Topic: Electrical

Electrical Room Basics, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blogs on electrical rooms Frequently, people associate an electrical room with Article 110 of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®).  More specifically, they associate it with section 110.26. But is that accurate? The answer would be kind of. Section 110.26 deals with what it calls working space about electrical equipment, not electrical rooms. After all, these rooms are sometimes used for other mechanical equipment like furnaces or water heaters, which is why they are sometimes referred to as mechanical rooms. The one thing they are not is storage rooms. The sections within 110.26 are specific to working spaces about electrical equipment that may or may not be within a room. Working space may be in a corridor, basement, exterior, or even a garage. However, the section that could be interpreted to require an electrical room is 110.27, which requires live parts be guarded against accidental contact. One of several methods to accomplish this is by placing electrical equipment in an electrical room or vault. Therefore, most architects design a separate electrical room, or mechanical room, for the main service equipment and mechanical equipment for the building, which is usually less expensive than an electrical vault. In most cases, the room is locked, which helps create a method of control to ensure only qualified persons have access to energized electrical equipment as outlined in 110.26(F). Contained within the electrical room is the working space about the electrical equipment as described in the 2023 NEC, section 110.26(A). This space consists of several parameters, some of which are outlined below. ·       Depth of Working Space is a measurement that considers nominal voltage to ground and if there are grounded parts or exposed live parts across from the equipment. This information lines up with the conditions outlined in Table 110.26(A)(1). To determine this measurement, one must select the condition that applies to the installation. Then measure from exposed parts (soon to be live) or from the face of the enclosure, if live parts are enclosed, extending out the front until the minimum distance within the table is achieved. ·       Width of Working Space is a dimension derived from measuring the width across the front of the electrical equipment. This can be taken from center (15 inches in middle of equipment), from left side of equipment or from right side. No matter the amperage the maximum width will be equal to the width of the equipment but will not be less than 30 inches. ·       Height of Working Space is measured from grade, floor, or platform to a height of 6.5 feet and is the width of the equipment or at least 30 inches and extends out to the depth of the working space. Other items such as luminaries or sprinkler pipes may be above this space, but not within it. ·       Grade, Floor, or Working Platform requires the grade, floor or working platform to be kept clear and that the floor, grade, or working platform be as level and flat as practical for the entire depth and width of the working space for the applicable working space. This is largely because electrical equipment that requires servicing may be in different environments. ·       Entrance to and Egress from Working Space requires at least one entrance of sufficient area to give access to and egress from the working space. Depending on the size of the equipment (see 110.26(C)(2)), the entrance and egress to/from the working space could be 24 inches wide by 6.5 feet high. Open equipment doors must not impede access to and egress from the required working space. If one or more equipment doors are open and access to and egress from the working space is reduced to less than 24 inches wide and 6.5 feet high, the access is considered impeded. Most of us have seen electrical equipment located outside of the electrical room. Sometimes a panel is in a corridor of a school or back hall of a store or even outside. Panels located outside of a building may require other means to guard the live parts from accidental contact and to create a compliant working space. No matter where the electrical equipment that may require servicing is located, all of section 110.26 applies. So, working space and section 110.26 must be accounted for by architects and design professionals in the overall layout and installation of electrical equipment to allow for safe access, operation, and maintenance of that equipment. Stay tuned to NFPA Today for part two in this blog series titled Electrical Rooms, where we will explore the working space requirements for equipment over 1,000 volts, nominal.

Don’t Miss Out. Register by December 24 to Become an NFPA Member and Vote at the 2023 Technical Meeting.

