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Thread: Bathroom Circuits

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2003

    Bathroom Circuits

    NEC 2002 seems to have a circular reference that contradicts itself. 210.11 C.3 FPN states "Where the 20 amp circuit supplies a single bathroom, outlets for other equipment within the same bathroom shall be permitted to be supplied in accordance with 210.23 (A)". The 210.23 (A) FPN states: "The small appliance branch circuits, laundry branch circuits, and bathroom branch circuits required in dwelling units by 210.11 (C) (1), (2), and (3) shall supply only the receptacle outlets specified in that section". Our local jurisdiction interprets this to mean all bathrooms need to have (at least)two dedicated circuits one for receptacles, the other for lights and fans. Many electricians have disagreed. What is the correct interpretation?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Boston, MA

    Re: Bathroom Circuits

    FPN's are not enforcable as code requirements. You can feed one entire bath (lights, gfci, fan) with a 20 amp circuit that can feed nothing else outside of that bath. Or you could feed all the bathroom receptacles (receptacles only nothing else) in the house with one 20 amp circuit.
    There are two kinds of people - those smart enough to know they don’t know, and those dumb enough to insist they do.-----Margery Eagan

    Open shop since 1988

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Seattle, WA

    Re: Bathroom Circuits

    Originally posted by joemey: NEC 2002 seems to have a circular reference that contradicts itself.
    First of all, the FPNs you quoted were not the un-enforceable “Fine Print Notes.” Rather, they were “Exceptions,” and are therefore enforceable. Secondly, there is no “circular reference,” but rather what I would call a “mutual reference.” I see no contradiction between the two, but I do understand how others might see a contradiction.

    210.11(C)(3) speaks of outlets – the points at which power is taken for utilization equipment. 210.23(A) speaks of the utilization equipment itself, and its purpose is to limit the amount of load that the utilization equipment is permitted to draw from the circuit. Neither article undermines or restricts the use of the other, as they address different issues.

    Here’s my take on the subject:

    210.11(C)(3) and its Exception collectively do two things: (1) They require a 20 amp circuit dedicated to the bathroom, and (2) For the case of a circuit that feeds only a single bathroom, it permits that circuit to power the other loads in the bathroom (e.g., lights). When the Exception points to 210.23(A), it is saying that the total load drawn in that one bathroom, by the receptacles and lights to be powered from that one circuit, must comply with the limits established by 210.23(A).

    210.23(A) and its Exception collectively do two things: (1) They permit, in general, a 15 amp or 20 amp circuit to power combinations of lights and other stuff, and (2) In the specific case of a bathroom, they limit the use of the circuits to whatever 210.11(C)(3) says is OK. In other words, the Exception to 210.23(A) says that you can’t power any combination of lights and other stuff you wish (e.g., you can’t add the dining room lights), but rather that you can power only the lights and other stuff in that one bathroom.

    The interpretation that your local jurisdiction has espoused makes no sense for one simple reason. If you accept the notion that 210.23(A) prohibits anything but receptacles from being powered by the bathroom’s 20 amp circuit, then powering the lights from a second 20 amp circuit (or a third, or a fourth) is equally forbidden. That interpretation forbids the use of lights in any bathroom!
    Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
    Comments based on 2017 NEC unless otherwise noted.

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