Episode 10: Top 10 Defects (Part 2) transcript
Trevor Tremblay: This one is definitely always on the top of our list. The running of non metallic sheathed cable is the primary wiring for residences of combustible construction. It's probably one of our number one inspections. So, now the new code cycle actually is going to make it a little more challenging for contractors, and now it has to be kept 32 millimeters back when running along a stud. This could be very challenging, especially if you have two by three studs, because it'll be impossible to be in the middle, especially if there's wall coverings on both sides.
Karan Ras: Did you know that a contractor's defect ratio is one factor in determining the risk ranking for RBO? That's why we're back with part two of our series on the most common defects. Tune in why we've dedicated two episodes to discuss the most common ones, so that you can use the information to improve your defect ratio. Grounded in Ontario is a podcast for you, the provinces Licensed Electrical Contractors, Master and Certified Electricians, and offers safety tips, tech and best practices. Now let's get grounded.
Karan Ras: Hello and welcome to another episode of Grounded in Ontario. I'm Karan Ras, and I work for the Electrical Safety Authority. We have part two of our Top 10 Defects episode for you today. These are defects that our inspectors commonly see when conducting site inspections. Trevor Tremblay, Technical Advisor at ESA, is back with me for our discussion today. Thank you to our listeners for the feedback we've already received on the last episode, for the five defects we previously went through. Trevor, welcome back. I'm looking forward to getting right back into this list of top defects. What is another defect, licensed electrical contractors should be mindful of?
Trevor Tremblay: One of the first defects I'd like to talk about is the use of unapproved equipment. Since the pandemic, a lot of shortages have been going on. People are having a hard time sourcing approved electrical components and equipment. Some contractors are actually unable to do these jobs, so homeowners are sometimes taking it upon themselves to source this equipment, typically from online sources. A lot of this equipment is coming into Canada, unapproved for use in Canada. You can check our website for certification labels and approval requirements. Also, we're seeing a lot of service entrance equipment coming in, only suitable for use in the United States. It does say suitable for use, but unfortunately it doesn't meet our requirements in Ontario, or Canada. We're seeing hot tubs, a wide variety of electrical equipment coming in from other countries. One of the ones that I want to talk about though is classified breakers. These are advertised mostly online for direct replacements for breakers, for older panels, and even some newer ones. Unfortunately, in Canada or Ontario, they aren't approved for use in the specific panels. These breakers are not fully certified and tested in these panels, and the manufacturers will say it voids the warranty. They're not approved for use in that panel. They meet some of the certification standards, but not all of them, so they're not a fully certified breaker.
Karan Ras: These are great examples, Trevor. I appreciate that. Now, on the topic of equipment, is there anything to note about makeshift items, like Lichtenberg Generators? I know our regulatory team has been working to ensure more people know about the dangers about them.
Trevor Tremblay: So, all equipment does have to be approved and to use it as it's been intended, so by taking parts from a certified piece of equipment doesn't mean that part is certified for use as you want to use it for. So, one example would be a Lichtenberg Generator. These are extremely dangerous, and people are using them to literally make wood products like charcuterie boards, that sort of thing. There's been over 30 deaths in North America alone from these items. There's been two in the past year or so in Ontario. Despite our best efforts trying to remove these videos, they keep turning up. So, as fast as we can remove them, they just keep showing up. So, please, when you see some of these products for sale, don't buy them. Don't encourage the use. It's very dangerous, and like I said, is a charcuterie board worth 30 deaths in North America alone?
Karan Ras: Yeah. I've seen those charcuterie boards with the fractal wood burning at art shows in some more rural parts of Ontario, so I know they're out there, and that people are undertaking this unsafe activity. So, you're absolutely right. I know that listeners can go to our website to see our product safety alerts about not only Lichtenberg Generators, but other things as well. That's at www.esasafe.com. Now onto another defect. You mentioned to me that this one is related to nonmetallic cables. It always seems to be on our list.
