Kitchen Wiring in Older Homes
In older homes that have not had their kitchen’s wiring systems updated, it is very common for kitchen wiring to be undersized for the electrical demands of a modern kitchen. It is not uncommon, for example, for a kitchen to have only two or three circuits, and for basic appliances such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal to be powered by the same general-purpose circuit that powers the light fixtures and countertop receptacles. Generally speaking, older wiring systems are allowed to remain in place (“grandfathered in”) when a kitchen undergoes modest remodeling efforts, such as simple replacement of appliances, flooring, and countertops. However, during major remodeling projects that require building permits, you may be required to bring your kitchen fully “up to code,” and this very likely will require adding several electrical circuits.
Kitchen Wiring in Newer or Remodeled Kitchens
During new construction or major kitchen remodeling, the building code will likely require that you bring both the plumbing and wiring systems into alignment with the current code requirements. This often involves adding electrical circuits and adding GFCI and/or AFCI protection. GFCIs have long been required in kitchens, but AFCI protection is a more recent addition.
AFCI protection: Beginning with the 2014 National Electrical Code revision and extended in the 2017 revision, a special type of circuit protection became required for many circuits in the home, including the kitchen. Known as AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupters), these devices are designed to sense sparking (arcing) that occurs when electricity jumps between faulty wire connections. AFCIs shut down the current flow before a fire can occur.
In kitchens, the best advice is to make sure that all 15-amp and 20-amp circuits have AFCI protection. While this can be provided by special AFCI outlets, it is more typically done by installing circuit breakers with built-in AFCI protection. It’s important to note that AFCI protection is different than GFCI protection, and it does not replace those requirements. GFCI (ground-fault circuit interruption) protection, on the other hand, is about protecting against shock.
Many kitchen circuits require both AFCI and GFCI protection. In these instances, an electrician may install combination GFCI/AFCI circuit breakers, or they may use AFCI circuit breakers in combination with GFCI outlet receptacles.
There is by no means consensus on the requirements for AFCI protection in a kitchen. Even within a single jurisdiction, different inspectors may have different interpretations of the requirements. In some areas, any circuit that is served by a plug-in receptacles or wall switches requires AFCI protection, while elsewhere, the requirement is for AFCI protection for all 15-amp or 20-amp circuits, even those serving only hardwired appliances. The only way to be sure is to consult your local authorities before doing any circuit work in a kitchen.
Adding the necessary AFCI protection must be done whenever circuit work is done in the home. A professional electrician may be obliged to add some form of AFCI protection whenever working on a kitchen circuit, even for work as basic as replacing a single outlet receptacle.
Here is a list of the required electrical circuits in new kitchen construction or a major remodel.
Source: The Spruce