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IAEI News provides educational forums, updates on electrical codes and reports of innovative research to facilitate the development and enforcement of practices designed to drive efficiency and compliance with the highest standards of product development and safety—for the public as well as for electrical personnel. The magazine reaches authorities with power of product specification, approval and acceptance. Published six times a year by the International Association of Electrical Inspectors.

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Ask Not

Posted By Wayne Lilly, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

By the time this article is printed, my year as international president will have ended. Brenda and I thank each of you for your kindnesses during the section meetings. My time working through the chairs at the chapter, section and international levels has given me friends that I will cherish all my life and has afforded me countless learning opportunities. It has provided me with an appreciation of the hard work done by the leadership throughout IAEI and taught me what it means to be part of an organization dedicated to high standards and goals that are meant to serve the best interest of our fellowmen. I want especially to thank those three people who first introduced me to IAEI and mentored me: Byron Powell, David Miller and Melvin Young.

I spoke to some 1200 people at the section meetings, but know that many members were not able to attend. For those, here is a summary of my speech:

I want thank each member of the IAEI for your membership.

Because you are a member, IAEI will be able to participate in the present and future safe use of electricity.

Because you are a member, we will be able to continue to develop, offer and monitor exceptional programs for certification so that the best-qualified people can demonstrate their abilities.

Because you are a member, we will be able to participate directly in the writing of numerous electrical safety documents that make our homes and businesses safe places to live, work and play.

Because you are a member, you have a voice that represents you. Every time IAEI meets with organizations such as ICC, NFPA, CSA, NECA, IBEW, UL and IEC your interests are voiced.

Because you are a member, we are able to participate in online training sites such as

Because you are a member, we will be able to continue to have representation on numerous committees, to present training and information that is as good as any in the industry, to offer the best in technical publications and articles and to expand our role for your benefit.

Because you are a member, our children and grandchildren will enjoy the safe use of electricity.

The future of electrical safety depends on people being involved. Every day there are people and organizations, even governments, who are attempting to make the electrical business less safe. They tell us such things as self-certification of equipment is safe or that spot inspections are just as good as complete and full inspections and that certification of contractors and inspectors is not necessary.

IAEI is dedicated to and is actively supporting electrical safety. It supports good codes and good laws that promote that safety. Perhaps you want to become involved with IAEI. If you think that one voice is just a small noise that is unheard in the wilderness, join IAEI and let that voice be added to many so that it can be heard above the noise. If you think that working for the safety of our families, our loved ones and our children and grandchildren is important, then work together with IAEI to make it happen. If you want to make a difference, then join IAEI.

If you look at IAEI and are not interested in joining, then for goodness sake get involved with some other organization that actively supports and fosters safe electrical systems. Electrical safety is far too important to ignore. At some point in life we find ourselves reminiscing about the past. I would like to walk down memory lane with you, going all the way back to 1960. I was 13 years old. There was a presidential election in full swing in the United States, the first election I remember much about. One of the reasons it remains in my memory was the black and white television set in my parent’s living room. It brought the election right into my home. I was impressed with the grandeur of the conventions. Even the debates were exciting.

I cannot recall many of the specifics of the election, but the inaugural address by the newly elected president still stands brightly in my memory. I can still see him, in my mind, standing at the microphone, dressed in a business suit. When he spoke, it was cold enough that you could see his breath. He was very young, but also very old as there were age lines beneath his eyes. What he had to say was not the standard political line of the day. He called upon each of us to stand up, take hold of life and give it a shake.

If you do not recognize who that president was, you will probably recognize the most remembered sentence from that address. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy spoke those words with conviction.

Those words are still true today. They are a constant reminder of how we should live our lives. We should be dedicated to the concept of what we can do for others rather than what others can do for us. I know that is not what we are bombarded with day after day. It seems that everything from jean advertisements to health care insurance is aimed at self. They tout what we can get. They promise instant gratification.

Now we know that which has true worth and meaning does not come easily or instantly. It takes hard work and dedication, and it takes commitment.

I am going to ask you a question, and I hope it will make you think: "Why are you here?” Not in some vast cosmic sense; but rather, Why are you at this IAEI meeting?

I have asked myself that question many times, and the answer varies. Maybe the answer is to further my knowledge, or to meet old friends. Sometimes it is to get a couple of days away from work and the boss. Maybe, just maybe, it is to help others. Whatever your answer is, give some thought to the challenge from John F. Kennedy as it relates to your attendance at an IAEI meeting.

People often ask what IAEI can do for them. The answer is, quite a lot. IAEI offers many advantages to membership, such as a truly outstanding magazine, educational programs, unique certification programs, quality publications, direct input into the writing of safety documents, an opportunity for each member to have direct input into electrical safety documents, an opportunity to express your views to others and networking with others.

Those are excellent reasons for joining IAEI. However, there is a reason that far outweighs them, and that is reflected in John F. Kennedy’s challenge. That reason is service to your fellowmen. Service by participating in and supporting an organization dedicated to helping others stay safe and stay alive.

Within IAEI, you can find plenty of opportunities to serve. There are lots of committees, programs to produce, seminars to sponsor, training to give and educational programs for the general public. Be a participant. Be a provider. Be a helper. If you are unsure what you can do, ask someone. Make a commitment to IAEI. Be more than a semi-warm body sitting in the room. Give up that "I’m only one small person and I can’t change anything” attitude. Take a chance! Make something happen! IAEI has true worth and meaning. Its goals are worthy of pursuit. It does deserve commitment. I hope, in some small way, that I have challenged you to be a part of something bigger than you are. If I might be so bold as to steal some language from John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what IAEI can do for you, but what you can do for IAEI.”

Read more by Wayne Lilly

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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Opening an Electrical Business? Don’t Give Up Financial Security

Posted By Jesse Abercrombie, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Last year, more than 670,000 businesses opened their doors, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people set up their own shops every single year. If you’re considering startling your own electrical contracting or inspection firm, you’ve got a lot to be excited about, and you may be prepared to make large sacrifices to help your business succeed. But there’s one sacrifice you don’t have to make: your financial security.

Unfortunately, many business owners pour their entire lives’ savings into making their new ventures succeed — and that’s probably a big mistake. If you were a senior project manager for a great company and had a six figure retirement, don’t use those assets to start a new business. When you start up a business, you are already taking on a degree of risk, but you don’t need to jeopardize all your plans for the future.

So, before you launch your business, try to follow these basic guidelines:

  • Build an emergency fund. Make sure you keep at least six months worth of living expenses available in some type of liquid account, one that is completely separate from your business accounts. If you need to pay for a major fleet repair, deal with rising copper prices or cover a major medical bill, you’ll want to be prepared. And if you can’t pay for these items, your business will likely suffer, too.
  • Review your insurance coverage. Do you have enough life insurance to pay off your home and educate your children if anything happens to you? If not, you’ll want to upgrade your coverage. You also might want to add a mortgage protection benefit to your life insurance policy, so that you can keep up your house payments if you become disabled and can’t run your construction business for a while. Disability insurance may also be valuable, though you’ll need to shop around for a reasonably priced policy, as this coverage can be expensive.
  • Set up a retirement plan. If you worked at a large electrical company before striking out on your own, you might have contributed to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. But now that you’re the business owner yourself, you’ll have to set up your own retirement plan. Fortunately, many good plans are available. For example, if your business has no employees except you and your spouse, you can choose a SEP IRA, an owner-only 401(k) or an "”owner-only”" defined benefit plan. If you’e going to have employees, you might want to explore a SIMPLE IRA or a Safe Harbor 401(k). All these plans have both advantages and limitations; to find the one that’s right for you, meet with a financial professional who is experienced in helping small-business owners.
  • Choose the correct ownership structure. As a small-business person, you could be a sole proprietor, you could form a partnership or you might set up what’s known as an S corporation. The ownership structure you choose can have a big effect on some important issues, such as whether your health insurance premiums are tax deductible. Consequently, you may want to consult with your tax advisor before making a decision as to which route you will follow.

