The NEC: Administration and Enforcement
Are you an electrical contractor or general contractor with electrical work
in your project? You need to understand how the NEC is
administered and enforced. Here's a good overview.
To be able to work effectively with the NEC, you must understand the
philosophy behind it. This is the information NEC Article 80 provides.
NEC Article 80 is new to the Code, beginning with the 2002 revision.
Formerly, the NEC started with Article 90.
NEC 80.1 addresses the scope of the NEC, listing the five functions.
In a nutshell, they are:
- Review (of drawings and specifications)
- Implementation (everything from design through maintenance)
NEC 80.2 gives definitions related to administration and enforcement.
Do not confuse this with the definitions in Article 100.
NEC 80.3, 80.5, and 80.7 are pretty much for the lawyers.
NEC 80.9 addresses how the Code applies to:
- New installations
- Existing installations
- Additions, alterations, or repairs
NEC 80.11 basically bars new construction from occupancy if there is
a Code violation and grandfathers existing structures under certain
conditions (mostly that there is no hazard to life or property).
NEC 80.13 defines who has authority to administer the code and what
that authority entails. With 16 major points, 80.13 covers a lot of
ground. It codifies what was previously "understood."
NEC 80.15 lays out the bylaws for an electrical board, which may be
established by any municipality.
NEC 80.17 requires the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to retain
NEC 80.19 addresses permits and approvals, quite extensively.
NEC 80.23 provides rules for notices of violations and penalties.
NEC 80.25 provides rules for connecting to the electrical supply.
NEC 80.27 describes the qualifications for being an electrical
NEC 80.29, 80.31, 80.33, and 80.35 are for the lawyers.
And here's an overview of NEC Article 90:
NEC Article 90 draws boundaries around the National Electrical Code—boundaries
many people fail to understand. For example, Article 90 has long made it
clear the NEC is not intended as design specification or instruction
manual. The National Electrical Code has one purpose only.
NEC 90.1 has four subdivisions:
- (A) says the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of
people and property "from hazards arising from the use of
- (B) distinguishes from the adequacy concept (provisions necessary
for safety) and other concepts. The Code is a minimum standard.
Further effort may be required for an installation to be efficient,
convenient, or adequate for good service or future expansion. This
is a fundamental concept upon which many Code disagreements arise.
The Code is not a target you’d like to hit. It is the minimum you
- (C) clearly states the Code is not intended to be a design
specification or instruction manual.
- (D) ties the Code to international standards. The Code-making panels do have members who are in countries other than the USA. The
intention is to draw on the collective wisdom of the international
community. Many people who make the Code what it is are also members
of the IEEE. Standards published by the IEEE frequently get review
from people who serve on NEC committees and vice-versa.
NEC 90.2 describes the scope of the Code—what it covers and what it
does not cover.
NEC 90.3 explains how the Code is arranged. Please note the influence
of the international and engineering communities. For example, the Code
uses the "dot" system of enumeration and the
"Appendices" are called "Annexes."
NEC 90.4 gives the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) some
flexibility in enforcement.
NEC 90.5 distinguishes between mandatory rules, permissive rules, and
explanatory material. These often get confused. An example is a Fine
Protection Note (FPN) that discusses voltage drop. The Code does not
require addressing voltage drop—it merely explains that it is an
additional consideration and gives a "rule of thumb."
Unfortunately, many people have over-engineered to get "the
Code-required drop" or have under-engineered because they were
"within the Code requirements." The Code does not give voltage
NEC 90.6 discusses formal interpretations.
NEC 90.7 adds a dose of common sense regarding equipment inspections.
For example, a product that is Listed (e.g., by U.L.) can be assumed to
be adequate for the stated purpose and need not be inspected again
(except for alterations or damage).
NEC 90.8 alerts the user to allow for expansion and to know that the
Code does specify various restrictions on the number of wires and
circuits in a given enclosure.
NEC 90.9 discusses units of measurement.