November/December 2021 | Vol. 26 No.6
by Tim McClintock, Midwest Technical Field Representative, NEMA
Technology continues to shape the electrical industry and the built environment to drive innovation in a world that has become more digitized and dependent on electricity. Electrical power in homes, businesses, institutions, industry, and other locations is vital, and advancements in technology further support society’s reliance on electrical power.
As we continue to use electricity to perform day-to-day tasks at home or work, electrical systems have become more complex with the advent of building energy management and smart grid technologies. Electronic appliances and other sensitive electronic equipment have a growing need for dependable protection due to increased exposure to surges, transients, and other power threats. Those threats are inherent to today’s distributed power systems, both internal and external to the building or manufacturing environment. A survey conducted by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) revealed that power surges cause 34 percent of unplanned outages, and 79 percent of the survey responses stated that surge-protective devices (SPDs) cut down on the amount of downtime and equipment failure. Surge protection is a well-understood and cost-effective technology utilized to protect electrical devices.
Requirements for surge protection in earlier editions of the National Electrical Code® primarily focused on installing SPDs and not necessarily mandating their installation. Over past code cycles, new requirements have been added to the NEC specifying SPDs for specific applications and equipment. Those include elevators, escalators, moving walks, chairlifts, critical operations data systems, industrial machinery with safety interlock circuits, wind electric systems, fire pump controllers, emergency systems, and power systems requiring continuous operation for the reasons of public safety, emergency management, national security, or business continuity.
As the electrical industry landscape continues to advance by leaps and bounds, the 2020 NEC has kept in stride with the inclusion of surge protection requirements for dwelling units. As electronic controlled product use continues to increase in the home, introducing this requirement couldn’t beany timelier. It addresses the need for surge protection to protect the sensitive electronics found in most modern appliances, life safety devices, and equipment used in dwellings. This new requirement will necessitate surge protection for new installations and when service equipment is replaced.
The 2023 NEC revision cycle is well underway, and we anticipate further expansion of requirements for the use of surge protective devices. Electrical power continues to be a catalyst for better lifestyles, driving economic development and enabling a more efficient operational environment for local businesses to succeed. Surge protection will help maintain the reliability and operation of sensitive electrical equipment where citizens live, work, and play.
Additional information from NEMA on surge protection can be found by visiting www.nemasurge.org and Electrical Safety Foundation International at www.ESFi.org. ei