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Not even an international health crisis can keep the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from updating its National Electrical Code (NEC), which is why – as the rest of us were locking down and social distancing – the NEC was busy releasing its 2020 edition.

NEC 2020 Updates Expand Locations Requiring Both AFCI & GFCI Protection

Chuck Ross
Not even an international health crisis can keep the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from updating its National Electrical Code (NEC), which is why – as the rest of us were locking down and social distancing – the NEC was busy releasing its 2020 edition. This newest version includes important updates to the locations where arc-fault circuit interruption (AFCI) protection is required, along with an expansion of ground-fault circuit interruption (GFCI) provisions that could grow the market for combined AFCI/GFCI breakers and receptacles.

The two biggest AFCI updates in 2020’s NEC are really just extensions of 2017’s addition of arc-fault protection to guest rooms and guest suites of hotels and motels. The new provisions expand this security to include patient and sleeping rooms in nursing homes and limited-care facilities, as well as to branch circuit extensions or modifications in guest rooms and guest suites. Since all these sleeping spaces serve the same purpose, it only makes sense that they’d require the same attention to arc-fault risks.

Code developers also moved to require GFCI protection to several areas already requiring AFCI receptacles or breakers, including hallways and bedrooms where a receptacle is within 6 ft. of the edge of a sink. What does that have to do with a hallway or bedroom, you might ask? Well, consider an en suite with a receptacle just outside the bathroom door or a similarly positioned hallway outlet. And the 6 ft. distance isn’t meant to be measured linearly – according to the code, “the distance shall be measured as the shortest path the cord of an appliance connected to the receptacle would follow without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling or fixed barrier, or the shortest path without passing through a window.”

These GFCI changes add to the locations already defined in the 2014 and 2017 code editions as needing both GFCI and AFCI protection. Dual-function breakers and receptacles could provide a convenient solution for contractors seeking the best approach for meeting the updated in these applications.
Photo courtesy of Hubbell Wiring Systems
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