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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:
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