Changes in the 1996 NEC affect installers

The National Fire Protection Association has introduced the 100th edition of its National Electrical Code. Although the NEC requirements are advisory, they are used by electrical contractors and installers in all 50 states and U.S. territories, referenced in many local building codes and used as industry standards by building inspectors and contractors. For an NEC code-compliant installation, therefore, you should be aware of the following sections and changes included in NEC 1996.

Oct 1st, 1995

Barbara E. Thompson

The National Fire Protection Association has introduced the 100th edition of its National Electrical Code. Although the NEC requirements are advisory, they are used by electrical contractors and installers in all 50 states and U.S. territories, referenced in many local building codes and used as industry standards by building inspectors and contractors. For an NEC code-compliant installation, therefore, you should be aware of the following sections and changes included in NEC 1996.

"We are constantly at work to improve the NEC in response to the needs of its users," says Mark Earley, PE, National Fire Protection Association chief electrical engineer. "The 1996 National Electrical Code is the result of more than 5000 proposals and comments from NEC users, which were considered by code-making panels and voted on by the [association`s] members to create this new edition."

Optical fiber cables and raceways

A section titled "Mechanical execution of work" has been added to Article 770 on optical fiber cables and raceways, which covers the selection and installation of the proper optical fiber cable. The code states that "cables shall be installed in a neat and workmanlike manner and cables shall be supported by the building structure in such a manner that the cable will not be damaged by normal building usage."

Earley explains that this is simply a requirement for installation that guarantees a level of physical protection. In addition, he says that "the code now makes reference to the EIA/TIA [Electronic Industries Association/Telecommunications Industry Association] standards 568, 569 and 570, and also to the fact that optical fiber cables can be installed in hazardous locations."

Communications circuits

Article 800 on communications circuits also includes some changes that affect installers. This article covers telephone, telegraph (except radio), outside wiring for fire alarm, burglar alarm and similar central station systems. It also includes telephone systems not connected to a central station system but that use similar types of equipment, methods of installation and maintenance.

"A similar new requirement relative to cable support is included in this Article [800]," Earley says. "It states that cable shall be installed in such a manner as to provide protection from damage. Again, it makes reference to the EIA/TIA standards."

In Article 800, a new provision requires that communications circuits and equipment in hazardous locations be installed in accordance with Chapter 5 of the NEC. "This is an important change," says Earley, "because there wasn`t a reference in the 1993 NEC to the hazardous-location requirements in Chapter 5."

Article 800-51 has a new requirement that states "conductors in communications cables, other than coaxial cables, shall be copper." In addition, in 800-51(b), which refers to cables run vertically in a building, the wording is changed from "cables run vertically in a shaft," to "cables run vertically in a shaft or from floor to floor."

One important addition to this section for installers is Article 800-52(e), on support of conductors, which states that "raceways shall be used for their intended purpose, and communications cables or wires shall not be strapped, taped or attached by any means to the exterior of any conduit or raceway, as a means of support."

NEC Handbook and video

If you want an interpretation of, and guidance on how to use, the code, consult the NEC Handbook. "It contains the code but also provides code commentary," says Earley, the handbook`s editor. A video, "NEC Changes," and electronic versions of the 1996 NEC in Windows, Macintosh and DOS formats are available.

For more information on any of these products, contact the National Fire Protection Association at (800) 344-3555.

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