Kitchen Wiring Electrical Code: What You Need To Know Before Remodeling
Remodeling the kitchen is a complex project. There are a lot of things that need to be thoroughly considered. Not only do you have to decide on cabinets, countertops, sinks, lights and appliances, but you have to think of proper kitchen wiring to have electricity.
Because electrical codes are frequently updated, you need to make sure you follow the requirements of your local code. A significant number of appliances are found in the kitchen, so the National Electrical Code stipulates that multiple circuits are in order. In a modern kitchen, you will need to have seven or eight circuits, as opposed to a bedroom, for instance, where one general-purpose lighting circuit is enough.
Kitchen Wiring For Lighting
All kitchen wiring plans have three main circuit types: small appliances, general lighting and permanent (also known as large) appliances. The entire lighting in the room is supplied by the general lighting circuit. Additionally, every plan should include a circuit with at least one switch controlled light, situated at the room’s entrance.
Any kitchen needs a lighting circuit to light up the cooking area. A 15-amp, 120/125-volt dedicated circuit is necessary to power canister lights, under-cabinet light, strip-lights and ceiling fixtures.
It is important to be able to control the lighting, so you should consider adding a switch to each set of lights. Also, if you’re remodelling, maybe consider installing a 20-amp circuit for the general lighting, as you never know what your future needs might be.
Although in most jurisdictions, GFCI protection is not necessarily required for circuits that supply only lighting fixtures, you may have to consider it for wall switches located near the sink. AFCI protection, on the other hand, is required for all lighting circuits.
Types of Kitchen Lighting
- General lighting: also known as ambient light, it’s usually provided by ceiling-mounted fixtures. To disperse the light, you might want to go for LED recessed lighting fixtures. Surface mounted incandescent fixtures or pendant lighting fixtures would also look good.
- Cove lighting: to create a halo effect, go for cove lighting mounts on the top of wall cabinets.
- Area lighting: while focusing on a certain spot, area lighting can also provide general illumination. If you want to light up a specific area like the sink, install a LED recessed lighting fixture for great task lighting.
- Pendant lights: ideal for highlighting an area like the dining table or countertop. Make sure you position them over the center of the table and adjust the height.
- Task lighting: true to the name, it lights up a work surface. Make sure you position it in front of the person working, so it does not cast a shadow. A good place for them is the underside of wall cabinets.
- Accent lights: use these to draw attention to an object, like a wall hanging or o a collection of fine china for instance.
Kitchen Wiring For Receptacles
Two circuits for countertop receptacles are required by most kitchen wiring codes. In some regions, you will need to have receptacles with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and they must be on 20-amp alternating circuits. You need to check your local code.
When it comes to receptacles, there are several rules you need to consider. Here is what you will find in terms of requirements in the NEC:
- Receptacles are required for all countertop spaces of 12 inches and more.
- Receptacles should not be mounted face up and no more than 20 inches above countertops.
- All kitchen countertop receptacles are required to be GFCI.
- The first receptacles on either side of the sink has to be within the first 2 ft. of the sink basin.
AFCI protection is a newer requirement, brought by the 2014 National Electrical Code revision and extended in the 2017 revision.
Kitchen Wiring For Small Appliances
Every kitchen wiring plan has to include two 20-amp small appliance circuits, which serve all countertop receptacles and most wall receptacles, especially if you have them located in the dining room and pantry as well.
For toasters, electric grills, coffee pots, blenders and so on, you will need two dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuits. Of course, you can install more, but two is the minimum required by code.
During the planning stage of the remodeling, try to envision where you want to have appliances on the countertop. If that turns out to be a bit too difficult, then simply add additional circuits just to be safe.
And make sure that circuits powering plug-in receptacles for countertop appliances have GFCI and AFCI protection.
Kitchen Wiring For Permanent (or Large) Appliances
When it comes to large appliances in your kitchen, the NEC usually requires dedicated wiring for:
- Electric range, cooktop, or oven;
- Dishwasher and garbage disposer (make sure that these have dedicated circuits if together their rating exceeds one circuit’s capacity);
- Permanently mounted microwave, either hard-wired or cord-and-plug;
1. The Electric Range Circuit
A typical electric range requires a dedicated 240/250-volt, 50-amp circuit. So, you will need to install a 6/3 NM cable (or #6 THHN wire in a conduit) to feed the range. For gas range, only a 120/125-volt receptacle will be required to power the range controls and vent hood.
However, during the remodeling, consider installing an electric range circuit, even if you are not using one at the moment. You could decide to get one later one and it can actually increase the resale value of your home. Don’t forget to position an electric range correctly, pushed back into the wall.
New home constructions include 50-amp range circuits, even though some units require circuits as large as 60 amps and smaller units of 40-amps or even 30-amps.
When the cooktop and wall oven are separate units, NEC allows both of them to be powered by the same circuit, with the condition that their combined load does not exceed the safe capacity of that circuit.
2. The Refrigerator Circuit
For a modern refrigerator, you need a dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuit. For this circuit, 12/2 wire with a ground is necessary for the wiring
Unless the outlet is for a kitchen countertop, located in a garage or basement, the receptacle will not require GFCI protection, but AFCI protection is required.
3. The Dishwasher Circuit
A dedicated 120 volt 20-amp circuit is required using 12/2 wire with a ground. It is important to allow enough slack on the NM cable so that, in case it needs repairing, the dishwasher can be pulled out without being disconnected.
In case you decide to power the dishwasher and the garbage disposal with the same circuit, then make sure to install a 20-amp circuit. The total amperage of both appliances must not exceed 80% of the circuit amperage rating. Plus, you should check with your local authorities to see if this is permitted in your area.
Depending on the local interpretation of the Code, AFCI protection may not be required, but GFCI is.
4. The Garbage Disposal Circuit
A dedicated 20 amp circuit with a ground is required for this appliance. When the local code allows it, a garbage disposal can share a circuit with a dishwasher. However, make sure to check with your local building inspector.
When it comes to GFCI and AFCI protection, things tend to differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Even though including both types of protection is a smart choice, you will notice that GFCI is sometimes not required, as it can be prone to “phantom tripping” due to motor start-up surges.
5. The Microwave Oven Circuit
This appliance requires a dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuit, with 12/2 NM wire with a ground. Microwaves come in different sizes. Some are installed on the countertop, others are mounted under the cabinet.
Even though you’ve probably seen microwaves plugged into standard appliance outlets, larger ones can draw as much as 1500 watts, which is why they require dedicated circuits.
In this case, AFCI is required, but in most areas, GFCI protection is not.
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