Receptacle Outlet Requirements for Balconies, Decks, & Porches. 2020 NEC 210.52(E)(3)

By: Jerry Durham | Oct 05, 2020

The 2020 Code Making Panel (CMP) has revised the 2017 NEC rules regarding receptacles serving dwelling unit balconies, decks, and porches – specifically, the requirement that an accessible outdoor receptacle must be installed to serve attached balconies, decks, and porches. The revised Code now requires that a receptacle be installed to serve the balcony, deck, or porch when the balcony, deck, or porch is within 4 inches of the dwelling unit. If the balcony, deck, or porch is within 4 inches of the dwelling, the 2020 NEC considers that close enough so that it now requires a general use 120-volt receptacle.

What Else is New in 2020?

The 2017 requirement that the balcony, deck, or porch must be accessible from inside the dwelling to require a 120-volt receptacle, has been removed from Section 210.52(E)(3) in the 2020 NEC.

Let’s Compare the Code Sections.

2017 NEC

210.52(E)(3) Balconies, Decks, and Porches

Balconies, decks, and porches that are attached to the dwelling unit and are accessible from inside the dwelling unit shall have at least one receptacle outlet accessible from the balcony, deck, or porch. The receptacle outlet shall not be located more than 2.0 m (6 1⁄2 ft) above the balcony, deck, or porch walking surface.

2020 NEC

210.52(E)(3) Balconies, Decks, and Porches

Balconies, decks, and porches that are within 102 mm (4 in.) horizontally of the dwelling unit shall have at least one receptacle outlet accessible from the balcony, deck, or porch. The receptacle outlet shall not be located more than 2.0 m (6 1⁄2 ft) above the balcony, deck, or porch walking surface.

A porch within 4 inches of the dwelling requires a receptacle outlet.

 The History of Section 210.52(E)(3)

Section 210.52 of the NEC has long been dedicated to addressing receptacles required inside and outside of dwelling units.

Section 210.52(E)(3) addresses the receptacles required outdoors, specifically those serving balconies, decks, and porches.

During previous Code cycle(s), this Section has undergone several revisions to address the following concerns:

  1. How big must a balcony, deck, or porch be before triggering the requirement for a receptacle?
  2. Where must that receptacle be installed with regard to balcony, deck, or porch perimeters?
  3. Did the balcony, deck, or porch have to be accessible from inside the dwelling (meaning a walk-out style) before triggering the receptacle requirement?
  4. And of course, did the balcony, deck, or porch have to be attached to the dwelling unit?

By all appearances, the 2017 NEC had the issue of receptacles for balconies, decks, or porches all sewn up, and the need for any further clarification was behind us. But as any seasoned electrician or electrical inspector will tell you, NEW Code is typically generated as the result of someone figuring out a legal maneuver for circumventing the OLD Code and the intent of that Code.

In the case of the receptacle required for a balcony, deck, or porch in the 2017 NEC, the “loophole” sprung from the word attached.

It seems that a four-post, free-standing deck or porch with a ½ inch air gap between the edge of that structure and the home is not technically attached. Electricians could stand on that technicality in 2017 – refusing to incur the added expense of installing one more receptacle and outdoor-rated cover to a dwelling unit. The 2017 Code as written was on the electrician’s side, but it was not necessarily representative of the homeowner. Most homeowners and tenants desire a receptacle to be located on their walk-out porch. The fact that the porch is not technically attached, and the outdoor receptacle is therefore not required, is of little comfort to the individuals tirelessly searching for a receptacle that will never materialize.

The NEC has made clear the intent of Section 210.52(E)(3) in this 2020 Code cycle.

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