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Electrical Outlets

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Steve Boccalatte Last reply on Dec 9, 2015

In my unfinished basement- I am running electrical wires from Junction Box for outlets. Later my electrician will finish the job. How many electrical outlets can I have per circuit?

10  of  20 comments
  • Bill H
    Bill H Ephrata, PA
    on Jan 3, 2012

    Chapter 38: Power and Lighting Distribution General Comments Chapter 38 addresses the rough-in stage of construc- tion in which the wiring systemis installed for the purpose of distributing receptacle and lighting outlets throughout the dwelling. This chapter covers receptacle outlet spac- ing, GFCI and AFCI protection, lighting outlet locations, raceway and box fill limitations, box and panel board installation, equipment grounding, and flexible cords. Purpose The intent of Chapter 38 is to protect occupants fromfire, electrical shock, and accidents. By eliminating the need for extension cords, by providing adequate lighting, and by requiring equipment grounding and GFCI and AFCI protection, the code substantially increases the level of safety in homes. SECTION E3801 RECEPTACLE OUTLETS E3801.1General. Receptacle outlets shall be provided in ac- cordance with Sections E3801.2 through E3801.11. Recep- tacle outlets required by this section shall be in addition to any receptacle that is part of a luminaire or appliance, that is lo- cated within cabinets or cupboards, or that is located over 5.5 feet (1676 mm) above the floor. Permanently installed electric baseboard heaters equipped with factory-installed receptacle outlets, or outlets provided as a separate assembly by the baseboardmanufacturer shall be permitted as the required outlet or outlets for the wall space utilized by such permanently installed heaters. Such recep- tacle outlets shall not be connected to the heater circuits. ❖ Section E3801 covers the requirements for the loca- tions of receptacle outlets. A receptacle that is built in or is an integral part of light fixture, appliance, or cabi- net is not counted as one of the outlets required by this section. However, a factory-installed receptacle in a baseboard heater is permitted to serve as one of the required outlets, but such a receptacle must not be connected to the circuit supplying the heater. A baseboard heatermust not be installed on the wall below a receptacle outlet unless specifically listed for such installations. Where a cord is plugged into a re- ceptacle, it could drape over the baseboard heater or come into contact with it; thus, the cord would become hot, which could melt or weaken the insulation and create a possible fire or shock hazard. If the plan calls for baseboard heaters, the required receptacles must be either integral with the heater or be positioned so that cords will not contact the heater. E3801.2 Convenience receptacle distribution. In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sun room, bedroom, recreation room, or similar room or area of dwelling units, receptacle outlets shall be installed in accordance with the general provisions specified in Sections E3801.2.1 through E3801.2.3. See Figure E3801.2. ❖ The receptacles in all rooms of a dwelling unit except bathrooms and laundry rooms are referred to as con- venience receptacles. This section and the following three subsections cover the location and spacing re- quirements for convenience receptacles. There is no minimum or maximum number of receptacles for a room. There is no height requirement for convenience receptacles except that any receptacle located over 51/2 feet above the floor is not counted. There are cer- tain height requirements for accessibility standards; however, they usually do not apply toa privatedwelling unit. Although there are specific requirements for countertop receptacles in a kitchen, the location and spacing of all other receptacles in kitchens and dining areas are included in these provisions. E3801.2.1 Spacing. Receptacles shall be installed so that no point along the floor line in any wall space is more than 6 feet (1829 mm), measured horizontally, from an outlet in that space. Receptacles shall, insofar as practicable, be spaced equal distances apart. ❖ This requirement is intended to eliminate the need for extension cords. In any of the rooms listed (or a similar area of a dwelling), a lamp, appliance, radio, TV, or other electrical appliance can be placed at any point along the floor line, and a receptacle will be available within six feet of that location. It is important to not cut corners when measuring. The floor line is measured along the wall all