National and International Codes for the Electrical Trade

Electrical code is a rigorous set of rules that all electricians have to follow on the job.

Also, the exams that journeyman and master electricians take upon graduation from different licensing levels are based on it.

Electrical code includes the set of practices and standards that must be followed when making connections and running wire in various settings.

It also includes the types of acceptable materials, redundancies, and methods and protocols that should be followed to complete the job.

Electrical code deeply focuses on safety, ensuring that all installations are done with care, diligence, and attention to detail, to ensure:

  • Buildings that electrical systems are installed in aren’t at risk of catching fire.
  • People using electrical systems and appliances in their homes and workplaces aren’t at risk of shock.
  • Electricians performing installations and upgrading or making alterations to the system in the distant future are safe.

The general standards of materials and practice required by all jurisdictions are set through a small group of international and national safety standards agencies.

However, different states and city or county-level regulatory agencies may have their specialized additions or alterations to the electrical code that applies in their jurisdiction.

The standards for national and international electrical codes are set and maintained by three main bodies.

They publish them in comprehensive books for electricians, construction inspectors, contractors, and other industry regulators.

These bodies include:

  • International Code Council (ICC):
    • International Fire Code (IFC).
    • International Building Code (IBC).
    • International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):
    • National Electrical Safety Code (NESC).
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
    • National Electrical Code (NEC).
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International Code Council (ICC): International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC), International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)

The International Code Council (ICC) has been developing national model construction codes since 1994.

Over twenty years, all 50 states and D.C. adopted the ICC codes at state and local levels.

The ICC developed three code standards relevant to the electrical trade and recognized internationally:

  • International Fire Code (IFC).
  • International Building Code (IBC).
  • International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

International Fire Code (IFC)

The IFC is adopted in all states except Maine, Hawaii, Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Key chapters of the IFC related to the electrical trade include:

Chapter 6 – Building Services and Systems:

  • Emergency power systems.
  • Battery systems and types.
  • Power supply.
  • Temporary wiring.
  • Standby power systems.
  • Critical circuitry.
  • Abatement of electrical hazards.
  • Electrical wiring and equipment.
  • Solar photovoltaic power systems.
  • Solar photovoltaic power systems.
  • Electrical motors.
  • Portable electric space heaters.
  • Extension cords.

Chapter 9 – Fire Protection Systems:

  • Power supply for fire protection systems.
  • Electrical wiring for fire protection systems.
  • Electrical circuit protective systems.

International Building Code (IBC)

International Building Code (IBC) is adopted in all 50 states and includes:

Chapter 27 – Electrical:

  • Load transfer from primary to back up power systems.
  • Emergency and standby power systems installations.
  • General power requirements.
  • Emergency alarm systems.
  • The minimum duration of backup power systems.
  • Stationary generators.
  • Standby power for smoke control systems.
  • Power for emergency responder radio coverage systems.
  • Acceptable power sources for emergency power systems.
  • Emergency power for exit signs.
  • Systems that require an uninterrupted source of power.
  • Power requirements for elevators and platform lifts.
  • Power for emergency voice and alarm systems.
  • Emergency power for power-operated locking systems.
  • Standby power for high-rise buildings.
  • Cables for critical circuits.
  • Essential electrical systems and group occupancy.

International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)

International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is adopted in all states except Indiana, California, Oklahoma, and Minnesota.

The IECC includes the following key chapters related to electrical trade:

Chapter 4 – Residential Energy Efficiency:

  • Electrical heating and cooling systems.
  • Electrical power and lighting systems.

Chapter 4 – Commercial Energy Efficiency:

  • Electrical power and lighting systems.
  • Electrical motors.
  • Electrical transformers.
  • Electrical heating and cooling systems.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): National Electrical Safety Code (NESC)

The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) of the IEEE (the latest version is of 2007) is adopted in all states, except California.

This code contains a few hundred pages and covers safety measures that electricians should take when working on electrical supply systems and related equipment.

The code is revised every five years.

It is one of the most widely implemented codes after the NEC.

The NESC contains four parts, the first one is the most relevant for electricians.

The other three sections include regulations on the installation of underground lines, overhead lines, and operation and maintenance of these lines.

The relevant part of the NESC includes the following subjects:

  • Surge arresters.
  • Grounding AC systems.
  • Grounding DC systems.
  • Installing and maintaining electrical equipment and supply stations.
  • Storage batteries.
  • Grounding conductors and means of connection.
  • Grounding methods for electric communications and supply facilities.
  • Working with rotating equipment.
  • Ground resistance requirements.
  • Protective arrangements in electric supply stations.
  • Grounding electrodes.
  • Conductors.
  • Installation and maintenance of equipment.
  • Transformers and regulators.
  • Circuit breakers, fuses, reclosers, and switches.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): The National Electrical Code (NEC)

The NEC is established by the NFPA and is a standard for electrical safety in commercial, industrial, and residential buildings.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recognizes the NEC as a national benchmark for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment.