By following the above suggestions, you should be able to focus more intently on those tasks that can help you grow your electrical business. So, before you make the "jump,” plan ahead. You’ll be glad you did.

Read more by Jesse Abercrombie

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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The Authority of the Electrical Inspector

Posted By Michael Weitzel, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

All electrical inspectors have authority. The question is, How do they use it? Is it about their ego or about the work and safety for the customer?

Authority is needed in society to establish order; otherwise, there is chaos. Inspectors have authority for a purpose: to protect people and property. Some inspectors have misused their authority. That’s not what inspecting is about. Every electrical wireman or installer can recall from personal experience an inspector that in his view was unreasonable, unapproachable, or seemed to abuse his or her authority. Hopefully, they can also recall an electrical inspector who was professional and who possessed great experience and education, as well as good people skills, that they enjoyed working with; maybe, they even learned something from that inspector! Being this kind of professional should be the goal of every inspector.

All authority has its limits; everyone answers to someone. In order to have authority, one must be under authority. If a person gets out from under the authority, he may soon wind up with no authority and in trouble. Inspectors must follow the instructions of inspection supervisors, and work with them and the customers toward the goal of electrical safety. It would be nice if inspections always fit neatly in a box, but often they do not. How does the inspector deal with the situations when they do not? Existing installations can be an example of that.

If an insecure inspector inspects only to the letter of the law, and never considers alternate methods of code-compliance, he may need to reconsider his thinking. Is the inspector afraid of making a judgment call on what is safe or not, particularly if it does not fit perfectly with the written Code? Hopefully, not.


In inspecting, as in life, attitude is everything. Inspectors must be able to maintain a good attitude, even under stress and with difficult customers. Are the people whose jobs they inspect or whose questions they answer viewed as customers or inconveniences? What is the attitude of the inspector when he is speaking with customers on the telephone or in person? Is the inspector generally happy and positive, or is he negative and sulky? Would the inspector want to be treated in the same manner if the "shoe were on the other foot”? Most inspectors work for public agencies, and nearly all work with the public. If they are having trouble keeping a good attitude, they must seek help.


Electrical inspectors are seen as authorities on the Code. If they handle themselves in a professional manner, people will respect and look up to them. That brings with it the power of influence, which can be wasted or used for good to help and serve others. Whether inspectors realize it or not, they have a huge influence in the lives of others. One way is through praising workers for doing a good job. Since most electrical inspectors worked "with the tools” before becoming inspectors, they remember important things such as pride in workmanship or fine craftsmanship, and the fulfillment of producing work that a person can be proud of. Inspectors can influence those whose work they inspect by giving sincere praise for a job well done. It will be appreciated by the workers, and it will encourage them all the more to do fine work. Everyone likes to receive a sincere compliment on a quality installation, but most people receive little or no encouragement. However, if the inspector is truly sincere, it will be seen, and the compliment will be received.

People tend to rise to the level of what is expected. An installer that is praised for good work will be encouraged to do more of it. He may be a true craftsperson, but no one has ever appreciated his efforts. Sincerely expressed admiration of a job well done will build the working relationship between the inspector and the installer, which is a very good thing.

Another benefit is that when sincere praise is given for a job well done, inspectors are actually making their job easier little by little, because the quality of electrical work in the jurisdiction will improve. If a positive working relationship can be developed with the electricians, contractors, and property owners, they will take the inspector to parts of the installation that may be questionable, or where there are definite code violations, or where safety hazards exist, rather than avoiding them because of their fear of how the inspector will react—or overreact. They will begin to see the electrical inspector as an ally, not an adversary. And, when corrections are written, they will be better received, because they will be viewed by customers as being constructive and necessary.


Handling people in a polite and professional manner is important. Being on time for scheduled inspections or appointments shows respect for the other person’s time. How an inspector presents himself and the inspection agency are important as well. Attire should be clean, professional, and appropriate. Hard hats, earplugs, or other safety protection may be required. Many states have standards for foot protection and clothing for workers. Inspectors should follow safety standards that are appropriate for the work situations and environments in which they find themselves. No inspector should consider himself above the law.

Customer Service and Communication

Individuals and companies that purchase electrical permits are customers, and it is important to treat them with respect. Can the customer reach the inspector for questions by telephone at some time in the day? Is the staff at the permit counter able to contact the inspector when he or she is in the field? Is the inspector keeping his word to the customers? Is the inspector trying to keep projects moving? Does she return phone calls? Does the inspector have an attitude of service?

Studies show that a large percentage of communication is caught or perceived through watching a person’s body language. People can read body language, and hear tone of voice. It helps to smile more, to focus on what is important, and not to be overwhelmed by things that do not matter.

It is good also to be a thankful person. After dealing with some customers, an inspector can be thankful that they are not a part of his everyday life! It is also a good practice after every inspection, when the inspector returns to his or her vehicle, to take just a moment and think, What could I have done better on this inspection? Then learn from it.

Sometimes an apology is in order. An inspector can choose to be humble, admit when he or she is wrong, or when he has come across poorly to a customer. Most people will appreciate it, and respect will be earned, which will improve the working relationship. If the inspector is willing to listen to others’ ideas, he may learn something.

Part of being a good inspector is not laying out the work for customers, but helping them to know what the real concerns are, and perhaps making suggestions as to how they can comply.


Education is essential to being a good inspector. First, a good working knowledge of the Code is needed. The electrical industry is constantly changing and expanding, and electrical inspectors must grow with it in order to be qualified to inspect the work that will be seen. With good education and experience, an inspector’s comfort and confidence is increased, which shows in both his attitude and work. Second, inspectors should work to continue their education, and to earn certificates appropriate for all areas of their expertise. IAEI is here to help. Membership has countless benefits, with education, certification, seminars, and networking opportunities to help all inspectors to be the best at what they do.

Enforcement and Code Compliance

If the inspector can explain to his or her customers the reason the Code requires something, and how it affects their safety and protection, most people will comply with his requests. Knowing the objective the Code is trying to achieve and being able to explain it in a common sense and down-to-earth manner to most people—and in a technical manner to those who request it—will help the inspector to have a much better working relationship with the customers.

Many inspectors have been asked, What are your pet peeves? The assumption is that every inspector has pet peeves. Inspectors should look at the whole installation in a thorough and fair manner, evaluate for compliance with adopted codes and standards, and not have pet peeves. There is a perception among some installers in the field that some inspectors will focus on a certain few items and ignore the rest. Inspectors should not have unwritten rules that are enforced or requirements that cannot honestly be defended or explained. Part of being a good inspector is being able to explain why code-compliance is important, and why any particular requirement is needed.

