Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Join
IAEI Magazine
Blog Home All Blogs
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.

Issue Archive | Advertise | Media Kit | Submit Article


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: Featured  UL Question Corner  Canadian Code  Editorial  Other Code  Canadian Perspective  May-June 2012  November-December 2011  Safety in Our States  January-February 2012  March-April 2012  January-February 2008  September-October 2012  July-August 2011  May-June 2005  May-June 2010  May-June 2011  November-December 2000  November-December 2010  January-February 2009  July-August 2006  March-April 2005  March-April 2011  May-June 2003  November-December 2008  November-December 2012  January-February 2010  July-August 2009  November-December 2009  September-October 2005 

Voltage-Drop Requirements Cannot Be Ignored

Posted By Michael Weitzel, Thursday, March 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Typically, when length is a factor in the installation, so is voltage drop. A variety of installations may involve feeders or branch circuits of considerable length. These include such installations as industrial plants; airports; tollway, highway, turnpike or street lighting; electrically controlled irrigation machines (also known as center pivot irrigation machines); installations on docks, marinas, or boatyards; farms or ranches; and commercial, residential, or governmental structures. Electrical designers and installers as a whole are generally aware of the requirements in 210.19(A)(1), and fine print note (FPN) No. 4 that provides explanatory material relating to voltage drop for feeders and branch circuits and suggests the maximum percentage of voltage drop which will provide "reasonable efficiency of operation,” should not exceed 5% at the farthest outlet where power is required. Some regard and apply the information as a requirement of the Code, and others may ignore it because they figure, Hey, it’s not mandatory text, so it’s no big deal if I do it or not.

Generally, switchboards and panelboards will function with voltages that are slightly lower than standard nominal ratings with no ill effects to them. Utilization equipment, however, such as lighting, computer-data processing equipment, electronic equipment, and motors may malfunction or be severely damaged by under-voltage conditions. One important thing to consider is the manufacturer’s instructions that are included with the listing and labeling of the product. Even though both 210.19(A)(1) FPN No. 4 and 215.2(3) FPN No. 2 suggest percentages for maximum allowable voltage drop which will provide reasonable efficiency of operation for utilization equipment, Section 110.3(B) requires all listed and labeled electrical equipment to be installed and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions included with the product’s listing and labeling. Nearly all electrical equipment and materials that are installed and used today are listed, labeled, and include installation instructions.

For example, in an outdoor area lighting installation such as those at sports complexes and so forth, luminaires (lighting fixtures) rated for operation at 240 volts ac, nominal, may have manufacturer’s instructions included with the product that permit an operating voltage of no less than 228 volts for proper operation. A 5% voltage drop from 240 volts nominal is 228 volts (240 V x .95 = 228 V), and meets the minimum voltage allowed per the manufacturer. A drop in voltage of more than 5% will cause the luminaires to malfunction. Utility system distribution voltages typically are regulated to be kept within a certain bandwidth, normally plus or minus 2% of nominal system voltage for the end user. In some parts of the country, utilities may generate and distribute voltages that may be as much as 4% higher than the nominal system voltage (240 V x 1.04 = 249.6 V). This slight variation of higher voltage is favorable to the designer/installer of electrical systems, helps with voltage-drop concerns, and will generally not harm utilization equipment, but cannot be counted on. It is wise to install electrical systems to a worst-case scenario and account for some slight drop in voltage, as distribution system loads may increase and power source feed locations may change in time. The point to remember is that electrical installations must meet at least the minimum requirements of the Code, and 110.3(B) is definitely one of the requirements that cannot be ignored.

Enter Article 250

Sizing electrical ungrounded (hot) and grounded (neutral) conductors for voltage drop is a necessity for the proper functioning of electrical equipment and as a requirement of the Code. However, equipment grounding conductors must also be considered for a properly functioning and code-compliant feeder or branch-circuit installation. These conductors are an essential part of a safe electrical installation, as they protect people and property from injury or damage.

Proper Sizing of Equipment Grounding Conductors for Voltage-Drop Situations

Of course, equipment grounding conductors (EGCs) may be installed in the form of busbars, metal raceways, or be considered as the outer metal sheath of cables of one type or another in accordance with 250.118, Types of Equipment Grounding Conductors, and other applicable Code rules. EGCs also may be in the form of solid or stranded, insulated, covered or bare wire type conductors. For simplicity and illustration, wire type conductors will be addressed in this article.

Generally, with few exceptions, all feeders and branch circuits require some sort of EGC. Feeders and branch circuits of extended length are required to have an EGC that will perform per 250.4(A)(5), and qualify as a "permanent, low-impedance circuit facilitating the operation of the overcurrent protective device or ground detector for high-impedance grounded systems.” Safety hazards to life and property are created when feeders or branch circuits are run a long distance and the EGCs are undersized when a ground fault occurs a long distance from the source of power. The overcurrent protective device may not see nor clear the fault, and the ground-fault current may endanger persons or damage property.

When ungrounded and grounded (neutral) conductors are run a long distance and are required to be increased a percentage above the standard size conductor in order to function properly, per Section 110.3(B), manufacturers’ or listing agencies’ instructions, EGCs must be increased in size also as they may be needed and must be ready to carry fault current to open an overcurrent device [also see 250.122(B)].

The minimum sizes for EGCs are found in NEC Table 250.122. The note at the bottom of the table requires that "where necessary to comply with 250.4(A)(5) or (B)(4), the equipment grounding conductor shall be sized larger than given in this table.” Section 250.122(F) applies where conductors are run in parallel. Individual EGCs and those installed in parallel must comply with the note at the bottom of Table 250.122.

Sample Voltage-Drop Calculation

This example is given as an illustration to resemble a real-world voltage drop scenario, and emphasize some items to consider when long runs of electrical feeders or branch circuits may be necessary or cannot be avoided. Installations including all conductors within the same cable(s) are commonly used; however, raceways are discussed here; though for simplicity, raceway sizes are not mentioned.

Obviously, as conductor sizes are increased, raceway sizes may need to be increased. Voltage drop for branch circuits and cable installations is reserved for another article, though most information here would apply. The load for the feeder has already been calculated per Article 220. Other real-world concerns such as customer preference, the cost and availability of conductors and electrical equipment such as large transformers, or installing a high-voltage feeder using overhead spans of smaller conductors are all factors that designers and installers must consider when designing any installation.

