Lancaster, PA Electrician Directory

Find licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA for Residential, Commercial & Industrial projects here!

Homeowners need electricians to install new modern circuit breaker electrical service panels replacing antiquated fuse panels. You may need extra outlets installed in an older home that didn't have electrical receptacles installed in every corner of the home. Perhaps you're installing ceiling fans and need them wired to switch panels on the walls. Or, you want to add a hot tub to your backyard and need electrical service installed. You'll find electricians available for all of these services and more here on lancaster electrical .com.

Need an industrial or commercial electrician here in Lancaster County? Whether you need high bay lighting installed or a new three phase feed for that new high powered machine your adding commercial and industrial electricians have the skill set to make every installation and upgrade run smoothly.

 



Read the latest news for licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA.

Rural Electric Infrastructure Gets $251 Million From USDA
Rural Electric Infrastructure Gets $251 Million From USDA aconstanza Fri, 10/18/2019 - 10:34

Rural Electric Infrastructure Gets $251 Million From USDA

While urban areas may have benefitted from the technology transformation, many rural areas have not.

Recognizing this gap, the federal government has created a low interest loan program to help finance electric transmission upgrades for areas in need. This month, the program announced $251 million in funding for a dozen projects in rural areas across thirteen states.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Electric Loan Program makes insured loans and loan guarantees to nonprofit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities primarily to finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas. However, the guaranteed loan program has been expanded and is now available to finance generation, transmission and distribution facilities. The loans and loan guarantees finance the construction of these facilities, including system improvements and replacements required to furnish and improve electric service in rural areas. They will also include demand side management, energy conservation programs and on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems.

The $251 million will go to a variety of projects, including $38.2 million to finance smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.

The projects include $1.75 million in financing for a pair of 1 megawatt solar projects in Aroostook and Kennebec Counties, Maine. In North Carolina, a $16.7 million loan will finance improvements to generation systems at the Catawba Nuclear Station. A $54.4 million loan will build and improve 249 miles of line to improve service to 2,144 customers in Virginia and Maryland.

The awards will help build and develop 1,971 miles of line to improve electric reliability for customers in these areas. According to the USDA, the investments will benefit nearly 231,000 residents and businesses.

Page Title
Rural Electric Infrastructure Gets $251 Million From USDA
Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


New ‘Build California’ Program Hopes To Grow Workforce
New ‘Build California’ Program Hopes To Grow Workforce aconstanza Thu, 10/17/2019 - 10:04

New ‘Build California’ Program Hopes To Grow Workforce

Contractors are increasingly getting involved in workforce development initiatives aimed to attract more millennials and Gen Zers to the industry.

In California, an industry coalition is stepping up recruitment efforts with Build California, a new workforce development initiative, “created to inspire, engage, and activate the next generation of California’s construction workforce.”

“Rooted in research and focused on the future, Build California will reshape the perception of construction careers and cultivate a strong, steady workforce pipeline,” Peter Tateishi, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California, said in a press release announcing the initiative.

The group, along with the AGC Construction Education Foundation and construction software vendors LCPtracker and Procore, last month launched Build California as part of an industry coalition that also includes contractors, public agencies, private owners, associations, unions, apprenticeship programs and other workforce development nonprofits.

First on tap: a one-year pilot program in three high schools, as well as the launch of an online education portal for teachers and administrators. If all goes well, the coalition will expand its outreach efforts to additional schools throughout the state.

“Our goal for the pilot year is to test our hypothesis and make sure Build California is engaging with our audiences—students, parents, teachers, jobseekers—in meaningful ways,” said Erin Volk, vice president, workforce and community development, and executive director of the AGC Construction Education Foundation.

“We are being intentional about how we engage and interact, especially with the students, knowing devices, social media platforms and all of their influencing factors change quickly in this digital world,” Volk said.

The last few years, there has been an increased effort across the country by trade organizations to promote construction work and guide young people to these careers. AGC state chapters have launched several workforce development initiatives in other states, including Go Build Alabama. Contractors are also involved in initiatives launched by state governments, including Build Virginia and Michigan’s Marshall Plan for Talent.

The need to improve recruitment is urgent, as 80% of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, according to a survey released in August by Autodesk and the AGC.

“Workforce shortages remain one of the single most significant threats to the construction industry,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “However, construction labor shortages are a challenge that can be fixed, and this association will continue to do everything in its power to make sure that happens.”