Along that line, what is the electrical inspector accomplishing if he shows up on the job with a pocketful of red tags that can be easily seen by contractors and customers? Is that a good approach, or is he flexing his muscles? Is that the best way to get cooperation and compliance?

Consider the other side of the coin. Does the inspector make drive-by inspections and barely look at the work? Is the inspector talking too much about fishing or the ball game, hardly looking at the work, and yet signing it off? There are inspectors in the field that have done that, and it is irresponsible behavior. Very unsafe situations have occurred because of it. A conscientious inspector will never let it be said that the work wasn’t given a thorough and fair inspection—that is not what the customer is paying for.


An inspector’s power of influence can encourage others to be their best, to do better work, to take the next step in the trade, to pass an exam and to get a higher certification, or for others who are not yet in the trade to consider it seriously. The electrical trade needs new people to fill the demand that continues to grow in the United States. Helping others succeed creates personal satisfaction and great rapport with those the inspector deals with in the field.


What makes a good electrical inspector? Many people in the trade would say that he or she is a person:

1. with significant electrical field experience at a journeyman or master level; (Journeyman carries the connotation of having been around in the trade, working on a wide variety of installations, usually having traveled some, and being well-rounded. A journeyman should be able to perform any type of electrical installation—even though it is not his forte. He should be able to learn what he needs to get the job done right and completed within a reasonable amount of time, to get along with the electrical inspectors, and to be good to the customer and fellow workers. He should know how not to damage the place nor the tools and equipment, how to obey safety rules, and how to make the contractor money.)

2. who has served an apprenticeship or has some type of approved or equivalent training;

3. who has been tested, and has become certified by a recognized testing organization;

4. who has good public relations skills, who listens to others’ concerns, who can make decisions and communicate well, written and orally; and

5. who is secure in his or her position, does not abuse his authority, has the confidence to evaluate electrical installations for code-compliance, and is willing to consider alternate methods that meet the objectives of the Code.

All inspectors should work toward these goals. If an inspector has poor people skills and poor working relationships, it will handicap him or her in doing the job. It is important that all electrical inspections be thorough and of high quality, but appropriate and fair. If an inspector does any less, is he really serving the interest of safety and the best interests of his customers?

Standard Bearer

Electrical inspectors work every day to uphold a standard for safety that must be met for the protection of persons and property. They can and should take pride in what they do; but at the same time, they must be professional and do their best.

This article has discussed the importance of how electrical inspectors wield their authority, and the importance of maintaining a good attitude as they approach their work. It has discussed the influence that inspectors have to affirm and encourage others toward electrical safety. Additionally, the article has discussed the importance of professionalism, customer service and communication skills, and the need for continued education as the electrical industry continues to expand. Finally, it has discussed the fact that electrical inspectors are standard bearers for electrical safety codes and standards. If professional, qualified and certified electrical inspectors do not lift up a standard against unsafe installations, who will?

Read more by Michael Weitzel

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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2007 International President: Strength comes when we speak as one

Posted By David Clements, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

In November of 2006, David E. Clements assumed responsibility as the 2007 International President of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI). As the newly elected incumbent, Dave becomes the seventy-ninth serving International President of the association.

For more than twenty-five years, Dave has been active at the local, section and national levels of the association, and has served as a board member since 1995. Dave has also chaired the fiscal affairs and long range planning committee and was instrumental in forming the long-range planning committee (2002), which proposed both a business plan and strategies to ensure the association would continue as a leader in promoting electrical safety and the delivery of training material to the electrical industry.

With respect to the IAEI membership, Dave believes that "A major benefit of the association is the strength of its membership and the many networking and educational opportunities it provides its members. The collective experiences of our members provides ample opportunity to understand best practices in electrical installations and inspection and disseminates information through the IAEI News, chapters and sections. Speaking as one voice, our members give strength to the rigorous development and application of codes and standards. My involvement in the strategic planning process has convinced me that our strongest asset is our members. It is critical to continue to add and retain members, and the organization must continue to offer the best possible member benefits in order to achieve this. We must ensure that our members have useful career tools that assist them in staying ahead of the latest electrical trends, accessible and diverse opportunities for networking and strong professional development programs.”

Dave began his electrical career in 1973 as an apprentice electrician, receiving his training and education through the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology, which lead to the receipt of his certificate of qualification as a construction electrician in 1978. After several years in the electrical trade, working for a local electrical firm, he decided in 1981 to take a position with Nova Scotia Power as an electrical inspector. Five years later, Dave was promoted to an electrical inspection specialist, and in 1998, he was appointed chief electrical inspector of Nova Scotia Power Inc. Dave is responsible for overseeing the Electrical Inspection Department. Presently, he sits as a voting member on the Technical Committee on Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, and is a member of the Regulatory Authority Committee and the Canadian Advisory Committee on Electrical Safety.

When asked about how he first became involved with the IAEI, Dave recalled that "I became a member of the IAEI in 1981 when Floyd Coolen, chief electrical inspector at the time, started the Nova Scotia Chapter of IAEI. He required that all electrical inspectors join the association. I soon became involved with the local chapter and eventually became chapter chairman; it never entered my mind that twenty-five years later I would have the honor and privilege of serving as the international president.”

Dave is a strong believer and advocate of continuing education. Since joining Nova Scotia Power Inc., he has become a Certified Engineering Technician and has received a Certificate in Management from the Canadian Institute of Management through Saint Mary’s University. He has also earned a Certificate in Photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NASCAD University). When asked about why he is so passionate about continuing education, Dave replied, "I feel that one’s learning never ends and it’s important to continue to upgrade one’s skill and knowledge. It is especially important for those involved in the electrical industry, such as inspectors, electrical designers, installers and manufactures, to keep abreast to changes within the industry. The IAEI is able to facilitate the sharing of knowledge amongst its members and offer top-notch professional development.”

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he currently resides with his wife, Jacquenette, Dave has worked for Nova Scotia Power Inc., for the past twenty-five years. He also has a twenty-nine year old son, Ben, who presently lives and works in St. John’s Newfoundland. Dave is an avid golfer, enjoys fishing, and plays hockey, the great Canadian past-time, during the winter months. Other hobbies include; furniture making, stain glass, and black and white photography. No stranger to volunteering, Dave has held numerous positions in the community, such as: chairman of the Bridgewater Parks & Recreation Commission, school trustee, president of a Golf and Country Club, and he also served for three years as president of a Minor Hockey Association.

Dave adds that, "I’m looking forward to my new responsibilities as president and in meeting as many members as possible during my term. We have a dependable, knowledgeable and hard working team of employees at the international office whose goals are to provide the best services and products to our members. Your board of directors is committed and dedicated to make the IAEI the strongest association in the electrical industry, and so am I.”

Read more by David Clements

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes disguised as work

Posted By James W. Carpenter, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

September 9, 2006 — 250; October 20, 2006 — 262. After six weeks of traveling to all six section meetings that is how much weight I gained. Weight is not all I gained though. Each section meeting offered great educational opportunities in its own unique way. From presentations on Solar Photovoltaic and Fuel Cells Systems at the Northwestern Section; Code Breakfast and Code Panels at the Western Section; Breakout Sessions at the Canadian Section; Code Breakfasts and Analysis of Proposals for the 2008 NEC at the Eastern Section; Code Panel discussions at the Southern Section; to presentation on Fire Pump Installations and Swimming Pools and Spas at the Southwestern Section, education was the focus.

