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Home 'Switch and Outlet Wiring Made
2011 NEC New
Read the legal
disclaimer page - click the legal link in the menu at bottom of
The 2011 NEC has added a new rule in regards to
switch circuits. NEC is the National Electrical Code which is
applicable to the United States.
That new code rule is...
404.2 Switch Connections
(C) Switches Controlling Lighting. Switches controlling
line-to-neutral lighting loads must have a neutral provided at the
What that means is that at every switch location there must be a
grounded conductor (neutral) present regardless if there is a need
or not. Now a lot of us will scratch our heads on this one just as
I did when I first heard about it thinking why is there a
requirement to have a grounded conductor (neutral) present when
the switch circuit does not require one at every switch box. But
as I research this in more detail as to why this would be a
requirement, I start to understand the intent of the new rule.
Modern times are getting more into the use of timers, and so
called green switches / controls that can sense the presence of
people and automatically turn off lights or switch them off after
a certain time set on the timers. Some users will try to install
these devices long after the original circuit was wired. These
special devices require a grounded conductor (neutral) present to
work. Using the equipment grounding conductor to take the place of
a grounded conductor (neutral) is not allowed. However some people
are tempted to do just that to enable the device to work.
The other side of the coin is that in a lot of switch circuits
some switch locations will not have an 'always on' ungrounded
conductor (hot) present which will not allow a timer / smart
switch to work anyway. Yet the new NEC rule still requires the
grounded conductor (neutral) to be present.
Like a lot of rules exceptions do exist...
The grounded circuit conductor shall be permitted to be omitted
from the switch enclosure where either of the following conditions
in (1) or (2) apply:
(1) Conductors for switches controlling lighting loads enter the
box through a raceway. The raceway shall have sufficient
cross-sectional area to accommodate the extension of the grounded
circuit conductor of the lighting circuit to the switch location
whether or not the conductors in the raceway are required to be
increased in size to comply with 310.15(B)(3)(a).
(2) Cable assemblies for switches controlling lighting loads enter
the box through a framing cavity that is open at the top or bottom
on the same floor level, or through a wall, floor, or ceiling that
is unfinished on one side.
Also note that this section seems to contradict code. As NEC
90.1(B) says: This Code contains provisions that are considered
necessary for safety. Compliance therewith and proper maintenance
results in an installation that is essentially free from hazard
but not necessarily efficient, convenient, or adequate for good
service or future expansion of electrical use.
Please view the following video that explains the rule...
I would really recommend taking the time to watch
the above video in full as it does explain the new rule in detail
Please note the NEC (and this new rule) only applies to the United
States and this new rule does not apply to Canada (is not in
Canadian code yet). However that does not prevent you from wiring
your switch circuits to comply with this new NEC rule even if you
live in a location where the 2011 NEC does not have jurisdiction
and may come in handy in the future having a grounded conductor
(neutral) available even if one is not required for the current
For a switch that is a cut off for a furnace is not controlling a
lighting load, and therefore this rule does not apply.
This website is aimed at an international audience with our main
audience being the United States and Canada, along with that not
all the switch wiring options presented on this website meet this
new 2011 NEC 404.2 (c) rule but each switch article will indicate
if that wiring option does meet the 2011 NEC 404.2(C), that will
be indicated just bellow the 'switch wiring title' but above the
disclaimer, as well as in the menus.
Some switch wiring circuits will now require a 4 wire cable (plus
bare) in order to comply with this new rule. On this website those
switch wiring options that used a 4 wire cable in order to comply
with this new rule has a 4th wire blue in color. From research it
seems to have two cable options available that is a 4 wire red /
blue / black / white (plus bare) cable and a red / black / white
and white with a red strip through it (plus bare). If you get the
cable with the 4th wire being the white with a strip through it,
use that wire in place of the blue wire indicated in the switch
articles, and indicate at both ends of that wire that it is being
used as an ungrounded conductor by wrapping a piece of black
electrical tape at both ends of the wire on this cable (you could
also blue electrical tape).
Now 4 wire cables are available but you may have to look around
for it, and I suspect more places will be carrying it as the
demand rises due to this new NEC rule.
By: Donald Kerr
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