Figure 1. 2000-amp, 208Y/120V-feeder, distance = 1500 feet long

Example: A proposed 2000-amp 208Y/120 V feeder will be 750 feet long (for a total length of 1500 feet to the load and back) in its maximum length (including all branch circuits); have 5) 600 kcmil copper conductors per phase installed in non-metallic conduit (5 x 420 amperes = 2100 amperes), include a 1/0 grounded (neutral) conductor in each raceway (the neutral load has been sized per 220.61 at 620 amperes), (5 x 150 amperes = 750 amperes), and a required minimum equipment grounding conductor size of 250 kcmil to be installed in each raceway per Table 250.122 and Section 250.122(F). For our example, all conductors are copper, and their ampacities are taken from the 75°C column of Table 310.16 for THWN conductors (see figure 1).

The questions are, Are all conductors properly sized to account for voltage drop? and Are the proposed equipment grounding conductors adequate to facilitate the operation of the overcurrent device per the requirements in 250.4(A)(5)?

Utilizing the voltage drop/circular mil formula found on page 136 of volume 2 of Ferm’s Fast Finder, 2005 edition, for three-phase circuits for the ungrounded conductors:

Formula 1

(18.7 is known as the "K” factor, a value assigned for the resistance of a conductor at a certain temperature per foot rated to the circular mil size. Other examples of the use and calculation of the K factor are given in Ferm’s Fast Finder).

Formula 2

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 700 kcmil each:

Formula 3

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 750 kcmil each:

Formula 4

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 800 kcmil each:

Formula 5

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 900 kcmil each:

Formula 6

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 1,000 kcmil each:

Formula 7

If the wire size of the ungrounded conductors is increased to 1,250 kcmil each:

Formula 8

The grounded (neutral) 1/0 copper THWN conductors are rated at 150 amperes, and are 105,600 cm in size per chapter 9, Table 8, Conductor Properties. 105,600 cm x 2.08 (208%) = 219,648 cm, which is not a standard size conductor. The closest size above that value is 250 kcmil copper, (250,000 cm). One 250 kcmil grounded (neutral) conductor must be installed in each of the paralleled raceways.

Table 250.122 specifies the minimum size EGC for a 2000-amp feeder or branch circuit as 250 kcmil. 250,000 cm x 2.08 (208 %) = 520,000 cm. Again, chapter 9 Table 8, Conductor Properties, is consulted, and the closest size is 600 kcmil copper, which is required to be installed in each of the paralleled raceways.

Note: The original minimal size required by Code was 250 kcmil, but because of the long distance (1500 ft) of the feeder, a much larger EGC is required; in this case, over twice the original size, as a minimum.

Remember, the EGCs must be increased in size by the same proportion as the ungrounded conductors, per 250.122(B).

At this point, it is important to mention that provisions must be made for terminating these larger conductors in switchboards, panelboards, disconnect switches, or other electrical equipment. Manufacturers’ instructions, per 110.3(B), must be consulted, as well as the requirements in 110.14 for terminations, 312.6 for wire bending space, and space for installing, bending, and termination of all conductors. Large junction or splice boxes, indoor or outdoor termination enclosures, or wireways—any of which may contain power distribution blocks or similar devices—may be required at each end of the system in order to transition from a larger conductor size to account for voltage drop to/from a size that will terminate in the equipment and meet all Code requirements. Buss gutters may also be considered for use. Raceway, wireway, or auxiliary gutter fill, junction or pull box sizes, and all other applicable Code rules must be considered as part of the design work and prior to installation.

Sometimes transformers are used to step up the voltage in long feeders in order to reduce the size of the feeder conductors in the long run. In this case, a transformer would be necessary at both ends of the feeder as shown in figure 2.

The same feeder installed at 480Y/ 277 volts would be sized this way:

Formula 9

The load on the grounded (neutral) conductor for the feeder now rated at 480Y / 277 volts is:

Formula 10

In accordance with Table 310.16, 700 kcmil copper conductors paralleled twice (460 amperes x 2 = 920 amperes) are the minimum size required to serve the load. However, per 240.6, the next standard size overcurrent protective device size above 868 amperes is 1000 amperes, and the conductors are required to be sized per the overcurrent device size at a minimum. Table 310.16 indicates that 900 kcmil THWN copper conductors paralleled two times = 1,040 amps, and would be code-compliant for the installation; but with the long distance of the feeder, we must verify that all conductors are sized large enough to be code-compliant and properly sized to serve the load, including the grounded (neutral) conductor. The minimum size grounded (neutral) conductors sized per 310.4 as a minimum 1/0 copper (installed in parallel in each non-metallic raceway) = (150 amperes x 2 = 300 amperes), which under normal conditions would meet the requirements for the 269 amperes capacity for the conductors. The minimum size EGC—again required to be installed in each paralleled non-metallic raceway—per 250.122(F) must be verified for proper sizing. Generally, the minimum size EGC for a 1000 ampere feeder per Table 250.122 is 2/0 copper.

The calculation for the ungrounded conductors is as follows:

Formula 11

Because of the requirements of 240.6, the ungrounded conductors were increased in size from 700 kcmil to 900 kcmil copper. This is a 29% increase in size, and the grounded (neutral) conductors and equipment grounding conductors must be increased by the same proportion, per 250.122(B). For the 1500-foot distance of the feeder, because the voltage is higher at 480 volts (as opposed to 208 volts), the amperage of the load is less.

The minimum size grounded (neutral) conductor permitted to be installed in parallel is 1/0, in accordance with NEC 310.4. Each grounded conductor must be increased 29% to account for voltage drop, the same as all other conductors of this feeder. A 1/0 copper conductor = 105,600 cm x 1.29 (129%) = 136,224 cm. Based on chapter 9, Table 8, Conductor Properties, 136,224 cm is not a standard size conductor. From this table, you will find that the next larger size found is 3/0, which is 167,800 cm in size. A 3/0 copper grounded (neutral) conductor is then required to be installed in each of the two paralleled non-metallic raceways for this feeder.