If you did not go to your section meeting, it is not too early to plan to attend the 2007 section meetings. There are some great locations in store for the meetings and, again, much needed educational opportunities abound. For the student of the NEC, the 2008 NEC will be out and analysis of the significant changes will be the primary focus for the educational part of the programs. Don’t miss this occasion to meet with your fellow compatriots to learn, share, and meet others.

National, state, and local elections were held in November and some new faces will be seen as legislators, judges, and in other positions. IAEI had elections in 2006 also. Officers and representatives to the board of directors were elected and installed at the section meetings, and officers of the international board of directors were elected at the November board meeting. David Clements is the new international president for 2007.

Did you ever wonder why people volunteer for leadership roles in IAEI? There is no money paid to serve in these positions. Even on a more basic level, why are they in the electrical trade anyway? What was your reason in making the electrical profession your profession? I suspect that we all have differing reasons for doing what we do and the reasons may change from time to time. Is it just a job or is there a desire to make the world or place where you live and work a safer place electrically or somewhere in between?

I remember when I started with Modern Electric in Durham, North Carolina, I was looking for a job and several of my buddies were working there. I soon found that I enjoyed the work. I enjoyed being a part of creating a building from a hole in the ground to a new facility. I was proud to be able to say "I helped put the electrical system in that structure.” As I advanced from an apprentice to a journeyman to a field superintendent, I was always learning from my co-workers. I became involved in training. I remember being asked why I served on the apprentice training committee and I replied, "Because if I can help train future electricians, then my job as superintendent will be easier; and I will know that the electrical system will be installed so that it remains safe for the life of the building.” That same philosophy followed me when I became an inspector. I suspect that those that have been elected to lead the IAEI from the division level to the international level have some of the same feelings as to why they are in the electrical trade. How about you? Are you in the trade just to draw a paycheck? Share your knowledge gained with others. Don’t be like the electrician that stood in front of a control panel so that I could not see what he was doing, but be like the foreman that got down on the floor with me and drew out how three-way and four-way switches worked when I was a green helper.

I challenge you to share with the IAEI News why you are in the electrical business. Maybe others will join us in promoting installation of safe electrical systems and the safe use of electricity. We can even start with the grammar school kids — "I am Safety Smart”

The "I am Safety Smart” program got off to a great start during the section meetings. Sixty-three people received training to become ambassadors and trainers. Ten chapters received kits that are used in the classroom to carry the "I am Safety Smart” lesson. Those first ten kits were provided to IAEI by Underwriters Laboratories. IAEI printed the manuals, flash cards, workbooks, and the student prizes with the IAEI logo. The cost of the IAEI-provided material was shared by the chapters that received them. The International Board of Directors included in the 2007 budget, funds to subsidize ten additional kits. The kits consist of a tote bag with the printed material and enough student prizes for three classes for K–3 grades, and a toolbox with items for classroom demonstrations, printed materials, and student prizes for fourth–seventh grades. If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, contact your division or chapter secretary. The secretary should contact Kathryn Ingley at the International Office for information on how to join IAEI and UL in the "I am Safety Smart” program. See information on the program in this issue of the IAEI News. An attendee at one of the training sessions remarked that if we had been doing this program twenty years ago, then maybe we would not be facing attacks on the electrical safety system today—attacks such as reduced staff, cutting inspections, and accepting unlisted equipment. Also, maybe the message that the program presents to our next generation will prevent what happened to the little boy in North Carolina from happening to another child. See the article "If a fire breaks out, get out and stay out” in this issue.

Again, why are you in the electrical profession?

Read more by James W. Carpenter

Tags:  Editorial  January-February 2007 

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Are low-voltage landscape luminaires (lighting fixtures) Listed to be installed in the ground 3 feet from a swimming pool?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Question: Low-voltage landscape luminaire

Are low-voltage landscape luminaires (lighting fixtures) Listed to be installed in the ground 3 feet from a swimming pool? How about if I use a power supply listed for use with swimming pool lights?


UL Listed low-voltage landscape luminaires are for installation not less than 10 ft from a swimming pool, whether in or on the ground, and are not for use where supplied by a Listed swimming pool transformer or any other power source other than a Listed landscape power unit.

Article 411, Lighting Systems Operating at 30 Volts or Less, of the NEC-2005 includes installation requirements specific to the luminaires and other parts of a lighting system operating at 30 volts or less. Unless otherwise permitted by Article 680, Swimming Pools, Fountains, and Similar Installations, Section 411.4 requires all lighting systems operating at 30 volts or less to be installed not less than 3.0 m (10 ft) from pools, spas, fountains, and similar locations.

No provision exists in Articles 411 or 680 for locating a low-voltage landscape luminaire in or on the ground and 3 ft from swimming pools, spas, fountains, and similar locations.

UL Lists low-voltage landscape lighting systems, low-voltage luminaires, and landscape power units under the category of Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Systems (IFDH), located on page 100 in the 2006 UL White Book or online enter IFDH at the Category Code Search. These systems are intended for installation in accordance with NEC Article 411.

A UL Listed swimming pool transformer (fountain transformer, spa transformer, or any combination) is not Listed for use to supply low-voltage landscape luminaires, regardless of luminaire distance from the swimming pool, spa, or fountain. UL Lists these transformers for supplying underwater luminaires under the product category Swimming Pool and Spa Transformers (WDGV), located on page 263 of the 2006 UL White Book or online enter WDGV at the Category Code Search.

Only UL Listed landscape power units are Listed for supplying low-voltage landscape luminaires. Someone might encounter a power unit designed for conduit connection that has been confirmed by UL to comply with the requirements for swimming pool transformers and landscape power units. UL Listing for such a dual use power unit is indicated only by it bearing both the UL Listed Landscape Power Unit Listing Mark as well as the UL Listed Swimming Pool Transformer Listing mark.

Tags:  January-February 2007  UL Question Corner 

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The Index of UL Product Categories Correlated to the NEC-2005 seems like a great tool, how do I use the index to determine compliance with the NEC?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Question: UL product categories

In the September-October 2006 edition of the "UL Question Corner” you detailed many changes to the 2006 UL White Book. The Index of UL Product Categories Correlated to theNEC-2005 seems like a great tool, how do I use the index to determine compliance with the NEC?


The new Index of Product Categories Correlated to theNEC-2005 provides a direct link between individual sections within the NEC and corresponding UL product categories that may be applicable to that section of the code. The index starts on page 311, and is simple to use, just look up a particular NEC section number and read across to locate the corresponding UL category code and page number on which the complete guide information for the category is located. This will direct you to the UL Guide Information for the product category, which provides important information regarding the applications for which the products covered under the product category are Listed. Among other things this includes a description of products covered, selected installation marking information, the standard used to investigate the product, and a description of Listing Marks provided on products covered under that category. This information goes a long way in helping to determine the suitability of the installation for compliance with the Code as well as compliance with NEC 110.3(B).