Page Title
New ‘Build California’ Program Hopes To Grow Workforce
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


The System’s Heartbeat: Fire Alarm Control Units
The System’s Heartbeat: Fire Alarm Control Units aconstanza Wed, 10/16/2019 - 10:17

The System’s Heartbeat: Fire Alarm Control Units

The heart of any fire alarm system, the component that brings it all together, is the fire alarm control unit (FACU).

The first step is to choose whether a conventional or addressable unit is needed based on the size and complexity of the building. Of course, the owner, who will normally press for a low-cost system, may also drive the choice of system.

As price will undoubtedly come up in your conversation with the owner, it is important that you move discussions from the “installed cost” to the “operational cost.” You’ll have to drive this conversation; the owner doesn’t know what they don’t know about the life safety afforded by a properly designed and installed fire alarm system.

As mentioned in a previous article, you should always ask the owner what he or she wants to have left after the fire. This question often will take the spotlight off the price discussion and instead shine it on the life safety needs of the owner.

Also remember the owner looks to you as the expert. Don’t let him or her down. Ensure that you understand the typical systems operation and the basic code and design tenets of a properly designed and installed fire alarm system. The applicable codes will include the International Building Code—or whatever local building code the jurisdiction has adopted—NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.

For a system without great complexity, such as a simple three-story apartment building, you may choose a simple conventional three-zone system for the FACU. In use for decades, conventional fire alarm control units have proven very reliable and easy to wire, though with these systems you cannot T-Tap the circuits. Many buildings still have conventional fire alarm systems in service. At the time of installation, these systems met the price focus of owners.

 The circuits used in a conventional system include Initiating Device Circuits (IDCs) for detectors, pull stations, and waterflow switches, and notification appliance circuits (NACs) for horns, strobes and other audible and visible notification appliances. NFPA 72 defines IDCs as “A circuit to which automatic or manual initiating devices are connected where the signal received does not identify the individual device operated.” NFPA 72 defines NACs simply as “A circuit or path directly connected to a notification appliance(s).”

NFPA 72 also provides requirements for the installation of these circuits and for defining what you must do whether you plan to install them in as Class B or Class A circuits.

The most common type of FACU in use today, even for small, simple systems, is the addressable FACU. The flexibility afforded to you, as a contractor, for both design and operation makes the addressable FACU an easy choice. And, from your point of view, it will likely prove more efficient to train your technicians on one addressable type of FACU from a single manufacturer.

With addressable systems a signaling line circuit (SLC) is used to interconnect your initiating devices—and with some manufacturers their notification appliances, as well. NFPA 72 defines SLCs as “A circuit path between any combination of addressable appliances or devices, circuit interfaces, control units, or transmitters over which multiple system input signals or output signals or both are carried.” You can also install SLCs in a Class A or B fashion. However, NFPA 72 provides for an additional wiring method allowed for SLCs. This method provides more reliability than a Class A circuit. NFPA 72 designates such a circuit as Class X and provides specific installation requirements for this circuit.

The addressable FACU uses a miniature computer to operate the fire alarm system. You and your technicians will need additional and frequent training to maintain the knowledge and skill to install these FACUs correctly the first time. Additionally, these FACUs require programming to connect all devices and appliances, as well as to define their operation.

The same SLC can connect to a control module that controls a fan or magnetic door hold-open, in addition to all the devices and appliances. Most manufacturers will allow hundreds of devices or appliances connected to an SLC.

However, be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket, or rather, in one SLC. You must exercise care not to limit the number of circuits simply to save costs. You should carefully plan the system, keeping a high degree of reliability in mind. Using an addressable FACU has many advantages. Be careful not to abuse their capabilities, especially in larger or more complex buildings.

Remember NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, is not a design guide. So, you must hire competent individuals who understand fire and fire protection. A competent designer must understand more than the specifications and operations of a particular manufacturer’s equipment. It takes someone who understands the installation of the equipment, the requirements of the codes, and the application of detection and controls to provide the owner with a life safety system they expect and deserve. Understanding the role an FACU plays in an effective fire alarm system is an important step in meeting these expectations.

Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
Yes
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


Tariff on Bifacial Solar Panels To Go Into Effect
Tariff on Bifacial Solar Panels To Go Into Effect aconstanza Tue, 10/15/2019 - 16:31

Tariff on Bifacial Solar Panels To Go Into Effect

On Oct. 9, the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced a once-exempt type of solar panel will now be subject to a tariff.

