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Why is the National Electrical Code (NEC) so hard to understand and complicated?
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
National Electrical Code (NEC) was first published in 1897 as a response by insurance underwriters to the numerous fires caused by early electrical systems. It is now updated and revised every three years with a new edition. If you can imagine how simple electrical systems were in 1897 compared to today, and add to that the fact that each revision is an overlay of the previous code, adding, deleting, and changing text here and there, how could it not get complicated? The photo above of the 1984 code on top of the 2017 code shows how much the NEC has grown in just the last 33 years.
Also, the NEC is not intended for use by someone who is not a professional electrician. Electricians spend lots of hours studying the code for their licensing exam, then take continuing education courses regularly to keep up with the code changes. New technologies such as solar power and arc-fault breakers have to be integrated with code standards dating back 50 to 100 years, like the requirement for receptacle outlets to be grounded that was added in 1959.
Learning To Speak A New Language: Electrical Code
A big part of learning the code is understanding the code-specific terminology. You have to acquire the nuances of “code speak." For examples, see our blog posts What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors? and What is the difference between a UL rating for dry, damp, and wet locations? and What is the most important sentence to know in the entire National Electrical Code (NEC)?
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