International Residential Code 2012 (IRC 2012)

Part II — Definitions

Part III — Building Planning and Construction

Part IV — Energy Conservation

Part V — Mechanical

Part VI — Fuel Gas

Part VII — Plumbing

Part VIII — Electrical

Part IX — Referenced Standards

Heads up: There are no amended sections in this chapter.

This Electrical Part (Chapters 34 through 43) is produced and copyrighted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and is based on the 2011 National Electrical Code® (NEC®) (NFPA 70®-2011), copyright 2010, National Fire Protection Association, all rights reserved. Use of the Electrical Part is pursuant to license with the NFPA.

The title National Electrical Code®, the acronym NEC® and the document number NFPA 70® are registered trademarks of the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Massachusetts. See Appendix Q, International Residential Code Electrical Provisions/National Electrical Code Cross Reference.


This Electrical Part is a compilation of provisions extracted from the 2011 edition of the NEC. The NEC, like all NFPA codes and standards, is developed through a consensus standards development process approved by the American National Standards Institute. This process brings together volunteers representing varied viewpoints and interests to achieve consensus on fire and other safety issues. While the NFPA administers the process and establishes rules to promote fairness in the development of consensus, it does not independently test, evaluate or verify the accuracy of any information or the soundness of any judgments contained in its codes and standards.

The NFPA disclaims liability for any personal injury, property or other damages of any nature whatsoever, whether special, indirect, consequential or compensatory, directly or indirectly resulting from the publication, use of, or reliance on the NEC or this Electrical Part. The NFPA also makes no guaranty or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information published in these documents.

In issuing and making the NEC and this Electrical Part available, the NFPA is not undertaking to render professional or other services for or on behalf of any person or entity. Nor is the NFPA undertaking to perform any duty owed by any person or entity to someone else. Anyone using these documents should rely on his or her own independent judgment or, as appropriate, seek the advice of a competent professional in determining the exercise of reasonable care in any given circumstances.

The NFPA has no power, nor does it undertake, to police or enforce compliance with the contents of the NEC and this Electrical Part. Nor does the NFPA list, certify, test, or inspect products, designs, or installations for compliance with these documents. Any certification or other statement of compliance with the requirements of these documents shall not be attributable to the NFPA and is solely the responsibility of the certifier or maker of the statement.

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The provisions of Chapters 34 through 43 shall establish the general scope of the electrical system and equipment requirements of this code. Chapters 34 through 43 cover those wiring methods and materials most commonly encountered in the construction of one- and two-family dwellings and structures regulated by this code. Other wiring methods, materials and subject matter covered in NFPA 70 are also allowed by this code.
Chapters 34 through 43 shall cover the installation of electrical systems, equipment and components indoors and outdoors that are within the scope of this code, including services, power distribution systems, fixtures, appliances, devices and appurtenances. Services within the scope of this code shall be limited to 120/240-volt, 0- to 400-ampere, single-phase systems. These chapters specifically cover the equipment, fixtures, appliances, wiring methods and materials that are most commonly used in the construction or alteration of one- and two-family dwellings and accessory structures regulated by this code. The omission from these chapters of any material or method of construction provided for in the referenced standard NFPA 70 shall not be construed as prohibiting the use of such material or method of construction. Electrical systems, equipment or components not specifically covered in these chapters shall comply with the applicable provisions of NFPA 70.

Chapters 34 through 43 do not cover the following:

  1. Installations, including associated lighting, under the exclusive control of communications utilities and electric utilities.
  2. Services over 400 amperes.

Any addition or alteration to an existing electrical system shall be made in conformity to the provisions of Chapters 34 through 43. Where additions subject portions of existing systems to loads exceeding those permitted herein, such portions shall be made to comply with Chapters 34 through 43.