The deadline for becoming an NFPA® member and have voting privileges during the 2023 NFPA Technical Meeting (a.k.a. Tech Session) is Saturday, December 24. While all NFPA stakeholders are encouraged to share their voices during the public comment/input/debate phases of the standards development process, voting privileges are exclusively reserved for those who have become NFPA members at least 180 days prior to the annual Technical Meeting (and have also registered for the Technical Meeting). The 2023 Technical Meeting will begin on June 22 (and continue on June 23, if necessary) in Las Vegas, which accounts for the December 24 NFPA membership deadline. There are currently more than 30 documents that are up for consideration at the 2023 NFPA Technical Meeting, including NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®; NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code; and NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. The final list of documents to be debated or voted on in June will not be fully known until the Motions Committee certifies motions in May. (Any and all updates will be posted at nfpa.org/2023techsession.) In addition to being able to vote at the Technical Meeting, NFPA members enjoy other professional benefits including, but not limited to, the following: One-on-one help with technical standards questions from NFPA fire, building, electrical, and life safety specialists Access to NFPA Xchange™, an online community where like-minded professionals can go for solutions and connect with peers worldwide. The NFPA Technical Knowledge Base can also be searched in NFPA Xchange™. A 10% discount on most NFPA products and services* To become an NFPA member and vote during the 2023 Technical Meeting, or to see the full list of NFPA benefits, visit the NFPA membership page today. *Cannot be combined with other offers or used for certification programs.

Fire Safety for Electric Vehicles and Other Modern Vehicles in Parking Structures

In spite of the global supply chain issues and loss of vehicles in the Felicity Ace cargo ship fire, the sales of electric vehicles (EVs) has been on the move, hitting 6.6 million in 2021, which is more than triple their market share from two years earlier. While this might be good news for our environment, it also brings unique fire challenges to both first responders and fire protection designers. The lithium-ion (or similar) batteries inside of these vehicles fail and burn in a much different way than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. When lithium-ion batteries fail, they go through a process called thermal runaway, where a single cell failure can cause the production of heat and oxygen as well as flammable and toxic gasses. This then spreads to adjacent cells causing potential rapid fire growth or explosion. To give us some perspective about the size of this issue, it is estimated that there are around 16 million electric cars on the road worldwide, and studies have identified nearly 300 EV fires globally between 2010 and 2022. Compare this with ICE vehicle fires and we find that EV vehicle fires are less common of an occurrence, but more complicated of an event, since EVs fires can last longer and have the potential for electrical shock and reignition. While a majority of vehicle fires occur on the road, it’s the fires that occur in parking structures that lead to large economic loss as evidenced by recent fires at Liverpool’s Echo Arena (UK) and at the Stavanger Airport (Norway). What makes a parking garage or parking structure unique? Parking garages, often called parking structures in code books, are a unique type of occupancy. They can be located underground or above ground and are usually located in congested urban areas where large open parking lots aren’t feasible. They can be public or private and store anything from motorcycles and cars to trucks and buses. There might be access for each vehicle to enter and exit or there might be vehicles covering the entire floor area. RELATED: Read a 2019 NFPA Journal feature story about the risks introduced to parking garages by modern vehicles  There can also be several different types of technology integrated into parking structures, such as car stackers or automated parking systems which store and retrieve vehicles without a driver. These types of technologies increase the efficiency of the space being used but also increase the potential hazard by placing vehicles closer together. With all of these variables already existing in parking structures, the introduction of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations adds more considerations that need to be made when designing and protecting these occupancies. What do the codes say? What do the current codes and standard say about electric vehicles in parking garages? While they don’t go into much detail, there are some requirements in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and NFPA 88A, Standard for Parking Structures, that address certain safety concerns. The NEC is the go-to code when looking to protect people and property from electrical hazards and so, as appropriate, it has requirements for installing EV charging stations, or “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment,” as they call it in the code. When conducting service load calculations, Article 220 requires EV Supply Equipment to be calculated at either 7,200 watts or the nameplate rating of the equipment, whichever is larger. This is to ensure the electrical supply will be able to handle the extra load put on by EVs charging. Most of the other requirements for electric vehicle charging stations are going to be located in Article 625, Electric Vehicle Power Transfer System. While this article contains many requirements, some of the highlights include requirements for EV charging equipment to be listed, to have a disconnecting means, and for charging coupling to be a minimum distance above the ground. The other major standard that addresses EVs in parking structures is NFPA 88A. Similar to NFPA 70, it requires the charging stations and equipment to be listed but it gives more details into the exact listing standards it needs to meet. -        Electric vehicle charging stations need to be listed to UL 2202, Standard for Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging System Equipment. -        Electric vehicle charging equipment need to be listed to UL 2594, Standard for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. -        Wireless power transfer equipment needs to be listed to UL 2750, UL LLC Outline of Investigation for Wireless Power Transfer Equipment for Electric Vehicles. Impact of modern vehicles The introduction of EVs into the ecosystem isn’t the only thing to consider when looking at how to properly design and protect parking structures. The fire characteristics of modern vehicles are also changing to include more plastics and other combustibles than ever before. While this benefits the fuel economy and lowers vehicle price, it increases the fuel load and fire growth we see in parking garages. A recent Fire Protection Research Foundation report dives into details about the fire hazard modern vehicles represent to parking garages and marine vessels. In addition, there have also been updates to various standards in response to these increased fire hazards found in parking garages.    The 2022 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, for example, has changed to increase the recommended hazard classification for parking structures from an Ordinary Hazard Group 1 to an Ordinary Hazard Group 2. The effect is a 33 percent increase in the design density, moving from 0.15 gpm/ft2 to 0.2 gpm/ft2. As of January of 2021, FM Global data sheets have also increased the hazard category for parking garages and car parks from a Hazard Category 2 to a Hazard Category 3. New to the 2023 edition of NFPA 88A, all parking garages are now required to have sprinkler systems installed in accordance with NFPA 13. Prior to this edition, sprinklers didn’t have to be installed in open parking structures. Conclusion While technology is constantly evolving, so are NFPA codes, standards, trainings, research, and other resources. The ever-growing presence of lithium-ion batteries in our day-to-day lives are changing the fire characteristics of our built environment. Fire protection professionals need to be able to stay on top of these changes to ensure the safety of people and property. For more information on the resources NFPA provides relates to electric vehicles, check out nfpa.org/EV.

NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), Now Used in All 50 States

NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), 2020 edition, is now recognized by 24 states, making the NEC the electrical authority on electrical safety standards in the United States. Additionally, NFPA® has made the 2020 NEC available on NFPA LiNK® for improved access and it will be available in Spanish March 2023. View which NEC® edition your state uses. The world’s leading electrical safety resource since 1897 NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, was first introduced in 1897 by 1,200 individuals in the United States and across Europe and unanimously approved by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Today, the NEC is incorporated by reference globally—from Europe and Latin America to China and the Middle East—and sets the foundation for electrical safety in residential, commercial, and industrial occupancies around the world. This trusted code is constantly reviewed and updated by active electrical experts—the 2020 NEC had more than 3,700 public inputs and 1,900 comments—to help electricians install systems safely in this ever-changing world. The gold standard, upgraded Known as the “gold standard” in electrical safety, the NEC represents the latest comprehensive regulations for everything electrical—wiring, overcurrent protection, grounding, and electrical equipment—and covers all electrical systems, from residential to alternative energy systems. The 2023 edition of the NEC, which has already been recognized by Massachusetts, can be bundled with Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Changes to the National Electrical Code—a companion guide that outlines the updates from the previous edition. The 2023 NEC is also available in NFPA LiNK®. Getting more from the National Electrical Code For a more comprehensive understanding of the NEC, NFPA also offers online trainings for each edition year based on your states needs on the subject, which helps prepare electrical professionals for any safety challenge they might encounter. The 16-hour 2020 NEC training course is designed to boost users’ knowledge—and their careers—through engaging interactive exercises. The training also qualifies as 1.6 continuing education units (CEUs) for electrical professionals. View the latest NEC changes, or purchase the edition your state uses,
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A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Setting Up an Electrical Safety Program (Part 8 - Awareness)

