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Question: Single receptacle for a refrigerator?

Posted By Bill McGovern , Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 04, 2013

Question

Do I need to install a single receptacle for a dwelling unit refrigerator if I install a 15-ampere individual branch circuit by employing Exception No. 2 to 210.52(B)(1), or can I install a duplex receptacle for this appliance? I see a duplex receptacle installed in this application all the time, but the individual branch circuit thing makes me think this might need to be a single receptacle. JL

Answer

A single or duplex receptacle is acceptable in this situation. Section 210.52 addresses the requirements for dwelling unit receptacle outlets. Part (B) of this section covers the requirements for receptacles installed in the kitchen and other associated areas that will serve portable appliances along with refrigeration equipment. Exception No. 2 to 210.52 (B)(1) allows a receptacle for refrigeration equipment to be supplied from an individual branch circuit rated 15 or 20 amperes instead of the 20-ampere-rated small appliance branch circuit as specified in 210.11(C)(1).

It is best to understand what an individual branch circuit exactly is. Article 100 defines an individual branch circuit as: "A branch circuit that supplies only one utilization equipment.” Installing a duplex receptacle and connecting only a single piece of refrigeration equipment is not in violation of the Code in my opinion nor is it the opinion of Code-Making Panel 2.

A proposal (2-239) similar to this question was submitted at the Report on Proposal (ROP) stage for the NEC 2011 code cycle and was rejected with the following panel statement: "The panel does not agree that a single receptacle is required. A receptacle other than a single receptacle could be used and other means such as configuration or arrangement of the equipment could limit the application to a single utilization equipment.” A duplex receptacle occupying a dedicated space behind the refrigerator would not allow for the use of the other contact device, or the connecting tabs between the conductor terminals could be removed making the other contact device inoperable.

A similar situation may be the installation of a 110-ampere service using 2 AWG copper service conductors and Class J fuses. A 200-ampere fusible service disconnect would be required to accommodate the 110-ampere fuses. It would only be a violation to install overcurrent protection in excess of 110 amperes but the equipment involved would easily allow fuses greater than 110 amperes. It is always important to remember to check with the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) when in doubt of a specific interpretation.
—Bill McGovern, CMP-2

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Tags:  Focus on the Code  November-December 2011 

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