the way into and around corners. Where a door opens against a wall, it may seem rea- sonable to begin the measurement at the end of the door swing, about 30 to 36 inches (762 to 914 mm) from the hinged side of the door casing, but the code requires that the wall space be counted all the way to the door jamb. E3801.2.2 Wall space. As used in this section, a wall space shall include the following: 1. Any space that is 2 feet (610 mm) or more in width, (in- cluding space measured around corners), and that is un- POWER AND LIGHTING DISTRIBUTION 38-2 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 For SI: 1 foot = 304.8 mm. FIGURE E3801.2 GENERAL USE RECEPTACLE DISTRIBUTION ❖ See the commentary for Section E3801.2. broken along the floor line by doorways, fireplaces, and similar openings. 2. The space occupied by fixed panels in exterior walls, ex- cluding sliding panels. 3. The space created by fixed room dividers such as railings and freestanding bar-type counters. ❖ An appliance or lamp, for example, could be placed in front of the fixed portion of a sliding door, which must be counted as wall space for determining the spacing requirements of receptacle outlets. An example of a fixed room divider is a railing installed along an open balcony or loft. Appliances could be placed by the homeowner along the railing, and a receptacle must be installed at a point no further than six feet from any point along the railing. A floor outletmay be necessary in this situation. E3801.2.3 Floor receptacles. Receptacle outlets in floors shall not be counted as part of the required number of recep- tacle outlets except where located within 18 inches (457 mm) of the wall. ❖ Where the furniture layout is known, floor receptacles are sometimes located in themiddle of a room. For ex- ample, power may be required for a lamp on an end table at each end of a couch that is placed away from the walls of a living room. Such receptacles are not counted as part of the required number of receptacles as measured along the wall line. In the example under Section E3801.2.2 above, a floor outlet must be installed a maximum of 18 inches (457 mm) from the railing to count as the required receptacle. E3801.3 Small appliance receptacles. In the kitchen, pantry, breakfast room, dining room, or similar area of a dwelling unit, the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch cir- cuits required by Section E3603.2, shall serve all receptacle outlets covered by Sections E3801.2 and E3801.4 and those receptacle outlets provided for refrigeration appliances. Exceptions: 1. In addition to the required receptacles specified by Sections E3801.1 and E3801.2, switched receptacles supplied from a general-purpose branch circuit as defined in Section E3803.2, Exception 1, shall be permitted. 2. The receptacle outlet for refrigeration appliances shall be permitted to be supplied from an individual branch circuit rated at 15 amperes or greater. ❖ Small appliance receptacles are supplied by at least two 20-ampere branch circuits and include all of the re- ceptacles in the kitchen, pantry, dining, and similar areas of a house. The countertop receptacles as well as all of the other low receptacles (usually installed around 12 to 18 inches (305 to 457 mm) above the floor) in these rooms are included on one of the small appliance receptacle branch circuits. In a dining room, a receptacle controlled by a wall switch can serve as the required lighting outlet. Such a receptacle would not be served by one of the small appliance branch cir- cuits but would be served by a general purpose lighting circuit. The receptacle serving a refrigerator can be in- cluded on one of the small appliance circuits or can be supplied by a separate individual branch circuit. Where it is an individual branch circuit, it can be a 15-ampere or 20-ampere rated branch circuit. E3801.3.1Other outlets prohibited. The two or more small- appliance branch circuits specified in Section 3801.3 shall serve no other outlets. Exceptions: 1. A receptacle installed solely for the electrical sup- ply to and support of an electric clock in any of the rooms specified in Section E3801.3. 