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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 

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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 

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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 

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Ask Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more by Wayne Lilly

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more by Jesse Abercrombie

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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The Authority of the Electrical Inspector

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

Customer Service and Communication

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

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

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

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

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


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

Enforcement and Code Compliance

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard Bearer

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

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

Read more by Michael Weitzel

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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2007 International President: Strength comes when we speak as one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more by David Clements

Tags:  Featured  January-February 2007 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, why are you in the electrical profession?

Read more by James W. Carpenter

Tags:  Editorial  January-February 2007 

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

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

Question: Low-voltage landscape luminaire

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags:  January-February 2007  UL Question Corner 

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

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

Question: UL product categories

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


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

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

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

Tags:  January-February 2007  UL Question Corner 

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