While plumbers have a straightforward reference for regulation about their work because there’s just one plumbing code in Virginia, electricians don’t have it so easy. Virginia electrical code is split between several different places. There’s the residential electrical code, the National Electrical Code (NEC), the energy conservation code — and the list goes on.
Ultimately, if you’re an electrician in Virginia, you’re probably wondering which code applies to you. And, perhaps more importantly, what you need to know from that code (since you probably don’t want to read the thousand+ pages of code itself).
So here’s a guide to Virginia electrical code, pointing out all the places you should look to find relevant code — and an easy way to stay up to date.
The answer to that is a little complicated. On September 4, 2018, Virginia adopted the 2015 Virginia Construction Code and the 2014 NEC. Yes, that means they’re a little behind since the NEC issued new code in 2017 and 2020. Still, though, at this point, the 2014 NEC still applies in Virginia.
Including the NEC, you can find relevant electrical code in quite a few places. Let’s look at each:
If there’s any single code you should look to as an electrician in Virginia, this is it — for now, anyway (the state is currently in the process of adopting the 2017 code).
You can access the full 2014 NEC here, if you care to read through the entire thing. But don’t feel like you have to. Later in this article, we’ll give you a quick and easy way to make sure you’re informed about the key things you need to know from that code.
Beyond the NEC, there are specific pieces of the state code that pertain to electrical work. Specifically, the residential code outlines electrical requirements for homes in the following places:
You really only need to worry about a couple of chapters in the state construction code, and one of them should only need a quick glance from you. Chapter 13 covers energy efficiency, which you should scan the end of just to make sure you’re aware of the latest regulation around equipment and appliance sizing.
More relevantly, Chapter 27 focuses on electrical work. You’ll see NFPA 70 referenced. That’s the NEC. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the organization that puts out the NEC.
Basically, all you need to know is that Chapter 6 says that electrical systems need to be maintained in compliance with current building code.
To stay informed about the latest in energy efficiency requirements, refer to the 2015 Virginia Energy Conservation Code. It outlines regulation for residential and commercial buildings, including existing buildings.
And if you install solar, you should probably scan the solar energy criteria in the 2015 Virginia Building and Fire Code Related Regulations.
Clearly, the laws and rules that pertain to electricians in Virginia are pretty widespread. Unless you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, you probably can’t (and definitely don’t want to) sit down and read it all. For starters, the 2014 NEC alone is nearly 1,000 pages.
But that doesn’t mean you should just ignore the latest regulations either. If you violate the state building code, the penalties are pretty stiff. You’re looking at a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $2,500 for the first offense. For every day you don’t fix the issue, you’re hit with another, separate offense. Repeat offenses get more expensive and if you’re convicted with three violations in 10 years, you could even be looking at jail time.
So what do you do? If you don’t have time to read through all the applicable Virginia electrical code but you face a pricey penalty for violating it, what are your options?
Don’t worry. There’s an easy way to stay informed about the most current, most important electrical code regulations. And it won’t require any extra time from you, either.
The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) already requires you to take three hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can get the required hours and learn about the latest code at the same time.
(If your license is renewing soon and you have continuing education requirememnts to fulfill, go to this page to view some Virginia state-approved contractor CE courses you can take online, today)
What’s more, you can do this online at your convenience. Just make sure you choose a CE provider that’s approved by the DPOR. For example, you can take a DPOR-approved course on 2014 NEC Electrician CE. Since this is the version of the NEC that’s currently in effect in Virginia, this is a great place to start.
Alternatively, if you want to get ready for the adoption of the 2017 NEC, you could choose this course (which focuses on Chapter 2 of the NEC) or this one (which focuses on Chapters 1 and 3).
Don’t stress yourself out trying to read through thousands of pages of code. Using the already required CE hours is a great way to stay informed about the latest Virginia electrical code requirements.