By Howard Herndon – Electrical Professional Consulting
PEARL, a driving force in the electrical apparatus reconditioning industry, is made up of approximately 75 member companies who recondition electrical apparatus including switchboards, switchgear, circuit breakers, panelboards and transformers in accordance with the ANSI EERS-2018 standard. As part of the ANSI standard, each piece of equipment is tested to be safe and reliable in accordance with this and other industry standards. This equipment is then, sold to a customer as reconditioned equipment and providing the customer with a test report to document the tested performance of that equipment.
PEARL dealers are not electrical junk dealers, we are businesses that meet stringent inspection criteria and compliance to the published industry standards, who employ thousands of American workers, and represent in excess of a billion dollars of sales within our organizations. We are also part of the impact the industry has on the waste products in American by making sure products are reused, reconditioned and properly disposed of without filling American landfills.
As many organizations wish to prohibit the sale of reconditioned equipment, PEARL members often team up with the major manufacturers to provide support for obsolete and legacy products. We support manufacturers field services organizations, end users and many other 3rd party organizations who service and keep electrical infrastructures safe and reliable.
Some proponents of the 2020 NEC changes to prohibit reconditioned electrical apparatus, have used electrical safety as a scare tactic to promote these changes. Safety is a concern with all electrical equipment, but there was no information or documentation submitted showing safety, was the driving concern with properly reconditioned equipment. As a matter of record, the proposed changes to the NEC were made to satisfy the desires of some new electrical equipment manufacturers. The justification used for the NEC language stated that it was based on a policy published by the NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association), a trade association representing the economic interests of electrical product manufacturers only. PEARL was invited to participate in this NEMA task force as a guest. The list of equipment permitted to be reconditioned was provided by the manufacturers with no regard to the input from the members representing PEARL or the manufacturers own service organizations. No technical substantiations were provided to back the named prohibition to remanufacturing electrical apparatus. Please keep in mind, this list is not an ANSI standard, just a list presented for review by the electrical manufacturers and published by NEMA.
Prohibitions of reconditioned equipment in the NEC is blatant restraint of trade. Just like other industries where OEMs have tried to limit their competition and therefore choices for users, these electrical code requirements have a severe negative impact on a large part of the electrical industry.
For the major manufacturers such as Eaton and Schneider Electric who oppose the remanufacturing or reconditioning of electrical equipment, they are the most extreme examples of hypocrisy. The claims by both Eaton and Schneider Electric of only working on their own equipment are unfounded. They will also recondition, retrofit and retro-fill all manufacturer’s equipment:
a. To Quote Eaton’s website “Eaton’s Class 1 reconditioning utilizes advanced equipment and state-of-the-art testing to restore circuit breakers to their maximum capability, regardless of the original manufacturer.”
b. To Quote Schneider: “A more intensive maintenance option for circuit breakers is in-shop reconditioning…… Damaged parts are refurbished or replaced, and pivot points are re-lubricated before the circuit breaker is reassembled” “This can be done for most all major manufacturers of electrical equipment both low and medium voltage”
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 possibly pay a massive premium pricing for a 12-14 week delivery? This is the era of “just in time” manufacturing, there is no 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 time outage situation. Results from an event that would cause damage to electrical equipment are devastating to facilities and manufacturing plants.
Who will be affected by these prohibitions? Can you imagine what would happen if the McCarran International Airport, Terminal 1 lost the main 2000A, 480Volt breaker in substation 1 that was installed early in 1980. This substation controls the lower and main floor of passenger baggage claim areas with some 20+ carousels. These are the areas where luggage is unloaded and moved to the carousels for passenger pickup. 3.6M travelers flew through MIA in June 2019, this situation happened, and without reconditioning of equipment we would have been waiting weeks or months on the manufacturer to provide new equipment. Without reconditioned equipment, 150,000 rooms in the LV area would not have stayed 97+% occupied, and monthly gaming revenues of almost $1B per month would have be affected. Just imagine if you were running a petroleum or manufacturing plant, how many people would be laid-off or put on furlough while waiting on new equipment.
We are all part of the NFPA Safety Eco-System as presented by Jim Pauley, at the June 2019, NFPA Conference. There are two of the key tenants of this system that we can look at to address the reconditioning of electrical apparatus:
1. Other industry standards: at PEARL we have 100’s of years of experience invested in the reconditioning all types of electrical equipment, we have created the EERS ANSI standard to document these procedures and guidelines. Referencing these standards and documentation would be a service to the electrical industry.
2. Considering the building life cycle: the electrical distribution system of a facility is an integral part of the entire life cycle of a building. With proper maintenance, and integration of industry standards such as the NEC, NFPA 70E, 70B, NETA MTS, EASA-AR-100, and PEARL EERS, the electrical equipment can remain an integral part of a safe building infrastructure. It does not need to be replaced every 20 years just because one component fails.
We have requested that the NFPA Standards Council hold these changes concerning reconditioned electrical apparatus for a future edition of the NEC. All parties involved can then participate in the
discussions and development of very clear and concise guidelines for reconditioned equipment that is in line with Industry and ANSI standards already developed.