This month marks my last regular Code Insider column. Initially, I intended to go beyond the National Electrical Code to explain how vital product standards are for a safe electrical installation. The U.S. electrical industry has had a profound effect on the electrical industry around the world. However, as we’ve grown into a more global economy, international standards have also significantly affected how we work.
The complexity of this topic resulted in a column that no one would find interesting, including me. So instead, I want to end my regular columns on an upbeat note by writing about the many positive things I have seen and experienced during my 40-plus-year experience with the NEC.
I want to recognize all of the great people I have worked with along the way. I was a member of three Code-making Panels (CMPs) during two Code cycles. I had the privilege of working with some great volunteers on those panels and during the 11 cycles that I worked as staff on the Code.
I was privileged to serve as the secretary and staff liaison for more than 30 years. If I was good at nothing else, I hired some amazing people to work with me to support the NEC.
I’ve learned a lot from people in the electrical industry. I attended meetings of all the major organizations, and even if I was giving a presentation, I was mostly there to learn.
Some people may be averse to change, but I find that the NEC CMPs embrace the idea of revising the Code every three years. We look forward to the opportunity to refine and fix the requirements so they work better. The industry works together to write the rules and refine them, as they are intended to be the minimum necessary for a safe electrical installation.
We have seen the Code become available in more formats. From 1959–1996, the Code was a 5-inch-by-7-inch book.
The 1999 NEC was the first Code book published in an 8½-by-11 size. I resisted internal calls to increase the size. I had made announcements at several industry meetings about the coming increase in size, but no one objected—until the 1999 Code came out. I received a lot of negative feedback, but by then it was too late.
My first observation was that for the previous editions, I usually went through several Code books during a cycle because the pages would fall out. The new format resulted in a stronger binding. My original 1999 Code book was still on the shelf in my office when I retired in 2019. Today, the electronic editions have become very popular.
The Code has been responsive to the need to provide requirements for renewable energy systems. Article 690 on photovoltaic systems first appeared in the 1984 edition. Article 625 on electric vehicles first appeared in 1996. I remember that during that Code cycle, General Motors sent a prototype car to the panel meetings in San Antonio.
Other renewable energy articles included Article 692 on fuel cells and Article 694 on wind power systems. Article 705 was created to integrate all of these electrical systems. The recognition that wind or sunlight may not always be available brought about the need for Article 706 on energy storage systems. Article 480 dealt with batteries, which are certainly energy storage systems. However, a decision was made that the existing battery requirements and the new technology battery requirements needed to be kept separate due to their different purposes.
In recent years, electrical equipment has been required to become more energy-efficient. CMP 18 developed requirements for the newer generation of more energy-efficient lighting. CMP 11 developed requirements for the new generation of energy-efficient motors. Motors have been required to become more energy efficient in federal requirements. CMP 11 developed requirements for Design B motors several cycles ago. In the 2023 Code, the requirements were updated for the new Design B premium efficiency motors.
CMP 2 has updated the table on general lighting loads by nondwelling occupancies to reflect new requirements for volt-amperes per square feet that are consistent with those in model energy codes. Section 220.42(B) provides a method of lighting load calculation that recognizes systems designed in accordance with model energy codes have lower energy demand. These systems include energy monitoring that will cause an alarm to be sounded if the demand is exceeded. It also permits automatic means to reduce the connected load.
CMP 3 and 16 recognized the need to provide requirements for new technologies. CMP 16 has expanded Chapter 8 to recognize new types of communications systems. CMP 3 has recognized power-over-ethernet-type, and more recently Class 4 fault-managed power.
The Code Insider column will end with this issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. I want to thank all of you who have read my columns. Sharing my stories of the NEC process has been a great opportunity to share our collective history.
About The Author
EARLEY, P.E., is an electrical engineer. Retired from the National Fire Protection Association, he was secretary of the National Electrical Code Committee for 30 years and is president of Alumni Code Consulting Group.