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National Electric Code

Thomas Mason, P.E.

Course Content
NFPA 70, the National Electric Code, has developed over the last 100 years. It has been
radically revised in 1999 and 2002 to “internationalize” it, that is, change the format and
wording to match European forms. A very excellent improvement has been the attempt to
remove negative language and exceptions. What is left is supposed to indicate only the
acceptable forms, in direct, prescriptive, enforceable language.

The organization of the 2002 National Electric Code is as follows:

Introduction 80 - Administration [not enforceable Code]

Introduction 90 - Introduction [valuable discussion but not enforceable Code]
Chapter 1, Section 100 - Definitions [extremely valuable and enforceable]
Chapter 1, Section 110 - Requirements [requires reading and re-reading;
Chapter 2 – Wiring and Protection [see annotated Table of Contents]
Chapter 3 - Wiring Methods [Definitions of rigid and flexible conduits and open
power wiring and limitations]
Chapter 4 - Equipment for General Use [Flexible cords, switches, panels,
lighting and much more]
Chapter 5 – Special Occupancies [hazardous areas, garages, health care, theaters
and more]
Chapter 6 - Special Equipment [signs, hoists, elevators, information technology
and more]
Chapter 7 - Special Conditions [Emergency generators, low-voltage wiring, fire
alarm wiring and more]
Chapter 8 - Communications Systems [radio, tv, powered data circuits and more]
Chapter 9 - Tables
Annexes, formerly appendices [not enforceable]

Reading the NEC: Teachers of the Code and enforcement authorities keep reading and
rereading the Code. Particular problems which come up require careful interpretation of the
specific words used and how they are used. It is common to compare similar sections to try to
figure out the intent of the section which applies.

On the other hand, most Code issues fall into a very few categories - where and how
different conduits can be used, where disconnect switches are required and how much space
must be left around them for access, how to choose wire size and protection for a particular
load. The attached annotated Table of Contents is a collection of the most frequently used
rules of the NEC and key interpretations by the Code authority of one consulting engineering
firm. It is comprehensive, in that every section of the Code is included. It is not
comprehensive in addressing every possible question and special circumstance. At the very
least, it helps the reader find the relevant section of the Code for his own study and
It is recommended that the entire annotated Table of Contents be read, to establish a sense of
organization of the NEC. When particular questions come up, scan the entire TOC, with close
attention to sections on the topic in question. Even if it is directly addressed in an annotation,
the reader should review the actual Code wording.

Common Trouble-Points in Code Interpretation are as follows:

110.26 - space around electrical equipment. Use 42-in in front of equipment. Make the pipe
fitter move anything that encroaches on this space. Overheads 6-ft above or to the
structural ceiling must be clear of pipes, ducts or foreign equipment.

218.8 - GFCI and AFCI. GFI’s are required for all outlets in kitchens and bathrooms. Arc
fault circuit interrupters are required in dwelling unit bedrooms.

210.19 - A circuit breaker or fuse can be loaded to only 80% of its rating. Size wiring for

210.19 FPN 4, 3% voltage drop on feeder, 5% feeder + branch . This means that
conductor size must be increased when the impedance of the length causes a 3%
voltage drop. For 120V 2-wire circuit, increase one wire gage at 60-ft, two wire sizes
at 100-ft. See Table below:


Wire Gage

This table is
for 3%
voltage drop

has a
neutral so
voltage drop is both ways.

A general receptacle is on a shared three-phase circuit.

A-FT = amp-ft; divide by ft to get max amps

FT16A = max ft for a 20A cb at 16A

215.10 - A main circuit breaker on a 277/480V panel which is 1000A or larger must have

250.50 - Grounding for service entrance. See graphic below: Conductor sizes based upon
Service size. See Table 250.66.
300.5 - Minimal cover for underground power conduit is 18-in, for direct burial cable, 24-in.

300.11 - don’t hang telephone or data from conduit; cannot use concentric knockouts for
ground of 480V conduit.

Table 310.13 – more than 3 current carrying conductors in a conduit require

4-6 80% #12 ! #10
7-9 70% #12 ! #10
10-20 50% #12 ! #8

312.8 - No splice or tap in switch enclosure [use a wireway below the switch]

320, 330 - Flexible conduit must be supported at box and every 4-1/2-ft or 6-ft along run

400.8 - Flexible cords (extension cords or equipment cords) must not be used to replace
permanent wiring. 90-day limit. Must not run thru holes in walls, ceilings, suspended
ceilings or windows. Must not be attached to building surfaces.

408.14 - Lighting and appliance panel must have a main circuit breaker or fuse.

430.28 - tap rules; maximum distance between power tap and protective device:
1000% conductor ampacity, 10-ft tap rule
300%, 25-ft tap rule
100%, unlimited
industrial exceptions
Table 430.150
460V FLA
HP FLA x1.25 Wire Ground Conduit
7-1/2 11 14 12 12 3/4
10 14 18 12 12 3/4
15 21 27 10 10 3/4
20 27 34 8 10 1
25 34 43 6 10 1-1/2
30 40 50 6 10 1-1/2
40 52 65 4 8 1-1/2
50 65 82 2 8 1-1/2
60 77 97 1 8 2
75 96 120 1/0 6 2
100 124 155 2/0 6 2
125 156 195 3/0 6 2-1/2
150 180 225 4/0 4 2-1/2
200 240 300 350 4 3

440.62 - window airconditioner not to exceed 80% of rating of dedicated circuit, or not
to exceed 50% of rating of shared circuit.; window airconditioner shall have a
factory-installed LCDI or AFCI within 12-in of the plug

620.22 - elevator requirements, see graphic below:

700.6 - auxiliary loads can be supplied from emergency generator, but require separate
automatic transfer switch with load-shed in case of generator overload.

800 - abandoned data and communications cables in above ceiling space must be removed.