Wood-framed structural members shall not be drilled, notched or altered in any manner except as provided for in this code.
Electrical installations in hollow spaces, vertical shafts and ventilation or air-handling ducts shall be made so that the possible spread of fire or products of combustion will not be substantially increased. Electrical penetrations into or through fire-resistance-rated walls, partitions, floors or ceilings shall be protected by approved methods to maintain the fire-resistance rating of the element penetrated. Penetrations of fire-resistance-rated walls shall be limited as specified in Section R317.3.
Penetrations through fire blocking and draftstopping shall be protected in an approved manner to maintain the integrity of the element penetrated.
Electrical materials, components and equipment shall be approved.
New electrical work and parts of existing systems affected by new work or alterations shall be inspected by the building official to ensure compliance with the requirements of Chapters 34 through 43.
Electrical materials, components, devices, fixtures and equipment shall be listed for the application, shall bear the label of an approved agency and shall be installed, and used, or both, in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Throughout Chapters 34 through 43, the voltage considered shall be that at which the circuit operates.
Equipment intended to interrupt current at fault levels shall have a minimum interrupting rating of 10,000 amperes. Equipment intended to interrupt current at levels other than fault levels shall have an interrupting rating at nominal circuit voltage of not less than the current that must be interrupted.
The overcurrent protective devices, total impedance, equipment short-circuit current ratings and other characteristics of the circuit to be protected shall be so selected and coordinated as to permit the circuit protective devices that are used to clear a fault to do so without extensive damage to the electrical equipment of the circuit. This fault shall be assumed to be either between two or more of the circuit conductors or between any circuit conductor and the equipment grounding conductors permitted in Section E3908.8. Listed equipment applied in accordance with its listing shall be considered to meet the requirements of this section.

Enclosures, other than surrounding fences or walls, of panelboards, meter sockets, enclosed switches, transfer switches, circuit breakers, pullout switches and motor controllers, rated not over 600 volts nominal and intended for such locations, shall be marked with an enclosure-type number as shown in Table E3404.4.

Table E3404.4 shall be used for selecting these enclosures for use in specific locations other than hazardous (classified) locations. The enclosures are not intended to protect against conditions such as condensation, icing, corrosion, or contamination that might occur within the enclosure or enter through the conduit or unsealed openings.

TABLE E3404.4


Enclosure-type Number
Incidental contact with the enclosed XXXXXXXXXX
Rain, snow and sleetXXXXXXXXXX
Windblown dustXXXXXXXX
Corrosive agentsXXXXX
Temporary submersionXX
Prolonged submersionX
Enclosure-type Number
Incidental contact with the enclosed XXXXXXXXXX
Falling dirtXXXXXXXXXX
Falling liquids and light splashingXXXXXXXXX
Circulating dust, lint, fibers and flyingsXXXXXXX
Settling airborne dust, lint, fibers and flingsXXXXXXXX
Hosedown and splashing waterXXXX
Oil and coolant seepageXXX
Oil or coolant spraying and splashingX
Corrosive agentsXX
Temporary submersionXX
Prolonged submersionX

a. Mechanism shall be operable when ice covered.

Note 1: The term raintight is typically used in conjunction with Enclosure Types 3, 3S, 3SX, 3X, 4, 4X, 6 and 6P. The term rainproof is typically used in conjunction with Enclosure Types 3R and 3RX. The term watertight is typically used in conjunction with Enclosure Types 4, 4X, 6 and 6P. The term driptight is typically used in conjunction with Enclosure Types 2, 5, 12, 12K and 13. The term dusttight is typically used in conjunction with Enclosure Types 3, 3S, 3SX, 3X, 5, 12, 12K and 13.

Note 2: Ingress protection (IP) ratings are found in ANSI/NEMA 60529, Degrees of Protection Provided by Enclosures. IP ratings are not a substitute for enclosure-type ratings.