The calculation for the grounded conductor is:

Formula 12

The minimum size EGC for a 1000-amp feeder is 2/0 copper, which must be increased in size by a minimum of 29%. The question is, How many circular mils (cm) in size is a 2/0 copper conductor? The answer is found in chapter 9, Table 8, Conductor Properties. From this table, find that a 2/0 conductor is 133,100 cm in size. 133,100 cm x 1.29 (129%) = 171,699 circular mils. This is not a standard size conductor. Note that the next higher and closest size is a 4/0 conductor, sized at 211,600 cm (circular mils). A 4/0 copper EGC is required to be installed in each of the two paralleled non-metallic raceways for this feeder.

Figure 2. The same feeder as figure 1, except now at 480Y/277V with step up and step down transformers to account for voltage drop

Once again, it is important to remember that the Code is not a design or specification manual, but it is a minimum standard for electrical installations.

In this article, we have discussed the voltage-drop requirements found in the NEC, illustrated the use of a formula for determining the amount of voltage drop on a long feeder or branch circuit, some items to consider when designing electrical installations that include the termination of long runs of conductors, and the proper sizing of equipment grounding conductors for installations where voltage drop is a factor.

Electrical installations must meet at least the minimum requirements of the Code. While the FPN following Section 210.19(B) and FPN No. 2 to 215.2(3) are explanatory material and not mandatory, 110.3(B) is definitely one of the requirements which cannot be ignored, and does apply relating to the voltage drop of conductors that supply utilization equipment.

Read more by Michael Weitzel

Tags:  Featured  March-April 2007 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Equipment Grounding Conductors for Parallel Conductor Installations

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

Equipment installed in electrical systems generally is required to be grounded. There are some specific exceptions that relax this general requirement of the NEC; but, for the most part, electrical equipment and the normally non-current-carrying metal (conductive) parts of equipment are to be grounded.

Photo 1. Large electrical feeder circuits are often installed using the provisions for parallel conductor installations contained in 310.4 of the Code.

Performance Criteria

The performance requirements for equipment grounding are provided in Section 250.4(A)(2) for grounded systems, and 250.4(B)(1) for ungrounded systems. This article focuses primarily on the equipment grounding conductor requirements for grounded systems, although they are essentially the same for both grounded and ungrounded systems. Part VI of Article 250 provides the prescriptive rules relating to equipment grounding conductor installations. The requirements in this part of Article 250 provide information about the requirements for equipment to be grounded, types of equipment grounding conductors, sizes of equipment grounding conductors, identification of equipment grounding conductors and connection methods.

The Need for Parallel Conductors

Photo 2. Electrical feeder conductors installed in parallel, supplying a large panelboard

Often in electrical design and installations, there is a need to install feeder conductors in parallel. Where feeders are large in size and ampacity, they quickly reach a point where it becomes impractical to install them using only one conductor per phase and one for the grounded (neutral) conductors. This is where the provisions for feeder conductors installed in parallel come into play. The Code requirements for parallel conductors are provided in 310.4 and the requirements for equipment grounding conductors for parallel conductors are covered by 300.3(B)(1), 310.4, and 250.122(F) [see photo 2]. This article provides a closer look at the requirements for equipment grounding conductors in general, but specifically those equipment grounding conductors for larger feeders installed using parallel conductors.

Rules for Conductors Installed in Parallel

The rules pertaining to electrical conductors installed in parallel are provided in 310.4 of the NEC. Before reviewing the general requirements for conductors installed in parallel, let’s look at what constitutes conductors installed in parallel.

Copper, copper-clad, or aluminum conductors in size 1/0 or larger are permitted to be installed in parallel. This includes the ungrounded phase conductors, conductors of different polarity, grounded neutral conductors and grounded phase conductors. The provision recognizes that multiple conductors can be installed in parallel with one another not to create one conductor, but to create one electrically conductive path (see figure 1). In other words, conductors installed in parallel are electrically connected at both ends creating an electrically conductive path capable of carrying a desired ampacity based on the needs of the design (see photos 1 and 2). Paralleled conductors of each phase, polarity, neutral, or other grounded circuit conductors must meet all the following requirements:

  • They must be the same length
  • They must be terminated in the same manner
  • They must have the same conductor material
  • They must be the same size in circular mil area
  • They must have the same insulation type

Figure 1. Conductors are installed in parallel to create one larger electrically conductive path, not one conductor.

Where conductors are installed in separate cables or raceways, the raceways or cables are required to have the same physical characteristics, and the same number of conductors in the parallel set must be installed in each raceway. The equipment grounding conductors installed with parallel conductor installations must also meet all requirements above, except for the sizing requirement of 1/0 minimum. The sizing requirements are based on the rules in 250.122(F). These sizing rules are reviewed in detail later in the article.

General Circuit Conductor Installation Requirements

Where equipment grounding conductors are installed with paralleled feeder conductors, the requirements in 310.4 have mandatory application. To develop an understanding of the requirements in 310.4 and 250.122(F), a brief review of the rules in 300.3(B) and 250.134(B) is in order. The requirements in these sections call for all conductors of the circuit, including any grounded conductors and all equipment grounding conductors, to be installed together, typically contained in the same raceway, cable bus assembly, cable tray, trench, cable, or cord. This requirement serves to maintain low impedance levels during normal conditions and abnormal (ground-fault) conditions. To separate the equipment grounding conductors results in increases in inductive reactance, which raises impedance levels. This is one of the primary reasons for installing equipment grounding conductors in each raceway when they are installed in multiple raceways. Under ground-fault conditions, the equipment grounding conductor carries the heavier level of fault current until the overcurrent device opens and clears this event from the system. If there is only one equipment grounding conductor in one of the raceways of the parallel set, the impedance is raised significantly due to inductive reactance. Not installing equipment grounding conductors in each raceway or cable not only violates 250.122(F), but also 300.3(B) and 250.134(B). Of course, any of the equipment grounding conductor types identified in 250.118 can be used for parallel conductor installations. The sizing requirement pertains only to installations where wire-type equipment grounding conductors are installed.