The technology, called bifacial solar panels, will be subject to a 25% tariff beginning Oct. 28. Bifacial solar panels involve a technology that absorbs light more efficiently than other solar panels as a result of being double-sided.

Last January, the President issued Proclamation 9693 to impose a tariff on certain solar products while also directing the U.S. Trade Representative to establish a procedure for interested parties to request exclusions to this tariff.

In June, after a 30-day submission period in the spring, the U.S. Trade Representative granted certain requests. In particular, the U.S. Trade Representative excluded bifacial solar panels consisting only of bifacial solar cells.

In explaining its rationale to no longer grant this exclusion and impose the tariff, the Office noted, “Since publication of that notice, the U.S. Trade Representative has evaluated this exclusion further and, after consultation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Energy, determined it will undermine the objectives of the safeguard measure.

“Accordingly, the U.S. Trade Representative has modified the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) to withdraw the exclusion of bifacial solar panels from application of the safeguard measure.”

Other types of solar panels that were also initially exempt from tariffs, such as solar cells without busbars or gridlines, continue to be exempt from tariffs.

As a result of the reversal of tariffs on bifacial solar panels, analysts report that it could have an adverse impact on solar deployment in the U.S., given the increased cost of these types of panels.

In making its decision to withdraw the tariff exclusion on bifacial solar panels, the Trade Representative’s office noted that, after evaluating newly available information from various sources demonstrating that global production of bifacial solar panels has been increasing as a result of not being subject to tariff, it was clear that the exclusion would likely result in “significant increases in imports of bifacial solar panels,” which would compete with single and double-sided panels manufactured in the United States.

Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


Pennsylvania Joins Regional Cap and Trade Program
Pennsylvania Joins Regional Cap and Trade Program aconstanza Tue, 10/15/2019 - 16:04

Pennsylvania Joins Regional Cap and Trade Program

Politics can be a delicate act of juggling the demands for bold leadership with the controversy they often court.

This month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, defied the will of his own, Republican-controlled legislature, when he signed an executive order requiring the state to join a regional cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) describes itself as “the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” It is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

Governor Wolf’s executive order 2019-07 requires the state of Pennsylvania to develop and present a proposed rulemaking package designed to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electric power generators by July 31, 2020.

According to the order, the package will include a robust public outreach effort. It will also include carbon dioxide allowances that are in line with the other RGGI member states. Allowances will be auctioned annually or more frequently through a market-based mechanism.

The existing RGGI states implemented a new RGGI cap of 91 million short tons in 2014. Participating states sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other consumer benefit programs.
According to Governor Wolf’s executive order, the RGGI participating states have collectively reduced power sector carbon dioxide pollution by over 45% since 2005.

The Governor tried to get authorization from the legislature during budget negotiations earlier this year but was unsuccessful. He issued the executive order instead, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Republican legislators are now introducing bills to try to stop the move. On the other hand, while some environmental groups have praised the order, others would see the order go even further. Since Nov. 27, 2018,The Clean Air Council has circulated a petition to the state’s environmental rule-making board to adopt an economy-wide cap and trade program.

The RGGI is not the only regional cap and trade program in the United States. The Western Climate Initiative (between California, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia) and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (between Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas and the Canadian province of Ontario) have similar goals to reduce carbon emissions in those regions, though Midwestern Accord has remained inactive for many years after the participating states elected new governors whose policies were not aligned with the aims of the accord.

Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


Wiring Methods and Materials
Wiring Methods and Materials aconstanza Mon, 10/14/2019 - 10:48

Wiring Methods and Materials

Part 5 of this series focuses on revisions in Chapter 3 of the 2020 NEC, “Wiring Methods and Materials,” which covers the general requirements for wiring and the requirements specific to each wiring method, such as electrical conduit and tubing, nonmetallic and metallic cables, cable tray, wireways and auxiliary gutters and so forth.

Section 300.3(B)(1) Paralleled Installations

Section 300.3(B)(1) has been revised to require that connections, taps or extensions from paralleled conductors are made in a manner to equalize the current on the parallel arrangement that is being tapped. This revision provides additional clarity for the termination of, and tapping from, paralleled conductors. 310.10(G), formerly 310.10(H), does not address potential inappropriate connections to individual conductors of an overall parallel arrangement.

Section 300.7(A) Sealing

Section 300.7(A) has been revised to correlate with Section 225.27. Products used to seal raceways or sleeves must be identified for the use. Compatibility with the cable/conductor insulation, bare conductor, shields or other component is now required.

