National Electrical Code Changes in 2020

The 2020 National Electric Code includes requirement updates in four significant areas: surge protection, GFCI protection, firemen’s disconnect and solar power. Be familiar with the official NEC codes in your state.

NEC 2020 includes four major updates to the existing 2017 electrical code:

  • GFCI protection is now required for 125–250V receptacles within 6 feet of sinks.
  • Surge protection is now required for lines feeding dwelling units.
  • Emergency disconnects are now required for all one- and two-family dwelling units.
  • Solar panels (California directive) are now required to have outdoor emergency disconnect.

NEC 2020 adoption is underway in:

  • Connecticut
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont

NEC 2020 Is in Effect in:

  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming


GFCI protection is required for all 125–250V receptacles within 6 feet of sinks. Notable spaces include:

  • Laundry areas
  • Kitchens
  • Unfinished basements
  • Finished basements
  • Outdoor outlets 150V to ground or less and up to 50amps

This applies to:

  • Ranges within 6 feet of sinks
  • Electric dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Sump pumps
  • Pool motors
  • Equipment that requires service, including HVAC and refrigeration units

GFCI protection is also required in non-dwellings. Notable spaces include:

  • Indoor damp and wet locations
  • Permanent fixtures for cooking
  • Permanent provisions for food preparation
  • Accessory buildings

This applies to:

  • Dishwashers
  • Drinking fountains
  • Sump pumps
  • Pool motors
  • Equipment that requires service, including HVAC and refrigeration units

Emergency Disconnects

  • Required for all single- and two-family dwellings
  • Must function from outside dwellings
  • Must be readily accessible
  • Applies to generators and energy storage systems (ESS)
  • Generators must be marked with one of the following:




Surge Protection

  • New article (242) includes service lines to dwelling units
  • Must be part of service equipment or adjacent
  • May be located at each level of downstream distribution

Now applies to:

  • Line side and load side services
  • Replacements and service upgrades

Solar (California)

  • Solar panels on new construction*
  • Outdoor disconnect required for all energy storage units

*The State of California requires solar photovoltaic systems for newly constructed healthcare facilities starting January 1, 2020.

NEC 2020 includes several new articles. Surge protection article 242 is one among four.Article 242 Overvoltage Protection combines articles 280 and 285 and addresses surge protective requirements, devices and arresters.Article 337 Type P Cable addresses 600V Type P cables used in industrial and hazardous areas and specifications.

Article 311 MV Conductors & Cable expands on deleted article 328 and addresses medium voltage conductors and cables, their use and specifications.

Article 800 General Requirements for Communications Systems consolidates the previous contents of 2017 NEC chapter 8 into one articles and addresses requirements for communication circuits, including television and radio distribution antennae and network powered broadband systems.

Removed Articles

NEC 2020 removes several articles present in NEC 2017 to improve clarity and limit redundancies. These are:

  • Article 280 SPDs over 1,000V
  • Article 285 SPDs 1,000V or less
  • Article 328 MV Cable Type MV
  • Article 553 Floating Buildings

The National Fire Protection Agency publishes official updates to the National Electrical Code every three years. These updates have run uninterrupted since 1897, when the code was introduced. 2020 NEC is the result of more than 5,000 public inputs and comments, 18 panels, the annual NFPA meeting and more than 2,000 revisions.

California Energy Commission, “2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards.” 2018.

National Fire Protection Association, “Power Aid: GFCI Protection, Emergency Power Disconnects, and much more.” 2019.

National Fire Protection Association, “NEC Enforcement.” 2019.

Reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA 2020.

Source National Electrical Code Changes in 2020