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Code Alert: Idaho, 26 July 2011

On July 19, the Idaho Electrical Board met for a regular quarterly meeting at the Building Codes Division office in Meridian, ID. Following the disposition of regular business, the Board opened the meeting to take public input into adoption of the 2011 National Electrical Code. At the previous Board meeting, it was decided to forward two code packages on to the legislature: One with the NEC virtually intact, except for some amendments to swimming pool bonding, and the other maintaining the 2005 NEC provisions for AFCI protection only for circuits serving bedrooms.

There were a number of individuals who testified on the arc fault circuit interrupter issue, mostly in favor of adopting the expanded provisions in the 2011 Edition. Even the contractors opposing the expansion admitted that the technology is solid; the appeal was to delay implementation because of the increased cost of the product plus the potential cost of modifying the wiring method to accommodate the AFCI installation (not using multi-wire branch circuits). In addition to the cost factor, Mr. Tom Brown, an electrical contractor and the former Chair of the Idaho Electrical Board said that the call backs to deal with AFCI issues were a significant factor in his business. Comments were made by a couple Board members about causes of AFCI tripping being attributed to sloppy wiring and/or unwanted arcing in products. Mr. Brown said that regardless of the cause of the callback, it is his cost to return to the home to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

Support for inclusion of the 2011 version of NEC 210.12 was lead by Mr. Kreg Davis, Board member representing electrical distributors. Testimony in support was offered by Mr. Ed Larson (Schneider Square D), Mr. Tim McClintock (NFPA), Mr. Jeff Fitzloff (UL), and Mr. Joe Andre (NEMA). Additionally, a NECA representative offered support, saying that there are no compelling reasons at this point to continue to exempt this important safety item.

In a surprise action, the Chair called for a motion, and Mr. Davis moved to forward only the Second option to the legislature, that being the package including the full provisions of the 2011 for AFCI protection. The Public Member seconded the motion, and the vote was 5:1 in favor, with the Chair indicating his support for the motion as well, even though that vote is not counted. While this must be considered a victory, it must be recognized that the Legislature must still agree with the Boards recommendation, and it is a certainty that it will be vigorously contested by the homebuilders and some electrical contractors during the 2012 Session, and the industry can not rest on this decision; it is important that the same effort be extended to the legislature to retain the AFCI provisions. The new electrical code is scheduled to take effect in Idaho in July 2012.
See http://dbs.idaho.gov/programs/electrical/index.html for additional information and updates on the electrical program.

Submitted by Joe Andre, joe.andre@nema.org


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