2. Receptacles installed to provide power for supple- mental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges, ovens, and counter-mounted cooking units. ❖ Receptacles for specific fixed-in-place appliances such as a disposal, dishwasher, or trash compactor cannot be served by the small-appliance branch cir- cuits. The small-appliance circuits cannot supply any- thing else, such as the hood fan over the range. A half century ago, a receptacle for an electric clock installed high on the wall was a standard feature in the kitchen in some areas of the country. The power for a FIGURE E3801.2 - E3801.3.1 POWER AND LIGHTING DISTRIBUTION 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 38-3 clock is minimal, and although this type of receptacle outlet is not as common now, it has been permitted for many years to be served by one of the small appliance branch circuits. Where a gas range is installed in the kitchen, a 120-volt receptacle outlet is needed to oper- ate such items on the range as the timer, lights, and ignitor. This receptacle can be connected to one of the small appliance branch circuits. E3801.3.2 Limitations. Receptacles installed in a kitchen to serve countertop surfaces shall be supplied by not less than two small-appliance branch circuits, either or both of which shall also be permitted to supply receptacle outlets in the same kitchen and in other rooms specified in Section E3801.3. Additional small-appliance branch circuits shall be permitted to supply receptacle outlets in the kitchen and other rooms specified in Section E3801.3. A small-appliance branch cir- cuit shall not serve more than one kitchen. ❖ Small appliance branch circuits can serve receptacles in a dining room. In a formal dining room, where no cooking is done and it is not likely that any appliances will be used, itmay seem that the receptacles could be served by a general purpose lightingbranch circuit, but these receptacles must be included on one of the two or more small-appliance branch circuits. There is not a limit on the number of outlets served by a small appliance branch circuit. Some electrical contractors have traditional ways of laying out these circuits. For example, one practice is that all counter- top receptacles on one side of the kitchen sink are wired on one circuit, and another circuit is used for all receptacles on the other side of the sink. Another method is to alternate countertop receptacles on two different circuits so that no two adjacent receptacles are on the same circuit. Yet another method is to use three-conductor cable and wire the top half of the du- plex receptacle on one circuit and the bottom half on another circuit. These methods are not code require- ments but only preferences. The code simply requires that all receptacles in the kitchen, pantry, and dining areas be served by two or more small appliance branch circuits. E3801.4 Countertop receptacles. In kitchens and dining rooms of dwelling units, receptacle outlets for counter spaces shall be installed in accordance with Sections E3801.4.1 through E3801.4.5. (See Figure E3801.4.) ❖ This section introduces five subsections. The first four subsections cover the countertop spaces where re- ceptacles are required, and the fifthcovers thelocation of receptacles in those required spaces. E3801.4.1 Wall counter space. A receptacle outlet shall be installed at each wall counter space 12 inches (305 mm) or wider. Receptacle outlets shall be installed so that no point along thewall line ismore than 24 inches (610mm),measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space. For SI: 1 inch = 25.4 mm, 1 foot = 304.8 mm. FIGURE E3801.4 COUNTERTOP RECEPTACLES ❖ See the commentary for Section E3801.4. ❖ Inmany kitchens, there is a short section of countertop between the refrigerator and the range on which it is helpful to place items when getting them in and out of the refrigerator. The literal code requirement is that if this countertop is 12 inches (305mm) or more wide, a receptacle is required along the wall at this space. Some installers have omitted the receptacle where the countertop space is only 9 or 10 inches. This is a case where good judgment should prevail. For example, a toaster could be placed at such a countertop space, and if therewere not a receptacle available, the toaster cord could be placed across the range to be plugged in. This would create an unsafe situation. Providing a receptacle at a 10-inch (254 mm), for example, coun- tertop space is a good idea, although not a code re- quirement. As indicated in Figure E3801.4 of the code, recep- tacle outlets must not be spaced more than 48 inches (1219 mm) apart along the wall line of the countertop. For this measurement, it is not permitted to cut cor- ners. Notice the measurement at the left of the sink in the figure. The edge of the sink is considered the be- ginning of the countertop, and an outlet must be avail- able within 24 inches (610 mm) of that point. Continu- ing to the left from that point, themeasurement follows the wall line. E3801.3.2 - FIGURE E3801.4 POWER AND LIGHTING DISTRIBUTION 38-4 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 Using Figure E3801.4, it is not