I always experience a bag of mixed emotions this time of year — when I check the mail bins at work and realize I’ve received a package from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). My initial reaction is one of pure excitement. When I tear open the box and get my first glimpse of the newest version of the National Electrical Code (NEC), I feel like a kid on Christmas morning opening his first present. The cover is shiny, and the pages are all aligned perfectly. There are no frayed edges, torn pages, or post-it notes/tabs sticking out from all sorts of weird angles. It even has that new book smell.

My excitement quickly fades, however, when I realize what lies ahead. I picture myself spending countless hours studying the highlighted text throughout this nearly 900-page document. Knowing that I must review the entire document to familiarize myself with the enormous number of changes that have been made, I feel a bit anxious, wishing I had another box to tear into.

I realize it can sometimes take years for your local code authority to adopt the newest version of the NEC. This is why many of you tend to ignore the initial launch of this product in the short term, adopting a business-as-usual attitude. But sooner or later, almost all electrical professionals will have to abide by the requirements of this version of the Code, especially if you find yourself branching out and working in new geographic territories. So why not take the proactive approach and get ahead of the game by studying the changes now rather than later?

Fortunately for you, we’re here to help ease your fears and lessen your workload. As we’ve done for many years, EC&M enlisted the services of our NEC expert Mike Holt to bring you the Top 25 Code Changes associated with the 2011 version of what many of us view as the industry Bible. Starting on page 14 of this special issue, we present the most important changes that have been adopted in this latest change cycle. In fact, we devote 19 pages of this month’s issue to this one special article. Here’s a preview of the key changes you’ll read about in this comprehensive review:

  • Available fault current must now be listed on some types of equipment.
  • GFCI devices are now required in more areas, and they must be installed at readily accessible locations.
  • AFCI protection has been expanded in dwelling units.
  • Bonding and grounding requirements have been clarified for separately derived systems.
  • Expansion of the rule requiring identification of electrical ceiling support wires.
  • An extensive rewrite of the conductor ampacity requirements.
  • A new rule requiring a neutral conductor at nearly every switch point.
  • Tamper-resistant receptacles are now required in additional facilities.
  • Revision of the bonding requirements for swimming pools.

Don’t miss out on this valuable learning opportunity. Find a quiet place and set aside enough time to truly focus on the implications these Code changes will have on your work and your business. Consider it our little pre-holiday gift to you — minus the card, of course.