Section 300.25 Exit Enclosures (Stair Towers)

New Section 300.25 has been added to Article 300 and addresses the installation of wiring methods in stair towers. Only wiring methods serving equipment in the stair enclosure and permitted by the AHJ are to be installed in the stair enclosure. This new section aligns with existing requirements in NFPA 101, which is the Life Safety Code.

Sections 310.1 Scope, 310.3(A) Minimum Size Conductors, and 310.3(B) Conductor Material

The scope of Article 310 has been revised and is now limited to not more than 2,000 volts (V). Requirements and ampacity tables for conductors over 2,000V have been relocated into a new Article 311, “Medium Voltage Conductors and Cable.” Copper-clad aluminum conductors must meet the material requirements of 310.3(B).

Section 312.8(B) Power Monitoring or Energy Management Equipment

Section 312.12(B) has been arranged into a list format for usability. Section 312.8(B) has been revised to address the equipment installed for both power monitoring and energy management systems. Additional requirements have been added for conductors used exclusively for control or instrumentation circuits.

Section 314.16 Number of Conductors in Outlet, Device, and Junction Boxes and Conduit Bodies

The single volume allowance for equipment grounding conductors (EGC) and equipment bonding jumpers (EBJ) is now limited to just four of these conductors. Having to take a full-size deduction is not practical in many cases. A one-quarter volume allowance based upon the largest EGC or EBJ in the box is added for each EGC or EBJ over four. Editorial revisions have been made in the parent text and in Table 314.16(A).

Section 330.130 Hazardous (Classified) Locations

New Section 330.130 provides construction requirements for type MC-HL cable. Type MC-HL cable is constructed to the UL Product Category (PJPP), Cable for Use in Hazardous Locations. Type MC-HL cable is recognized for limited use in some hazardous-location applications.

Section 334.30 Securing and Supporting

New text in 334.30 mandates that the cable length between the cable entry and the closest cable support shall not exceed 18 inches. This is necessary where loops are left for future modifications. All references to and requirements for Type NMS cable have been deleted throughout Article 334.

Section 336.10 Uses Permitted

Article 336 provides rules for power and control tray cable and Type TC. Only Type TC-ER-JP cable containing both power and control conductors is permitted in one- and two-family dwelling units. Type TC-ER-JP cable installed on the exterior of a dwelling unit must comply with Part II of article 340. Type TC cable is now permitted in hazardous (classified) locations where specifically referenced elsewhere in the NEC.

Sections 342.10(E), 344.10(E) and 358.10(E) Physical Damage and Severe Physical Damage

Physical damage is now specifically addressed in the .10(E) sections for intermediate metal conduit (IMC), rigid metal conduit (RMC) and electrical metallic tubing (EMT). IMC and RMC are permitted to be installed in areas subject to severe physical damage. EMT is permitted to be installed in areas subject to physical damage, but not in areas subject to severe physical damage.

Section 392.30(B) Cables and Conductors and Section 392.44 Expansion Splice Plates

Cable ties used in cable trays must be listed and identified for the application and securement and support. Cable ties for securement and support must be marked with the suffix S, 2S or 21S. Expansion splice plates for cable trays are required where necessary to compensate for thermal expansion and contraction.

Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments


Truck Upfits
Truck Upfits aconstanza Mon, 10/14/2019 - 10:48

Truck Upfits

A well-appointed work truck can save an electrician frustration and uncountable hours of wasted time looking for tools and material, and upfitters have done a good job keeping pace with changing truck designs with an impressive selection of upfit options.

While conventional vans remain in wide use, cargo vans with greater interior space and cab-forward box vans that have a stand-up working space are increasingly popular. Electrical-related van upfit components include cable reel holders and trays to store connectors and other small parts. ECs also drive pickup trucks, and there is a wide selection of upfits for them, including ladder racks and tool-storage boxes. Folding desks and laptop holders turn truck cabs into mobile offices. Upfits also are available for utility trailers.

The cargo van category has long been considered a stable market with few changes in basic products, but recently more vans have been introduced with increased interior space.

“In the past two years, the service van market has seen significant variation in the types of makes and models that are available for professionals in the United States,” said Mike Bykowski, director of product management for the Weather Guard truck storage division. Weather Guard is a Werner company.

“Taller vehicles like high-roof vans are currently the biggest growth area in the van market. They give equipment manufacturers the opportunity to design products for the extra space in the interior of the van, while mounting accessories on the exterior of the vehicle. For example, our drop-down ladder rack as an adaption for vans with higher roof profiles allows heavier, fiberglass ladders to be lowered down the side of a van,” he said.