correct, for example, to draw an imaginary line along the front edge of the countertop in front of the sink all the way to the wall left of the sink, consider that one countertop, then begin at that point to measure to the refrigerator. The wall line in the corner must be included in the measure- ment. E3801.4.2 Island counter spaces. At least one receptacle outlet shall be installed at each island counter space with a long dimension of 24 inches (610 mm) or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches (305 mm) or greater. ❖ At an island counter space, one receptacle is required. More may be installed, for example, at each end. The 24-inch (610mm) spacing requirement does not apply to the island countertop space, because there is no wall line. An island might be divided into two counter spaces by the presence of a sink or cooktop. E3801.4.3 Peninsular counter space.At least one receptacle outlet shall be installed at each peninsular counter space with a long dimension of 24 inches (610mm) or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches (305 mm) or greater. A peninsular countertop is measured from the connecting edge. ❖ The connecting edge of a peninsular countertop is an imaginary line along the front edge of the adjacent countertop. At least one receptacle is required at the peninsular counter space. It is not required to be at the end of the peninsula. E3801.4.4 Separate spaces. Countertop spaces separated by range tops, refrigerators, or sinks shall be considered as sepa- rate countertop spaces in applying the requirements of Sec- tions E3801.4.1, E3801.4.2 and E3801.4.3. ❖ The intent of this code requirement is to prevent cords from being stretched or laid across the range or sink or other separations of the countertop space. The left and right edges of the kitchen sink are points where the measurement begins for the countertop space. E3801.4.5 Receptacle outlet location. Receptacle outlets shall be located not more than 20 inches (508 mm) above the countertop. Receptacle outlets shall not be installed in a face- up position in the work surfaces or countertops. Receptacle outlets rendered not readily accessible by appliances fastened in place, appliance garages or appliances occupying dedi- cated space shall not be considered as these required outlets. Exception: Receptacle outlets shall be permitted to be mounted not more than 12 inches (305 mm) below the countertop in construction designed for the physically im- paired and for island and peninsular countertops where the countertop is flat across its entire surface and there are no means to mount a receptacle within 20 inches (508 mm) above the countertop, such as in an overhead cabinet. Re- ceptacles mounted below the countertop in accordance with this exception shall not be located where the counter- top extends more than 6 inches (152 mm) beyond its sup- port base. ❖ The intent of the code rule is that receptacles will be available for small appliances used on the countertop. It can be a safety hazard to have appliances plugged in below the countertop surface because the cord would be draped over the edge of the countertop, and the cord could be easily snagged, pulling the appliance off of the countertop.Where an island or peninsular coun- tertop does not overhang the cabinetmore than 6inch- es (152 mm), it is permitted to install the required re- ceptacle not more than 12 inches (305mm) below the countertop. E3801.5 Appliance outlets. Appliance receptacle outlets installed for specific appliances, such as laundry equipment, shall be installedwithin 6 feet (1829mm) of the intended loca- tion of the appliance. ❖ Where the outlet is no more than 6 feet from the loca- tion of an appliance, it is assumed that the appliance cord will reach the outlet. The intent is that extension cords will not have to be used. Common sense should be used here, and the 6-foot (1829mm)measurement may not be adequate if the measured distance is sim- ply from the edge of the appliance space. For exam- ple, if a 120-volt receptacle for a gas clothes dryer is 6 feet from the edge of the dryer space, the receptacle placement may satisfy the code rule, but the dryer cord at the rear of a gas clothes dryer may be at the opposite side of the space closest to the receptacle. Consideration should be given to the location of the appliances such as garage door openers, sump pumps, clothes washers, etc., so that extension cords will not have to be used. E3801.6 Bathroom. At least one wall receptacle outlet shall be installed in bathrooms and such outlet shall be located within 36 inches (914 mm) of the outside edge of each lavato- ry basin. The receptacle outlet shall