If you’ve ever DIY-ed your home’s electrical systems, there’s a good chance that they aren’t “up to code”. Unless you’re a licensed electrician, you’ll likely do electrical work that doesn’t meet the National Electrical Code (NEC). While doing it yourself is usually safe, you probably aren’t aware of the electrical standards of each state.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a set of electrical standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It isn’t a federal law -- it’s simply a list of standards that states can refer to in creating their respective regulations. States can copy the NEC, change parts of it, or even rewrite it entirely. For example, California’s California Electrical Code (CEC) is based on the NEC.
You could be living in a home that’s not up to code. Here are some common electrical mistakes that go against the NEC:
In many areas across North America, DIY-ing your home’s electrical work is allowed. However, you should still ensure that your electrical work is up to code.
It’s important that while you can DIY your own electrical work, you can’t DIY someone else’s. Once you start doing electrical work for others, it becomes illegal. Only licensed electricians can conduct electrical work on another person’s property.
If you’re thinking, “Wait, there’s more than one type of circuit breaker?”, your electrical system probably isn’t up to code. First, there’s the standard circuit breaker that prevents fires. They’re usually used for large appliances such as stoves and dryers. Next, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protects people when they have to use appliances around water (e.g. hair dryers in bathrooms). Finally, the arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is required in all living areas. They prevent fires in the event that the cords are pinched or chewed on by pets.
Tamper-resistant receptacles protect children from electrocution in case they insert something into a socket, for instance, a paperclip. The NEC requires them for 15- to 20- ampere receptacles in indoor and outdoor areas.
According to the NEC, outdoor receptacles in unprotected areas (i.e. exposed to the elements) should be covered by an in-use cover. These provide protection in case the receptacles are splashed with water or are exposed for extended periods.
Read your local electrical code to check if your electrical systems are compliant. If your home was recently constructed and you never DIY-ed electrical work, you’re probably up to code. However, if your home was built more than twenty years ago, there’s a chance that it uses aluminum wirings that aren’t up to code.
If you’ve ever done amateur electrical work but you aren’t sure if it’s compliant with local electrical standards, you should consider scheduling an audit.
Since electrical codes differ from state to state, it can be difficult to determine if your electrical systems are up to code. To ensure that your home meets current electrical standards, you should call a licensed electrician, such as Beeson Mechanical Service at 317-535-9338.