Some electrical safety requirements in NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® are overarching concepts. Section 110.5(D) is one such requirement. An electrical safety program (ESP) must be designed to instill awareness and self-discipline in employees. By learning awareness and self-discipline, employees will begin to accept that their actions are often among the primary causes of injuries. The employer must develop policies and procedures that flesh out the requirement to achieve this safety goal. Training employees to be vigilant of the electrical hazards lurking in the workplace is difficult. There are things that every employee should know for their safety. For example, recognizing when a flexible cord is damaged is a skill everyone can benefit from. An employee operating an overhead electric crane needs focused training to know specific hazards and warning signs that may be present. An ESP must contain policies, procedures, and a training program to address this. Having awareness of potential hazards serves no purpose if there is no awareness on how to avoid the hazard. Requiring an employee to conduct a task that exposes them to a reported hazard or to a hazard that they are not trained to avoid will quickly undermine a well-intentioned ESP. Awareness also means awareness of others around oneself. Employees need to be aware of how their work affects the safety of others. Employees should be taught to help others be aware of hazards and inappropriate behavior that puts someone at risk.  Management must be committed to encouraging this awareness. Self-discipline, the other half of the requirement, is also difficult to teach. The ESP program must incorporate policies that encourage and remind employees that safety starts with them. Requiring and allowing an employee to choose safety is the first step. They are the only one who knows if they are wearing meltable undergarments. They can recognize that they are suffering fatigue after six hours into a double shift or are suffering from an illness that puts them at risk. They are solely responsible for properly donning personal protective equipment. They must be taught that their action or inaction will decide the outcome of day. This takes commitment from management. An employee who has the awareness and self-discipline to report that proper tools are not present onsite must not be reprimanded for waiting to be given the appropriate equipment nor should the task be given to an employee willing to risk safety.  Teaching by example goes a long way in complying with these requirements but first it takes a well-developed ESP to lay the foundation for electrical safety. As a safe work practice standard, NFPA 70E does not detail how to instill these principles in an employee. Not all training methods or concepts are appropriate for every workplace or every employee. The employer must decide how to incorporate awareness and self-discipline into an ESP and the best way to pass that information to their employees. It is the ESP policies and procedures that employees will be trained to follow not the NFPA 70E requirement for awareness and self-discipline.
Temporary/holiday lighting

Holiday lighting: To inspect or not to inspect, that is the question

As the holidays approach us some may wonder, do I need an electrical inspection to hang my holiday decorative lighting? The answer is maybe. I know, probably not the answer you were thinking. The decision to require an inspection often lies with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) along with any applicable laws. The AHJ will likely consider the type of lighting or wiring that is being installed when making the decision. If you are just hanging a few twinkling decorative lights around the house and on trees an inspection might not be needed, but if you are putting on a holiday lighting extravaganza like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, an inspection might be necessary, or probably should be. The 2023 National Electrical Code®, (NEC®), section 590.3(B) permits the installation of temporary holiday decorative lighting and associated wiring, as long as it is not up more than 90-days. This permission has nothing to do with the requirement or wavier of an electrical inspection but does provide the inspector with valuable information. Another question that comes to mind surrounding string lights, the ones that are hung around a patio or along a fence for ambiance, would that require an inspection? Possibly, since the string lights may be considered lampholders by the AHJ and are often left up for longer periods. NEC Article 410, Part VIII, and section 225.24 cover lampholders and their wiring. Because string lights are installed in a more permanent manner, frequently, a fixed and not temporary wiring method is used to supply the power. Section 590.2(B) indicates temporary wiring methods, including lighting, are acceptable only if approved based on conditions of use and any special requirements of the temporary installation. So how is it approved if it is not inspected by a qualified electrical inspector? Simple, it is not approved. So what is the AHJ looking for with temporary wiring or holiday decorative lighting installations? Typically, they are looking for: listing and labeling, sections 590.5, 410.6 wet locations for lampholders, 410.96 Location of outdoor lamps, section 225.25 installation methods, section 225.24, 590.2 So, as the holidays near and we start digging into the boxes in our basements and attics for holiday decor, now is the time to consider your approach to safety. Ensure your holiday decorative lights, string lights, and associated wiring are hung in a safe and code compliant manner and request an inspection where available. By reducing electrical hazards in your home, you can help assure you and your family will enjoy a fun, festive, and safe holiday season. NFPA has free resources to download and share, including a safety tip sheet on outdoor electrical safety, and a safety checklist. For more information, visit nfpa.org/electricalsafety.
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