Many upfit products are made for specific models, wheelbases and roof heights. These packages can include a mesh bulkhead, a four-shelf unit, a five-drawer storage module and a hooked tool holder, among other useful products available to create a custom van package.

WeatherGuard interior van uplift includes shelves and drawers for small items.
WeatherGuard interior van uplift includes shelves and drawers for small items.

Bykowski said ECs in particular are looking for a combination of larger storage modules and accessories to keep everything organized and readily available.

“For vans, we manufacture various types of partitions, storage shelves, pull-out drawer units, ladder racks and cabinets to organize and protect tools and materials. These products can be configured in a variety of ways inside of both traditional and mid to high-roof cargo vans to meet electrical contractors’ storage needs,” he said. “Our storage equipment is designed to hold everything from breakers, fuses, electrical tools and necessary plugs and connectors.”

Pickup trucks are less popular with electrical contractors than vans, but there are instances where some consider pickups a better choice. There is an excellent selection of upfits for pickups of all bed lengths including tool and storage boxes, drawer units, conduit carriers and ladder racks. Locking bed covers keep out rain and snow and provide a measure of security for contents. Full-bed covers provide more protected space above the bed floor.

Utility bodies with storage installed on pickups are seen more often on telephone and communication vehicles than electrical company trucks.

For pickup trucks, there are low-side boxes, saddle boxes and all-purpose chests that are specifically developed to securely store a large selection of tools, while protecting against weather and vandalism. These storage boxes offer quick access to valuable tools, equipment and parts while keeping the truck bed open for supplies, Bykowski noted.

“The pickup truck market,” he said, “has seen a shift toward compact trucks, as professionals find these to be less expensive and more fuel-efficient. Equipment manufacturers are now designing more products to fit these smaller vehicles and are identifying ways to enhance functionality and organization of smaller trucks. Just as there are ladder racks for vans with high roofs, there are now ladder racks that work specifically for compact trucks.”

The addition of lighting to traditional vehicle-storage equipment is one of the most important recent developments in upfit products, Bykowski said.

“Manufacturers are beginning to add integrated lighting to their conventional storage units, especially for the exterior of pickup trucks where lighting can be nonexistent,” he said.

“For example, Weather Guard’s lighted truck box is a secure saddle box with weather-resistant tool storage lighting that features ultra-bright LED lights. It has the lighting integrated inside the toolbox to increase visibility and reduce time spent rummaging for tools. In addition to storage with integrated lighting, professionals also can purchase separate lighting kits designed to be added onto existing vehicle storage equipment; this allows contractors to customize their equipment themselves to suit their own work needs.”

Whether van or truck, professionals and especially electricians need designated spaces for storing small items.

“We have developed various storage modules specifically designed for protecting items such as tool bits, connectors and fish tapes,” Bykowski said. “The Pack Rat drawer unit is a pull-out storage unit that boasts four compartments and 24 dividers for optimal organization. The roll-out drawer provides one-hand operation and easy access for users to locate needed gear. Truck boxes come with built-in tool trays to organize smaller items, such as the one found in our saddle boxes.”

Other useful accessories that can be added include hooks and tool holders mounted to the inside of their vehicle. They can be placed in easy-to-reach locations such as the door of a van or end-panel of a storage module, making frequently used items convenient to grab while maintaining a dedicated space for them.

A number of companies offer laptop computer mounts and small folding desk tops for passenger side space in truck cabs, making the vehicle a mobile office.

Bykowski said there are several factors to consider before purchasing work truck upfits. For example, you should identify the best products for each vehicle type to determine the biggest pain points that may be experienced on the work site. Electrical contractors using vans may need specific types of storage shelves, drawer units and ladder racks to organize their specialty tools and equipment, while construction professionals using pickups may be better served by an add-on truck rack to haul multiple ladders to job sites.

“The upfitting process can be difficult to navigate,” Bykowski said, “and there are ways to ease the process, especially in the selection of equipment to fit perfectly into the specific dimensions of a vehicle.

If a user doesn’t know exactly what types of equipment is needed, Weather Guard introduced an interactive online custom van configuration tool in June 2019 that enables users to visually build out custom van upfits for the Ford Transit and Transit Connect models.

“By allowing users to place partitions, shelving, racks and other needed storage in a three-dimensional digital model of their cargo van, it is possible to quickly and easily see what the end result will look like. This tool, and other virtual programs, can help professionals expedite the shopping process and be confident that their upfit will meet their organizational needs,” he said.