Equipment not identified for outdoor use and equipment identified only for indoor use, such as "dry locations," "indoor use only" "damp locations," or enclosure Type 1, 2, 5, 12, 12K and/or 13, shall be protected against damage from the weather during construction.
Unused openings, other than those intended for the operation of equipment, those intended for mounting purposes, and those permitted as part of the design for listed equipment, shall be closed to afford protection substantially equivalent to the wall of the equipment. Where metallic plugs or plates are used with nonmetallic enclosures they shall be recessed at least 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) from the outer surface of the enclosure.
Internal parts of electrical equipment, including busbars, wiring terminals, insulators and other surfaces, shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners or abrasives, and corrosive residues. There shall not be any damaged parts that might adversely affect safe operation or mechanical strength of the equipment such as parts that are broken; bent; cut; deteriorated by corrosion, chemical action, or overheating. Foreign debris shall be removed from equipment.
Electrical equipment shall be firmly secured to the surface on which it is mounted. Wooden plugs driven into masonry, concrete, plaster, or similar materials shall not be used.
Approved enclosures shall guard energized parts that are operating at 50 volts or more against accidental contact.
In locations where electrical equipment is likely to be exposed to physical damage, enclosures or guards shall be so arranged and of such strength as to prevent such damage.
The manufacturer's name, trademark or other descriptive marking by which the organization responsible for the product can be identified shall be placed on all electric equipment. Other markings shall be provided that indicate voltage, current, wattage or other ratings as specified elsewhere in Chapters 34 through 43. The marking shall have the durability to withstand the environment involved.
Each disconnecting means shall be legibly marked to indicate its purpose, except where located and arranged so that the purpose is evident. The marking shall have the durability to withstand the environment involved.

Sufficient access and working space shall be provided and maintained around all electrical equipment to permit ready and safe operation and maintenance of such equipment in accordance with this section and Figure E3405.1.

For SI: 1 inch = 25.4 mm, 1 foot = 304.8 mm.

  1. Equipment, piping and ducts foreign to the electrical installation shall not be placed in the shaded areas extending from the floor to a height of 6 feet above the panelboard enclosure, or to the structural ceiling, whichever is lower.
  2. The working space shall be clear and unobstructed from the floor to a height of 6.5 feet or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater.
  3. The working space shall not be designated for storage.
  4. Panelboards, service equipment and similar enclosures shall not be located in bathrooms, toilet rooms, clothes closets or over the steps of a stairway.
  5. Such work spaces shall be provided with artificial lighting where located indoors and shall not be controlled by automatic means only.

FIGURE E3405.1a, b, c, d, e


Except as otherwise specified in Chapters 34 through 43, the dimension of the working space in the direction of access to panelboards and live parts likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized shall be not less than 36 inches (914 mm) in depth. Distances shall be measured from the energized parts where such parts are exposed or from the enclosure front or opening where such parts are enclosed. In addition to the 36-inch dimension (914 mm), the work space shall not be less than 30 inches (762 mm) wide in front of the electrical equipment and not less than the width of such equipment. The work space shall be clear and shall extend from the floor or platform to a height of 6.5 feet (1981 mm) or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater. In all cases, the work space shall allow at least a 90-degree (1.57 rad) opening of equipment doors or hinged panels. Equipment associated with the electrical installation located above or below the electrical equipment shall be permitted to extend not more than 6 inches (152 mm) beyond the front of the electrical equipment.


  1. In existing dwelling units, service equipment and panelboards that are not rated in excess of 200 amperes shall be permitted in spaces where the height of the working space is less than 6.5 feet (1981 mm).
  2. Meters that are installed in meter sockets shall be permitted to extend beyond the other equipment. Meter sockets shall not be exempt from the requirements of this section.

The space equal to the width and depth of the panelboard and extending from the floor to a height of 6 feet (1829 mm) above the panelboard, or to the structural ceiling, whichever is lower, shall be dedicated to the electrical installation. Piping, ducts, leak protection apparatus and other equipment foreign to the electrical installation shall not be installed in such dedicated space. The area above the dedicated space shall be permitted to contain foreign systems, provided that protection is installed to avoid damage to the electrical equipment from condensation, leaks and breaks in such foreign systems (see Figure E3405.1).

Exception: Suspended ceilings with removable panels shall be permitted within the 6-foot (1829 mm) dedicated space.