Trevor Tremblay: This one is definitely always on the top of our list. The running of non metallic sheathed cable is the primary wiring for residences of combustible construction. It's probably one of our number one inspections, so that's why more inspections, more installations, more defects. The previous code, it just required you to be 32 millimeters back from when you're going through structural members, and you have to support it every 1.5 meters and 300 millimeters from every box. So, now the new code cycle actually is going to make it a little more challenging for contractors. Now it has to be kept 32 millimeters back when running along a stud. This could be very challenging, especially if you have two by three studs, because it'll be impossible to be in the middle, especially if there's wall coverings on both sides. The rule does say that it has to be 32 millimeters back from the surface where wall coverings can be installed. So, if you're in a basement with the foundation behind you, you can push the cables right to the back of the stud, without having to mechanically protect it because there's no wall coverings going to be on that side. I really like this rule actually, because I've actually seen screws in drywall, with my proximity tester actually be energized, because doing drywall, I never always hit the stud. So, when you fill up the stud with NMD, odds are at times they will be hit, and eventually could cause a fire. Some tips also would be, you know where TVs are going typically, because you're adding receptacles and stuff for them. Just make sure you route the cables away from where these things are going to be mounted, because typically they come with three inch screws, so no matter where you put it in the stud, you drill that in, someone possibly could hit the wires. Increases your odds if you run the wires where it's going.
Karan Ras: That's good to know. What about spacing for other types of cable?
Trevor Tremblay: Well, we have armored cable. The rules essentially stayed the same for supporting them, except when you enter into an enclosure. Due to the different sizes in these cables, at one time when you had a four conductor, 500 MCM tech cable, which is literally five inches across, it's almost physically impossible to bend it in tight areas. So, to support it 300 millimeters from your switch gear was almost virtually impossible and looked foolish. So, now the new code rules have changed to allow it. The larger the connector size, the farther it can be from the enclosure. So, now that cable would be up to 900 millimeters from the enclosure, as opposed to 300. Which is going to be a lot easier for electrical contractors to manage. I always felt silly calling it, but it is a code rule, so we had no choice.
Karan Ras: Now, the last defect you want to call out encompasses a few things regarding outlets and receptacles. I'm wondering if you can elaborate on that.
Trevor Tremblay: Yes, I can. A lot of times it's just the outlet box support. Typically, we have gang sectional boxes or you have welded boxes or even four by fours, four and 11 sixteenths. So, you have your square boxes which are greater than 100 millimeters. So, there are actually two rules, one specifically for gang sectional boxes. Those have to be secured to metal or wood supports, secured structural members, so between the studs, and secure the sectional boxes. This is due to the construction because they all get screwed together. If you ever used them, they're flimsy. So, over time, if you're pushing in receptacles, they can loosen those boxes up and actually fall apart in the wall. Then when you have boxes over 100 millimeters, they have to be secured on at least two sides, or the same ways the gang sectional boxes between the supports. The reason for this is if you ever pushed in a dryer plug or a range receptacle, there's a lot of force that's required to push it in, let alone to get it out, so they have to be secured on two sides to make sure that that doesn't get pushed right into the wall.
Karan Ras: Thanks, Trevor. That's good information. I think going through these defects just demonstrates the importance of knowing the rules and why we also need to use licensed electrical contractors, to make sure that this is done correctly. What about receptacle placements? I realize that more homeowners or designers are leaning towards minimal looks when it comes to visible electrical elements around the home. What does the updated code say about that?
