Or, 13 Things to Love About the 2014 NEC Updates!
Welcome to part two in what has wound up being a three-part series on the 2014 NEC Updates. (You can find part 1 here.) Not all areas are implementing these at the same time – not all areas are implementing them at all. Regardless, this years updates are going to continue to shape and improve the future of construction – specifically in the electrical field. Awareness and knowledge of these changes will only strengthen the future face of building across the country.
393 – New Chapter
Low Voltage Suspended Ceiling Power Distribution Systems
This chapter has me particularly excited – integrating whole building or space systems is something I have enjoyed speculating on and helping people implement. One of the nice benefits about the recent shift towards exposed ceilings (instead of drop-in tiles or false ceilings) is utilitarian beauty – another one is easy access to wiring and ventilation. The idea of constructing a DC micro grid in your ceiling and allowing plug and play-like technology for lights, projectors, indoor air quality and more is just another sign of the constant progress going on in the lighting industry. It is also a nod to the growing trend towards commercial and industrial companies looking to provide better working environments while saving money and becoming more efficient.
Electricians will hopefully appreciate the mandated supervision and maintenance they will be required to provide to these cutting-edge systems; even low-voltage DC can be dangerous or fatal if the human heart is exposed to even the slightest current. Thankfully, these systems are prohibited in high-humidity environments, and places where corrosion, hazards, or dangers exist. Since the drop-in and plug and play construction means continuous open spaces, these lighting systems should never be considered part of a ceilings fire rating.
406 – Receptacles, Cords, & Connectors
New NEC regulations require that when replacing or ‘upgrading’ GFCI and AFCI outlets, they must be ‘easily accessible’ for everyone. In addition, new receptacles must be tamper-resistant, and face-up receptacles are not allowed on countertops – excluding those specifically rated for such a purpose and wired in a GFCI circuit. Wet location installations must now be weatherproof and come complete with an extra duty box-hoods. Obviously these are steps in the NEC’s intent to create ‘whole home safety’ for electrical users by both making it easier to reset circuits and yet better protect them from water and children.
New or changed points in this section mandate the use of GFCIs on circuits for tire Inflation & automotive vacuum machines as well as any vending machines that are hardwired into a circuit and not on a plug and cord. The first changes sound like someone tried to vacuum some water and got a shock – or that burning out the wires or motors in outside, public machines has become a problem. I personally have never seen hardwired vending machines, but presumably putting them on a GFCI will help prevent older machines from shocking customers. As mentioned earlier, GFCIs must be easily accessible so that circuits can be seen, heard, and reset.
All portable generators 15kW or smaller must have GFCI protection for personnel integrated into the generator or on its receptacles. The marking nameplate must also indicate its state of bonding. While not a huge deal in and of itself, it does seem to hint that either electricians are unintentionally shorting out generators or that generators are zapping construction workers. In either circumstance, it is another opportunity for creating a safe environment and protecting ourselves from electrocution.
The number of receptacles for ‘normal patient care’ at hospitals has been doubled, and even more are required for critical branches at patients beds. Operating rooms must have at least a dozen ‘critical branch’ outlets to keep things going in the case of a power outage as well. The term ‘Emergency System’ has been removed from the NEC code book, leaving instead the ‘Essential Electrical System’ which is made up of three branches – life safety, critical, and equipment. These are separate, back-up branches for health care facilities that are wired for back-up or fail-safe power first and foremost; they control things like life-support equipment, oxygen generation, and emergency lighting. This is encouraging information for those of us worried about the fate of loved ones during emergencies and disasters.
Eight down, and five more to go – join us next week for more 2014 NEC Updates to look forwards to!
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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