What does NEC stand for?

The NEC is the National Electrical Code, a global standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment. Formally identified as ANSI/NFPA 70, the NEC establishes the basis for electrical safety in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Every electrician should be familiar with the NEC’s standards; licensed electricians are taught the Code during classroom trainings and through their on-site apprenticeships—this way all licensed professionals are on the same page. Knowledge of the Code is an integral part of the electrical industry, as the NEC is the most universally adopted and definitive set of guidelines for safe electrical installation. By adhering to the Code, electricians can prevent fires and property damage, and help ensure the safety of themselves and everyone around them.

The National Electrical Code undergoes revision once every three years to incorporate new changes in safety and technology. While the 2017 NEC edition is the most current, a new 2020 edition should be released shortly. The NFPA has administrated the Code for more than a hundred years, and the Code is currently regarded as an important proponent for the NFPA’s focus on electrical safety and self-regulation.

The NEC is broken down into chapters, as well as an introduction and annexes, which contain in-depth information on:

  • Chapter 1: General.
  • Chapter 2: Wiring and Protection.
  • Chapter 3: Wiring Methods and Materials.
  • Chapter 4: Equipment for General Use.
  • Chapter 5: Special Occupancies.
  • Chapter 6: Special Equipment.
  • Chapter 7: Special Conditions.
  • Chapter 8: Communications Systems.
  • Chapter 9: Tables and Annexes.

In addition to overseeing the official editions of the National Electrical Code, the NFPA also publishes NEC handbooks, which contain the entire Code and extra illustrations and explanations.

Not every single state in the U.S. adheres to the same version of the NEC; a few states still enforce the 2011 and 2014 editions of the Code. This is because the NEC doesn’t fall under federal law; instead, it’s regarded as a “uniform code,” simply a set of guidelines that may be adopted and applied as individual states see fit. The NEC Adoption Map, maintained by the NFPA, shows which states have which editions currently in place.


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