It is important to remember that the Index of UL Product Categories Correlated to theNEC-2005 is intended to serve as a tool for identifying product categories that correspond to particular code sections, and their location in the White Book. Locating the Product Category Code on the pages indicated will provide the user with the UL Guide Information for the applicable category code. This Correlation Index may not include all UL product categories that may be applicable to a particular code section. The user should independently confirm the applicability of the product category to the code Section and verify that no other UL Product Categories apply to the installation. The installation of products for the categories identified in the Index are subject to approval by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

If you would like to obtain a complimentary copy of the 2006 UL White Book please see the UL representative at your local IAEI Chapter meeting or contact UL at

Tags:  January-February 2007  UL Question Corner 

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Section 18 – Getting Familiar with Some New Terms

Posted By Leslie Stoch, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

The 2006 Canadian Electrical Code, Section 18, Hazardous Locations, provides rules for installation and maintenance of wiring and electrical equipment in hazardous locations, and classification of areas that contain flammable or explosive gases, vapours or mists, combustible dusts or ignitable fibres. The 2006 CE Code introduces us to some brand new terms and has redefined some of the old ones. In this article, we will review a number of the Section 18 language changes and some new requirements.

Rule 18-002 Special Terminology defines some of the special terms that appear throughout Section 18 that apply to explosive gas atmospheres. We need to understand the new terms and where they apply. Some of the more interesting changes involve sealing of conduits and cables.

Cable Glandis a familiar term from the 2002 CE Code. A cable gland is a device used for the entry of cables or cords to provide strain relief at the points where they enter electrical equipment. It may also provide sealing to contain explosive gases, using an approved sealing compound within the cable gland.

Cable Sealis a new term defined in Rule 18-002 as: "a seal that is installed at a cable termination to prevent the release of an explosion from an explosion-proof enclosure and that minimizes the passage of gases or vapours at atmospheric pressure.” Cable seals may be components of cable glands or in separate sealing fittings. Nothing is new here except for the redefinition of terms.

Conduit Sealis also a new term defined as: "a seal that is installed in a conduit to prevent the passage of an explosion from one portion of the conduit system to another and that minimizes the passage of gases or vapours at atmospheric pressure.” Earlier versions of the code referred to "seals” without providing a more specific definition. Not much is new here either, except for a more precise definition.

The 2002 CE Code, Rule 18-072 defined Explosive Fluid Seals as seals intended to prevent explosive fluids from reaching the electrical equipment and wiring. The 2006 CE Code has broadened the title and scope of Rule 18-072 to include both flammable gases and liquids.

Flammable Gas or Liquid Sealshas replaced the term Explosive Fluid Seals. Now Rule 18-072 requires that: "Electrical equipment containing a seal intended to prevent flammable gases or liquids from reaching the housing or conduit system shall not be used at pressures in excess of the marked maximum working pressure (MWP).” Flammable gas or liquid seals are normally components of manufactured electrical equipment installed in high pressure containers or pipelines. Liquid seals are given a pressure test and assigned a maximum working pressure (MWP).

Strangely, although the Rule 18-072 requirements refer to both flammable liquids and gases, the definitions of primary and secondary seals mention only the containment of process fluids. Similarly, the Section 18 rules for explosive gas atmospheres provide only a requirement for secondary seals only in the case of process fluids.

Primary Sealis a new term, introduced for the first time in the 2006 CE Code. Rule 18-002 defines a primary seal as: "a seal that isolates process fluids from an electrical system and has one side of the seal in contact with the process fluid.” A primary seal is usually a manufactured seal within an electrical device such as a flow switch installed in a high pressure piping system, to prevent process liquids from entering electrical conduit or equipment. A primary seal is one of the devices mentioned in Rule 18-072.

Secondary Sealis yet another new term and it is defined as: "a seal that is designed to prevent the passage of process fluids at the pressure it will be subjected to upon failure of the primary seal”. In other words, a secondary seal provides backup in case the primary seal fails to contain process fluids. Secondary seals are required for sealing conduits and cables in Class I explosive gas atmospheres, where failure of a primary seal could allow flammable process fluids to leak into electrical equipment, with disastrous results.

Secondary seals are always installed between the primary seals and the cable or conduit seals. Rule 18-072 requires that the MWP of the primary and secondary seals are never exceeded. Reason — the well-known conduit or cable seals are not designed to contain pressurized fluids and gases.

As with past articles, you should contact the electrical inspection authority in each province or territory for a more precise interpretation of any of the above.

Read more by Leslie Stoch

Tags:  Canadian Code  January-February 2007 

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Report: NFPA Electrical Inspector’s Forum

Posted By IAEI, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

The National Fire Protection Association, by action of the Board of Directors chaired by George Ockuly, hosted a meeting and forum of electrical inspectors on May 22 – 23, 2006, at NFPA Headquarters, Quincy, Massachusetts. Mark Earley and the electrical division brought thirty-three electrical inspectors from across the United States to spend two days addressing: 1) enforcement officials’ critical needs, and 2) ways to elevate the professional status of the electrical inspector. This gathering of electrical inspectors was unique in that they were not there to discuss technical NEC issues.

The purpose for the forum was to identify issues where the electrical industry (coalition) can provide support that will enhance the quality of the electrical inspection process across the country (or around the world). NFPA recognizes this effort will result in safer electrical installations and foster a unified electrical position at the local level for quality inspections.

Special Presentations

Presentations on timely subjects were interspersed in the agenda. These special presentations were:

  1. Changes to the NFPA Standards Making Process, Casey C. Grant, NFPA assistant vice president and secretary to the NFPA Standards Council
  2. NFPA Regional Operations, Raymond B. Bizal, NFPA West Coast regional manager
  3. Relations with the News Media, Lorraine Carli, NFPA assistant vice president – Communications
  4. Critical Infrastructure Assessment, Donald P. Bliss, director NI2 Center for Infrastructure Expertise; chairman, NEC code making panel 20

Discussion Modules

A steering committee, comprised of International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) leaders from across the nation, developed an agenda consisting of four discussion modules, which are described in this article. The steering committee members—Robert McCullough, Ocean County, New Jersey; Donny Cook, Pelham County, Alabama; Dick Owen, City of St. Paul, Minnesota; Tim Owens, City of Santa Clara, California; and James Carpenter, CEO and executive director, IAEI— served as facilitators for the four modules. Doug Geralde, with the Canadian Standards Association, also served on the steering committee although he was unable to attend.

The Forum Steering Committee, the Electrical Code Coalition, IAEI, and NFPA are committed to utilizing the summary points that came out of the four discussion modules for electrical industry actions that will supplement efforts in place within electrical inspection departments across the U.S. for quality electrical inspections that are focused on customer service.

Module I —
The Status of Your Inspection Department
Facilitators: Donald Cook and Robert McCullough

Discussion Topics

  • Is your inspection department growing?
  • Is your jurisdiction using combination inspectors?
  • Is your jurisdiction using private or contract inspectors? What are the advantages/disadvantages of this approach?
  • How is the inspection department perceived by your city council, legislators, or other controlling body?
  • Does your department have an appeals process? How does it work?
  • Are you faced with safety versus cost pressures?
  • How does your inspections department address code enforcement and inspections in large industrial facilities?
  • Regarding technology (computers, PDAs), is their use increasing and what types of electrical programs are being used?
  • What type of relationship does your department have with other governmental departments/agencies [i.e., building departments (if electrical is separate) and fire department]? Does Homeland Security impact these relationships in a positive or negative manner?
  • Do you report directly to a chief building official? What is your relationship with the CBO?
  • Does your inspection department / agency perform any public education or outreach? Have you promoted the ESFI Electical Safety Month?
  • How does your municipality and department rate in regards to ISO evaluation of the quality of the inspection department?
  • Do you deal with the media to promote electrical safety and have you had basic media training?
  • How is the success of an inspection department measured? Are there quantifiable assessments that can be used to demonstrate the value of electrical inspections?
  • Does your jurisdiction require certification and are you required to maintain that certification?
  • Is customer service a priority in your department? What measures have been made to improve customer service?

