GFCI language expansion
The 2020 change
Code-making panel 2 (CMP 2) updated text to read, “All 125-volt through 250-volt receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(A) (1) through (11) and supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts or less to ground shall have ground fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel.” In layman’s terms, the NEC removed amp values across all amp-rated receptacle outlets requiring GFCI protection in the areas listed in this section.
The rationale for change
NEC 2017 language only accounts for 15- and 20-amp receptacle outlets for dwelling units. During 2020 code review meetings, panel members agreed that hazards always exist; if 15- and 20-amp receptacle outlets present a hazard, that hazard also exists on 30-amp and higher receptacle outlets. However, it was difficult to understand the likelihood of a hazardous occurrence when weighed against expanded requirements. Recent home-based electrocution accidents – a 10-year-old girl behind an energized appliance, a child in Oklahoma retrieving a pet behind a clothes dryer, a 10-year-old Houston boy playing hide and seek — helped panel members realize the need for change. In light of these tragic events, we now have a requirement that sets a higher standard across more areas of the Code, though there are some exceptions discussed later in this blog.
What might the future hold?
The NEC mandates GFCI protection in many areas of the home: bathrooms, garages, outdoor receptacles, crawl spaces, basements, kitchens and anything within six feet of a sink or water source. While that may seem like a lot, the entirety of a home is not covered. The reality is when people have a problem with a tripped circuit, it's entirely possible they’ll use an extension cord to plug into a receptacle outlet that's not GFCI protected. Doing so does nothing to eliminate the original hazard potentially caused by the device in use. I hope that NEC members account for the human factor and require GFCI coverage throughout the home during the next code review.