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When was a disconnect within sight of an air conditioner or heat pump first required?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The National Electrical Code’s requirement that “disconnecting means shall be located within sight from, and readily accessible from the air-conditioning or refrigeration equipment” first entered the code in the 1975 edition (NEC 440.14). The 1978 NEC further clarified “within sight” cannot exceed 50 feet from the unit. “Readily accessible” means that access does not require the use of tools (other than keys), climbing over or under or removing any obstacles, or the need of a portable ladder.

    While the year that the NEC added a new requirement is easy to define, each local juridiction’s building codes don’t necessarily adopt the latest edition of the NEC immediately. The state of Florida, for example, did not make the 2011 NEC effective until mid-2015. Other jurisdictions have sometimes waited even longer to adopt a newer NEC edition and, to complicate things further, they might make amendments that exclude parts of the newest requirements. So the year when the NEC first adds or changes a requirement can be several years before your local building department adopted that edition of the code and began enforcing it.

    The disconnect can be located on, or within, the equipment, but cannot be mounted on any panels that allow access for service or a location that obscures the equipment data plate. Where the equpment is within sight of an electrical service or distribution panel, its breaker in the panel can serve as the required disconnect. Shown below is an example of an incorrect installation.

    There also must be a 30” wide by 36” deep access area in front of the disconnect, which means that the disconnect should not be installed on a wall directly behind the condenser if the condenser would be within the access area. 

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  To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:

How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? 

My air conditioner won't turn on. What's wrong? 

How can I find out the size of my air conditioner? 

How can I tell whether the condenser (outdoor unit) is an air conditioner or heat pump? 

Where is the air filter for my central air conditioner and furnace? I can’t find it? 

Does an old air conditioner use more electricity as it ages? 

How did homes stay cool in Florida before air conditioning? 

What is wrong with an air conditioner when the air flow out of the vents is low?

Why has the thermostat screen gone blank? 

Why does it take so long to cool a house when an air conditioner has been off for a while? 

Why is my air conditioner not cooling enough? 

What are the most common problems with wall/window air conditioners?  

Will closing doors reduce my heating and cooling costs? 

   Visit our HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING and ELECTRICAL WIRING pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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