be located on awall that is adjacent to the lavatory basin location. Receptacle outlets shall not be installed in a face-up posi- tion in the work surfaces or countertops in a bathroom basin location. ❖ Where a bathroom lighting fixture contains a recep- tacle, it does not satisfy the requirement for the bath- room wall receptacle per Section E3801.1, because required receptacles are in addition to any that are part of a lighting fixture. A receptacle in a lighting fixture must beGFCI protected, and the bathroom lighting cir- cuit is usually not supplied from a GFCI protected cir- cuit. E3801.7 Outdoor outlets. At least one receptacle outlet accessible at grade level and not more than 6 feet, 6 inches (1981 mm) above grade, shall be installed outdoors at the front and back of each dwelling unit having direct access to grade. E3801.4.2 - E3801.7 POWER AND LIGHTING DISTRIBUTION 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 38-5 ❖ Any dwelling unit that has direct access to grade re- quires an outdoor receptacle both at the front and back of the dwelling. But a receptacle that is part of a yard lightmounted on a post, for example,would not satisfy this requirement. Where a dwelling unit has a balcony or deck accessible only through a door from the inside of the house, an outdoor receptacle at the balcony or deck locationmay not satisfy this requirement if the re- ceptacle is not accessible at grade level. If it is not over 61/2 feet from the ground and can be reached from standing on the ground, it counts as the required re- ceptacle. E3801.8 Laundry areas. At least one receptacle outlet shall be installed to serve laundry appliances. ❖ Section E3603.3 requires at least one 20-amp rated branch circuit for the laundry area.Typically, this circuit supplies a duplex receptacle to serve a clothes washer and a gas-fired clothes dryer. See Section E3801.5 for receptacle location requirements. Laundry area is not defined but is interpreted as including an ironing area within the laundry area, meaning that multiple re- ceptacle locations could be supplied by the required laundry branch circuit. Bear in mind that a 20-amp rated branch circuit is nearly at capacity when serving both a washer and dryer. E3801.9 Basements and garages. At least one receptacle outlet, in addition to any provided for laundry equipment, shall be installed in each basement and in each attached garage, and in each detached garage that is provided with electrical power. Where a portion of the basement is finished into a habitable room(s), the receptacle outlet required by this section shall be installed in the unfinished portion. ❖ The code does not require that a detached garage be supplied with electrical power. But if it has power, then it must have at least one receptacle. Because there are many uses and activities in garages and unfin- ished basements that require power, an unfinished basement or an unfinished portion of a basementmust have at least one receptacle to avoid the overuse or unsafe use of extension cords. Section E3809.1 pro- hibits the use of flexible cord as a substitute for fixed wiring in the dwelling and indicates that cordsmust not be run through holes in walls, ceilings, or floors.Where receptacles are installed at appropriate locations, the receptacles will reduce the need for extension cords. E3801.10 Hallways. Hallways of 10 feet (3048mm) ormore in length shall have at least one receptacle outlet. The hall length shall be considered the lengthmeasured along the cent- erline of the hall without passing through a doorway. ❖ The length of an L-shaped hallway is also measured along the centerline and includes the total L- shaped length. The purpose for this requirement is tomandate supply power for a vacuum cleaner. This results in convenience and safety by helping avoid the use of ex- tension cords. E3801.11 HVAC outlet. A 125-volt, single-phase, 15 or 20 ampere-rated convenience receptacle outlet shall be installed for the servicing of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment located in attics and crawl spaces. The receptacle shall be accessible and shall be located on the same level and within 25 feet (7620 mm) of the heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. The receptacle outlet shall not be connected to the load side of the HVAC equipment discon- nectingmeans and shall be protected in accordance with Sec- tion E3802.4. ❖ When servicing or repairing HVAC equipment, a tech- nician usually needs power tools, instruments, or equipment. To avoid the necessity of a technician dragging an extension cord through the attic or crawl space, a receptacle outlet provides the necessary power.

