What do the 2020 National Electrical Code changes mean to you? Yup, more $$$

Jesse Kuhlman News

Funny how that works right? Our electrical code changes every 3 years, and without a doubt every 3 years brings more cost to consumers. Typically our code will lay out the changes slowly overtime to not overwhelm us with cost increases in specific areas. A good example of this was arc-fault requirement which was first in the NEC in ~2001. At the time they were only required in bedrooms, with each coming code change expanding upon this. This made sense, as these arc-fault circuit breakers cost an average of $30.00 more than a standard style circuit breaker. Imagine if they introduced them and required their use throughout the entire house? Yup that would lead to hundreds in cost increase for new homes, remodels etc.

Well we have something similar happening with our 2020 code change related to single and two family electrical services.  NEC is requiring an emergency disconnect outside AND surge protectors in electrical panels.  The addition of an emergency disconnect (it would be a meter-main, main breaker and meter in the same housing) on a single family home adds an additional $250-$300 by itself. Then throw in a whole house surge protector and you have a total increase of $350-$400 in JUST MATERIAL for this one change!

The requirement of having an emergency disconnect outside makes sense. If there is a fire, the fire department can show up and kill the power from the outside before entering the home. I like this, makes total sense to me. But one expensive change related to electrical services is enough. They also had to stick us with whole house surge protectors?  The panel manufacturers must be excited about all the additional revenue they will be bringing in this year!

This is where it gets fun!

OK, so we all agree with requiring the emergency disconnect outside of homes. Safety first, makes sense! How about all the homes that do not have one now, but have a tree fall and rip the outside service off the house. Or the meter socket fails and needs to be replaced. Are we supposed to replace that standard style meter socket with a disconnect style? I mean it’s not a “new electrical service”, it’s a repair right? Open to interpretation?

This is where it gets fun, as all the electrical inspectors are looking at it differently. Literally a town by town basis. I was with one this past week who said a repair is a repair, just put it back how it was. Three others I talked to said nope! Repair or not, you need to put in the emergency disconnect.

Expecting our electrical inspectors to be on the same page from one town to another is asking a lot I know. I mean it’s the NATIONAL ELECTRICAL CODE; they call it that for a reason. It’s supposed to be across the entire country, so when we expect ONE STATE worth of inspectors to agree we are asking too much?

Who knows how long it will be before all the inspectors agree on how to enforce this part of the new code. The only solution for us (electricians) is to call every inspector and ask them what their take is prior to bidding one of these jobs. Because you know if you bid it with the emergency disconnect you will be more expensive than the competition that did not include it.

And this is where it gets really fun!

So we updated your service and install the emergency / service disconnect outside. You have some older 3 wire feeders in your panel feeding your electric range and electric dryer. Guess what? Those 3 wire feeders can no longer originate from your panel with the service disconnect being outside.  So what does this mean? They need to be rewired / replaced with 4 wire cables!

The explanation of why this 3 wire cable cannot go back to the panel is a little technical and not worth going to deep into at this point so I’m going to skip it. But please comment below if you want to know more.

I know I’m excited to price out some service upgrades in single and two family homes and let the owner know “hey your 3 wire feeders going into your units will need to be replaced too!” Don’t worry it’s only hundreds of dollars more and potentially invasive, not big deal right?

Yea I know I’m ranting a bit!

But this stuff matters to us, and to our customers. When our code rolls out new changes that are open to interpretation it does no one any favors.

Our 2017 code change had a dozy of a change I feel the need to share as it’s so ridiculous. We have been using these plastic connectors for decades to hold single ground wires in place when going into an electrical panel.  All this connector does is hold the wire in place as it goes into the panel, that’s it! Well someone pointed out, “hey those connectors are not rated to hold 1 wire! They are meant to hold a romex cable (has 3 wires minimum within it), not a single wire!!

So of course a “new product” is created which I call the complete waste of money brass grounding connector as it hasn’t been given any official name.  Guess what? This connector costs $8.00+. The old plastic connector we were using before? 10 cents maybe?

Do we really think the plastic connector was doing a bad job HOLDING a damn wire in place? I mean it holds all kinds of romex cables, 14/2’s, 12/3’s even holds two 12/2 romex at the same time! The answer is of course not! The plastic connector was doing just fine but someone (yea probably a manufacturer) saw a place to stick a new product in and make more money.

The kicker is, some inspectors require this brass connector and some don’t. As usual they are not all in agreement, big surprise right?

Maybe I’m looking at all of this in the wrong way

I was on a job last year discussing some of these ridiculous changes / new products our NEC is requiring us to use with a fellow electrician. He agreed with me, and said “well maybe you are looking at it the wrong way. Instead of being annoyed by it, which you have every right to be, start thinking of a waste of time product you could create and push into code. “ My mind was blown! He’s right. Let’s think up some new product, patent it, lobby the NEC to except it, and start selling it. Then the $$ will be rolling in!

Ughhh that sounds like way to much work. I’ll stick with complaining!