Adrian Steel, Knapheide and Ranger Design are among other companies with online truck upfit tools ECs can use.

WeatherGuard offers a lighted cross-bed tool box for pickups.

Multiple Sources for Upfits

Most commercial truck upfits are done by third parties or distributors of upfit manufacturers.

Truck manufacturers have relationships in place with one or more companies that can make specified upfits, and the truck dealership can deliver the modified vehicle.

Experienced commercial truck dealership managers understand the needs of the various trades, including electricians, and maintain working relationships with upfit distributors that inventory and can correctly install quality products. Specialists work closely with truck dealers to make sure upfitted vehicles meet the specifications of the buyer. Many truck buyers say they like this single-source process.

 Purchasers of multiple trucks for fleets who want vehicles delivered to several destinations can have them sent to a nearby upfitter for installation and then returned to the truck manufacturers distribution system for delivery to local dealerships.

Truck sellers have also have gotten into the upfitting business.

For small companies with only one or a few vehicles, the best choice may be purchasing trucks and taking them to a nearby upfit distributor for customizing to the buyers’ specialized needs.

“These professionals are the traditional choice for outfitting a work vehicle, as upfitters work with the customer to determine which equipment would best suit their needs and also fit in the available space of their vehicle,” said Mike Bykowski, director of product management for the Weather Guard truck storage division.

“In recent years, we’ve also seen many vehicle dealerships begin to add upfitting as a service upon purchase; this adds a level of convenience for contractors who need an expedited upfitting process. Whether an electrical contractor chooses to upfit with a traditional upfitter or a dealership, it’s best to go into the process with an idea of what equipment will be a priority and the budget to make the most out of the upfitting investment,” he said. —J.G.

Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments
Image Caption
Slide-down rooftop racks carry ladders and other equipment.


Sound the Alarm: Smoke alarms and detectors in homes
Sound the Alarm: Smoke alarms and detectors in homes aconstanza Mon, 10/14/2019 - 10:48

Sound the Alarm: Smoke alarms and detectors in homes

Hardwired and battery-operated fire and smoke alarms for dwelling units have become more sophisticated in recent years, which vastly affects their compatibility with both wired and wireless smoke alarms. Many of these devices now have built-in batteries that last a minimum of 10 years without replacement and combine smoke detection with carbon monoxide detection. Photoelectric smoke alarms have built-in smoke sensors that reduce false alarms from cooking and shower steam, the most common forms of false alarms when layout requires a location near a bathroom or kitchen. With the amount of vapor released, vaping can also be a trigger for detectors or smoke alarms.

Wireless smoke alarms can be monitored using your computer or cell phone, Ring Home Security, Nexia Home Intelligence Systems and other Z-Wave systems.

According to the Smart Home website, a Z-Wave system is “a wireless protocol harnessing low-energy radio waves to help smart devices communicate with each other. It was developed by Zensys in Denmark in 2001, released to the public in 2004 and introduced to the mass market in 2005 with the formation of the Z-Wave Alliance. The Z-Wave system operates at a frequency of 908.42 megahertz in the United States, and with the proper system and components, it can support up to 232 devices. An optimum limit, however, is 40–50 devices resulting in little or no interference from each other.”

This major breakthrough enables wireless devices can interconnect and communicate with each other.

Now, back to our hardwired and wireless smoke alarms and smoke detectors. The difference between a smoke alarm and a smoke detector is that a smoke alarm is self-contained with the detection and notification (alarm) in one unit, and a smoke detector requires the connection to a fire alarm panel with the alarm as a separate device.

To connect smoke detectors to a fire alarm panel, Article 760 of the National Electrical Code provides the wiring requirements, NFPA 72 provides the installation requirements of the fire alarm panel and devices, and the fire alarm panel provides power-limited sources of energy for the alarm devices. Many residential fire alarm panels can also provide burglar alarm protection by using Class 2 and Class 3 circuits complying with Article 725. Large homes often require many smoke detectors for fire protection, so a fire alarm panel is the appropriate answer to the installation. Separate zones at the fire alarm panel will provide individual circuits to the smoke detectors with addressable devices providing sophisticated coverage for large homes and those with valuable personal collections.