  • And I thought my answers were long. Anyway You are correct in saying you can put as many outlets as you want on a single breaker, However the total anticipated load cannot go over 80%. Also your restricted if you use a 12 wire to a total length of no more then 93 feet. So assuming if you started right out of the panel and went every six feet which is a lot of outlets, all you would put in would be 15. Ideally less outlets per run are better, and breaking the outlets on each wall to be different power runs allows you to keep power on in the room while working on another branch within the same room. Rule of thumb is 180 watts assumed load per outlet. Do the math and go that route. Lots of good info anyway Bill.

  • Sherrie S
    Sherrie S Debary, FL
    on Jan 3, 2012

    Woodbridge, if anything comes from government documents & requirements it will be given to excessive and often trivial or rambling talk; tiresomely talkative & wordy. I know Bill H didn't write the details in his posting - This means people who carry a big book to check a job but are incapable of doing the job must read from the book & blah, blah, blah is their answer. I've seen/heard this when competent vendors worked at my home.

  • KMS Woodworks
    KMS Woodworks Nederland, CO
    on Jan 4, 2012

    Dang Bill...I do believe you have set the new world record for the longest Hometalk post ..EVER...Just for giggles I checked it...3790 words and 19264 characters....Woodbridge you have been De-Throned. But seriously ..cut and past of the IRC is pretty dry to say the least...I keep a copy in my office for consultation now and then ..but at 672 pages it's not something I carry about in my truck.

  • I bow down to Bill on his reply. lol. Well his cut and paste although is a bit on dry side, what code book is not, he did make a valid point about there is really no law against using more outlets in a branch run. However, Code book or not. The local code enforcement official will still have to sign off, and if Danial is having a licensed contractor do the final work, He or she will not allow any excessive boxes as their license will be on the line if he begins to trip breakers all the time because he or she wired in incorrectly. Sherrie, I totally agree with you on government documents. Always too wordy to get to a single point. But if they were simple anyone could do it. Part of getting licensed is the ability to make sense out of what they are talking about. As a pilot we have a book called the Far Aim This booklet goes in to every detail about flying a plane and the federal air system. To understand this book is a great feat. But you can purchase a simplified book that covers everything in this several hundred page book that is only about half its size. But you cannot use this book when you take any tests because its simple. And we wonder why taxes are so high in the country.

  • Daniel
    Daniel Mableton, GA
    on Jan 4, 2012

    Is the simplified book called " Flying For Dummys" ?? I am associated with the legal field & i too have to digest /translate mumbo jumbo also. government writers can never say 1+1=2. What I have learned is to plan for a plug every 6 feet- I might have spaced a little further - so that was good info. Now I just have to get to it. now that holidays are behind us..... Yes i do have a licenced electrician that will be finishing. It will someday have to be inspected by code enforcement so want to be in code & not have to do over later. I could have asked him how many recepticles per line but for several months i have been reading other's questions & thought i would just toss out mine.i have been reading

  • Bill H
    Bill H Ephrata, PA
    on Jan 5, 2012

    I do apologize for such a long answer, but I wanted to make sure you had everything you need to know about putting receptacles in a basement. The short answer is you need to figure out what electrical stuff you are using in the room and how long the cords will be and that will be where you need to but the receptacle because you should not need to use an extension cord to plug something in and you should make sure you make one plug is hooked to a light switch.

  • All that jibberish is confusing even to some electricians. Here it is short and sweet. Receptacles - within 6 ft of a doorway or opening, on any wall 2 ft or longer, not farther than 12 ft apart along the wall line at any location, no limitation on number per circuit but don't overdo it. I usually do 8-12 depending on total numbers. Split the number in half if there's more than 12. Lights - Use the wattage of the bulbs to determine total number on one circuit. P(watts) / E(volts) = I(current). so, 10 - 100 watt bulbs = 1000 watts 1000w / 120 v = 8.33 amps Max load amps allowed on a Circuit is 80% 20 amp circuit = 16 amps #12 wire 15 amp circuit = 12 amps #14 wire

  • MANUEL ALBERTO D
    MANUEL ALBERTO D Del Rio, TX
    on Jan 18, 2012

    I USUALLY RUN 6 OUTLETS ON A CIRCUIT(RESIDENTIAL)

  • Steve Boccalatte
    Steve Boccalatte Australia
    on Dec 9, 2015

    Yes, quite a grey area here. In Australia, our power circuits are generally 20amps, meaning that the total maximum load on the circuit should not exceed 20amps. So if you were wiring several bedrooms you could have more points than you would in a kitchen where loads are deemed higher per point. Overloading would throw a modern electronic circuit breaker instantly. Even Electricians get it wrong at times. Easy to work out a kitchen if you add up the total wattage of all the appliances if they were on at the same time. I did, and found that I needed to split some points onto another circuit so as to avoid the occasional switch tripping.

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