How to Avoid the Most Common Household Electrical Code Violations
You’re about to embark on the long-awaited, badly needed home improvement project. While doing the work yourself can save money, it could also expose you to certain risks – both physical and financial. If your project involves any type of electrical wiring, you will need to take the appropriate steps to avoid electrical violations. Specifically, you will need to ensure compliance with NEC standards.
What Is the NEC?
The National Electrical Code, also known as NFPA 70, consists of a set of standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association for ensuring the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment. Implemented on a regional basis, the NEC is adopted and enforced at the state and local levels. Originally published in 1897 and updated every three years, the NEC is comprised of an introduction, nine chapters and several annexes covering topics such as wiring and protection, wiring methods and materials, and equipment for general use.
In addition to posing a significant safety hazard, NEC code violations can result in citations or fines. Common NEC violations that often occur during DIY home renovation/electrical wiring projects include:
Failure to Obtain Proper Permits
Certain types of in-home electrical wiring projects require permits. One of the worst electrical code violations is the failure to take this crucial step, whether it’s due to a lack of awareness or an attempt to avoid the associated cost. This could lead to a major expense if an inspector discovers electrical code violations when you put your home on the market. Your best recourse is to discuss your project with your local building authority to determine your permit needs, or to work with a professional electrical contractor who knows exactly which permits you need and how to acquire them.
Junction Box Issues
When splicing wires, the connections must be inside a junction box that complies with the NEC standard. Junction boxes provide vital protection for the connections that minimize the risk of fire. Junction boxes must be placed in a visible location that enables easy access – they cannot be installed inside a wall, for instance. All wires must be clamped to the box to prevent movement. The wire ends inside the box are required to be at least 6 inches long to facilitate connectivity.
Insufficient Electrical Bonding
Many homeowners neglect to bond phone lines, coaxial cable, or plumbing and piping systems, which can result in electrical code violations. Bonding equalizes the voltage output between electrically conductive systems, minimizing the risk of injury and reducing the likelihood of current arcing that can cause a household fire.
Choosing an Improper Circuit Breaker
Circuit breakers perform the vital function of protecting an electrical circuit from damage due to excess current. There are three different circuit breaker types: standard circuit breaker, arc fault current interrupter and ground fault circuit interrupter. The failure to select and install the appropriate circuit breaker can result in an NEC code violation.
For example, the NEC standard stipulates that arc-fault circuit interrupters must be used in all living areas of a home, such as bedrooms, living room and family room. Ground fault interrupters are required in areas where water is present, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens.
Installing the Wrong Size Circuit
Another common NEC violation is installing the wrong size circuit for the specific electrical device or fixture. For example, a 15-amp circuit is compatible with lighting fixtures, while a 20-amp circuit should be used with electrical outlets. In addition, it is important to make the appropriate match between wire size and circuit breaker. If the wire size is too small, it can overheat and cause a fire before the circuit breaker has a chance to do its job.
Not Enough Receptacles
An insufficient number of receptacles frequently leads to an excessive reliance on extension cords. This poses a major fire hazard and is also an electrical code violation. All receptacles must be installed within reach of a 6-foot appliance cord. Also, extension cords cannot be used as permanent wiring for devices such as garage door openers or air conditioning units.
Not Installing Tamper-Resistant Receptacles
Curious toddlers have been known to insert metal objects into electrical outlets – and receive a shock for their efforts. The advent of tamper-resistant receptacles has eliminated this concern, which is why they’re now required for use in all indoor and outdoor areas of a home. Outdoor receptacles must also be protected with a bubble cover when not in use.
Failure to Protect Electrical Cabling
Exposed electrical cables located in a home’s living areas are susceptible to damage. Simply securing cabling to a wall is an electrical code violation. Instead, the cables should be installed inside a wall or electrical conduit at least 8 feet below the floor.
Insufficient Service Panel Clearance
The electrical panel, also referred to as the service panel, acts as the switchboard for a home’s electrical system. The panel receives the electrical power supply from the utility company and distributes it throughout your home. A common NEC violation is not leaving sufficient space in front of the panel to enable safe access. The required clearance is 30 inches wide by 36 inches deep by 8 inches high.
Too often, shoddy workmanship leads to all types of NEC electrical code violations. High-quality electrical wiring requires the cultivation of a precise skillset that can only be acquired through training and experience. The best way to avoid electrical violations that could jeopardize the safety of your family is by enlisting the services of a licensed electrician – especially if you have never performed electrical work in the past.
Contact Lippolis Electric for Your Residential Electrical Wiring Needs
If you need guidance with your residential electrical wiring project in Westchester County, New York, you can trust the experts at Lippolis Electric. For more than 30 years, our experienced, licensed electricians have been helping homeowners overcome their most daunting electrical challenges. We’re a family owned and operated company known for providing prompt, courteous service. Our competitively priced electrical services will keep your family safe and help you avoid potentially costly NEC code violations.
Contact us for more information or to schedule a free estimate today.