Summary of Module I

Although there were only thirty-three participants, they represented a diverse cross section of the country: geographically, large and small jurisdictions, municipalities and counties, men and women, chief and rank-and-file inspectors. It was learned that even though the inspection departments may not retain the revenue they generate in the department, most electrical inspection departments ranged from being revenue neutral to being profit centers. Since most of the inspection positions are governmental, the salaries are subject to a higher authority, resulting, in a majority of the cases, in salaries that are not commensurate with the prevailing wages of electricians in the area.

The prevailing perception was that city/county councils or legislative bodies are unaware of what inspection departments actually do or of their importance. The inspectors are not often thought of as "professionals” or are considered a "necessary evil.” Interaction between the electrical department and other departments (building, fire) was considered by the majority of the participants as being sufficient. The use of electronic media has improved interaction with all departments.

Most of the electrical departments were part of the building department; and the consensus of the group was, where building officials are the heads of the department, there is a trend to place a higher priority on building official training rather than training for the electrical inspectors.

Certification of electrical inspectors was diverse with many jurisdictions accepting applicants with little qualifications and no experience. It was found that certification is not always deemed necessary. Some states do have strong certification programs and some of them do recognize IAEI’s Certified Electrical Inspector program.

The discussion yielded the following points that promote an effective electrical inspection program and those points that do not promote an effective electrical inspection program.

Characteristics that promote an effective electrical inspection program

The department is revenue positive and is able to retain and expend all monies that it collects for construction related activities.

Salaries are commensurate with those of other public safety officials and with those of the practitioners whose work they are inspecting. Staffing is maintained at a level to keep pace with the workload.

Training and professional development/certification in the electrical field is required and funded.

Participation in professional organizations such as IAEI is supported and funded.

The necessary equipment such as computers, cell phones, PDAs, and reliable vehicles are provided.

Departments respond to requests for inspection quickly and provide access to the inspection department files via the internet to improve customer service and access. Inspectors complete reports using computers and the reports are available online shortly thereafter.

The role of the department as a customer service organization is promoted by its managers.

The department is proactive in helping designers and contractors comply with requirements.

The department works in conjunction with other public safety departments such as fire, building and community planning departments.

The department is perceived by the public and elected officials as having an important role in public safety.

Community outreach is considered an important function of the department.

The department keeps up-to-date with the industry it is charged with regulating by adopting the most recent editions of the NEC and related safety codes and standards

Characteristics that do not promote an effective electrical inspection program

The department is either revenue negative or the excess monies that it collects are turned over to the overall general fund. No reinvestment in the department.

Salaries are lower than those of the practitioners whose jobs are being inspected.

Attrition depletes the manpower and results in increased workload.

Training and professional development/certification in the electrical field are not promoted or funded.

Participation in professional organizations is "on your own time” and not funded.

Technology advancement in job aids lags or the department gets the hand-me-downs.

The department is only reactive to problems and is perceived as "the necessary evil” by the public and elected officials.

Community outreach is not encouraged.

Code adoption lags behind the most recent national codes and standards.

Module II —
Approving Electrical Equipment
Facilitator: Timothy Owens

Discussion Topics

  • Does your department require listed equipment? What is the process for accepting field evaluations of unlisted equipment?
  • How do you sell the message of using listed electrical products?
  • Do you approve unlisted equipment in your jurisdiction? What do you use as your approval basis?
  • How does your jurisdiction decide on or evaluate third party testing organizations that will be performing field inspections in your community?
  • Is there a formal approval program for testing organizations in your jurisdiction?
  • Does your jurisdiction have its own testing program/facility?
  • Has product counterfeiting been a problem in your jurisdiction?

Summary of Module II

Not all participant jurisdictions have formalized procedures or programs for requiring that electrical equipment, materials, or products be listed. Several jurisdictions represented had state statutes or regulations that addressed listing of electrical equipment, materials, and products. A number of jurisdictions have implemented programs and developed minimum criteria for approving testing laboratories whose listed products will be acceptable in that jurisdiction.

The consensus of the group was that a standardized process for requiring listing, qualifying laboratories, and establishing procedures for approving unlisted equipment would be helpful. Most inspectors are not comfortable approving equipment on their own. Inspectors are under increasing pressure to approve equipment built to other countries’ standards, without evaluation for use in the U.S. by a recognized testing laboratory. Some jurisdictions accept OSHA’s nationally recognized testing laboratories (NRTLs) listing of electrical equipment. Some give information regarding NRTLs to owners and builders so that the owner can ensure that the equipment has been evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory before being "turned down” upon inspection.

Problems encountered by inspection authorities in approving electrical equipment
Listing of electrical equipment is a misunderstood concept.
The CE mark has been misinterpreted and misrepresented as a listing mark. The CE mark is a self-certification mark.

The withholding of an occupancy permit due to unlisted equipment becomes a political issue. Many times there is pressure to accept unlisted equipment if it is holding up the progression of a construction project. Inspectors are told, "You’re the only place in the county that makes me do this!”

Unless counterfeiting is obvious (incorrect listing mark, misspelling of words, etc.) the inspector may not be aware of a problem with the equipment. Very little specific information is available to the field inspector.

Solutions to help overcome problems encountered with approving electrical equipment
The electrical industry must be proactive in educating its members and its consumers on the difference between listing and self-certification and emphasize the safety benefits of using listed equipment.

The electrical industry needs to have an awareness campaign of the U.S. electrical safety system. Equipment that is designed for use in a European electrical installation often requires modification to be used in an NEC environment. If not properly done, the modifications can introduce hazards.

End of job problems can be avoided through proactive review of plans.

The local electrical inspectors are often the information link between the electrical industry and its consumers and it is essential that electrical inspectors be educated on equipment listing, field evaluation of equipment, and alternative processes for equipment evaluation.

The local electrical inspector must be proactive in communicating with and educating customers on equipment evaluation requirements during the plan review and inspection processes to prevent end of job problems.

A standardized guideline or recommended practice for equipment approval would be useful across the U.S. It would be a major, but worthwhile effort. If it could be developed and supported by the entire electrical industry, it would be very useful to local inspectors.

A joint electrical industry marketing effort on listing versus self-certification would be useful.

Module III —
Disaster Recovery
Facilitator: Richard Owen

Discussion Topics

  • Getting the inspection department back up and running.
  • Balancing the need to restore power and maintain safety.
  • Self-inspection/certification.
  • Homeland security initiatives impacting your job as an electrical inspector.