All 50 states have adopted the NEC as the benchmark for safe electrical design, inspection, and installation to protect people and property from electrical hazards.

Since 1897, the NFPA has been including the opinions of industry experts into one source code, including electricians, accident investigators, firefighters, tech representatives, and academics.

New editions of the NEC are coming out periodically, with the latest one of 2017.

With the constantly changing environment master electricians face, the 2017 edition includes new information on direct-current microgrids and large-scale photovoltaic electric supply stations.

The main topics covered by the NEC include:

Wiring and Protection

  • Overcurrent protection.
  • Surge protective devices for 1,000 volts or less.
  • Inside/outside branch circuits and feeders, and service calculations.
  • Grounding and bonding.
  • Service conductors.
  • Cartridge fuses and fuseholders.
  • Surge arresters over 1,000 volts.
  • Circuit breakers.

Wiring Methods

  • Outlet, device, junction boxes, pull, conduit bodies, handhole enclosures, and fittings.
  • FC flat cable assemblies.
  • Floor raceways and other types of raceways.
  • Auxiliary gutters.
  • Cabinets, meter socket enclosures, and cutout boxes.
  • AC armored cable.
  • FCC flat conductor cables.
  • Conductors for general wiring.
  • TC power and control tray cable.
  • MC metal clad cable.
  • Wireways.
  • Integrated gas spacer cable.
  • MV medium voltage cable.
  • NM, NMC, and NMS nonmetallic sheathed cable.
  • Types of conduit and tubing.
  • Busways.
  • MI mineral insulated metal sheathed cable.
  • Low voltage suspended ceiling power distribution systems.

Equipment for General Use

  • Industrial control panels.
  • Fixed electric heating equipment for pipelines and vessels.
  • Flexible cords and cables.
  • Switches.
  • Fixture wires.
  • Appliances.
  • Switchboards, switchgear, and panelboards.
  • Phase converters.
  • Generators.
  • Luminaries, lampholders, and lamps.
  • Fixed electric space heating and outdoor deicing equipment.
  • Equipment over 1,000 volts.
  • Air conditioning and refrigerating equipment.
  • Transformers and transformer vaults.
  • Capacitors.
  • Motors, motor circuits, and controllers.
  • Resistors and reactors.
  • Storage batteries.

Special Occupancies

  • Intrinsically safe systems.
  • Hazardous locations, classes, and divisions.
  • Motor fuel-dispensing facilities.
  • Aircraft hangars.
  • Theaters and audience areas.
  • Bulk storage plants.
  • Health care facilities.
  • Spray application, dipping, and coating.
  • Commercial garages, repair, and storage.
  • Control systems for permanent amusement attractions.
  • Assembly occupancies.
  • Marinas and boatyards.
  • Carnivals, circuses, and fairs.
  • Temporary installations.
  • Agricultural buildings.
  • Motion picture and television studios.
  • Recreational vehicles and their parks.
  • Park trailers.
  • Mobile homes, manufactured homes, and mobile home parks.
  • Floating buildings.
  • Manufactured buildings.

Special Equipment

  • Electric signs and outline lighting.
  • Information technology equipment.
  • The electric vehicle charging system.
  • Sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Office furnishings.
  • Wind electric systems.
  • Elevators, escalators, moving walks, and dumbwaiters.
  • Cranes and hoists.
  • Electrified truck parking spaces.
  • Electric welders.
  • X-ray equipment.
  • Modular data centers.
  • Pipe organs.
  • Fuel cell systems.
  • Induction and dielectric heating equipment.
  • Manufactured wiring systems.
  • Electrolytic cells and electroplating.
  • Audio signal processing, amplification, and reproduction equipment.
  • Solar voltaic systems.
  • Industrial machinery.
  • Fire pumps.
  • Integrated electrical systems.

Special Conditions

  • Legally required standby systems.
  • Emergency systems.
  • Critical operations power systems.
  • Interconnected electric power production sources.
  • Optical fiber cables and raceways.
  • Circuits and equipment operating at less than 50 volts.
  • Optional standby systems.

Communication Systems

  • Communication circuits.
  • Network-powered broadband communication systems.
  • Premises-powered broadband communications systems.
  • Community antenna television and radio distribution systems.
  • Radio and television equipment.

Tables and Appendices

  • PLFA AC/DC power source limitations.
  • Cross-section of conduit and tubing for conductors and cables.
  • Availability and reliability for critical operations power systems.
  • Conductor stranding.
  • AC resistance and reactance for 600-volt cables.
  • Product safety standards.
  • The radius of conduit and tubing bends.
  • Ampacity calculation.

You can buy a full version of the NEC from NFPA.

However, you can get the contents of the NEC by reviewing the 922-page proposed draft of the NEC Edition of the NFPA.

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