Every day, we see new DIYers and home remodelers trying their hand at electrical work. They usually do not know the rules for doing this type of work in Minnesota or the consequences if they don’t follow them. We have compiled a list of the most common violations to the electrical wiring code help you avoid those mistakes when working on your own wiring!
What is the National Electrical Code?
The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a safety code that establishes the minimum requirements for safe electrical installations in the United States. It sets out rules to ensure:
- Fire and flashover prevention
- People are protected from electric shock
- The equipment operates at an acceptable voltage level
- Increased capacity of electrical distribution systems
- Enhanced reliability of supply service interruptions or failures during emergencies
- Efficient energy use by providing clear guidance on overloading circuits with multiple appliances without causing fire hazards
The NEC also provides standards for grounding and bonding installations within buildings or their yards if they have metallic power system enclosures or underground cable vaults, even when there are no ground-fault circuit interrupters installed.
The Importance of Meeting Code
Whether you’re a frequent DIYer at home or are a professional electrician, following these stringent electrical codes ensures your safety and the safety of others. It also protects you from fines and other penalties should an electrical inspection find that the work done was not up to code.
Common Electrical Wiring Violations + How to Avoid
You may be wondering why there are so many frequent violations? There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to electrical wiring, especially in Minnesota, where we have two different codes (NEC 2020 & MN Electrical Code). It can be hard for homeowners with limited knowledge of electricity and apprentice electricians alike to tell which code they need to follow.
This means that even someone who knows what they’re doing might accidentally do something wrong without realizing it—or worse, knowingly break one rule but ignore another because they don’t know about them! Here are some common electrical wiring violations and how to ensure you meet code every time.
1 – Missing GFCI Protection in the Proper Rooms
Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) help keep people safe from electrical shocks. GFCI receptacles (outlets) shut off the power to a device if something goes wrong with it or someone gets shocked, protecting them from injury. Minnesota requires all bathrooms, kitchens, garages, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements to have ground fault protection installed in those areas of the house where water or moisture could come into contact with an energized part of the system.
2 – Installing Bathroom Light Fixtures Not Rated for Wet or Damp Conditions
If you install a light fixture in your bathroom, make sure it is rated for damp environments. This will ensure that no water can get into the electrical components of the light and cause damage to them if they are submerged or splashed by accident. Light fixtures located near the shower must be rated for wet locations.
3 – Fail to Have Dedicated 20-Amp Circuits for all Appliances
Every room in your house needs to have its own 20-amp circuits—some require more than one.
- Every bathroom needs one circuit for the receptacles and one for the lighting.
- If your bathroom has a heated vent fan in the shower, that must also have a 20-amp circuit.
- Kitchens require at least two 20-amp circuits dedicated to small appliances.
- Your kitchen lighting, garbage disposal, dishwasher, fridge, stove, microwave, and any other major appliances must each have their own 20-amp or 120-volt circuits.
- Depending on how many outlets there are and how much power must be supplied, your living room, dining room, and bedrooms need just one dedicated circuit each.
- Your garage and laundry room also require their own circuit. Note: if you have an electric dryer, you must have at least a 30-amp or 240-volt circuit with four conductors to ensure it runs safely and efficiently.
4 – No GFCI Protection Near the Sink
If you have receptacles within 6-feet of your bathroom or kitchen sink, they need to be GFCI protected. Also, all countertop receptacles require GFCI protection and be placed no closer than every 4 feet.)
5 – Improper Lighting in Stairways
If you install a new light fixture in your stairwell, make sure it is an approved lighting assembly and not just a bare light bulb. Stairway electrical code also requires 3-way switches at the top and the bottom and adequate lighting on any landing. This will ensure people coming down or going upstairs can see where they’re going and prevent significant injury.
6 – No Hallway Outlets
Any hallway longer than 10 feet needs at least one receptacle outlet installed. Hallways also suggest three-way switches at each end like a stairway, but this may change depending on how long the hallway is.
7 – Exposed Incandescents in the Closet
Incandescent light bulbs can get very hot, so they must have a light cover. If your closet lighting is recessed, it can be 6 inches away from any upper closet storage (clothes, boxes, etc.), but all other light fixtures must be at least 12 inches from storage.
8 – Incorrect Main Circuit Breaker Ratings
The main breaker for your electrical panel determines how many circuits can go into it (and thus what size of breakers are needed). If you’re unsure which breaker is your “main” one—it’ll likely say something like “MAIN BREAKER” on the label. You may need more than one if all your rooms require their own circuits.
Where Do I Find Specific Local Electrical Codes?
You can either contact Electric City, and we can help you find out more information, or visit the MN Department of Labor and Industry website. Here is the most recently updated Electrical Inspection Checklist for 2020 (updated every three years).
We also have some handy articles with common mistakes homeowners (and electricians) make, which can also help you. It’s always best to check before doing any work yourself since there are many ways code violations could happen unintentionally without realizing it until after the project is completed. If you fear you’ll mess up doing your own electrical, please, please call the professionals at Electric City. We can tackle any project you might have and ensure safe installation to code.