Summary of Module III

A presentation by Larry Chan, chief electrical inspector, city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Bill McGovern, chief electrical inspector, city of Plano, Texas, covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and focused on the damage and the difficulties faced by the inspection department as well as the residents. Bill McGovern had gone to New Orleans as a volunteer to provide assistance to the New Orleans inspection department during the recovery efforts. A discussion among the participants concerning the lessons that were learned through this disaster and other disasters revealed that even though there may be an emergency response plan in effect, many were not prepared in advance. In many cases, the electrical inspection departments were not part of the planning of the emergency operations plan. It was stressed that an emergency plan be in place and be reviewed and updated often. All essential employees, including the electrical inspector must be issued identification and credentials to facilitate getting back into the disaster area. Knowing contact persons in the various agencies and having communication with them was deemed an important consideration. The need to have a recovery plan—on how to handle inspections and authorization for restoring power while maintaining safety—was a major concern.

Significant Points Learned from Disaster Presentations

A presentation on New Orleans’ recovery showed what can happen when many basic requirements to life are gone.

Most electrical inspection authorities have a disaster plan in place.

Most electrical inspection (and building inspection) authorities are involved with and work with other disaster responders such as police and fire.

A problem after a disaster is trying to keep up with increased demand for inspection. Some times, political forces want to exempt disaster repairs from inspections, and the AHJ has to resist this pressure to ensure that electrical safety is not compromised during the crisis.

Action Items for Electrical Inspection Departments to Plan for Disasters
Jurisdictions must have a disaster recovery plan which includes inspection of repairs to electrical systems. Rules for equipment replacement must be in place before the disaster occurs.

Procedures must be created to allow inspectors to cross police, fire, and National Guard lines.

Developing close working relationships with utilities is vital during recovery.
Training inspection department personnel on the disaster recovery plan is an essential element to successful implementation at the time of crisis.

Module IV —
Status of IAEI in Your Area
Facilitator: James W. Carpenter

Discussion Topics

  • Does your jurisdiction support membership in IAEI and do they pay for your membership?
  • What are the hallmarks of a successful IAEI chapter or division?
  • Do you consider your chapter to be successful? Can you identify specific examples of that success?
  • Does mandatory continuing education for electrical inspectors, electricians and engineers create training opportunities for local IAEI chapters and in turn help strengthen the chapter financially and in attendance?
  • What are good strategies to revitalize a struggling chapter or division?
  • As an inspector, do you take advantage of or promote local networking for the purpose of achieving uniform Code enforcement through a state, county or other region?

Summary of Module IV

A perfect model for an IAEI chapter or division could not be identified. Those chapters or divisions that strived to meet the purposes of IAEI by enhancing the knowledge and improving the skills of its members were successful and growing. Meeting content that provides training and education was the hallmark of a successful chapter or division. Timing of the meetings, daytime or evening, attracted different types of attendees. The requirement for continuing education enhanced attendance at meeting that issued continuing education credits. This also increased membership. The quality of the content of the technical portion of the meeting keeps people interested and coming back for more.

It was noted that only about 50 percent of inspectors in each area were members of IAEI.

Characteristics identified resulting in successful IAEI chapters and meetings

Effective chapter leadership and succession, particularly for those charged with planning quality meetings, is critical.

Hallmarks of a good chapter include continuing education and high quality speakers at meetings.

Meetings must be announced with agendas showing the value of attending.

Jurisdictions must be shown the importance (value added) of attendance.

Taking the value that IAEI provides to inspectors at the section level back to the local level will improve the quality of electrical inspections.

Taking IAEI value to the local level could increase support of the organization by increasing membership.

Increasing IAEI membership and training at the local level will provide great value to the grassroots members of the electrical industry as a whole.

Many jurisdictions pay for their electrical inspector to belong to IAEI

Many successful chapters have a long history of success. The reasons for the success vary—some for inspector training, some for inspector’s meetings, some for training journeymen and inspectors.

A number of chapters move their meetings around to different areas in order to encourage local attendance.

Many successful chapters have several meetings per year, sometimes monthly.

Successful chapters try to include other electrical professionals—engineers, utility members, electricians, etc.

Successful chapters attracting the non-traditional inspection categories including combination inspectors and home inspectors.

Feedback on Overall Forum

Excellent program — long overdue and much needed! That was the overriding comment received from the participants. The first NFPA Electrical Inspector’s Forum was highlighted by the ability to share concerns, problems, and successes (other than Code-related subjects) with peers from across the country. The opportunity to network during and after the meeting was invaluable. The shared information was expected to be used to expand the individual jurisdiction’s program. Information on what has been successful or unsuccessful will help in improving the programs in the jurisdictions represented.

NFPA President Jim Shannon, the forum participants, and the steering committee extend high praise to the NFPA Board for their support of this initiative and to NFPA’s management, electrical department staff, and other staff who worked tirelessly to ensure that this first forum was a resounding success. The importance of NFPA President Jim Shannon and Board of Directors Chair George Ockuly actively participating in this program cannot be overstated. Their remarks and Mr. Ockuly’s participation through the entire two days of the program sent a clear message to the participants that electrical inspection professionals are recognized and valued as leaders in the U.S. electrical safety system.

However, the overall success of the program is due in large part to the synergy amongst the participants. The facilitators, who did a fabulous job in stimulating discussion and maintaining focus, all commented that leading these discussions was not at all difficult because of the preparedness of the participants. The open and free exchange of thoughts and ideas by men and women, leaders in their profession, yielded a dialog that far exceeded the expectations of those who planned and attended this event. The overall outcomes of this first forum is a great first step towards helping electrical inspection professionals perform their vital public safety roles more effectively and in getting the word out that electrical inspectors are indeed an important resource in their communities.

Plans for the Future

Now that the forum has identified many common issues, NFPA plans to continue with another forum next year. Ways and means of how jurisdictions can solve the most common problems will be addressed. Stay tuned, you may be asked to participate next year.

Preliminary 2007 Discussion Module Topics

  • Becoming Indispensable: Taking Inspections to the Next Level
  • Selling Safety: How to Market the Need for Listed Equipment
  • Disaster Recovery: How to Convey the Importance of Inspection During Disaster Recovery
  • Meetings No One Wants to Miss: How to Plan a Good Chapter/Division meeting

About IAEI: IAEI, as the keystone of the electrical industry, is a membership driven, not-for-profit association promoting electrical safety throughout the industry by providing premier education, certification of inspectors, advocacy, partnership and expert leadership in electrical codes and standards development.

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2006 

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Pre-Alt Inspections

Posted By George Anchales, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

The National Fire Protection Association estimates there are 111,400 fires annually caused by faulty electrical distribution systems, electrical appliances and equipment. These fires caused 3,785 injuries, 860 deaths and nearly $1.3 billion in property damage. Older electrical systems, combined with greater power consumption, have probably contributed to this problem.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation Residential Electrical System Aging Research Project will evaluate the condition of electrical systems in various older homes in order to determine how aging original installations and later modifications may relate to residential electrical fires.

Photo 1. During pre-alt inspection, the electrical meter was seen on the outside of the building. The inspector asked to see the service panel inside the structure. It was built inside of the illegal bathroom shower! It was built without permit or inspection

The report on the first phase of this project revealed that improper installations and lack of adequate inspections and maintenance were evident in most of the homes they evaluated and age did not have a great impact on electrical product safety.

