The National Electrical Code (NEC®) is published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA®). The NEC is a set of standards meant to ensure the safe installation of electrical equipment in the U.S. The NEC was first published in 1897 and is revised every three years. The 2023 edition of the NEC released in September 2022.
States and local jurisdictions independently determine when they will adopt a new NEC edition. Once it is locally adopted, electrical contractors and the authority having jurisdiction are responsible for ensuring compliance with the new set of requirements. Understanding the NEC’s latest changes ensures that Pros stay compliant and maintain safe practices.
The 2020 NEC offered several updates that relate to Surge protection, and many of these were further clarified in the 2023 NEC code changes.
2020 NEC Surge Protection Requirements
Let’s start by reviewing the changes put in place in NEC 2020 related to electrical surge protection.
Section 230.67 (Surge Protection) required either a Type 1 or Type 2 surge protection device for all services supplying dwelling units. This requirement includes both new construction and replacement equipment, such as service changes or upgrades. Dwelling units are defined by NEC as a single unit, providing complete and independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, cooking, and sanitation.
Services supplying all dwelling units require surge protection devices (SPDs) located within the equipment or adjacent to it. Both Type 1 SPDs and Type 2 SPDs are acceptable. In general, type 1 SPDs are acceptable to be placed on the load or service side of the main panel. Type 2 SPDs are designed to be placed on the load side only and are generally used for branch circuit protection.
The NEC 2020 requirement includes multi-family services as well. In multi-family units, the requirement is to install SPDs at each dwelling’s service disconnect. There is an exception allowing an SPD to be installed at each next downstream device if installation at the service is not practical.
2023 NEC Surge Protection Requirements
NEC 2023 expanded upon what was added to the 2020 National Electric Code. This is really done to further clarify components of the 2020 code.
For example, NEC 2020 required SPDs in dwelling units and even included multi-family units. NEC 2023 further clarified or expanded this to include multifamily dwelling units, dormitory units, guest rooms and guest suites of hotels and motels, as well as patient sleeping rooms in nursing homes and limited care facilities. This is offering more clarity that any unit where a person may “dwell” must now be protected.
In addition to the clarity of SPDs in dwellings, NEC 2023 added section 409.70, requiring the placement of an SPD to be internal or immediately adjacent to control panels that support personnel protection. This wording also supports the manufacturer’s instructions to keep SPD lead lengths as short as possible.
Let’s look at some of the specific components:
Section 230.67 (Surge Protection)
All services supplying the following occupancies shall be provided with a surge-protective device (SPD):
- Dwelling units
- Dormitory units
- Guest rooms and guest suites of hotels and motels
- Areas of nursing homes and limited care facilities used exclusively as patient sleeping rooms
Additionally, it requires that SPDs shall have a nominal discharge current rating (In) of not less than 10kA
409.70 (Industrial Control Panels)
Safety circuits for personnel protection that are subject to damage from surge events shall have surge protection installed within or immediately adjacent to the control panel.
The National Electric Code (NEC) is updated every 3 years and changed as necessary to continue to increase safety standards. The changes made in the 2023 NEC relating to electrical surge protection were offering more clarity to the changes originally added in NEC 2020.
It’s important to remember there are additional advantages to installing SPDs than the safety factors addressed by the NEC. The world is shifting to more sensitive electronics in everyday products. For example, consider the electronic chips now common in your refrigerator, laundry equipment, entertainment equipment, and even LED lighting. The standard life of these products can be extended when an SPD is allowed to knock down those large and small electrical surges.
So SPDs, whether in residential settings or commercial settings offer critical protection for safety, and also for connected product piece of mind.
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