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National Electrical Code Articles and Information

National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 402 -- Fixture Wires

by Mark Lamendola

Based on the 2020 NEC

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.

These are the 10 NEC Article 402 items we deem most important, based on the pervasiveness of confusion and the potential costs of same.

  1. Donít dismiss flexible cords and fixture wires as not deserving your attention. There's a reason why the NEC covers them in two separate articles. Flexible cord requirements are in Article 400 and fixture wire requirements are in Article 402.

  2. The NEC does not consider these "a wiring method." You cannot use fixture wires where Chapter 3 wiring methods are required.

  3. Just as Article 400 provides a large table listing flexible cords, so it provides Table 402.3 to list fixture wire requirements. It's a big table relative to the article. The table is 2 pages, the rest of the article is about half a page.

  4. If you need to know the ampacity requirements for fixture wires, look no further than Table 402.5. It will tell you, for example, that the allowable ampacity of 12 AWG fixture wire is 23A. It is a small table, with only 5 rows of data.

  5. The smallest fixture wire you can use is 18AWG [402.6]. Anything smaller is a Code violation. And you can use this size fixture wire for a maximum ampacity of only 6A.

  6. You must size your raceways so they allow you to install and remove fixture wires without damaging the insulation. This may leave your raceways with a lot of empty space; if so, don't worry about it.
  7. Don't exceed the percentage fill specified in Table 1, Chapter 9 [402.7]. See 300.17 for additional details. If all conductors in a raceway are the same size and insulation, refer to Annex C for the maximum quantity per raceway type.

  8. If you read 402.10, you'll see that you can use fixture wires to connect luminaires. Don't read into this any more than it says. You cannot use fixture wires as branch circuit conductors [402.12].

  9. In addition to using fixture wires for luminaires, you can use fixture wires for Class 1 control and power-limited circuits [725.27(B)], nonpower limited fire alarm circuits [760.27(B)], and elevators and escalators [620.11(C)].

  10. You will find the requirements for using fixture wires for motor control circuit taps in [430.72(A)].


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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