The National Electrical Code is a resource that industry professionals across the nation use for safety information.

Key Takeaways:

  • The NEC is a safety resource for electricians
  • An updated version is released every three years
  • Any contractor you use should consult this document
  • Business owners don’t need an in-depth understanding, but basic knowledge is valuable

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes an updated version of the National Electrical Code (NEC) every three years as a safety resource for electrical professionals. This document is perhaps the industry’s most crucial publication because it supplies safety information on designing, installing, and inspecting electrical components.

However, the publication is also incredibly intimidating because of the amount of information it contains and the technical terms it utilizes. Electrical professionals must interpret this information and integrate it into their work, which can be challenging. They also must be aware of the changes that arise when the document updates every three years.

As a business owner, understanding the NEC code in its entirety isn’t necessary, but having some general knowledge can help as you hire and maintain a working relationship with an electrical contractor. Here’s an overview of the NEC requirements for electric service and meter installations at your place of business.

Why the NEC is important

The NEC’s purpose is to provide safety information as contractors complete electrical installations around the country. It isn’t a step-by-step how-to guide but rather a resource that establishes safety parameters every job must meet.

This publication first appeared in 1897 to create uniform electrical rules across the country. Various national associations were involved in its creation, and it is the least amended model code in the United States. It’s also worth noting that no party following the NEC has been found at fault for an electrical hazard while adhering to the document’s latest edition.

In short, the NEC protects people from injury and buildings from damage by minimizing electrical hazards. It also limits liability for contractors who follow the code.

Article 90

If you only read one part of the NEC, it should be Article 90. This section is an introduction to the document as a whole, explaining its purpose, scope, and limitations, as well as answering the question, “what is NEC electrical?” 

Notably, Article 90 states that the NEC isn’t an instructional guide for untrained individuals, nor is it an informative handbook you’ll read from cover to cover. You’ll need a specific purpose to begin searching through the NEC, as the only reason to do so is when looking for targeted information on a particular subject.

Article 90 explains how to navigate the rest of the publication, making it easier for electricians to find the information they need while working on a project.

Chapter 1

The publication’s first official chapter is noteworthy because it features various Articles that apply to the information on electrical installations mentioned in later chapters. For instance, Article 100 defines multiple technical terms and explains the roles of some electrical equipment and devices in alphabetical order. Glancing at Article 100 before speaking with a contractor offers insight into some of the terms they might use while on the job.

Another important section in Chapter 1 is Article 110, which covers electrical installation requirements. This Article includes information on examining the equipment before installation and conditions for the workspace. It also offers rules on voltages, conductors, and wiring integrity. 

Chapters 2, 3, and 4

Chapter 2 presents information on wiring and protection, including the types of circuits the electrician might encounter during a job. Chapter 3 goes further into electrical wiring, examining the equipment and materials used to distribute electricity within a building. 

Chapter 4 explains concepts pertaining to electrical equipment for general use. Equipment types examined here include lights, receptacles, and motors, which are found in nearly every building in the country. 

Chapters 5, 6, and 7

Reading through Chapters 5, 6, and 7 provides supplemental information beyond general electrical installations. For example, Chapter 5 looks at installations in hazardous locations, places of public assembly, and carnivals. These venues have unique electrical considerations the electrician must address when completing the assignment. 

Chapter 6 looks at special equipment you might have at your office. This equipment could include IT room cooling devices, wind turbines, and fire pumps. There is further valuable information in Chapter 7 that covers emergency power systems and low-voltage conditions. 

Chapter 8

You’ll notice that Chapter 8 is a standalone section to which the information from Chapters 1 through 7 doesn’t apply. That’s because Chapter 8 is about communications systems, including radios, telephones, computers, data centers, and televisions, so general electrical installation protocols don’t necessarily apply. 

Understanding some of the information found in Chapter 8 might be a good idea if you’ll be installing new communications infrastructure within your building and want a general understanding of the system. It also comes in handy if an electrician will be working in your computer lab.

Chapter 9

There are no new details found in Chapter 9, as it contains tables referenced in other chapters. This content is valuable because it provides a visualization of that data, making it easier to understand. 

There are Annexes after Chapter 9, too, which aren’t part of the electrical code but still provide valuable insight. Remember that this section is for information only, as it can help electrical professionals better grasp the mandatory components found elsewhere.

Finding an electrical professional

There is little reason for a building owner to read the entire NEC Code because the language and content will mean little to them. However, understanding why this code is in place and the information it provides to your electrician can help you understand why your contractors are taking specific actions. You should also be sure any contractors you hire are up to date on the latest code publication and are following it closely.

Universal Electrical Services offers commercial electrical assistance in South Florida. Our contractors use and understand the NEC requirements for electric service and meter installations, ensuring any task you hire us for is completed safely. Contact Universal Electrical Services for a free quote.