Article 240 of the National Electrical Code (NEC) 2023, titled “Overcurrent Protection”, outlines the requirements for protecting electrical conductors and equipment from overcurrents. Overcurrents can be caused by a variety of factors, including short circuits, ground faults, and overloads. Without proper protection, overcurrents can damage electrical equipment, create safety hazards, and even cause fires.

Article 240 covers a wide range of topics related to overcurrent protection, including the types of overcurrent devices that can be used, the requirements for their installation, and the conditions under which they must be tested and maintained. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key provisions of this important article.

Types of Overcurrent Devices

Article 240 allows for the use of several different types of overcurrent devices, including fuses, circuit breakers, and other types of protective devices. Fuses are typically used for low-voltage applications, while circuit breakers are more commonly used for higher-voltage systems.

Fuses are designed to melt when they are exposed to excessive current, thereby breaking the circuit and protecting the equipment downstream. Circuit breakers, on the other hand, are designed to trip when they detect an overcurrent condition. They can be reset and reused, whereas fuses must be replaced once they have been activated.

In addition to fuses and circuit breakers, Article 240 also allows for the use of other types of protective devices, such as current limiters, ground fault protection devices, and surge protectors. These devices are designed to protect against specific types of overcurrents and can be used in conjunction with fuses or circuit breakers to provide additional protection.

Installation Requirements

Article 240 provides detailed requirements for the installation of overcurrent devices. For example, it specifies the minimum size of conductors that can be protected by a particular device, as well as the maximum size of conductors that can be connected to it. These requirements help to ensure that the overcurrent device is properly matched to the size and capacity of the electrical system it is designed to protect.

The article also outlines the placement requirements for overcurrent devices, such as their distance from the point of entry of the conductor, their location relative to other equipment, and the minimum clearance distances they must maintain. These requirements are designed to prevent overheating and other safety hazards that can result from improper installation.

Testing and Maintenance

Finally, Article 240 requires that overcurrent devices be tested and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they are functioning properly. This includes visual inspections, testing of trip functions, and replacement of any devices that are found to be defective or damaged.

In addition to these routine maintenance tasks, Article 240 also requires that overcurrent devices be tested under abnormal conditions, such as short circuits and ground faults. This testing is necessary to ensure that the device will function properly under extreme conditions and provide the necessary protection for the electrical system.


Article 240 of the NEC 2023 is a critical provision that helps to ensure the safe and reliable operation of electrical systems. By providing detailed requirements for the selection, installation, and maintenance of overcurrent devices, this article helps to prevent electrical equipment damage, safety hazards, and even fires.

It is important for electricians, contractors, and building owners to familiarize themselves with the requirements of Article 240 and to ensure that they are followed at all times. By doing so, they can help to prevent costly and potentially deadly electrical accidents and ensure the ongoing safety and efficiency of their electrical systems.