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Monday, September 20, 2010
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Building Codes for Bathroom Lighting Fixtures

The National Electrical Code (NEC) addresses the proper installation, arrangement, and type of lighting fixtures for bathrooms.
The National Electrical Code (NEC), published and maintained by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides the basis for most local, state, and federal construction laws throughout the United States. With regard to lighting fixtures in bathrooms, the NEC outlines safe and responsible guidelines for installation. Before engaging in any electrical work or repair, seek professional help to ensure safety and complete compliance with any laws beyond the scope of the NEC.

Shower and Bath Zones

The NEC requires that all bathroom lighting fixtures be kept outside a set perimeter surrounding any bath or showers. Lighting fixtures include any chain-suspended, cable-suspended, cord-suspended, or track lighting systems as well as ceiling paddle fans. None of these devices may be placed within three feet horizontally from the exterior edge of the bath or shower. Likewise, they cannot be placed less than eight feet vertically from the uppermost edge of the bath or the threshold of the shower stall. For lighting directly above or adjacent to a shower or bath, the code does permit certain kinds of lighting fixtures. Fixtures must be marked for damp or wet locations and all electrical wiring must be completely concealed inside junction boxes.

GFCI Protection

The NEC mandates use of GFCI, or ground-fault circuit interrupters, in all bathrooms. As it's common to use a number of high-current devices in the bathroom, the room does not share a circuit with the kitchen or garage as it did in the past. Bathrooms must have at least one 20 ampere rated electrical outlet, which is used exclusively for items in the bathroom. A plug-in nightlight or lamp, for example, would use such an outlet. If you use several light fixtures or heat lamps, a secondary circuit may be necessary, depending on the precise calibration of the equipment load. This GFCI-protected outlet must be located somewhere within 30 inches of the bathroom basin. When replacing an old non-GFCI receptacle, you must use a GFCI-protected device in its place. Light fixtures placed within the shower or bathtub zone are not required by code to be on a GFCI protected circuit, though it is strongly recommended and may be mandated by local laws.

Receptacles for Lighting

The NEC's definition of damp and wet locations includes outdoor use in addition to bath and shower areas. Receptacles may also be designated for damp or wet locations. In such cases, they must be marked as such and comply with specific dimensions outlined by NEMA. While these devices are approved for damp and wet locations, the NEC categorically prohibits installing any receptacles within shower or tub zones. (See National Electrical Code, 2008, 406.8(A) and (B))



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On the Hill/Around the Nation

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International News

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The deadline for applying to the International Buyer Program for 2012 events is November 1, 2010. Applications and filing instructions are available at the website or by contacting Blanche.Ziv@trade.gov or IBP2012@trade.gov.

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