With NAHB Support, a Big Win in the Electrical Code Over Nuisance Tripping
A coalition of HVAC manufacturers and home builders has won an appeal to remove certain requirements in the 2020 National Electric Code (NEC) that were causing air conditioner units to trip due to an incompatibility of equipment.
The appeal was led by Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Leading Builders of America and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, and was strongly supported by NAHB.
NAHB played an integral role as this issue developed, from a presence on the NEC code-making panel to drafting the substantiation for an amending motion. NAHB continued to bring the problem of incompatibility to the attention of code developers throughout the NEC development process.
At issue was section 210.8(F) of the 2020 NEC that requires a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker to be installed on connections between a new home's electrical system and the air conditioning condenser unit – the part of the HVAC system that resides outside.
GFCI breakers are specialized devices that prevent electrocutions in homes by quickly tripping the circuit when a potential electrocution event is detected. But before the 2020 NEC, GFCIs were not required for condenser connections, and as such, HVAC manufacturers had not engineered their products for such a connection.
After Texas adopted the 2020 NEC in full, home owners and builders in the state immediately began reporting issues with the GFCI breakers tripping when the air conditioner ran, sometimes multiple times each day, as the GFCI breakers are incompatible with HVAC units.
NAHB has been covering the issue, and previously reported on the issues raised in Texas and the actions taken by the HBA of Georgia to secure relief from the requirements.
Late last month, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – publishers of the NEC – agreed that the requirements were not compatible with current HVAC equipment and halted the GFCI mandate until Sept. 1, 2026, to give manufacturers time to engineer a solution.
NAHB urges members to check with their local code bodies to ensure that any adoption of the 2020 or future 2023 NEC contains the amended language exempting all outdoor HVAC equipment from GFCI requirements.