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I live in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. I have noticed that one breaker controls the lights and outlets in the two bedrooms and the bathroom as well as the hall. Is this even legal?

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    What year was the building built? The current Dedicated circuit requirement would not cover older buildings so yes it may be code compliant.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 13:21

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In new construction, the bathroom requires a dedicated circuit for receptacles, with two exceptions:

  • It can also power lights in the bathroom
  • It can power receptacles in multiple bathrooms

In general, lighting can be on the same circuit pretty much everywhere, though it is a good idea to have lighting on at least two different circuits (e.g., alternating rooms) so that if you are working on one lighting circuit you still have some lights available on another circuit.

While receptacles in new bathrooms (and kitchens and certain other specific requirements) need to not be shared with the general lighting circuits and with receptacles in other rooms, code has changed significantly over the years. According to this post, the requirement started in 1996. So if the apartment is older than 1996 (or actually a little newer, as many places take a few years to adopt each major NEC revision), it is likely code legal to have the circuit as described, because it was legal at the time it was installed and, with very few exceptions, upgrading to meet new NEC requirements is not required except for new circuits or significant renovations.

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    A change in occupancy is a big one for updates being required.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 13:23
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    Potentially change of ownership too. Modernizing the mostly vintage 1950's wiring in my grandfathers home tossed a lot of grit into the process of selling it after he died. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 14:18
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    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight I am pretty sure that is jurisdiction dependent. At least based on the mostly 1950's houses I have seen (including my own) that often still don't have grounded receptacles, GFCI in kitchen and bath, etc. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 14:30
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    Aren't all rewire to modern code requirements jurisdiction based? In my case, almost the entire suburb was built in a few years as the city sprawled out. I suspect that wanting to purge all the 2 prong outlets - both for safety and property value reasons - was probably the original reason behind the local govt requiring modernization at time of sale. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 14:36
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    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight How on earth is your local gov't not voted out of office after that (and a new gov't that will repeal that voted in)? I'm not saying it's not a good idea, just that it would be really bitter medicine for people to swallow. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 20:36
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Yes, hall outlets/lights, 2 bedroom outlets/lights, and bathroom hardwired loads (lights etc) can be all on the same circuit.

There is no requirement of "1 circuit per bedroom" since bedroom outlets were conceived of for lighting, and nobody ever imagined an air conditioner in every room. Anyway modern small 5000 BTU window A/C's pull less than 5 amps, so no trouble running 2 of those on a circuit. If you can't run two window A/C's, you're either too ambitious (trying to run big units) or are running old inefficient units, or "portable" A/Cs which are also dreadfully inefficient for different reasons.

A special rule applies to bathroom receptacles. They must be on a dedicated 20A circuit that serves only receptacles in bathrooms plural, or (alternate rule) only receptacles and hardwired loads in one bathroom. That's for hair dryers etc.

NEC says the following:

90.1(A) Practical Safeguarding. The purpose of this Code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. This Code is not intended as a design specification or an instruction manual for untrained persons.

Many people including landlords and builders mistake NEC for a "Best practices for world-class homes" design guide. Actually, it's "Slumlord Bare Minimums below which, a home is not fit for human habitation".

Unfortunately, the bathroom requirement was added to Code in the, gosh, 1990s? And any work that was issued a permit prior to that is allowed to remain the way it is. My entire cottage runs on 2 breakers. We know our amp loads and don't exceed our breaker rating. Want to run the toaster (8), turn the heater (12 or 7) to "low".

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