Equipment Grounding Conductor Types

Photo 3. Electrical metallic tubing used as an equipment grounding conductor for a feeder made up of conductors installed in parallel

Section 250.118 provides a long list of acceptable equipment grounding conductors that qualify as an effective ground-fault current path where installed in accordance with all other applicable requirements of the NEC. This section recognizes wire-type equipment grounding conductors as either copper or some other corrosion resistant conductor. It also lists conduit, metallic tubing, metallic cable assemblies, and other acceptable equipment grounding conductors. Where metal conduit is used as the equipment grounding conductor, it must meet the requirements in 110.12 for workmanship, supporting and securing requirements in chapter 3 for the particular wiring method used, and they are required to be of the same physical characteristics as provided in 310.4 (see photo 3).

Sizing Parallel Equipment Grounding Conductors

Figure 2. All conductors of the circuit including any grounded conductors and equipment grounding conductors are required to be grouped together in accordance with 300.3(B).

Where electrical conductors are installed in parallel and are all contained in the same raceway or other enclosure such as a wireway or auxiliary gutter, the sizing rules for equipment grounding conductors of the wire-type are quite simple. Just use the rating of the overcurrent device protecting the parallel set and reference Table 250.122 for the minimum size single equipment grounding conductor of the wire-type. Where equipment grounding conductors are installed with conductors in parallel, and they are in separate multiple raceways or cable assemblies, the wire-type equipment grounding conductors are required to run in parallel in each raceway and must meet all the requirements in 310.4 with the exception of the sizing rules (see figure 2).

Photo 4. Paralleled equipment grounding conductor connections at equipment

The equipment grounding conductors for parallel runs do not have to meet the requirement of 310.4 that calls for a minimum 1/0 conductor size, because the equipment grounding conductors in each raceway are full size as required by 250.122. The equipment grounding conductors in a parallel installation are not being installed in parallel to create one larger conductive path , as is the case for the ungrounded phase conductors of the circuit and grounded (neutral) conductor if present. See 250.122(F) and 310.4 for the exact Code language that provides this requirement.

Sizing Equipment Grounding Conductors

Figure 3. Sizing requirements for equipment grounding conductors installed with feeder conductors in parallel

Sizing rules for equipment grounding conductors installed with parallel runs of conductors are provided in 250.122(F). The equipment grounding conductors installed in separate multiple raceways or cables must be sized based on the rating of the overcurrent device protecting the parallel set of conductors in accordance with Table 250.122 (see figure 3). This means if the overcurrent protective device for a feeder is rated at 800 amperes, the size of equipment grounding conductor (wire-type) cannot be less than 1/0 copper or 3/0 kcmil aluminum or copper-clad aluminum.

Question No. 1: If the size of the overcurrent device protecting a feeder is rated at 1600 amperes, what is the minimum size aluminum equipment grounding conductor (wire-type) required in each raceway of the parallel set?*

Example 1

Section 250.122(B) also includes a requirement that addresses conductors that are increased in size, such as for voltage drop. Where equipment grounding conductors (wire-type) are installed with conductors in parallel that are installed in separate raceways and increased in size for voltage drop reasons, the equipment grounding conductors must all be increased in size proportionately (see example 1).

Equipment Grounding Conductor Connections

Figure 4. Equipment grounding conductor connections for a grounded system

Equipment grounding conductors are an important component in the effective ground fault current path. One of the most critical points in any electrical circuit is the terminals or connections. This is typically the point at which a circuit failure would occur. The Code requirements for equipment grounding conductor connections are covered in 250.130. This rule addresses the required connections at a separately derived system or service. For a grounded system, the equipment grounding conductor is required to be connected to the grounded conductor and the grounding electrode conductor at the service or at the source of a separately derived system as provided in 250.30(A)(1) (see figure 4). The same rules apply for an ungrounded system, except that there is no grounded conductor in an ungrounded system. In this case, the equipment grounding conductor is connected to the grounding electrode conductor and the enclosure (see figure 5).

Figure 5. Equipment grounding conductor connections for an ungrounded system

Section 250.8 provides more specific requirements for grounding and bonding conductor connections. This section requires that these connections be made using listed lugs, listed pressure connectors, listed clamps, or other listed means (see photos 4, 5, and 6). This is one of those NEC rules that specifically requires the use of listed equipment.

There is additional information about listed grounding and bonding equipment in the Guide Information for Electrical Equipment (UL White Book) under category (KDER). Another key requirement is found in Section 250.12. Where painted or coated enclosures are installed to which equipment grounding conductors must be connected, the coating is required to be removed to ensure electrical continuity and conductivity, unless the connections are made by using fittings designed to make coating removal unnecessary.


Photo 5. Equipment grounding conductor connections made by listed lugs

The equipment grounding conductor of the grounding and bonding scheme in any electrical system has two primary functions. First, it serves to establish an earth (ground) connection for the equipment. This maintains the equipment at or as close as possible to earth potential. The second function of the equipment grounding conductor is to provide an effective ground-fault current path to facilitate overcurrent device operation during ground-fault events. Where equipment grounding conductors are installed in parallel, the requirements in 250.122(F), 310.4, 300.3(B) and 250.134(B) all apply.

Photo 6. Equipment grounding conductor connections made at a panelboard supplied by a feeder installed with conductors in parallel

Equipment grounding conductors of the wire-type installed in parallel conductor runs must be sized based on the rating of the overcurrent device protecting the parallel set in accordance with Table 250.122. The minimum 1/0 sizing requirement for conductors installed in parallel does not apply to equipment grounding conductors, but all other installation requirements contained in 310.4 apply to those wire-type equipment grounding conductors. The information provided in this article is based on the minimum requirements contained in NEC-2005. As always, be sure to verify with the local authority having jurisdiction for any local rules that may also apply to parallel conductor installations.

* Answer: 350 kcmil aluminum or copper clad aluminum

Read more by Michael Johnston

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Critical Operations Power Systems

Posted By Tim Owens, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

In September 2001, New York was horrified by the destruction of the World Trade Center due to terrorist activities. In July 2005, New Orleans was heavily damaged by flooding from broken dikes resulting from Hurricane Katrina. In October 2006, Hawaii was rocked by numerous earthquakes. In November 2006, the Pacific Northwest was inundated by flooding from massive rains. In November 2006, North Carolina was damaged by tornadoes. All of these disasters had one thing in common—Expectations!

The people affected by these disasters expected immediate response by appropriate personnel and restoration of normal activities within a reasonable time. They expected police and fire operations to protect them and their property, that their electricity, gas, water, and sewer would operate for their survivability, and that their banks would provide money for food and other essentials.

