The National Electrical Code (NEC), a set of electrical standards published by the National Fire Protection Association, specifies minimum requirements for the number and placement of electrical outlets within habitable dwellings. The NEC is not a legally binding code in itself, but it is commonly specified by binding regional building codes as the set of standards that builders must follow.
Minimum Spacing on Walls
The NEC specifies that there should be an outlet on a wall or in the floor no further than 6 feet from any corner of a habitable room and that outlets should be no more than 12 feet apart. The goal of this requirement is that an electrical appliance with a 6-foot cord would be able to reach an outlet at any point along the wall. There also must be an outlet on any wall space that is 2 feet or more in width.
The same rules apply to kitchens, but there are additional requirements for outlets on walls above countertops. There must be an outlet above any counter space that is 12 inches or more in width, and outlets should be no more than 24 inches apart so that kitchen appliances with shorter cords are within reach of an outlet. For the purposes of this rule, any counter spaces that are separated by a range, refrigerator or sink are considered to be separate spaces, and islands or peninsulas at least 24 by 12 inches must have a built-in outlet.
The minimum spacing requirements for outlets applies to rooms with open wall spaces. Walls that are covered by permanent built-in cabinets or bookshelves are exempt from the rule. Outlets may be installed inside built-in cabinets or installed in the floor nearby instead of on the wall, but the code doesn't require that either of these alternatives be followed.
Exterior outlets must be installed at both the front and back of the home no more than 6 1/2 feet above grade level. Additional requirements may be put in place by local building authorities, such as requiring a minimum number of outlets that may be installed in any inhabitable room or linking the minimum number of outlets to the inhabitable square footage of a room.
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