permanent holiday lighting

Episode 13 - Hot Topics

permanent holiday lighting

Episode 13 - Hot Topics

Trevor Tremblay, Technical Advisor at Electrical Safety Authority, highlights some of the trends he’s seeing in the field and addresses your questions about emerging challenges.

In this episode, Karen Ras and Trevor Tremblay, Technical Advisor at the ESA, return to discuss some hot topics and important developments every Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) needs to hear, including changes in meter base standards, issues with ventilated transformers, the rise of permanent holiday lighting, and the complexities of installing designer receptacles.  

Meter Base Standard Changes

Recent changes in the meter base standard are crucial for LEC’s to understand to ensure code compliant installations and to reduce the risk of potential safety hazards. These changes have been implemented to address conflicts with Section 10 of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, specifically regarding the grounding of the neutral conductor in meter bases.

“Meter bases have primarily had the neutral bolted to the case, so you didn't require a bond,” Trevor explains. However, the new code requirements require the neutral be grounded at a single spot and as a result, has led to a variety of meter base models with different neutral assembly configurations, creating confusion for contractors during installation.

“Depending on what you order, from where, and what the utility requires, there may be different neutral assembly configurations from one model to another,” he says. “Recognizing the difference is important to ensure a compliance installation and reduce the risk of potential safety hazards.”

While for contractors these changes may be a good move towards more code compliant installations, Trevor offers the challenge for LECs lies in distinguishing between the old and new meter bases, as they may look identical. 

“The hardest part is that they look exactly the same as every meter base I've ever installed. So, if you bring a meter base to site, hand it to the guys in the field, they open up the box, strap it to the wall, wire it all up, it looks exactly the same. It could get very confusing,” Trevor says, resulting in some neighborhoods with multiple meter bases energized — a potential shock hazard.

The solution for LECs is to pay close attention to the instructions and kits provided with the meter bases, ensuring that the neutral is grounded or isolated according to the specific model. 

“If you know for sure that you've installed one of these meter bases that are not properly bonded, it is definitely a shock hazard,” Trevor explains. “Talk to your distributor and make sure you know what meter base they provided for you. You should also call the homeowner or the builder and let the Electrical Safety Authority know as well to make sure that we get this rectified as soon as we can.”

Ventilated 3R transformers

The exposure of ventilated 3R transformers to Ontario’s harsh weather conditions, especially blowing rain and snow, has led to frequent equipment failures.  
“We're seeing this equipment fail frequently because of water getting into the enclosure from blowing rain and snow,” Trevor shares. To address the issue, ESA will be asking the manufacturer of the equipment to provide a letter stating that the 3R ventilated equipment is set to prevent water damage from snow.

“Some manufacturers actually have kits that they'll sell you to prevent snow and rain from going in,” but Trevor says these methods “can be costly so we'd also accept some mitigating methods like a snow fence or something like that to stop the snow from blowing directly in and that'll be assessed on a case-by-case basis.” 

While this change is being implemented, there is a national task force that was created to address this issue at the Canadian Electrical Code level because other jurisdictions are experiencing issues with these enclosures as well.

Permanent Holiday Lighting

Rising interest in permanent holiday lighting is changing the landscape of outdoor lighting installations. Trevor emphasizes that while these lights may offer long-term use and customization, it's crucial to ensure proper installation by following code requirements.

While these units can be installed by the equipment seller, Trevor highlights that the installer must first acquire a permit from ESA as the wiring falls under Section 16 of the code. 

“If any 120 feeds are required, or new receptacles, it must be completed by a licensed electrical contractor,” he says. “And if the job requires 120 volts, extra receptacles, that sort of thing, then an LEC also requires a separate notification to do their work.”

Complexity of Designer Receptacles

Trevor admits that while function is important, for many consumers so is style, which has resulted in more uniquely architecturally designed receptacles. While these receptacles may look sleek and beautiful on the surface, the installation process can be more challenging and potentially hazardous than traditional receptacles. 

“The design requires only an opening for the receptacle and the box is completely covered by a wall covering,” Trevor explains. “We're seeing marble and other high-end finishes there, and the only thing you can see is a single round receptacle.” 

But as Trevor explains, this means that dedicated two wire are needed for every single receptacle, making it more challenging where the code requires a duplex receptacle to be installed, and you have to run two separate feeds, one for each receptacle.

“You can't go from one box to the other, like a typical receptacle and daisy chain them because you can't make the joints in the box,” Trevor says. “The one thing you have to make sure of is that the bond terminations are completed to the box before the wall coverings are installed.” 

Additionally, Trevor explains that the conductors in the box have to be long enough to be pulled through the opening to make the connection to the leads on the receptacle. This would also require a label at the panel as to where the removal insertion tool is located.

It is important for contractors and installers to be aware of the complexities involved in installing these designer receptacles and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the installation is done correctly to prevent potential hazards. 

By staying informed and following the updated guidelines, LECs can promote safety and compliance in these specific electrical installations, reducing the risk of hazards and ensuring the safety of residents and workers.

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