This piece was originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Mike Stone, West Coast Field Representative, NEMA
The National Electrical Code® is revised every three years and the newest edition, the 2020 NEC, is scheduled to be published in September. The 2020 NEC will reflect the latest advances in electrical safety for both the public and electrical workers, as well as new technologies in the electroindustry.
NEMA and its Member companies are an integral part of this code development process. There are 18 Code-Making Panels (CMPs) that develop the NEC, and stakeholders from throughout the electrical industry participate in these panels. NEMA has representation on each of the 18 CMPs. The NEMA Codes and Standards Committee appoints Members representing NEMA on CMPs. They bring a unique level of subject matter expertise to the process, ensuring that the code addresses safe installation of electrical products and new technologies.
Many factors drive changes to the NEC, including new technologies (e.g., LED lighting, Power over Ethernet, alternative energy, energy storage), energy codes and efficiency, improved code usability, electrical worker safety, and— most importantly—increased safety for the general public.
There were 3,730 proposals (Public Inputs) for the 2020 NEC cycle, so it is impossible to cover all the changes in one short article. But here are highlights of some of the most significant changes in the 2020 NEC edition:
- There are four new Articles: 242—Overvoltage Protection; 311—Medium Voltage Conductors and Cable; 337—Type P Cable; and 800—General Requirements for Communications
- Expanded requirements for ground-fault circuit interrupter protection in dwelling units for some 250-volt circuits.
- Reduction in lighting load calculation requirements, mainly due to the widespread use of LED lighting, which uses far less power than older lighting technologies such as fluorescent and incandescent.
- Recognition of and rules for the use of Power over Ethernet in cables that previously transmitted only data and not power.
- Surge protection requirements for dwelling unit electrical services to protect against damage to sensitive life safety equipment such as smoke alarms.
- Changes to electrical service disconnect rules, such as requiring a single main disconnect in some circumstances (up to six were previously allowed) and requiring an emergency disconnect on the exterior of one- and two-family dwellings. These new requirements will increase safety for electrical workers and first responders. This will affect the manufacture of electrical service equipment.
- Continued revision to requirements governing solar photovoltaics and energy storage systems to reflect changing technology.
The NEC is the most widely used code in the world, and NEMA plays a significant role in its development. Our Members’ input has once again proven to make a vital difference in the newest edition of the NEC. ei