NEC 2020 – What to Expect: Significant Changes and Adoptions by State

By: Robert Key | Jan 07, 2020

It seems like we just started using the 2017 National Electrical Code, and now the 2020 version is available. There have been significant changes, accomplished through public comment and hard work by the Code Making Panels and others. What are some of the important changes that will affect installers, electricians, and AHJ’s? We are eager to know what has been changed. Just as importantly, when can we reasonably expect that the new version of the Code will be adopted? Each state must decide when to move to the next edition of the NEC.

NEC Revision Process
Whenever the NEC is revised, there are multiple steps in the process. For the 2020 NEC, there were 3730 public inputs, leading to 1400 first revisions. The first draft was posted in June 2018, and after that, over 1900 public comments related to changes were logged. This led to over 700 additional revisions in the code for the second draft. Then, the new edition of the code was approved and published. There are also changes that happen afterward, called TIA’s (Tentative Interim Amendments) that are also enforceable. Errata, or errors that have been corrected, are published as well.

State Adoption

What edition of the code is your state working under? For example, as of October 1, 2019, only 30 states had adopted the 2017 version of the NEC. 13 states were still using the 2014 edition, one was using the 2011, whereas three states still use the 2008 version of the NEC. North Carolina, for example, adopted the 2017 NEC on June 12, 2018 and had previously adopted the 2014 NEC on April 1 of 2016. Typically, there is a lag between when the code is made available and when it is adopted by each state. Every state does things a little differently.

Important Changes

What are the significant changes that we need to prepare for with the release and adoption of the 2020 NEC? There have been many changes, but we will focus on two important ones:

  • Expanded GFCI protection, and
  • Emergency disconnects for one and two-family dwellings.

GFCI Protection

Ground fault circuit interrupter protection has been expanded for dwelling units to include 250-volt outlets. Any single-phase outlet operating at less than 150 volts to ground (not phase to phase) must now be protected when located in areas where GFCI protection is required. Also, all basements are now required to be protected, whereas previously only unfinished basements required protection. For example, 250-volt dryers and ranges within 6 feet of a sink will soon require GFCI protection.

Non-dwelling unit locations also have multiple new GFCI protection requirements. They include:

  • Three phase branch circuits rated 150 V or less to ground, 100 amps or less
  • Non-dwelling unit basements
  • Laundry areas
  • Convenience outlets within 6 feet of the outside edge of a bathtub or shower
  • Lighting outlets in crawlspaces
  • Equipment requiring servicing
  • Outdoor outlets

These changes will provide enhanced protection for personnel.

Emergency Disconnects

Another important change is found at 230.85, Emergency Disconnects. In the past, the

disconnecting means for dwelling units has often been located inside the garage or in some other inaccessible location. In the case of a fire, the firefighter might remove the meter in order to protect fellow workers. This presents a serious hazard for the firefighter, especially when standing in water. It is obvious that this new requirement makes sense. The required service disconnecting means must be installed in a readily accessible

outdoor location. There are also labeling requirements. The markings must comply with 110.21(B), which requires that the label be of sufficient durability to withstand the environment involved. In other words, it can’t just be done with a permanent marker. All of this will help emergency personnel, service personnel, and homeowners to be safe.

Many states will continue to use the 2017 National Electrical Code for the next year or two, but the 2020 version is available now. There have been some significant changes which will certainly improve electrical safety for workers and occupants alike.



3 thoughts on “NEC 2020 – What to Expect: Significant Changes and Adoptions by State

  1. As a retired firefighter with 31 years and electrican for over 50, i can see the good and bad points of a main disconnect outside. U got some fireman at won’t pull a meter ,even with a meter puller. It be nice to be able turn off everthing at one location without having to locate the panel in the house. The bad part is the homeowner may pad lock it ,for fear somebody might turn there power off. Also i had one customer tell me she was told by a section 8 inspector to padlock it.

  2. Homeowner has every right to padlock his disconnect & panel. Firefighters can carry bolt cutters to cut locks. I’ve rewired after copper thefts & can tell you homeowner needs the security.

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