Upgrade, Meyer Electrical Services Inc
Written by Walt Meyer

Basics of Electrical Codes for Homeowners – Part 1

Electrical codes are drafted by experts to protect homeowners. They are general guidelines providing the basics of what electrical inspectors are checking when examining new installations and remodeling projects.

The basis of local codes is the National Electrical Code (NEC), a publication containing the requirements for both commercial and residential electrical installations. This code is revised every three years, with the latest revision dated in 2020.

Although local codes typically comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC), there are sometimes variations. Since local code takes precedent, homeowners and electricians must verify code requirements with their local building departments. The NEC mostly covers general electrical installations. However, it also contains specific requirements for individual rooms as outlined below.


Bathrooms have specific requirements due to the presence of water. Containing lighting, ventilation fans, and outlets powering appliances and devices, bathrooms consume plenty of electricity and may require two or more circuits.

Each bathroom receptacle must be equipped with a 20-amp circuit. A single circuit can power a whole bathroom if there is no heater and the circuit does not supply electricity to other areas. One alternative is reserving a 20-amp circuit for the receptacles with a second 15- or 20-amp circuit powering the lighting. A ventilation fan with an integrated heater is required to have a dedicated 20-amp circuit.

Every bathroom receptacle requires GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection.

Each bathroom must have a minimum of one 120-volt receptacle inside three feet of each sink basin’s outer edge. One receptacle positioned between dual sinks can serve both.

A shower or bath light fixture must be rated for damp areas. However, any fixtures near shower spray require a wet location rating.


Stairways require special attention to make ensure sure the steps are lighted properly for the safety of residents. A three-way switch allowing lights to be turned off must be installed at the bottom and top of each stairway. Stairs that curve at a landing may require more lighting fixtures to ensure adequate illumination.

Part 2 will cover Closets, Kitchen, Hallways, and Laundry Room.

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 Founded in 1991, Meyer Electrical Services provides home and commercial electrical services in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., where we are licensed and insured. Based in Bethesda, our team proudly serves all of Montgomery County. Receive a free consultation for custom electrical work today by calling (301) 941-1400