By Howard Herndon – Electrical Professional Consulting
The new proposed 2020 NEC requirements prohibiting or restricting remanufactured equipment will have a major impact on the electrical and electromechanical reconditioning industries as well as end users, operators and contractors who maintain and repair this equipment. So, is this equal to the old “Cash for Clunkers” program?
If it were it might be a good thing, but the reality is that it is a much bigger issue than the electrical industry realizes. Restricting the use of reconditioned equipment will have a negative effect on the electrical and electromechanical industry. Instead of reconditioning a switchboard, switchgear, panelboard, automatic transfer equipment or any of the equipment components that are not “Like for Like,” we have to replace the equipment. For example, what happens when the controller goes bad in automatic transfer equipment? Since it’s an old ATS, and the controller is no longer manufactured as an item you can purchase from the OEM that has been “design qualified” by the manufacturer, you will need to replace the entire transfer switch!! Reconditioning is not allowed.
No consideration was given to the reality that the new equipment may not be the same physical size and therefore require building modifications or other major changes. In fact, most equipment from the 1980s was approximately 30% smaller than equipment now because of added requirements for wire bending space and other design considerations. Other considerations that may now affect the installation include: is the equipment too large for the electrical equipment room, is there proper working clearance, do I have enough exits in the room? All these questions must be reviewed and answered based on the NEC requirements. Then there is the ever-daunting question that comes up – the dreaded lead time of the new equipment. If the equipment has failed, can I wait 20-26 weeks for new equipment or pay a premium price for a 12-week delivery? This is the era of “just in time” manufacturing, so there is not a stockpile of equipment, components or products. There are few facilities in any industry that can absorb the kind of economic impacts that result from extended lead times.
The truth is, this change is not good for the American economy or American industry. Some proponents of the NEC changes have used electrical safety as a scare tactic to promote the changes. There may be a small component of safety in the analysis, but there was no information submitted that safety was the driving concern. As a matter of record, the changes were made to satisfy the desires of the new electrical equipment manufacturers. The justification used for the NEC language stated that it was based on a policy published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade association representing the economic interests of electrical equipment manufacturers.
Most electrical equipment failures come from four areas: equipment not properly applied, equipment not properly installed, equipment not properly maintained, or equipment being worked on energized and not under the guidelines of NFPA 70E. When reconditioning of equipment is done to the appropriate ANSI standards, equipment failure due to reconditioning is a non-issue.
A better solution than excessive prohibitions in the NEC is to use existing ANSI electrical standards such as NFPA 70E, NFPA 70B, NETA MTS, EASA-AR-100, and PEARL EERS to properly maintain and recondition the equipment, perform maintenance testing of the equipment, and purchase parts and reconditioned equipment from reputable dealers that utilize appropriate industry testing standards to verify proper operation of the equipment. As well as taking great care and pride in their work, they provide documentation of the performance and condition of the equipment to the user. Educating the industry about these standards and the right way to evaluate equipment is the best way to resolve this perceived safety issue.