National Electrical Code Articles and Information
National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 440 -- Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment
by Mark Lamendola
Based on the 2017 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 440 items we deem most important, based
on the pervasiveness of confusion and the potential costs of same.
- Article 430 also applies. You cannot apply Article 440 without
also applying Article 430 [440.3].
- This Article applies to air conditioning and refrigeration
equipment that has a hermetic motor. For all other air
conditioning and refrigeration equipment, refer to Article 442 or
424 as appropriate [440.3].
- Determine the ampacity and rating of equipment per 440.6(A) and
- When performing calculations for multi-motor installations
(meaning you will comply with 430.24, 420.53, and 430.62), you have
to consider one motor to be the one with the highest rated load
current. That motor is going to be whichever motor is the largest.
If your two largest motors are the same size, pick either one
- Air conditioning and refrigeration system motors are considered
a single machine, even if the motors are remotely located from each
- When sizing the disconnects for air conditioning or
refrigeration system equipment, different methods apply, depending
on the type of load. The load type may be a single hermetic motor
only, combination loads, or a small motor load [440.12(A),
440.12(B), and 440.12(C).]
- The rules for disconnects in 440.11 apply to every disconnecting
means that is in the motor-compressor circuit between the point of
attachment of the feeder and the point of connection at the motor
- Size your short-circuit and ground-fault protective devices such
that they are capable of carrying the motor starting current
[440.22(A) and 440.22(B)], but don't use a protective device that
exceeds the manufacturer's values [440.22(C)].
- When sizing the branch circuit conductors for air conditioning
or refrigeration system equipment, different methods apply,
depending on the type of load. The load type may be a single
hermetic motor only [440.32] or combination loads [440.34 and
- You must provide separate overload protection for the
motor [440.52(A)] and overcurrent protection for the
How the NEC is arranged
- The first four Chapters of the NEC apply to all installations.
- Article 90 precedes Chapter One, and establishes the authority of the NEC.
- Article 80 follows the body of the NEC; it exists as Annex H. It provides the requirements for administration.
- Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are the "special" chapters, covering special: occupancies, equipment, and conditions (in that order).
- Chapter 8 provides the requirements for communications systems.
- Chapter 9 provides tables.
- The appendices provide mostly reference information.
- 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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