Hardwired smoke alarms are either single station or combination (interconnected). As mentioned previously, the single station is self-contained and does not have the capability of a wired interconnection. An interconnected smoke alarm system has a hot and a neutral conductor for the power -supply connection to the 120-volt (V) branch circuit, a battery backup in case of loss of power and a separate wire that can connect to other smoke alarms, so an alarm in one device causes all other devices to also go into alarm. The maximum number of smoke alarms that can be connected is 12. This interconnection function helps notify all occupants of the home that there is a fire and evacuation is necessary. Where more than 12 smoke alarms must be installed in a large single-family home, a fire alarm panel may be the better answer.

There are also hardwired units that can communicate wirelessly with other compatible alarms where the power supply to the smoke alarm is 120V, and the compatible smoke alarms will receive a wireless signal and sound the alarm. Where using a hardwired smoke alarm with the separate wire from detector to detector, a three-wire NM cable with an equipment grounding conductor can be used from one box to the next. The black and white conductors are the 120V power connection, and the red wire would be the interconnection conductor.

Where possible, locate any smoke alarm or detector at least 3—4 feet from a ceiling fan or an air conditioning or heating vent, since it will affect the detector’s reaction time. Most smoke alarms and detectors will cover an area of about 900 square feet or a 30-ft. area around the detector. Locate a detector in each bedroom and hallway outside of the bedrooms, so these devices will provide an alarm if a fire starts in the house and the smoke migrates into the hallway. Do not locate the detectors in the dead air zone within 4 to 12 inches of the ceiling or the same dimension on the ceiling from the wall. Attention in the placement and servicing of smoke detectors and alarms will help ensure safety from fires.

Deck
Smoke alarms and detectors in homes
Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments
Image Caption
photo credit: istock / svengine


Putting Sensors into Service: Other uses for fiber optics
Putting Sensors into Service: Other uses for fiber optics aconstanza Mon, 10/14/2019 - 10:48

Putting Sensors into Service: Other uses for fiber optics

In last month’s column, I discussed other uses for optical fiber beyond communications. I mentioned lighting, viewing and laser surgery. I also mentioned sensors, the topic I elaborate on this month.

One thing all techs learn about fiber optics is to minimize stress on the fibers. That means preventing cables from bending too tightly and getting crushed. Stressing the fibers causes attenuation, and it can also change the way light is transmitted in the fiber, which actually enables us to use the fibers in another way: as a stress-type sensor. Stress-type sensors can be used as microphones. Fibers can measure movement, which allows for the creation of fiber optic gyroscopes used in place of conventional gyros for navigation.

I won’t get into how most of these sensors work, especially gyros, because as one of my favorite science fiction authors, Isaac Asimov, said, “Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Also, it would take too long.

My first experience with stress sensors was developing a fiber optic scale that could weigh vehicles on a roadway as they drove over it at a toll both. It turned out to be so sensitive that when buried under the ground, it would measure a person or animal crossing over it, which makes it a very sensitive intrusion alarm. One application for this technology was securing the periphery of classified government sites.

Another way to create an intrusion alarm is to weave the cable into a fence. Any stress on the fence can be detected and, with an instrument that works like an OTDR, located precisely. These types of sensors have been commercially available for decades.

A much more sophisticated sensor uses techniques to greatly increase the sensitivity of the fiber to stress, making it work like a microphone but much more responsive. An additional benefit is they can be strung out along a cable and provide many sensors in a line connected to one set of electronics. One big application for these is tracking submarines underwater. They can be towed behind a ship or submarine or permanently installed to guard a harbor or shoreline. They can also be used as seismic sensors for monitoring earthquakes and for oil and gas exploration.

Another type of sensor uses the fiber to transport light to a sensor that changes transmission when exposed to physical phenomena. One type uses crystals that vary with electrical fields and enables the sensor to measure very high voltages and currents (megavolts and amperes) while being electrically isolated by the fiber it is attached to. These have been used on high-voltage transmission lines for decades. Clamp-on devices are used for temporary measurements or sensors that can be permanently installed on the transmission wires.

Fiber can be used to measure temperature and chemical composition, especially in hazardous environments where electrical currents are hazardous or the physical conditions are not compatible with wires, such as near corrosive or in high temperatures. Hazardous environments are an excellent application for fiber optic sensors where glass is impervious to most chemicals, high temperatures and electrical interference.

There are other sensors that use fiber to measure reflections or light reflected from a movable reflector that are less sensitive and less costly. They can be used as sensors for liquid level, push-button or limit switches and microphones. We once built a fiber optic microphone using nothing but two fibers (one source and one to catch the reflections) and a Mylar membrane. It was used in a high EMI environment to allow for conversations with workers in a testing lab.

