Electrical Code Basics for Your Home’s Outlets – Part 2
As covered in Part 1, the National Electrical Code (NEC) sets forth how electrical outlets should be installed in a home. Part 2 will cover Amperage, Tamper Resistant, GFCI, and AFCI.
Each electrical outlet is required to have a rating appropriate for the amperage of the circuit it is serving. Typically, household circuits provide either a 15-amp or 20-amp service, and the rating of the receptacle should not exceed this amperage.
Inside the service panel, you can check a circuit’s breaker to verify whether it is a 15-amp or 20-amp service. You can then select the electrical outlet appropriate for its rating.
Many municipalities require the installation of tamper-resistant (TR) outlets for a home’s general areas to create an extra safety measure. The face of this type of outlet is marked with “TR.” Its spring-loaded gate prevents children from inserting objects into the outlet, which may result in an electrical shock.
The NEC requires GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protection for electrical outlets in areas where water is present, which includes bathrooms and kitchens. GFCI protection significantly decreases the risk of electrical shock if a ground fault occurs.
GFCI protection can be implemented by two methods. The first is through a special GFCI circuit breaker, which provides provide protection to the entire circuit. The second provides GFCI protection for a specific electrical outlet and the receptacles downstream that are on the same circuit.
Beginning on January 1, 2014, the NEC has also required AFCI (arc-fault circuit-interrupter) protection for every 15-amp and 20-amp electrical outlet installed inside general living spaces.
AFCI is capable of detecting minor sparking between wires or their connections and then shutting down the circuit when these arc faults occur. Thus, AFCI protection decreases the possibility of an electrical fire caused by arcing.
AFCI protection can be offered by two methods. First, it can be provided through a special circuit breaker that protects every receptacle and device on a circuit. Second, it can be provided by a special AFCI outlet receptacle that protects that location only.
The standard practice is the installation of AFCI circuit breakers that protect an entire circuit. However, an individual AFCI receptacle may be installed in locations where the standard practice is not practical.
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