Photo 2. During pre-alt inspection, the electrical meter was seen on the outside of the building. The inspector asked to see the service panel inside the structure. It was built inside of the illegal bathroom shower! It was built without permit or inspect

When the project is completed, it will provide recommendations for increasing the safety of older residential electrical systems. These recommendations should call for better inspections and enforcement.

It is this latter item of better inspections and enforcement, we wish to address in this article.

We believe that requiring a pre-alteration cursory visual inspection (pre-alt) of the entire existing home, before issuing a permit to alter it, would greatly increase the safety of that older building.

Some jurisdictions may think that they have no authority to do a walk through pre-alt inspection; they’re wrong. Many jurisdictions have been doing them successfully for over 50 years.

During the pre-alt inspection, the inspector (a certified and qualified combination inspector) will write up any code violation noticed. If your jurisdiction only has specialists, then each one would do a pre-alt for their specialty when alterations are requested. If, for example, the homeowner wishes to upgrade her electrical panel from a 100-amp to a 200-amp panel, a pre-alt inspection would be required before issuing the permit. During the pre-alt inspection, the inspector would write up all electrical, plumbing, mechanical and building code violations noticed (violations that involve fire and life safety issues).

Photo 3. An illegal light fixture installation on a ceiling beam. The junction box is a hole cut out of the beam

A permit will be issued for both the service upgrade and for work required to correct all noted violations.

All noted violations would have to be corrected; however, once the electrical violations are corrected, the new 200-amp service would be signed off and authorized to be energized. Other plumbing, mechanical or building outstanding violations not corrected would be referenced on another correction notice and ordered to be corrected within a specified time (depending on the nature of the violation).

Photo 4. Called out for a plumbing pre-alt, included a correction to upgrade service. See any hazards?

Building departments that look only at what the permit was written for will see only that item and miss the open splices, missing cover plates, broken switches and receptacles, zip cord wiring, extension cords through walls and doorways and the lack of GFCI devices where required by code [receptacle replacements and non-grounded circuits with grounding receptacles, see Section 406.3(d)].

If the inspector approves the service upgrade and the home is energized without correcting all of the existing violations, the issuing agency may be deemed negligent by a jury in the event of a subsequent fire or shock accident (see photos 1–9 of electrical hazards identified during pre-alteration inspections).

Photo 5. During a pre-alt inspection this was detected. The owner cut into the service entrance raceway and tapped into the unmetered service entrance conductors.

The authors have a combined 60 years of experience in building inspections and have compiled the following electrical inspection checklist of typical code violations found in existing older buildings. Most of these violations are the result of improper original installations, modifications without permits and inspections, and the lack of proper maintenance.

Electrical inspection checklist for residential remodel/upgrade projects and suggested requirements for modernizing older electrical systems

I. Service equipment and subpanels

  1. Working space [110.26(A)]
  2. Illumination for indoor equipment [110.26(D)]
  3. Overhead service drop clearances [230.9, 230.24]
  4. Meter height (per utility)
  5. Height of C/Bs and disconnects [404.8]
  6. Construction of riser and weatherhead [230.26, 230.27 and 230.28]
  7. C/Bs must be brand/type per panel label or listed classified type [110.3(B)]
  8. Maximum number of disconnects [230.71]
  9. Isolate neutrals in sub-panels [408.40]
  10. Correctly labeling all circuits [408.4]
  11. Multi-wire branch circuits on opposite poles and handle ties where required [100, 210.4]
  12. Proximity of service equipment to gas meters, etc. [per utilities]
  13. Conductor/splice fill in panelboard enclosures and outlet boxes [312.7, 312.8 and 314.16]
  14. Dead fronts missing [110.3(B)]
  15. Extension cord wiring [400.8]
  16. Exposed Romex outside [334.10(A), 334.15]
  17. Broken conduit, supports and connections [110.3(A) and (B)]
  18. Older swimming pool hazardous wiring [underwater luminaires (light fixtures), flush deck J-Boxes, etc.] and lack of GFCI devices [680]
  19. Knockouts missing [110.12(A)]
  20. Old unused wiring left in place [110.2]
  21. Open lamps/pendant luminaires in clothes closets [410.8(C)]
  22. Reverse polarity [200.11]
  23. Overfusing Edison-base fuses [240.4, 240.51(B)]
  24. Dwellings wired with aluminum conductors [110.14(A), U.S. Consumer Product Safety Alert]

II. Grounding and Bonding

  1. Verify grounding electrode system [250.50, 250.52]
  2. Supplement the metal underground water pipe with an additional electrode [250.53, 250.54 and 250.56]
  3. Check all old/existing grounding electrode/conductor connections. Over time and due to maintenance of the plumbing/water systems the GEC connections can become undone, corroded or compromised; if it is not possible to verify the GEC connection(s), then new connections should be required [250.70].
  4. Verify the proper grounding (bonding) of all receptacle outlets [406.3].
  5. Verify the proper bonding of all metal piping, including the gas piping [250.104].
  6. Verify the proper grounding and bonding of all pool and spa equipment [680].

III. Old/Existing Branch-Circuit Wiring

Photo 6. Open splice and wiring without a proper j-box and raceway

A case can be made for requiring the replacement of all receptacles and switches in the dwelling. This would allow the electrician to inspect each outlet box for proper connections, get the switches bonded to the equipment grounding system as is now required, install GFCI devices where required by current code, install/replace cover plates, and generally remedy many of the sins caused by homeowners and handymen over the years since the original wiring was installed. This last statement cannot be overemphasized.

A thorough inspection should be made of all wiring that can be accessed in attic and underfloor crawl areas. These are places where, again, our weekend warriors tap into otherwise healthy wiring to add outlets, ceiling and attic fans and Lord knows what else. Typically, this added work is accomplished with tape and wire nuts without the benefit of a J-Box. Many people believe that just touching two conductors together and putting tape on them is a good connection. What that procedure is really good for is starting fires!

Photo 7. Tapping off a knob-and-tube wiring without a j-box and equipment grounding conductor connection, a common violation in older homes.

Ceiling-mounted luminaires should be removed in order to inspect the wiring in the outlet box. We are continually finding that the luminaires are overlamped and, over time, the excessive heat destroys the insulation of the wiring in the outlet box.

Bob’s Special Note

The homeowner should be professionally interrogated using the most exacting techniques to extract the truth about what he has really done to the wiring system over the years. I wish I had the time back that I have wasted because I believed the homeowner when he said, "I never touched that wiring. . .”

Photo 8. If this were a hose bib connection, it might be legal, but it's electrical! Some violations are easy to spot.

If the homeowner has a pickup truck, a toolbox or a charge account at the hardware store, run like the wind!

When NFPA’s Aging Research Project is complete, we feel that their findings and conclusions will be similar to their phase I results: that most of the violations are the result of improper installations, lack of permits, inspections and maintenance. Through our experience of inspecting and repairing older homes, we have already come to that conclusion. We have also come to the conclusion that improper work done without permits and inspections, as mentioned in this article, will remain unseen by the inspection authority, unless inspected when alteration work is requested through a pre-alteration inspection.

Photo 9. Homemade light fixture with an open splice above the ceiling to energize the ballast below. They took duct tape to the moon, so it must be o.k. for splices here. Wrong!

Read more by George Anchales

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2006 

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