I was recently introduced to a new application—sensing arc-flash events. A system in general use runs a bare fiber in locations where arc flash is a potential problem. When an event occurs some of the light is picked up by the fiber, sensed by a detector and then electronics create an alarm.

Cost has always been a problem for fiber optic sensor use. Unless the unique characteristics of the fiber optic sensor justify its cost, cheaper traditional sensors are generally used. Most fiber contractors don’t do sensor work partly because not much of it involves traditional installations.

Some of the sensors used in intrusion alarms involve installing fiber, including splicing and termination. Several approved training schools teach techs how to install and handle the ruggedized cables used for oil and gas exploration. But not many would be interested in some of the underwater or hazardous environment work involved with fiber optic sensor installation.

Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments
Image Caption
photo credit: istock / alxpin


Suit Up: Wearable robotics assists workers and reduce injury
Suit Up: Wearable robotics assists workers and reduce injury aconstanza Mon, 10/14/2019 - 10:48

Suit Up: Wearable robotics assists workers and reduce injury

Robotics are improving productivity in many industries. Electrical contractors can benefit as a new genre of robotics emerges. Exoskeletons are wearable robotics that assist workers in performing tasks by providing mechanical motion to the worker through a wearable suit.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote about Toyota Motor North America’s use of exoskeletons and wearable robots at its Woodstock, Ontario, facility. The job of inspecting metallic frames required seated workers to wave an ultrasonic wand over the metal. When the vehicle design changed, a lighter, stronger frame passed through the production line every 60 seconds. This meant that there was more reaching and waving, leading to a greater stress on workers’ shoulder muscles and joints. With an increase in repetitive physical motion, the accumulated stress on workers’ bodies could feasibly lead to injuries, not to mention a downturn in worker productivity. The plant sought exoskeletons to aid the operation to avoid common injuries such as musculoskeletal irritation from chronic repetitive motion.

Reduce industrial workplace Injury

Worker-related musculoskeletal disorders are some of the most common risks for all types of construction workers, according to Louisiana State University’s Intelligent Construction Management Lab, directed by assistant professor Chao Wang. The musculoskeletal system includes muscles, tendons, nerves, bones and ligaments. A number of factors stress workers’ bodies: varying postures, vibrations and positions they must contort to while performing work.

Now, using advances in wearable robotic technology and the availability of new exoskeleton suits, some physical stress maybe alleviated by mechanically assisting the worker.

According to ABI Research, Oyster Bay, N.Y., wearable exoskeletons are a viable solution to augment workers’ performance of motion, but they aren’t necessarily a new idea. The technology’s concept dates back to the 1960s. In recent years, it has been revitalized and developed in an effort to reduce workplace injury and improve performance. It had been focused more on applications in the military and medical fields; however, there’s a very suitable application for its use in a manufacturing environment with an expectation that it can assist workers and upend the safety records of injuries that could be avoided.

Active and passive exoskeletons

There are two categories of exoskeletons: passive and active. As ABI Research describes it, passive suits are fully mechanical, without motors, and they are intended to distribute weight for the wearers and ultimately improve ergonomics. Today, exoskeleton suits can be found in industries such as automotive, aerospace, logistics and construction.

Active exoskeletons use motors for actuation and provide significant lift assistance to workers. As their application and usage takes hold, we can expect to see more exoskeleton suits more widely deployed.

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, Panasonic’s power-assist suits will be showcased by Olympic staffers. Panasonic intends to demonstrate precisely how exoskeletons can be useful for a growing, aging population in which performance and capability may be a challenge. According to Panasonic, the suits improve worker performance by as much as 20 percent.

For the electrical contractor, exoskeletons provide many opportunities. As these suits become more available and affordable, their use would be helpful on job sites that require bending, different posture contortions and repetitive motions and vibrations.

As our population ages and the average age of physical workers increases, it is wise to keep a watchful eye on how exoskeleton suits and wearable robotics are being used. If they are available, they can be helpful in increasing productivity while reducing workplace injury.

Stay tuned and observe how automotive manufacturing workers at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and other industries use them. In time, we can expect exoskeletons to enhance performance in the very diverse environments where ECs work.

Deck
Wearable robotics assist workers and reduce injury
Author
Is Featured Article?
No
Editor's Pick
No
Web Exclusive
No
Magazine Volume
Article Image
Date of Publications
Is Sponsored?
Off
Disqus Comments
Image Caption
photo credit: Panasonic