Required working space shall not be designated for storage. Panelboards and overcurrent protection devices shall not be located in clothes closets, in bathrooms, or over the steps of a stairway.
Access shall be provided to the required working space.
Artificial illumination shall be provided for all working spaces for service equipment and panelboards installed indoors and shall not be controlled by automatic means only. Additional lighting outlets shall not be required where the work space is illuminated by an adjacent light source or as permitted by Exception 1 of Section E3903.2 for switched receptacles.
This section provides general requirements for conductors, connections and splices. These requirements do not apply to conductors that form an integral part of equipment, such as motors, appliances and similar equipment, or to conductors specifically provided for elsewhere in Chapters 34 through 43.
Conductors used to conduct current shall be of copper except as otherwise provided in Chapters 34 through 43. Where the conductor material is not specified, the material and the sizes given in these chapters shall apply to copper conductors. Where other materials are used, the conductor sizes shall be changed accordingly.
The minimum size of conductors for feeders and branch circuits shall be 14 AWG copper and 12 AWG aluminum. The minimum size of service conductors shall be as specified in Chapter 36. The minimum size of Class 2 remote control, signaling and power-limited circuits conductors shall be as specified in Chapter 43.
Where installed in raceways, conductors 8 AWG and larger shall be stranded. A solid 8 AWG conductor shall be permitted to be installed in a raceway only to meet the requirements of Sections E3610.2 and E4204.
Except where otherwise permitted in Sections E3605.1 and E3908.9, and E4303, current-carrying conductors shall be insulated. Insulated conductors shall have insulation types identified as RHH, RHW, RHW-2, THHN, THHW, THW, THW-2, THWN, THWN-2, TW, UF, USE, USE-2, XHHW or XHHW-2. Insulation types shall be approved for the application.
Circuit conductors that are connected in parallel shall be limited to sizes 1/0 AWG and larger. Conductors in parallel shall: be of the same length; consist of the same conductor material; be the same circular mil area and have the same insulation type. Conductors in parallel shall be terminated in the same manner. Where run in separate raceways or cables, the raceway or cables shall have the same physical characteristics. Where conductors are in separate raceways or cables, the same number of conductors shall be used in each raceway or cable.
All conductors of the same circuit and, where used, the grounded conductor and all equipment grounding conductors and bonding conductors shall be contained within the same raceway, cable or cord.
Terminals and splicing connectors shall be identified for the material of the conductors joined. Conductors of dissimilar metals shall not be joined in a terminal or splicing connector where physical contact occurs between dissimilar conductors such as copper and aluminum, copper and copper-clad aluminum, or aluminum and copper-clad aluminum, except where the device is listed for the purpose and conditions of application. Materials such as inhibitors and compounds shall be suitable for the application and shall be of a type that will not adversely affect the conductors, installation or equipment.

Connectors and terminals for conductors that are more finely stranded than Class B and Class C stranding as shown in Table E3406.9, shall be identified for the specific conductor class or classes.

TABLE E3406.9


AWG or kcmilmm2Class BClass CClass B
  1. Number of strands vary.
  2. Aluminum 14 AWG (2.1 mm2) is not available.
  3. With the permission of Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., this material is reproduced from UL Standard 486A-B, Wire Connectors, which is copyrighted by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., Northbrook, Illinois. While use of this material has been authorized, UL shall not be responsible for the manner in which the information is presented, nor for any interpretations thereof.
Connection of conductors to terminal parts shall be made without damaging the conductors and shall be made by means of pressure connectors, including set-screw type, by means of splices to flexible leads, or for conductor sizes of 10 AWG and smaller, by means of wire binding screws or studs and nuts having upturned lugs or the equivalent. Terminals for more than one conductor and terminals for connecting aluminum conductors shall be identified for the application.
Conductors shall be spliced or joined with splicing devices listed for the purpose. Splices and joints and the free ends of conductors shall be covered with an insulation equivalent to that of the conductors or with an insulating device listed for the purpose. Wire connectors or splicing means installed on conductors for direct burial shall be listed for such use.

Conductors in raceways shall be continuous between outlets, boxes, and devices and shall be without splices or taps in the raceway.

