Psychiatrist’s Office, Pool Inspection and Testing and More

Illustration of a psychiatrist's office with a red chair, red setee, bookshelf, and a window with blue curtains

Jim Dollard has an extensive background in codes and standards. Send questions about the National Electrical Code (NEC) to Jim at codefaqs@gmail.com. Answers are based on the 2020 NEC.

Psychiatrist’s office as patient care space

If a psychiatrist’s office does not require wiring methods in accordance with 517.13 in the 2020 NEC, is it still a patient-care space? Does the NEC define alternative medicine?

In order to comment on your question, we need to look at a few of the 42 definitions in 517.2. The definition of a healthcare facility includes portions of buildings in which psychiatric care is provided. A patient-care space is any space in a healthcare facility where patients are intended to be examined or treated. A psychiatrist’s office is included in the definition of a healthcare facility. A licensed professional then examines and treats patients, making it a patient care space.

Section 517.10 addresses the applicability of Part II “Wiring and Protection.” “Not Covered,” 517.10(B), is modified in the 2020 NEC to clarify that Part II—which includes 517.13—of Article 517 does not apply to psychiatry and psychotherapy, areas that are used exclusively for intramuscular injections such as immunizations, alternative medicine and optometry. It is important to note that this exemption applies only where such areas are used exclusively for these purposes. Multifunction spaces may need to be wired in accordance with Part II.

The NEC does not define alternative medicine, so we must look to standard definitions. This term typically means other than conventional (Western) systems for healing or treating disease, such as chiropractic, homeopathy and acupuncture. Areas used solely for intramuscular injections are found in drug stores and other venues where immunizations such as flu shots are given.

Periodic pool inspection

The 2020 NEC includes a new section that permits the AHJ to inspect all swimming pools whenever they want. How is that an installation requirement?

The requirement that you reference is the new Section 680.4, which permits an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to require periodic inspection and testing. It is important to note that this requirement is in Part I “General,” making this rule apply to all equipment within the scope of Article 680. You are correct; as written, this has no impact on the installation of a swimming pool. It is typical for commercial and public swimming pools to be inspected annually and have tests performed to verify that the required bonding is still functional. These inspections are typically driven by local codes. Aging pool installations can create shock and other hazards due to equipment failure, termination failure, lack of maintenance or additions/repairs that are not in compliance with Article 680. These problems are not limited to commercial and public pools. It is extremely uncommon for municipalities or other governmental bodies to require inspections or testing of privately owned pools. It would be a logistical nightmare to first identify all of the private swimming pools in an area and then perform annual or biannual inspections. The intent of this rule is to provide municipalities that choose to implement inspections of all privately owned pools with a requirement that can be adopted into local regulations.

Outlets or receptacles?

In the June issue of Electrical contractor magazine, you mention a sign “outlet.” Is this supposed to be “receptacle”?

Section 600.5(A) requires that at least one outlet for a sign or outline lighting system be installed in an accessible location for each entrance to every tenant space. It can be, but is not required to be, a receptacle outlet. An outlet by definition is a point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment. The required outlet may be a hard-wired connection spliced at the sign location, or it could be a receptacle outlet for a cord-and-plug connected sign.

Insulated copper EGC

Why does the NEC require an insulated copper equipment grounding conductor (EGC) to a pool pump motor but not for a motor in a spa? We are seeing large “swim spas.” They resemble a permanently installed pool but are built like and listed as a spa. I recently told a contractor that he needed an insulated EGC for the spa and he pointed out that Part IV does not require that. Why?

This requirement gets missed quite often. The NEC user looks to Part I for general requirements and then to the specific part that deals with their question. There is not a specific requirement in Part IV for an insulated EGC, however, sections 680.42 and 680.43 state that Part II of Article 680 applies, requiring an insulated copper EGC. Six separate requirements in Article 680 specifically mandate the installation of an insulated copper EGC. In each case, the basis for this requirement is that the EGC is to be installed in a “corrosive environment.” A new definition for that term has been added in the 2020 NEC , Section 680.2. It is defined as any areas where pool sanitation chemicals are stored, handled or dispensed. There is specific mention of pumps, chlorinators and filters. Most importantly, in my opinion, the associated informational note explains that sanitation chemicals and pool water are considered to pose a risk of corrosion that can gradually damage or destroy materials. Thus, we should be installing insulated EGCs anywhere treated water could possibly be present. For clarity, there should be a general requirement in Part I mandating insulated copper EGCs.

Adding disconnects without an enclosure

The 2020 NEC has been adopted in my county. My question is on how to apply the new rules for more than one service disconnecting means. In many cases, commercial owners installed a panelboard with the capability to install up to six disconnects, but the original install only had two or three disconnects. Can they add additional disconnects when needed, or do they need to install another enclosure? As an electrical inspector, I need to enforce the 2020 NEC.

The revised text in 230.71(B) in the 2020 NEC does not address existing installations. The literal text in the 2020 NEC would require a separate enclosure with a main disconnecting means. In the example you provided, the 2020 NEC would not permit the installer to add a service disconnecting means in an existing service supplied panelboard. Another panelboard with a main could be installed as permitted in 230.71(B)(1) and (B)(2). Electrical inspectors involved in the NEC revision process have identified this issue and are taking action to provide relief. A tentative interim amendment (TIA) is in the process to address your concerns.

The proposed revision, if accepted, will add an exception to address existing installations as follows: “Exception to (B): In existing installations, not more than six disconnecting means shall be permitted to be installed in equipment that contains existing provisions to install additional disconnecting means.” This proposed exception is very carefully worded. There must be an existing installation, there must be existing provisions already installed to simply add a disconnect, such as adding a circuit breaker in a panelboard, switchboard etc., and not more than six disconnecting means would be permitted.

This revision in the 2020 NEC recognizes the serious hazards that exists where people perform work in service equipment. The general rule in 230.71(B)(1) requires separate enclosures with a main service disconnecting means in each enclosure. This allows an installer or maintainer to open the main disconnecting means, which reduces the likelihood of contact resulting in an arc flash incident. Together with requirements for protection from inadvertent contact in 230.62(C), these requirements are designed to enhance safety. While this proposed exception, if the TIA is successful, will allow additional service disconnects to be installed in existing equipment, it must be understood that very serious hazards exist and there is a potential for the complete loss of the service equipment. Adding a circuit breaker in energized service equipment exposes people to shock and arc flash hazards. An arc flash risk assessment cannot be properly performed as there is no clearing time of an upstream overcurrent protective device to consider.

About the Author

Jim Dollard

Code Columnist

Jim Dollard is the safety coordinator for IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia. He is a member of the NEC Correlating Committee, NEC CMP-10, NEC CMP-13, NFPA 70E, NFPA 90A/B and the UL Electrical Council. He can be reached at codefaqs@gmail.com.

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