Trevor Tremblay: This last code cycle essentially stays the same for receptacle requirements. So, every usable wall space in general areas, living areas, a receptacle has to be placed every 1.8 meters. Essentially, that's to make sure that if you plug in a lamp which has a cord of six feet, you have to be able to plug it in without the use of cords. So, essentially what they're doing is they really want to eliminate the use of cords and have a receptacle anywhere you possibly would need it. There is some rooms that don't require this, like closets don't require receptacles every 1.8 meters. But you're still allowed to put a receptacle in a closet. As an inspector and contractor, we're getting challenged a lot on where these receptacles are going. People are designing rooms for special purposes. We've seen some rooms where they just want to hang art. They say we're not going to do anything in here except hang art. Unfortunately they won't be the only people that probably live in that home, and the next user probably will want receptacles in certain locations. Some manufacturers are designing minimalistic receptacle styles where they blend into the background and wall covering, so it's almost impossible to see them. They are quite pricey. They are out there. So, there is options, but they still have to meet that 1.8 meters.
Karan Ras: That's probably good information for those designers to know, let alone the LECs that are dealing with them. This total's up to the last five defects. Is there anything else that you would like to mention or remind our LECs of?
Trevor Tremblay: One thing I'd like to remind them of is essentially... The first thing, I'm going to talk about a couple, but it's just weatherproof covers for service mount boxes. We're the victim of the smaller market, so if you buy a package of four boxes, service boxes with weatherproof covers or in use covers, they'll come with four screws, but only the two screws are knocked out so you automatically think, oh, I only need the two. But in Canada, unfortunately we need all four screws on a surface mount box with weatherproof covers. Another thing, just make sure you get your final inspection scheduled as soon as you can. Once the homeowner moves in, you never know what can happen. I've attended finals where all the cover plates are removed because the homeowners are painting or the general contractor hasn't finished painting. Just make sure this stuff is scheduled as soon as you can. You don't want to be responsible for something you didn't do after the fact, and it just saves you a lot of grief in the long run.
Karan Ras: Yeah. I would agree. I hear that there's a lot of people trying to pull permits after the work is already completed, and the drywall is already put up. It makes it difficult for everybody and it's a complete waste of time. So, the sooner we can get in there to review the work being done, the better. Now, with simple tasks, not scheduling an inspection right away impact the contractor's defect ratio?
Trevor Tremblay: It possibly could because like I said, if the inspector shows up for final and there's cover plates removed, they can't really final it and they can write the defect. Depending on what else is done, the homeowner might be changing light fixtures and doing all kinds of stuff. So, you want to really make sure that before we go, you're in there checking and making sure that everything's fine and ready to go when we get there.
Karan Ras: These are great tips. I really appreciate you taking the time, Trevor. I think that there's some valuable information here for not only LECs but for homeowners and designers as well. But it also just stresses the importance that we need to continually address new designs, new product challenges, and the electrical hazards that they may present. So, as a reminder, there are many courses available to get updated on changes to the electrical safety code. ESA also offers continuing education, and you can find out more at esasafe.com. We will add a link to this podcast page. Now, before we close, I do want to ask a question submitted by one of our listeners, Steven from Owen Sound. Can an energy storage system marked UL9540A be installed in a dwelling?
Trevor Tremblay: The quick answer would be no, but there's more to it than that. So, you have the UL9540, which is the system standard, how ESS's are built to, and then you have the UL9540A, which is more about performance and testing, like for thermal runaway and that sort of thing. So, 9540A gives you some requirements. Under 9540 it has to be marked specifically for residential use. To get that marking, it has to meet the cell level testing for thermal runaway. So, if it's just labeled 9540A, that means it didn't meet the cell level test, but it did meet another performance test that wasn't as stringent. We do have a deviation process to get these units installed in certain parts of the dwellings. For more information on that, you can look at our bulletin, which will be posted on this podcast page.
Karan Ras: Thank you for that, Trevor. The bulletin number for those listeners who are interested is 64-9-0, that you can follow up on. I think for energy storage systems and other new technologies coming online, we are constantly pulling in new information and pushing it out to our LECs, so we can be all up to date on changing technologies. Thank you for this helpful answer, and for joining me on another episode of Grounded in Ontario. Appreciate the time, Trevor. In case you missed part one of our Top 10 Defects episode, you can access it on our website at esasafe.com/podcast. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future episode topics too. Thanks for listening.
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