These expectations of a quick response require continuity of operations by the police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. In addition, the second layer of disaster response also requires a continuity of operations for hospitals, electrical power, communications, and other essential services. This need for continuity of operations has long been part of planning by federal, state, and municipal governments as well as the business community. However, especially after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, concerns arose over the ability of certain infrastructure facilities to survive man-made disasters or even natural disasters. The first attempt to address these concerns in the building code arena is the proposed new Article 585, Critical Operations Power Systems, for the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC).

How Did Article 585 Come About?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has spent considerable time and effort in assessing the needs of the United States for protection against terrorist’s attacks. DHS is also accountable for the response to natural disasters through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). One of the concerns raised during these assessments was the ability of a community’s emergency response system and related infrastructure to withstand natural and manmade disasters. These concerns were relayed to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which created a Task Group on Emergency and Standby Power Systems for Homeland Security.

This Task Group met in August of 2005 with the mission of reviewing the NEC-2005 and other NFPA documents to identify where the current minimum requirements do not adequately address the level of integrity to withstand disasters. In addition to the NEC-2005, the Task Group also reviewed the provisions of NFPA 1600–2004 edition, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs; NFPA 110–2005 edition, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems; and NFPA 111–2005 edition, Standard on Stored Electrical Energy Emergency and Standby Power Systems.

The first question the Task Group tried to answer was exactly what constitutes a critical operations facility. It is important to remember that this task group met in August 2005 during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana which provided stark examples of failures in communications and public infrastructure. Another point to remember is that there is currently no comprehensive definition or listing of those facilities that could be considered as critical operations occupancies. The Task Group created a listing of possible critical operations facilities that included uses such as air traffic control centers, hazardous material handling operations, emergency communication needs, medical operations, and police, fire, and other critical public works operations. It was also discussed that many business continuity operations are considered critical to the public’s ability to withstand disasters including financial institutions, radio and television stations, and data storage operations. This list became the proposed fine print note (FPN) Number 2 to Article 585.1 Scope.

The Task Group’s next question to answer was exactly what electrical systems were required for these critical operations facilities and how to provide sufficient reliability for continuity of operations in these facilities. This question consumed the most time spent in the actual Task Group meeting as well as the follow-up emails and telephone conference calls. The discussion about this question covered the types of hazards that could arise from the naturally occurring events—such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and blizzards—to human caused events—such as bombings, chemical attacks, biological agents, or nuclear devices. The results of this discussion became the proposed FPN No. 6 to 585.1, Scope. Additional discussions covered the required installations of the electrical system and how best to provide survivability of the system during or immediately after disasters. This discussion eventually resulted in the language of the proposed new article for the NEC-2008.

The Task Group’s submittal, authored by Alan Manche with the Square D Company, to the NEC Technical Correlating Committee (TCC) became Proposal 20-1 Log Number 3497 for inclusion of a new article and annex within the NEC-2008. In the Task Group’s substantiation for this new article it was noted that these are "minimum requirements for those electrical systems where continuity of power and operation of systems is paramount.” The NEC TCC created a new code-making panel (CMP) 20 to handle the proposal for Article 585, Critical Operations Power Systems, and Annex H, Availability and Reliability for Critical Operations Power Systems; and Development and Implementation of Functional Performance Tests (FPTs) for Critical Operations Power Systems. The members of the NFPA Task Group were included in the membership of CMP-20 as well as other technical individuals to insure a broad-based review of the proposal.

CMP-20 met for three days in January of 2006 to discuss Proposal 20-1. Discussion covered the original work of the NFPA Task Group on critical operations facilities and their required electrical system requirements. The result of these discussions was an Accept in Principle in Part action on Proposal 20-1. The NFPA Regulations Governing Committee Projects defines Accept in Principle in Part as accepting the proposal with a change in wording in parts of the proposal. CMP 20’s action is explained in the following excerpt of the panel statement to its action on Proposal 20-1:

"In addition to editorial changes, for clarity and style manual compliance, the panel has made technical revisions to the recommended text for the purposes of providing enforceable (sic), prescriptive requirements for the installation and operation of a highly reliable power system for the operation of a mission critical facility. Additionally, there are two proposed annexes intended to provide useful design information.”

With this action by the panel and pending any additional action during the NEC-2008 Report on Comments meeting held in December 2006, a new Article 585, Critical Operations Power Systems, a new Annex F, Availability and Reliability for Critical Operations Power Systems; and Development and Implementation of Functional Performance Tests (FPT’s) for Critical Operations Power Systems, and a new Annex G, 585.60 Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) will be included in the NEC-2008.

What is Article 585?

The layout of Article 585, Critical Operations Power Systems (COPS), is listed below.
I. General
585.1 Scope
585.2 Definitions
585.3 Application of Other Articles
585.4 Risk Assessment
585.5 Physical Security
585.6 Testing and Maintenance
585.8 Commissioning

II. Circuit Wiring and Equipment
585.10 Feeder and Circuit Wiring
585.11 Branch Circuit and Feeder Distribution Equipment
585.12 Feeders and Branch Circuits Supplied by COPS
585.14 Wiring of HVAC, Fire Alarm, Security, Emergency Communications, and Signaling Systems

III. Power Sources and Connection
585.20 Sources of Power
585.22 Capacity of Power Systems
585.24 Transfer Equipment
585.30 Branch Circuits Supplied by COPS

IV. Overcurrent Protection
585.50 Accessibility
585.52 Ground-Fault Protection of Equipment
585.54 Coordination

V. System Performance and Analysis
585.64 Emergency Operation Plan

General Information about COPS

As with any other article contained within theNEC, the Scope and Definition Sections provide invaluable information. For Article 585, 585.1, Scope, provides the basis for the application of this new article. There are two paragraphs both of which are important reading. The first paragraph states:

The provisions of this article apply to the electrical installation, operation, monitoring, control, and maintenance of critical operations power systems consisting of circuits and equipment intended to supply, distribute and control electricity to designated vital operations in the event of disruption to elements of the normal system.

