Code Change Summary: New code section. GFCI protection is now required for outdoor “outlets” at dwellings.
An “Outlet”, according to the NEC Article 100 definition, is a point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that only receptacles can be “outlets”. A receptacle is one kind of outlet, but so is a hard-wired connection such as a smoke detector, or a surface mounted luminaire, or even the point on an outdoor air conditioner system where the circuit connects to the disconnecting means supplying the AC unit.
In the 2020 NEC, all outdoor “outlets” for dwellings, other than lighting, electric snow-melting, deicing, or pipeline heating, that are supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts to ground or less, 50 amperes or less, shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. This is a big change!
Example: A 240V, single phase, outdoor, dwelling unit air conditioner has two ungrounded conductors that are each 120V to ground and 240V phase to phase. If this air conditioner is rated 50 amps or less, then GFCI protection is now required for the “outlet”. How about an outdoor well pump?
This code change came as a result of a child’s death. On August 3, 2007, a 12-year-old child jumped over a chain link fence and landed on the adjacent AC condenser unit. The condenser had an electrical ground fault which caused the unit's metal housing to become electrified. The child was fatally electrocuted when he made contact simultaneously with both the condenser and the metal fence.
2022 UPDATE: Ever since this section first appeared in 2020, there have been many reports of issues with outdoor air conditioners, employing power conversion equipment, not working properly when supplied from the load side of a GFCI device. Many states and jurisdictions have amended the code section and deleted the language.
On August 12, 2022, Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) 1653 was issued for the 2020 NEC which provides the following language in new Exception 2:
“Exception No. 2: Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection shall not be required for listed HVAC equipment. This exception shall expire September 1, 2026”.
Exception 2 allows listed HVAC equipment to go without GFCI protection until September 1, 2026, which should give the HVAC industry time to ensure that listed HVAC systems can function properly when supplied by outlets equipped with GFCI protection.
Below is a preview of the NEC. See the actual NEC text at NFPA.ORG for the complete code section. Once there, click on their link to free access to the 2020 NEC edition of NFPA 70.
2017 Code Language:
This code section did not exist.
2020 Code Language:
N 210.8(F) Outdoor Outlets. All outdoor outlets for dwellings, other than those covered in 210.8(A)(3), Exception to (3), that are supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts to ground or less, 50 amperes or less, shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.
Exception No. 1: Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection shall not be required on lighting outlets other than those covered in 210.8(C).
Exception No. 2: Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection shall not be required for listed HVAC equipment. This exception shall expire September 1, 2026.
Based on the 2020 NEC, which of the following is true of exception 2 in Section 210.8(F)?
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