Every new National Electric Code (NEC) cycle brings issues of national importance to the forefront. Some of these issues have been simmering for a long time at the local municipal level, and others have risen to the surface quickly in response to disasters, such as hurricanes, acts of terrorism and fires. All potential changes for the 2008 NEC are important to the electrical industry, and participation in the amendment process is extremely important.

Active involvement in the NEC amendment process began prior to the November 2005 proposal closing date by individuals submitting proposals for the 2008 NEC. However, involvement in this part of the process begins by becoming knowledgeable with the proposals that have been acted on by the 20 NEC Code Making Panels (CMPs) at the January 2006 meeting.

At this meeting, the CMPs acted on 3,688 proposals to make changes to the NEC. While the initial Panel Action for many of these proposals was to reject, there were many others that were accepted.

Contacting the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and requesting a free copy of the Report on Proposals (ROP) book will provide the information necessary to develop comments on the proposals. These comments must be submitted to NFPA by 5:00 p.m. EST, Oct. 20, 2006. Call NFPA at 617.770.3000 and request an NEC ROP.

The remainder of this article will be devoted to providing a couple of the most important changes being considered. But understand there are many more potential changes than can be discussed in the limited size of this column.

After three Code cycles of requiring arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection of 15- and 20- ampere, single-phase, 120-volt bedroom circuits, proposal No. 2-142 has been accepted to require AFCI protection for all 15- and 20-ampere, single-phase, 120-volt circuits in dwelling units.

In addition, the new AFCI devices will be the combination devices, not the branch/feeder AFCI devices. The 2005 NEC had a mandatory deadline permitting branch-feeder AFCI devices until Jan. 1, 2008. In addition, the exception to 210.12(B), permitting an AFCI device to be extended out 6 feet from the origin of the branch circuit in a panelboard to a separate AFCI device, has been revised by deleting the requirement of enclosing the conductors in a metal raceway or a cable with a metal sheath.

As discussed in the July 2006 issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, there were major issues and potential changes in the ground-fault circuit interrupter requirements that should also be accessed and studied. Proposal No. 2-197 has been rejected to require receptacle spacing to be reduced from 6 to 3 feet. Proposal No. 2-229 has been accepted in principle to require an outdoor receptacle to be installed so the receptacle is accessible from the balcony, deck and porch attached to a dwelling unit.

There were some proposed changes to Articles 700 and 702 that are worthwhile studying. Proposal No. 13-118 suggested revising Section 700.9(B) on wiring of emergency systems and the proposal was accepted in principle by adding a new (5) and an exception to 700.9(B). This new (5) would permit wiring from an emergency source to supply any combination of emergency, legally required or optional loads with three conditions.

The first condition would be where the wiring for each type is supplied from separate sections of a vertical switchboard, with or without a common bus or from individual disconnects mounted in separate enclosures (this provides separation for the wiring for each different system).

The second condition is where single or multiple feeders supply the common bus or separate sections of the switchboard or individual enclosures without overcurrent protection at the source. The third condition would be the emergency circuits must not originate from the same vertical switchboard section as the legally required and the optional standby circuits.

There has been much discussion around the country on Section 702.5 where the existing text states that the user of an optional standby system is permitted to select the load connected to the system. Proposal No. 13-168 has clarified this text by stating: Where a manual transfer switch is used, the user can select the load to be connected to the system at the time of manual transfer.

Where an automatic transfer switch is used, the standby source must be capable of supplying the full load that is being transferred or, if a load management system is used, the standby system must be capable of supplying the maximum load transferred by the load management device.

These are just a few of the many substantial changes for the 2008 NEC. Look them over carefully in the next few months and then provide comments on them.    EC

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or via e-mail at mark.c.ode@us.ul.com.