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Author(s): Derek Vigstol. Published on January 2, 2019.

In Compliance | NEC

A preview of important issues related to the 2020 NEC®


Just a few months from now, electrical experts from around the country will converge on the annual NFPA Technical Meeting, which will be held this year in San Antonio, Texas, for one last chance to shape the 2020 edition of the National Electrical Code®. Having recently finished the second draft meeting for the code, there is certainly no shortage of NEC® items to discuss.

One continually evolving section of the NEC was at the center of the discussion yet again: dwelling-unit kitchen islands and peninsular countertops. The previous NEC cycle focused on clarifying where measurements are taken from to determine peninsula size. This cycle the focus was on ensuring that an adequate number of receptacles are installed at these types of countertop spaces. For as long as many of us can remember, the requirement has simply been at least one receptacle outlet for countertops that met the dimensions of a peninsula or were considered an island. Many kitchens today might consist solely of an island countertop or might have considerably larger peninsular countertop spaces than what was common before.

For this reason, the code-making panel discussed methods for calculating the appropriate number of receptacle outlets to serve these spaces. The panel concluded that using a square footage measurement of the countertop would be best. The second draft meeting concluded with the first 9 square feet of peninsular countertop, or fraction thereof, requiring at least one receptacle outlet. Beyond that, receptacle outlets are required for every additional 18 square feet or fraction thereof. The square footage calculation determines the number of receptacle outlets required, but the location of those outlets can be determined by the installer, designer, or homeowner. For peninsular countertops, at least one outlet must be installed within 2 feet of the end of the peninsula.

Another section of the code that was reviewed in detail this cycle deals with ground-fault protection in marinas and boatyards. There has been a flurry of activity around these unique installations in response to the many tragic events over the past few years involving electric shock drownings. The requirement in the 2017 NEC was that overcurrent protective devices (OCPDs) supplying the marina or boatyard must have ground-fault protection not exceeding 30 milliamps (mA)—a level that made things difficult for marina owners. The 30 mA level applied to all OCPDs supplying the marina, meaning that branch circuit, feeder, and even service OCPDs were required to meet this ground-fault protection level. It didn’t take many boats connecting to power to get to 30 mA. Ultimately, this became a situation where it became so difficult to both comply with the NEC and operate a marina that marina owners needed to cut corners in order to supply power to their customers. One corner cut leads to another, which leads to another, and so on.

The proposed revision for the 2020 NEC takes a slightly different approach to ground-fault protection in marinas and boatyards. While the 30 mA level remains at the shore power receptacle level, feeders are allowed up to 100 mA total before the ground-fault protection opens. Service OCPDs are not mentioned in the GFCI/GFPE requirements in the 2020 edition. This is to allow room to connect multiple boats to a single feeder without taking out an entire feeder or the entire marina and still limit any one boat to 30 mA of leakage current, a value that many have presented as an acceptable level. Class A, GFCI protection is also required for all 125V, single-phase, 15 and 20 amp receptacles. There is also a requirement for marinas with more than three receptacles supplying shore power to boats to have a leakage-current measurement device to test each boat prior to connection.

Of course, all of this has yet to go through the final steps of the NFPA standard development process. Regardless of the final results, both of these examples show how the NFPA consensus process leads to collective problem solving of issues that arise through our ever-changing world. You can follow both of these revisions online as well as at the NFPA Conference & Expo in June.

DEREK VIGSTOL is an NFPA technical lead, Electrical Tech Services.