When it’s time to renovate your kitchen, the temptation is to try and save money along the way. After all, a complete renovation is expensive. New appliances, cabinets, lighting, flooring, and plumbing all add up. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you’re probably planning to do a lot of the work yourself, right?
But, before you jump in, remember that 50% of all fires start in the kitchen. And more than a third of home fires are caused by electrical problems. Knowing that, proper wiring – done to the electrical code – is one area you should leave to the pros. Let’s take a look at kitchen code requirements.
A Word About Electrical Code
Building codes – particularly wiring codes – aren’t just a bunch of rules drawn up by bureaucrats sitting in an office. The National Wiring Code, adopted by all 50 states, results from constant work by industry professionals to keep you and your family safe. It changes as circumstances and technology change.
For example, if your kitchen wiring is twenty years ago, chances are, you had far fewer countertop appliances – and they drew less power. You might have had just two or three circuits. If you’re adding an island, that means more wiring.
Any major kitchen remodeling project inevitably means adding new circuits. Today, seven or eight circuits are the norm. Is your current breaker box capable of taking new circuits? Should you add a sub-panel? Do you know all of the cabling and wiring requirements per code?
Technology changes, too. Tamper-resistant outlets, which protect children from sticking conducive objects into outlets – weren’t around just a few years ago.
Working with a licensed, certified electrician only makes sense. They know the codes inside and out. Getting them involved in the planning early can save you money. And having them complete the work gives you safety and peace of mind.
Kitchen Electrical Wiring Overview
Kitchens use three primary types of circuits. And all kitchen electrical plans will have at least one of each. Dedicated circuits for your numerous small countertop appliances are essential for electrical safety. Large appliances – stoves, for instance – use what are called permanent circuits. Finally, at least one lighting circuit is required.
Now, let’s look at some specific requirements per electrical code.
Any kitchen lighting plan should start with at least one circuit with a light switch (or two) at the entrance. Beyond that, another 15-amp circuit is needed to power lights for the cooking area. Those lights can be ceiling or canister lights, strip lights, or under-cabinet lights.
Having a separate switch for each set of lights is a nice feature. It’s also good to use a 20-amp circuit for the general lighting. That lets you add or upgrade lighting downstream.
Remember that AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) protection is a requirement for all lighting circuits. Although it’s not always required, GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protection is a good idea for any switches that are close to a sink.
When planning your new kitchen lighting, you’ve got lots of choices:
- General lighting – surface or recess mounted
- Area lighting – used to illuminate a specific spot (for example, the sink)
- Task lighting – often mounted under upper cabinets to light up a section of counter
- Cove lighting – mounting cove lights atop wall cabinets creates a halo effect
- Pendant lights – great for lighting up an island or kitchen eating area
- Accent lights – perfect for adding focus to your special china or a favorite piece of art
Your electrical contractor’s experience and lighting knowledge are a big help in planning your kitchen’s lighting!
Today’s microwaves – drawing up to 1500 watts – call for a 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuit dedicated to the microwave. Wiring is specified as 12/2 NM with ground. AFCI protection is required.
Dishwasher and Garbage Disposal
Dishwashers also need a dedicated circuit – 20-amp, 120/125-volt, using 12/2 NM wire with ground. Be sure to have enough slack in the dishwasher line so you can pull the unit out for repair!
In some areas, your dishwasher and disposal can share a 20-amp circuit. The total draw can’t exceed 80% of the circuit’s amperage rating. Your licensed electrical contractor will know what’s allowed.
If the disposal needs a separate circuit, it’ll be another 20-amp circuit, 120/125-volt, using 12/2 NM wire with ground. Dishwashers and disposals require GFCI protection. An AFCI requirement may also apply.
Another dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuit with 12/2 wire and ground is needed for your refrigerator. AFCI protection is required again, and GFCI may be. Those required circuits start to add up!
Most new ranges call for dedicated 240/250-volt, 50-amp circuits. That means either 6/3 NM cable or #6 THHN wire run in a conduit.
Some ranges will require even higher-rated circuits. Check your appliance specifications early on! A cooktop and wall oven can share the same circuit – but not exceed the circuit’s capacity.
A 120/125-volt receptacle will do if you’re cooking with gas. You might want to install a circuit for an electric range anyway. That allows you to switch from gas later on.
In most areas, a minimum of two 20-amp circuits for countertop (or island) outlets are required. You will probably want more, so plan carefully. They all need both GFCI and AFCI protection.
Remember that all 20-amp countertop (and island) receptacles powering small appliances and all 15-amp circuits need to be tamper-resistant.
Here are a few planning tips:
- Do not mount receptacles face-up
- A receptacle is needed for each countertop wider than 12″
- Receptacles must be less than 20″ above countertops
- No more than 48″ between countertop receptacles
Wiring Your New Kitchen
Now you have a better idea of everything that’s involved – and required – in safely wiring your new kitchen. With the ever-changing electrical code requirements, it makes sense to call in the professionals. They’ll be able to answer all of your questions and help you plan your dream kitchen. Then, when they finish the job, you can rest assured it’s done safely and to code. Call Down to the Wire today!