Keeping up with NEC Code Changes

Here we are with another code change and people are asking how this affects estimating.  That really depends on the type of work you do.  For commercial work, very little usually changes. Most of the changes to the National Electrical Code affect the design and engineering side of the process.  Most projects have specifications that have higher standards than the NEC.  There are a few things you should be aware of, and it’s not just about the code.

Changes in estimating residential electrical projects

If you’re estimating residential projects, there are a few things you need to be aware of, especially if you’re designing the project yourself.  First, you need to know when the code takes effect for the job location.  A few code cycles ago, a friend from Massachusetts created an estimate and proposal for a large single family dwelling in New Hampshire.  After he submitted the bid, he got to thinking and called to ask about the new ARC Fault requirements to make sure he got them right.  During our conversation he realized that he submitted a proposal based on new NEC changes that New Hampshire hadn’t even adopted yet.  Massachusetts typically adopts a new code very early where New Hampshire probably won’t until sometime in July.  He lost that job, obviously because it was overpriced due to the cost of the ARC Fault breakers and tamper resistant receptacles.  I have to believe that the reverse could have also happened; that a contractor from New Hampshire submitting a bid on a house in Massachusetts but based on the New Hampshire adoption date. Both mistakes will affect your bottom line. There are several web sites out there that show the NEC adoption status of each state, www.nema.org offers code alerts via e-mail.

UL changes can affect your estimate

There’s more to be concerned about than just NEC changes.Changes that can affect your estimates are sometimes due to UL changes which can affect your supply for materials.   For instance, UL 943 required manufacturers that produce GFCI receptacles to produce only the “self-test”: type after June 29, 2015.Those who utilize pricing services probably noticed the old GFCI receptacles were being listed as “Discontinued” soon after the requirement took place.

Another potential problem area could be small industrial projects.  You should be aware of several new articles in the NEC such as Article 425 that deals with Fixed Resistance and Electrode Industrial Process Heating Equipment. This article doesn’t apply to room heating and air conditioning, it applies only to heating equipment used as part of industrial process heating.

Alternative energy and energy storage

With the rising popularity of alternative energy, one of the problems has been energy storage.   Energy storage allows alternative energy sources such as solar and wind to create power when those sources are abundant and store them for the times when they’re not.  Another new article, 706, deals with permanently installed energy storage systems or ESS.    The field of energy storage has advanced greatly in the last few years and I expect it the technology to keep getting better.  Article 706 recognizes that trend and has put forth the new requirements.

Update your tools

While not a change that affects estimating, it will affect your bottom line if your installers don’t update their tools.  110.14(D) is a new provision requiring electricians to use a torque tool when a manufacturer indicates a specific torque and offers no alternatives.

Garage branch circuits

Another addition is 210.11(C)(4) Garage Branch Circuits which requires a 20 amp branch circuit to supply a garage and shall have no other outlets.  There is an exception to allow the circuit to supply readily accessible outdoor outlets. This change applies to attached garages and detached garages with electric power.

In conclusion, I find that changes to the NEC rarely make much of a difference when estimating properly engineered projects, as long as you follow the specifications.  However, you still need to get up to speed with the changes as soon as you can.  Technology is evolving and the electrical industry is keeping pace.

About Allan Goodwin

Allan Goodwin has been with ConEst for 28 years (or since 1989). He started out as an estimator and was thrust into the role of technical support when ConEst was first conceived. Since then, Allan spent many years as the QA director, then product manager. Allan is now the Director of Product Development/QA, ensuring the products meet the needs of the users. Allan a licensed Master Electrician in the state of New Hampshire as well as a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Finance. He also has an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Hesser College.