States emergency departments for burns and other injuries after pulling on or running into power cords plugged into receptacle outlets installed below island and peninsula work surfaces.
Those who opposed the change, however, cited accessibility concerns.
Because of this change, as well as other changes to 210.52(C)(2) and (C)(3), the 2023 NEC essentially provides three options for island and peninsula receptacle outlet installations, or non-installations, as depicted in the bullet points and photo below:
· Option 1 permits the installation of receptacle outlets above the countertop or work surface, but not more than 20 inches above. Islands and peninsulas with elevated backsplashes present an opportunity for using this option.
· Option 2 permits installation of receptacle outlets within the countertop or work surface, provided a receptacle outlet assembly listed for the application is utilized.
· Option 3 is utilized when no receptacle outlet is installed within the island or peninsula. In that case, the 2023 NEC requires a future provision to be made where a receptacle outlet could be installed at a later date. The junction box with protective flexible conduit for the NM-B cable is just one example of how this could possibly be done, but it is not required to be done this way per the 2023 NEC.
Change and the NEC are practically synonymous. But it is rare that we see such drastic changes in requirements within the same section of the NEC over such close cycles. Personally, I believe that these changes show how important it is for the public to get involved in the NFPA® standards development process. Whether you’re an individual with relevant data that you can provide or an electrician that has an idea of what should change, the safety that the NEC provides depends on your input. I encourage everyone to learn more about the standards development process to get involved.