Author(s): Derek Vigstol. Published on November 1, 2019.

In Compliance | NEC

New NEC information on reconditioned equipment


Electrical equipment will inevitably break down. Whether it’s caused by a lack of preventive maintenance, a fault in the system, or an unavoidable environmental event, failure of electrical equipment is a reality that facilities must face at some point.

What do you do when this happens? For a lot of equipment, the answer is simple—replace it. The economic case in many situations favors replacement over repair: replacement might be comparatively inexpensive, the associated labor costs might be less, it may bring the process back online more quickly—there are many factors to be considered.

But what if the equipment is wildly expensive? What if the job to replace it is going to take many months and involve major work in support of the replacement, like altering the physical structure of the building in order to bring the equipment into the space? In situations like these, it can be more attractive to rebuild or refurbish the equipment where it sits to bring it back up to operating conditions.

In the NEC® world, we have defined this rebuilding of equipment—the 2020 edition of the code describes it as “reconditioned.” Article 100 defines reconditioned as “electromechanical systems, equipment, apparatus, or components that are restored to operating conditions. This process differs from normal servicing of equipment that remains within a facility, or replacement of listed equipment on a one-to-one basis.” An informational note was also added to let users know that, in the industry, this might also be referred to as rebuilt, refurbished, or remanufactured.

No matter what we call it, what we’re referring to is the act of taking equipment that is no longer operable and restoring it in a way that brings it back to operating conditions. Examples might be replacing the windings in a motor that has overheated and shorted out, or rebuilding the bus structure in switchgear that has been damaged by the mechanical stress caused by the intense magnetic field generated in a phase-to-phase fault.

The conversation around reconditioned equipment started with an informational note in the 2017 edition that simply stated in 110.3(A) that equipment may be new, reconditioned, refurbished, or remanufactured. This was to provide guidance during the equipment selection and evaluation process. However, this raised a multitude of questions among installers, service technicians, and authorities having jurisdiction. What types of equipment can be reconditioned? What is the difference between reconditioned and repaired? How can we be sure that reconditioned equipment is safe?

These questions and more led to many revisions being passed for the 2020 NEC around what can—or more specifically, what can’t—be reconditioned. Equipment that provides GFCI or AFCI protection, molded-case circuit breakers and certain fuseholders, and luminaires are all examples of equipment that is explicitly prohibited from being reconditioned. This is because many of these items have a certain built-in safety function, and without the oversight of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, it is not certain that the safety function will be fully restored.

Consider GFCI receptacles, for example. These devices are designed as lifesaving measures of an electrical system that prevent fatal electrocutions when the individual is in contact with an unintentionally energized surface and a grounded surface. These devices are built to exact product standards to ensure that they will function when they need to. Having this kind of device reconditioned opens the possibility that the same standards of production will not be met. In any case, these devices are not allowed by manufacturers to be reconditioned, a prohibition supported by this revision. Before we commit to rebuilding electrical equipment, we need to determine whether we’ll be able to install it as reconditioned equipment.

With the 2020 NEC on the shelves, this information is easier to find than ever. A simple keyword search for “reconditioned” in the new NEC digital access tool will help you find all the information you need to know to navigate the reconditioned equipment issue in the NEC. 

Derek Vigstol is an NFPA technical lead, Electrical Tech Services. NFPA members and AHJs can use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on NFPA 70 at