Exception: Splices shall be permitted within surface-mounted raceways that have a removable cover.

The continuity of a grounded conductor in multiwire branch circuits shall not be dependent on connection to devices such as receptacles and lampholders. The arrangement of grounding connections shall be such that the disconnection or the removal of a receptacle, luminaire or other device fed from the box does not interfere with or interrupt the grounding continuity.
Where conductors are to be spliced, terminated or connected to fixtures or devices, a minimum length of 6 inches (152 mm) of free conductor shall be provided at each outlet, junction or switch point. The required length shall be measured from the point in the box where the conductor emerges from its raceway or cable sheath. Where the opening to an outlet, junction or switch point is less than 8 inches (200 mm) in any dimension, each conductor shall be long enough to extend at least 3 inches (75 mm) outside of such opening.
The continuity of a grounded conductor shall not depend on connection to a metallic enclosure, raceway or cable armor.
Insulated grounded conductors of sizes 6 AWG or smaller shall be identified by a continuous white or gray outer finish or by three continuous white stripes on other than green insulation along the entire length of the conductors. Conductors of sizes 4 AWG or larger shall be identified either by a continuous white or gray outer finish or by three continuous white stripes on other than green insulation along its entire length or at the time of installation by a distinctive white or gray marking at its terminations. This marking shall encircle the conductor or insulation.

Equipment grounding conductors of sizes 6 AWG and smaller shall be identified by a continuous green color or a continuous green color with one or more yellow stripes on the insulation or covering, except where bare. Conductors with insulation or individual covering that is green, green with one or more yellow stripes, or otherwise identified as permitted by this section shall not be used for ungrounded or grounded circuit conductors.

Equipment grounding conductors larger than 6 AWG that are not identified as required for conductors of sizes 6 AWG and smaller shall, at the time of installation, be permanently identified as an equipment grounding conductor at each end and at every point where the conductor is accessible, except where such conductors are bare.

The required identification for conductors larger than 6 AWG shall encircle the conductor and shall be accomplished by one of the following:

  1. Stripping the insulation or covering from the entire exposed length.
  2. Coloring the exposed insulation or covering green at the termination.
  3. Marking the exposed insulation or covering with green tape or green adhesive labels at the termination.


  1. Conductors larger than 6 AWG shall not be required to be identified in conduit bodies that do not contain splices or unused hubs.
  2. Power-limited, Class 2 or Class 3 circuit cables containing only circuits operating at less than 50 volts shall be permitted to use a conductor with green insulation for other than equipment grounding purposes.

Insulation on the ungrounded conductors shall be a continuous color other than white, gray and green.


  1. An insulated conductor that is part of a cable or flexible cord assembly and that has a white or gray finish or a finish marking with three continuous white stripes shall be permitted to be used as an ungrounded conductor where it is permanently reidentified to indicate its use as an ungrounded conductor at all terminations and at each location where the conductor is visible and accessible. Identification shall encircle the insulation and shall be a color other than white, gray, and green. Where used for single-pole, 3-way or 4-way switch loops, the reidentified conductor with white or gray insulation or three continuous white stripes shall be used only as a return conductor from the switch to the outlet.
Terminals for attachment to conductors shall be identified in accordance with Sections E3407.4.1 and E3407.4.2.

All devices excluding panelboards, provided with terminals for the attachment of conductors and intended for connection to more than one side of the circuit shall have terminals properly marked for identification, except where the terminal intended to be connected to the grounded conductor is clearly evident.

Exception: Terminal identification shall not be required for devices that have a normal current rating of over 30 amperes, other than polarized attachment caps and polarized receptacles for attachment caps as required in Section E3407.4.2.

Receptacles, polarized attachment plugs and cord connectors for plugs and polarized plugs shall have the terminal intended for connection to the grounded (white) conductor identified. Identification shall be by a metal or metal coating substantially white in color or by the word "white" or the letter "W" located adjacent to the identified terminal. Where the terminal is not visible, the conductor entrance hole for the connection shall be colored white or marked with the word "white" or the letter "W."
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