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Code Alert: Rhode Island, 07 July 2011


On June 23, 2011, the Rhode Island Building Code Legislative Oversight Committee approved the recommendation of the State Building Code Standards Committee to amend the Rhode Island Electrical Code (SBC-5) by updating the referenced document from the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) to the 2011 NEC. The regulation becomes effective on August 1, 2011. In October 2010, the Building Code Standards Committee appointed an Electrical Code Subcommittee to review the 2011 NEC. The subcommittee reviewed the 2011 NEC to identify if any provisions would require modification for adoption in Rhode Island.

The current version of SBC-5 has eight amendments, which are administrative provisions and will be retained. The subcommittee identified three technical provisions in the 2011 NEC requiring modification. The first is an amendment to 210.25 to incorporate an existing blanket variance. Rhode Island General Law section 23-28.1-2(b)(2)(i) adopted a statute directing the State Fire Board to provide reasonable standards for the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide devices in all existing three (3) family dwellings. Section 210.25 of the NEC prohibits these devices that are located in the common areas of a three -family building to be supplied from dwelling unit equipment. This led to the initial unanticipated expense of installing a separate electrical meter in the building. A second unanticipated expense resulted from compliance with the electrical service provider's standing policy that new meters could only be installed on the exterior of the building. This amendment permits the owners of three-family dwellings who are complying with the provisions of the Rhode Island Life Safety Code to supply these devices from equipment supplying a dwelling unit. According to the regulation, the owner must maintain the electrical power to the devices or be found in violation of RIGL 23-28.3-9 of the State Fire Code and subject to fines of five hundred dollars a day for every day the devices are not powered.

Another amendment is a revision to 230.82. This amendment will permit a meter disconnecting means to be installed at the meter, either on the line or load side of the meter, without invoking the grounding requirements for services or the need for a separate equipment grounding conductor. This amendment is similar to one adopted in neighboring Massachusetts and Vermont. The problem is, under the current code, meter disconnects installed on the supply side of the service disconnecting means are permitted, but where installed on the load side, inspectors are treating the meter pedestal and enclosed meter disconnecting means as a structure and the conductors on the load side of the disconnect as feeders, thus requiring a grounding electrode at the meter location and the installation of a separate equipment grounding conductor.

The new code will delete 230.24(A) Exception No. 5. This new exception in the 2011 NEC permits the minimum vertical clearance of overhead service conductors above the roof surface to be reduced from 8 feet to 3 feet, if the roof area is guarded or isolated. The justification for this NEC exception was to correlate the NEC with the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). Currently, the NESC allows conductors to be not less than 3 feet above the roof, if the conductors are guarded or isolated. The NESC applies to utility work where the utility has exclusive control, access is restricted and qualified persons maintain the installation. Exception No. 5 in the NEC requires the roof area to be either guarded or isolated, which can be accomplished by locking the roof access, but this arrangement would not prevent unqualified persons such as building management or service personnel from coming in contact with the conductors, which the subcommittee viewed as an unsafe condition.

The new electrical code can be viewed at: http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/BCSC/6416.pdf

Contact: Gil Moniz at gilmoniz@nema.org