CMP-20 placed language in the scope section that expands upon any previous language used in the NEC. Not only does the Scope cover installation, operation, and control of systems but it also requires monitoring and maintenance of these systems. CMP-20 understood that the systems being proposed within this Article 585 are a step above any other system in the NEC due to the increased need for reliability and survivability. CMP-20 acknowledged that current NEC language, most notably in Articles 700, 701, and 517, has provisions for continued operations in non-normal situations, however, Article 585 situations must provide for continued operations under much more severe conditions and for a longer period of duration than those other articles envisioned. Thus, CMP-20 conceded that in addition to installation, operation and control requirements there must be some monitoring and maintenance requirements implemented to insure that the critical operations facilities continue to operate in periods of extreme crisis.

The second paragraph of the scope section follows: "Critical operations power systems are those systems so classed by municipal, state, federal, or other codes, by any governmental agency having jurisdiction or by facility engineering documentation establishing the necessity for such a system.”

This paragraph clearly indicates that Article 585 will not delve into the designation of critical operations facilities but relegates that designation to entities. CMP-20 accepted that the authority or need for designation of critical operations facilities is outside of the scope of the NEC as this designation is more appropriately performed in the building code arena. In order for Article 585 to perform as intended, there must be facilities built stronger than normally required by current building codes to protect the actual physical critical operations function.

In addition to governmental needs, CMP-20 granted that the requirements of Article 585 lend themselves to the needs of the business community for continuity of operations. Disasters not only affect individuals but also businesses. For many businesses, it is vital that their operations continue under any circumstances. Thus, the last part of the second paragraph gives business entities the ability to document the need for classification of there facilities as requiring a COPS installation.

There are two definitions contained in Section 585.2 that need mentioning in understanding the requirements of Article 585. The first is critical operations power systems (COPS). Power systems for facilities or parts of facilities that require continuous operation for the reasons of public safety, emergency management, national security, or business continuity.” This language clearly indicates that Article 585 is intended for continuity of operations beyond the requirements in Articles 700, 701, and 517 for life safety. The definition also indicates that COPS is for a whole facility or a part of the facility. This part of a facility could be as large as the entire building or as small as a single room. The NEC will not limit the area of a site that can be designated as requiring COPS.

The second definition is designated critical operations areas (DCOA). Areas within a facility or site designated as requiring critical operations power.” This definition indicates that COPS is intended to supply a designated area and not just a single function. Article 585 is closer in concept to Article 517, Health Care Facilities, a designated area, rather than Article 700, Emergency Systems, wiring for a function. Again, CMP-20 relegated the designation of DCOA to governmental agencies or business entities and not the NEC.

One other section of Article 585 that bears mentioning is 585.4, Risk Assessment. This is a vital requirement within Article 585 as it communicates the necessity for examining the types of hazards or conditions that COPS must meet. This takes into consideration that the NEC cannot provide requirements to meet all climatic, geological, topographical, or human-caused events. This section is an expansion of Section 90.5(B), Adequacy, which states that the NEC "contains provisions that are considered necessary for safety … but not necessarily efficient, convenient, or adequate for good service.” As stated in 585.4(C), a strategy must be created for mitigation of the hazards not addressed by the NEC. This takes into account that hazards present in Florida may not be present in California or in Maine. Thus, Article 585 gives minimum requirements but does not cover all possibilities.

COPS Wiring and Equipment

Part II of Article 585 provides requirements for the installation and protection of the actual COPS wiring. The underlying theme here is that COPS wiring requires a higher level of physical protection than current language for emergency systems wiring. Specifically, COPS wiring must remain completely isolated from all non-COPS wiring and may not serve any loads not associated with the DCOA. All COPS feeder wiring must be physically protected by installation in rigid metal conduit, intermediate conduit, Type MI cable, schedule 80 rigid non-metallic conduit, or concrete encasement of schedule 40 rigid nonmetallic conduit, flexible nonmetallic or jacketed metallic raceways, or jacketed metallic cable assemblies listed for installation in concrete. In addition, COPS feeders must be listed electrical circuit protective system with a minimum 1-hour fire rating, be protected by a fire-rated assembly listed to achieve a minimum fire rating of 1 hour, be embedded in not less than 50 mm (2 in.) of concrete, or be a cable listed to maintain circuit integrity for not less than 1 hour when installed in accordance with the listing requirement. Wiring below the 100-year floodplain level must be suitable for wet locations.

COPS branch circuit wiring installed outside of the DCOA must be installed to the same requirements as feeder wiring. This provision does not apply to branch circuit wiring inside the DCOA which suggests that the wiring methods in NEC chapters 1 through 4 is permissible.

Finally, the COPS feeder distribution equipment must be located in spaces with a 2-hour fire rating and above the 100-year floodplain level. COPS branch circuit distribution equipment must be located with the DCOA that those branch circuits supply.

COPS Power Sources

Power sources for COPS are covered in Part III of Article 585. A power source in addition to the normal power source must be supplied for COPS. This additional power source must be installed in spaces fully protected by approved automatic fire suppression systems or in spaces with a 1-hour fire rating. The power source shall be installed as a separately derived system and grounded as required in NEC 250.30. This additional power source may be storage batteries, a generator set, an uninterruptible power supply, or a fuel cell system. Whatever the power source, it shall have the ability to carry the required loads, may supply other loads if selective load pickup, load shedding, and peak load sharing are present, and shall be capable of continuous operation for a minimum of 72 hours.

The concept expressed in this part of Article 585 is that an on-site second source of power be provided for continuity of operations in the DCOA. Also expressed is the idea that this second power source must last for a minimum of three days. The understanding by CMP-20 is that fuel resupply may not be readily available.

COPS Overcurrent Protection

There are three requirements of Article 585, Part IV, COPS overcurrent devices. The first restricts access of overcurrent devices to authorized personnel only. This requirement pertains to the physical security necessary for DCOA access. The second requirement addresses ground-fault protection for personnel by requiring an additional level of protection beyond that required in Section 230.95 or Section 215.10. This requirement attempts to prevent a ground-fault in a non-COPS feeder from causing a loss of power to COPS. The final requirement is for coordination of overcurrent devices. This should result in a fault being cleared at the lowest level overcurrent device possible.

System Performance and Analysis

Part V of Article 585 addresses the need for a documented emergency operations plan. This requirement goes towards the reliability and maintainability of COPS and the DCOA. This plan must address the actual operations during an emergency and the recovery of normal operations. This requirement will ensure that a comprehensive operational plan is in place to provide the continuity of operations expected for the critical operations function.

