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National Electrical Code Articles and Information

National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 242 -- Overvoltage Protection

Based on the 2020 NEC

by Mark Lamendola

Please note, we do quote from copyrighted material. While the NFPA does allow such quotes, it does so only for the purposes of education regarding the National Electrical Code. This article is not a substitute for the NEC.

With the 2020 revision, Articles 280 and 285 were deleted and replaced by Article 242.

These are the 10 NEC Article 242 items we deem most important, based on the pervasiveness of confusion and the potential costs of same.

  1. Article 242 is entirely new with the 2020 NEC. It consists of three Parts: General, Surge-Protective Devices (SPDs) 1000V or less, and SPDs over 1,000V.
  2. The General requirements are thin, to say the least. There's the statement of scope (summed up in the second sentence above) and a requirement to refer to Table 242.3.

  3. Table 242.3 lists other Articles that may apply. There are 15 listed.

    SPDS rated 1000V or less:
  4. SPDs may be Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, or Type 4. The definitions are in Article 100, under "Surge-Protective Device (SPD". Types 1 - 3 are differentiated by where they are installed. Type 4 are component SPDs and assemblies. See UL 1449 for more information about these Types.
  5. Each type of SPD, as you may have guessed, has its particular requirements. See 242.12, 14, 16, and 18.

  6. SPDs must be inaccessible to unqualified people unless listed for installations in accessible locations [242.22].

    SPDs rated for over 1000V:
  7. SPDs cannot be installed where the SPD rating is less than the maximum continuous phase-to-ground voltage at the power frequency available at the point of application [242.10].

  8. Where used at a point on a circuit, there must be an SPD for each ungrounded conductor [2424.44].

  9. You must connect the arrestor to a grounded service conductor, grounding electrode conductor, grounding electrode for the service, or equipment grounding terminal in the service equipment [242.50]. Do you see what's missing here? That's right, you can't just drive a ground rod and connect to that. Why? Because electricity seeks to get back to the source (thus, grounding electrode for the service). Simply driving a ground rod creates a dangerous multi-path of varying impedances to the source.

  10. You make different kinds of interconnections based on the various conditions listed in 242.54. For example, if you have a multi-grounded neutral primary system there has to be at least one other ground one the ground conductor of the secondary (among other requirements) [242.54(B)(2)].

Check out this grounding case history!

How the NEC is arranged

  1. The first four Chapters of the NEC apply to all installations.
  2. Article 90 precedes Chapter One, and establishes the authority of the NEC.
  3. Article 80 follows the body of the NEC; it exists as Annex H. It provides the requirements for administration.
  4. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are the "special" chapters, covering special: occupancies, equipment, and conditions (in that order).
  5. Chapter 8 provides the requirements for communications systems.
  6. Chapter 9 provides tables.
  7. The appendices provide mostly reference information.
  8. Appendix D contains examples that every NEC user should study.

Try your NEC moxy:

  • Do you know the difference between bonding and grounding? Hint: Look in the NEC, Article 100.
  • Does the NEC refer to grounding incorrectly in any of its articles? Yes! So be careful to apply the Article 100 definitions. Don't ground where you should bond.
  • When doing motor load calculations, which Article covers hermetic motors? Answer: While Article 440 covers the application of hermetic motors, it does so only by amending Article 430 because hermetic motors are a special case of motors. For motor load calculations, refer to Article 430.
  • Does the NEC provide a voltage drop requirement? Yes! It does so in a special case, which is Article 648 Sensitive Electronic Equipment. But for general applications, it does not provide a requirement; it merely provides a recommendation in a couple of FPNs.
  • Take our Code Quizzes.

Remember other applicable codes, rules, standards, and references:

  • OSHA's electrical worker safety rules.
  • IEEE standards.
  • NETA standards.
  • NFPA standards.
  • International Codes (if applicable to the installation).
  • State Codes (if the state has them).
  • Local ordinances and permit requirements.
  • Local fire codes.
  • Manufacturer requirements or guidelines.
  • Customer security requirements.
  • Industry standards.
  • Your company's own internal standards, practices, and procedures.
  • Engineering drawing notes.


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