NEC – National Electrical Code – changes in 2011 upgrade electrical safety

When electricians and inspectors talk about being “up to code,” they mean in compliance with NEC. Revisions every three years improve safety and address emerging technologies

DENVER, CO – The National Electrical Code, NEC, is a complete compilation of rigorously adopted standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment – in all settings, from residential and commercial, to industrial, outdoor, health care facilities and more – throughout the United States. While voluntary, the NEC has been adopted by most governmental jurisdictions throughout the land as a single, standardized source of electrical requirements, and its recommendations and procedures are used by inspectors to verify compliance.

When electricians, contractors and building department refer to something electrical as “being up to code,” it is NEC they are talking about.   

The NEC is part of the National Fire Codes that were developed and are maintained by the National Fire Protection Association, and as such NEC is also sometimes referred to as NFPA 70. This whole codification began back in the 1890s in a limited area back east, and has been joined by other regional electrical code initiatives over the years to create a national standard.

However, “standard” may be too strong a word. With input by a wide variety of stakeholders, the NEC is under constant discussion, and every three years the code is revised and new standards issued. The NEC 2011, released just last year, is the latest edition of the nation code, and it comes in at a whopping 870 pages in its softbound edition (it’s also available as an electronic PDF file. Visit NFPA for ordering and pricing). The next revised NEC standards are due in 2014.

The NEC is certainly important to the average homeowner, however much of its provisions and revisions are meant for the professional audience of electricians, electrical engineers, contractors and the like. While there are changes to the code every three years, there are no requirements for the homeowner to automatically be in full compliance. In fact, the homeowner can make minor changes – changing a plug or a switch, for instance – without regard to the code, and keep things in their own home the same as they are.

Remodeling, however, can change everything. In any remodeling project the NEC will have to be followed to the letter of the code or the project will not pass the required round of inspections. Plus, if it’s a major remodeling project – in some jurisdictions defined as 70% of the home, everything electrical in the home will have to be brought up to code.

We here at Allstar Electrical Services, a professional, licensed electricians, keep completely up-to-date on the NEC and all of the changes instituted every three years. As mentioned above, the code is now 870 pages, and just going through the changes in the 2011 updates is a very laborious undertaking – with which all of us are current.

Unless you are an electrician, or one of the related professionals mentioned, going through all the new code changes is an unnecessary and time-consuming activity – and much of it if fairly esoteric or industry-specific, to wit:

•New Article 694 has first-time requirements for small wind electric systems.

•Revised Article 625 includes updates on safe battery charging for plug-in hybrid vehicles that reduce the risk of explosion.

•Revised Article 705 covers interconnecting generators, windmills, and solar and fuel cells with other power supplies.

•New Article 840 addresses the increased demand for broadband communications systems with requirements for wireless, routers, and wireless disconnects.

New requirements focused on workplace safety include:

•Means to reduce incident energy (240.87)

•Labeling at subpanels to identify feeder supply source (408.4(B))

•Disconnecting means for transformers (450.14)

`       *New Article 399 incorporates requirements for overhead distribution systems for large electrical system users, such as school or business campus settings.

For the homeowner, the new NEC standards have a lot to do with the use and placement of GFIC – ground fault interrupter circuits, those special plugs in bathrooms and kitchens (near water sources) that feature the reset buttons – and also for the type of receptacles, plugs, that protect, for instance, little children from sticking things into them. Here’s a general overview of some changes in the NEC for 2011 having to do with the home:

Bathroom Electrical Code:

  • Only install GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) receptacles in bathrooms.
  • There must be a receptacle within 3 feet of the outside edge of sink basin.
  • No receptacles face-up on countertops.
  • Receptacles must be on at least one separate 20 amp. branch circuit (because this receptacle usually powers high-wattage devices like hair dryers).

General Rooms:

  • Wall receptacles every 12 feet.
  • Receptacles on any wall space more than 24 inches wide.
  • Hallways more than 10 feet must have at least one receptacle.
  • Foyers, which used to be classified as hallways, now have their own receptacle distribution code.


  • All countertops receptacles must be GFCI.
  • No receptacles more than 20 inches above countertops. Exceptions are for the physically handicapped and for islands or peninsulas where this is not possible.
  • Receptacles above all countertops 12 inches or wider.
  • No face-up receptacles.
  • At least one receptacle for islands or peninsulas.
  • At least two branch circuits must supply the countertop receptacles.

There are also some new rules for receptacles and lighting in garages, attached and free-standing, and other outbuildings that have electrical power – like tool sheds wired for recharging electrical power tools, for instance.

Once again, the homeowner not undergoing a major remodeling is not required to meet the new standards, only when changes are made. It is, obviously, wise to call in a professional electrician to accomplish these tasks because we understand the code requirements and can easily handle these upgrades and improvements.

For all of your residential, commercial and industrial electrical needs call on Allstar Electrical Services, serving the Denver metro area and the Front Range of Colorado since the 1990s with fully licensed and experienced electricians. Call (303) 399-7420 for complete details.