Benefits of Article 585

Article 585 is the first attempt to answer the response problems resulting from naturally occurring and human-caused events. DHS realized that the level of reliability of the emergency response infrastructure within the United States did not meet expectations. Additionally, concerns were raised over the ability to continue vital operations during and after these events. NFPA replied to these concerns by creating the Task Group on Emergency and Standby Power Systems for Homeland Security. This Task Group created a proposal for inclusion of a new article within the NEC-2008. The NEC TCC created CMP-20 to review the submitted proposal. CMP-20 worked during January 2006 and December 2006 to refine the proposal into a working part of the NEC-2008. Upon a vote by the membership at the upcoming 2007 NFPA Annual Meeting in Boston, Article 585 will become an official part of the NEC-2008.

Article 585 addresses the reliability and continuity of operations for those facilities, or parts thereof, that have been designated as critical to the operations of municipal, state, federal governments as wells as certain business operations. The article performs this function by requiring a document risk analysis of the particular event the facility may experience. An emergency operations plan is also created to insure continuity during and after the event. The wiring of this facility is then installed to preclude failures resulting from these events.

The benefit that will be realized from the application of the requirements contained in Article 585, Critical Operations Power Systems, is that naturally occurring or human-caused events should not cause a total collapse in the public infrastructure or a cessation of business activities. The goal of Article 585 is to save lives and protect property.

Read more by Tim Owens

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

12 Winning Traits of a Good Electrical Inspector

Posted By Philip Cox, Monday, January 01, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

A combination of traits and associated technical training and experience should help produce an individual highly qualified in the profession of electrical inspection. When one is truly professional as an electrical inspector in both conduct and performance, he or she not only brings greater respect to the industry but also makes it easier for other members of the electrical community to do their jobs.

What are the guidelines for determining whether a person is a good electrical inspector? Qualifications for becoming an electrical inspector vary greatly. Some jurisdictions may not require an individual to have any electrical training or experience before being hired as an inspector. Others require a minimum of journeyman or master electrician license, formal degrees in electrical engineering, or years of field experience. While there may not be an established list of qualifications one can use to determine if a person is qualified to be an electrical inspector, there are some characteristics which are very important for doing the job.


The level of commitment of an inspector becomes evident within a short period. When a person neither believes in the job nor is committed to its objectives, it can usually be recognized. The job of an electrical inspector is too important to be left in the hands of one who is interested only in putting in forty hours a week. The responsibility of helping provide for safe electrical installations for those living within the inspection jurisdiction is too serious to ignore. Fortunately, many dedicated electrical inspectors go beyond the required job responsibilities and give much needed service both to the public and to the industry. The demand upon an electrical inspector’s time is generally not limited to a 40-hour week. Most successful electrical inspectors spend a lot of time after normal work hours teaching classes, giving presentations to groups, answering electrical code questions and doing other things to help improve his or her community.

Thirst for Knowledge

The higher one climbs on the ladder of knowledge, the better one can see. The horizon is broadened and many things can be seen more clearly. It is refreshing to see inspectors who love to talk code at every opportunity, read extensively, attend educational forums and participate in other related electrical inspector activities. The training and skills necessary to be a good electrical inspector do not come quickly or easily. One must work hard to gain an acceptable level of expertise and be very diligent about staying proficient. The thirst for knowledge is a motivating force that drives many individuals to go beyond what is required and to do what is necessary in order to become the best they can be.

Positive Attitude

Approaching the responsibility of enforcing electrical safety rules with a positive attitude is beneficial for all affected parties. This is often reflected by the inspector projecting an image of working to verify compliance with established safety rules rather than having a negative attitude of trying to find something wrong with a job. Listening to an inspector talk with a contractor or engineer provides good insight into the attitude the person has in relation to the job. An important point that needs to be kept in mind is that to see a job done correctly, the electrical inspector should work with installers, designers and manufacturers’ representatives, etc., but for the consumer or general public. While the responsibility for the tone of a discussion often rests on the shoulders of the inspector, the other person must bear responsibility as well. Where the other individual’s opinion is so firmly established that no amount of persuasion can change it and where emotion overrides logic, the inspector’s efforts to explain a rule or its application are not likely to succeed. The ability to maintain a positive level of communication is very difficult in these circumstances. Often the use of an established appeal process is necessary to resolve the issue in these circumstances.

Fairness in Applying the Code

Rules should be interpreted and applied uniformly to all involved. The inspector is a type of law enforcement official and, as such, has the responsibility of enforcing both the letter and intent of the adopted law. Those who make up their own rules, or enforce provisions for which there is no established law, or make decisions in direct conflict with adopted rules should seriously reconsider potential repercussions of those actions. There have been occasions where people have complained of unfair and unequal enforcement when, in fact, the work was not in conformance with the electrical code and the inspector was simply doing a good job. In order to guard against problems in this area, inspectors should work very hard to ensure there is not even a hint of uneven enforcement.


Designers and installers have a greater level of confidence in the electrical inspector when they know he or she is very capable of inspecting a job, evaluating its compliance with safety code rules, and making sound judgments on field conditions. The decisions inspectors often must make can dramatically impact the affected parties, and the responsibility for making those decisions is a heavy load to bear. For this reason, an inspector must not only have an excellent knowledge of applicable code rules but also must understand the electrical system. Some people discount the importance of requiring inspectors to have a good working knowledge of the fundamental principles of electricity, but that knowledge is necessary for understanding how a system operates and how it will be affected by specific conditions. Understanding installation methods is also important. Unless one has worked in the trade, it is more difficult to comprehend field situations fully and to evaluate them according to written rules. Without field experience, it is more difficult to see the whole picture.


