Luckily for contractors, inspectors, specifiers and engineers alike, the National Electrical Code (NEC) is quite clear and concise when it comes to workmanship. Take, for instance, the “neat and workmanlike manner” requirement in 110.12 ... OK, that was a bad example. How about installation and maintenance of motor control centers per Article 430? Oops, another bad example. Well then, for the majority of the industry who use the NEC, a set of supplementary, industry-approved and jointly developed standards exists.

In the decade since the program’s inception, the National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS) series has grown exponentially. Several categories of standards exist, including general installation and maintenance, lighting, power distribution, utilization equipment, limited energy and wiring methods. NEIS publishes a CD “Yearbook,” which contains all of the standards published the previous year. By the end of 2007, close to 40 standards will have been published according to the strict consensus guidelines set forth by both the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), with several others in the planning and development stages.

Perhaps the most notable of the series is NECA 1, “Good Workmanship in Electrical Construction” (ANSI). The book expounds on what is meant by “neat and workmanlike manner” and describes the industry’s best practices for electrical installations. Sure, raceways may be electrically safe despite the fact that they appear to have been inspired by Picasso and set akimbo along the wall. But does this equal “...level, plumb, and true with the structure”? To be “neat and workmanlike,” NECA 1 says they shall be. Even the 2005 NEC (110.12) points to NECA 1. However, NECA 1 is only the beginning.

“NEIS are the first performance and quality standards for electrical construction,” said Brooke Stauffer, NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. “For that reason, they sometimes contain requirements that go beyond the minimum safety rules of the NEC.”

The rundown

This year alone, nine standards have been or will be published. NECA/EGSA 404-2007, “Standard for Installing Generator Sets” (ANSI), was the first of these. It describes installation procedures for generator sets used for on-site power production, including emergency applications, and was developed jointly with the Electrical Generating Systems Association.

The second edition of NECA 400, “Standard for Installing and Maintaining Switchboards” (ANSI), describes installation and maintenance practices for deadfront distribution switchboards rated 600 volts or less. It also covers periodic routine maintenance procedures for switchboards and special procedures to be used after adverse circumstances, such as a short circuit, ground fault or immersion in water.

And it seems 2007 is a powerful year for the NEIS. Yet another of the “power distribution” manuscripts is NECA 402, “Standard for Installing and Maintaining Motor Control Centers” (ANSI), which describes installation and maintenance practices for motor-control centers rated 600 volts or less. It also covers periodic routine maintenance procedures for motor-control centers and special procedures to be used after adverse circumstances, such as a short circuit, ground fault or immersion in water.

There are several jointly developed standards in the NEIS collection. Associations such as NEMA, BICSI, EGSA, FOA, AA, IESNA and others have lent their expertise and worked with NECA to produce technically specific and accurate standards. This year, one such collaboration yielded the second edition of NECA/NEMA 105, “Standard for Installing Metal Cable Tray Systems” (ANSI). The 2007 revision describes installation and maintenance procedures for metal cable tray systems used to support power and communications cabling.

While revising and reaffirming standards is how NEIS keeps current with the NEC and industry best practices, new standards serve the same vital function. Five brand-new standards are slated for publication in 2007. 

NECA 121, “Standard for Installing Nonmetallic-Sheathed Cable Type NM-B and Underground Feeder and Branch-Circuit Cable (Type UF),” will illustrate the construction of cables, offer ampacity ratings, permitted uses, securing/supporting, fittings, coloring and more.

Do you know the NEC has more than 20 entries in the index for fuses? Fortunately, the brand new NECA 420-2007, “Standard for Fuse Applications” (ANSI), describes installation and maintenance procedures for low-voltage and high-voltage fuses used for overcurrent protection of distribution, utilization and control equipment.

There are two new standards in the lighting category of NEIS. NECA 504, “Standard for Installing Light Control Devices and Systems,” describes installation procedures for control devices, systems and equipment for interior and exterior illumination systems. NECA 505, “Standard for Installing and Maintaining High Mast, Roadway and Perimeter Lighting,” covers the installation and maintenance procedures for pole-mount HID luminaires installed outdoors in high-mast, roadway and perimeter lighting applications.

After the success of NECA/BICSI 568-2006, “Standard for Installing Building Telecommunications Cabling” (ANSI), once again, NECA has teamed with BICSI to produce NECA/BICSI 607, “Telecommunications Bonding and Grounding Planning and Installation Methods for Commercial Buildings.” This standard specifies aspects of planning and installation of telecommunications bonding and grounding systems within a commercial building. Its intent is to enhance the planning, specification and layout of an effective telecommunications grounding and bonding system. Additionally, this standard specifies installation requirements for components of the telecommunications bonding and grounding system.

“The NECA/BICSI 568 standard continues to make a strong influence on the telecommunications market,” said Bob Jensen, a liaison between NECA and BICSI standards committees.

“Its strength is not only ensuring that information transport systems are installed in a workmanlike manner but also ensuring performance that delivers the highest capacity.”

Because the 2008 NEC was approved in June of this year, many NEIS standards will be updated to reflect the new edition. For example, NECA 200, “Standard for Installing and Maintaining Temporary Electric Power at Construction Sites,” will be updated to reflect changes to NEC Article 590. Several changes represented in the 2008 NEC will add to the growing list of new standards projects as well as provide the impetus for revising some on the current list.

“Most NEIS are closely tied to the NEC,” Stauffer said. “So when the Code rules change, we update our NEIS to reflect this.”

The useful tome that is the NEC saves the lives of both consumers and contractors. Its impressive representation in its front matter ensures this every Code cycle. NECA’s standards series is not meant to replace the NEC. NEIS expound, complement, meet and many times exceed the NEC requirements with 40 standards “as high as your own.”    EC

BYRNE is associate director of standards for the National Electrical Contractors Association, based in Bethesda, Md.