Consistency in interpreting and applying electrical code rules is very significant to users of the code. Whenever an installer does electrical work within an inspection jurisdiction, rules should be applied the same to all jobs regardless of which inspector looks at the installation. This is a serious challenge for chief electrical inspectors and supervisors. When an inspection department consists of a large number of inspectors, establishing and maintaining a common level of understanding of code rules and enforcement procedures is difficult. Inconsistencies in situations sometimes occur because of rules in the National Electrical Code that are not precise in nature. An example of this is 230.2(B)(2). This provision permits more than one service to a single building or other structure that is sufficiently large to make two or more services necessary and where special permission is given. For consistency, both the guidelines on how to determine what constitutes a "sufficiently large” building or other structure that justifies the use of 230.2(B)(2) and where the use of "special permission” is necessary should be clearly understood and applied by the authority having jurisdiction. If it is left up to individual inspectors to interpret this rule without any established policy or guidance, undesirable inconsistencies could easily occur. Without basic guidelines to determine what constitutes a large building or other structure covered by 230.2(B)(2), individual inspectors may have widely different opinions on the matter. It should be clear to both inspectors and installers as to how a rule is applied.

Good Judgment

Every inspector has to make judgments in the field because of conditions or situations that do not clearly fall under a code rule. The inspector should consider all aspects of the situation before making any decision on this type of matter. Consideration should be given to how the decision impacts the job being inspected as well as other jobs. In addition, how it will affect all parties involved and how it relates to the purpose of the NEC in "… the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity” is important [90.1(A)]. There is no substitute for an inspector’s good judgment in evaluating electrical installations and applying code rules. Section 90.4 provides needed flexibility for inspectors. This provision assigns the responsibility of interpreting the code, approving materials and equipment, granting special permission and allowing alternate methods to the authority having jurisdiction. Every job does not neatly fit into conditions described by the Code. Neither is it practical to write code that will cover every variation that could possibly occur. When the flexibility covered in 90.4 is used, it should be done with proper regard for the gravity of the responsibility.

Common Sense Approach

There are those who apply electrical code rules strictly by the letter and there are those who enforce both by the letter and by intent. This may appear confusing to some, but inspectors need to understand the reasons behind safety rules and to enforce them in a logical manner. Rules properly interpreted and applied in a logical manner will provide a good level of safety. An example is the application of the term wrenchtight where following rules for bonding. The rule does not specify the type of wrench, the amount of pressure to be applied, or any specific details or conditions. To skilled installers and inspectors, this term is readily understood as to its intent. Qualified inspectors who understand both the letter and intent of the code are familiar with electrical products and installation methods, know the difference between wrenchtight as applied to a run of 3/4-inch conduit from that for a run of 6-inch conduit. If one interpreted wrenchtight to allow the use of any type of wrench, the selected tool may very well be inadequate to do the job. A wrench used to tighten a threaded coupling on a small diameter raceway may not be appropriate to tighten a coupling on a 4-inch conduit, even though the wrench may be adjustable to grip the larger conduit. The purpose and intent of the code are very much a part of the enforcement of electrical safety rules.


One characteristic that most inspectors demonstrate is dependability. This involves keeping one’s word and being reliable. In turn, because inspectors traditionally feel strongly in this area, they expect those they associate with to live by the same standards. During visits to some inspection jurisdictions, it became readily evident in many cases that not only contractors but also the inspector’s superiors had a high level of trust in the electrical inspector’s ability and conduct. They apparently were very confident that the inspector would do what was needed, and they could depend upon it being done in an acceptable fashion.

The Ability to Listen

Listening properly can solve many problems and help eliminate misunderstandings. Being able to communicate effectively is a skill vital to a professional electrical inspector. When people enter into conversations with their minds made up, or do not want to hear what is being said, there is little chance of solving problems. The inspector is frequently involved in discussions with manufacturers, designers, installers and property owners. In order to understand specific needs or positions taken by others, one should listen to what is said, have an open mind on the matter, digest that information and evaluate the situation without bias. The term listen cannot be over emphasized. It is a learned skill in most cases and takes a disciplined level of concentration. A significant problem in oral communications is the failure to listen closely to what is said and to hear the entire point being made before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. One has only to listen to discussions between people to learn that some individuals prematurely and incorrectly form an opinion in response to what another person says. It is best to wait until the entire statement or point is made before trying to interpret what is being said.

The Ability to Work With People

One can be the best technically qualified person available and still be a relative failure as an electrical inspector. Whether one realizes it or not, the inspector must be able to communicate effectively with people in order to succeed. In reality, it is one of the most important skills for an inspector. It is difficult to deal with an individual during a hostile confrontation. It takes a lot of patience and understanding to work out this type of situation effectively. One can expect these situations to arise from time to time because of the very nature of law enforcement. Misunderstandings, differences of opinions and many other factors result in conflicts with inspectors. The effectiveness of the inspector can depend a great deal upon his or her ability to solve these problems. Unfortunately, if these confrontations cannot be resolved, the inspector may end up with an adversarial form of enforcement. In some cases, the situation is not realistically within the inspector’s ability to control and that the level of antagonism is established by the other party. Where the inspector does all he or she can to approach a difficult situation in a professional manner and the other party continues to be confrontational, that individual must be held responsible for his or her conduct. Fortunately, where inspectors use the professional approach, the latter situation is less likely to occur.

Responsible Use of Authority

Inspectors must have the proper tools to do their job. A necessary part of that set of tools is the authority to act and enforce rules and regulations adopted by the inspection jurisdiction. The type and extent of authority granted to an electrical inspector is dependant upon a number of factors and may vary from that in other jurisdictions. Some inspectors may have the authority to take actions such as having violators arrested or stopping work at a job site while others may be far more limited in what they can do. It depends upon the enforcement policy adopted by a jurisdiction. Regardless of the type of authority an inspector has, he or she is expected to perform with a high level of integrity. How an inspector applies that power tells a lot about how that person views his or her role and what standard of ethics that is practiced. In many cases it also reveals a lot about those who are responsible for the conduct of inspectors. Most people within the industry have probably heard of an inspector being accused of abusing authority. Unfortunately, those rare few are the ones who get the headlines while the overwhelming majority of honorable ones who uphold the law go unrecognized. In every profession there are those who enjoy using their authority to cause others to do their bidding. Possibly this is an ego boost and it causes them to have an inflated view of themselves that others do not share. There is no room in the inspection profession for this type of person. There is too much at stake. Unethical inspectors hurt the inspection industry but they also affect the general public.

Read more by Philip Cox

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
Page 35 of 66
 |<   <<   <  30  |  31  |  32  |  33  |  34  |  35  |  36  |  37  |  38  |  39  |  40  >   >>   >|