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Overcurrent Protection: Defending the World from Electrical Hazards
Overcurrent Protection: Defending the World from Electrical Hazards aconstanza Fri, 12/13/2019 - 16:05

Overcurrent Protection: Defending the World from Electrical Hazards

The National Electrical Code is designed for the practical safeguarding of people and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. The two major hazards are shock and fire, but the third, arc flash, is starting to find its way into installation requirements. 

Overcurrent protection is the workhorse of meeting the purpose of the NEC. This is how to design the system to shut itself off when there is a problem. Many of those common practices are followed to help an overcurrent protective device (OCPD) do its job.

There are two types of overcurrent events, overload and fault, and they have some key differences. 

In an overload condition, the load is drawing more current than intended. This might happen in a motor with worn bearings or an AC compressor motor when there is too much head pressure in the system. Either way, the motor has to work harder than it was designed for and is drawing more current than the system is intended to carry. 

A fault is where there has been a physical alteration, intentional or not, that has bypassed the load. Faults can be short circuits, ground- or arcing-faults and each brings with it a unique set of problems. First, the short circuit, which is a fault that bypasses the load but stays on the intended current path. Second, the ground-fault, which is a fault in which current has bypassed the load by way of finding a grounded surface or conductive path that is connected to the ground. Third, the arcing fault, which usually has much lower current values than the other two because it uses air as a conductor, and this path has significantly more resistance in it than if it were a short circuit of ground-fault.

Exploring overcurrent protection

The NEC separates overcurrent protection into two categories: overcurrent equipment protection and overcurrent conductor protection. Article 240 contains the general overcurrent protection requirements, however, there are many equipment-specific overcurrent protection requirements throughout the Code. Section 240.3 lists where all the equipment-specific requirements can be found in the Code. 

Looking at overcurrent equipment protection first might shed some light on how the NEC really uses this for safety. Take for instance a motor installation. Motors are an area in the NEC that utilizes multiple techniques to provide the full spectrum of overcurrent protection. Due to how a motor is constructed, it presents a challenge during starting because high starting currents can often trip an OCPD. To start the motor, the branch-circuit device is sized higher to allow the motor to start. A separate overload protection is then provided to protect the circuit components from too much current flowing over an extended period of time. This approach uses the combination of two separate devices to protect the overall circuit and is specific to the type of equipment that is being fed. 

The other method is protection at the point where the circuit receives its supply of electricity. This is the more common method and uses a single device at the circuit origin to provide both overload and short circuit and ground-fault protection. This type of protection is still based on the expected load being supplied, but this also must be in accordance with the ampacity of the conductor, as opposed to equipment-specific rules being based solely on the expected load, as is the case with motors. This type of protection corresponds to the ampacity of the conductor in a way that prevents overheating from and provides the fault protection to de-energize the circuit in a short circuit or a ground-fault condition. 

The rules for protecting conductors are generally less complicated than those for protecting equipment. Section 240.4 makes the general statement that conductors are protected in alignment with their allowable ampacities, and Section 240.21 makes the general statement that protection be located where the conductor gets its supply. There are a few exceptions such as when the conductor ampacity doesn’t work with a standard OCPD rating or when tapping off of a feeder. But with all of the exceptions to the general rule, there are conditions that limit when, where and how these unique scenarios are handled. However, the general rule for conductors is to protect them at their current-carrying capacity and put this protection where the conductor is connected to electricity. 

Protecting against shock and arc flash

Let’s first take a look at how overcurrent is used to protect people from shock. To start, it is fair to say that OCPDs do not provide protection from shock on their own. They need help from another area of the NEC that gets a lot of attention, which is the grounding and bonding system. If overcurrent protection is the workhorse of safeguarding people and property, then grounding and bonding is the foundation that supports it. In fact, one part of the grounding and bonding system even mentions in the definition that it is installed to facilitate the operation of the OCPD, and that is the effective ground-fault current path. The effective ground-fault current path is also called out in the performance requirement in 250.4(A)(5). The combination of the performance requirements and the definition states that if something could become energized it must be connected in a way that provides an intentionally installed, low-impedance path back to the source to facilitate the operation of the overcurrent device. 

However, this will not protect against shock that occurs when a person contacts an energized conductor 100% of the time. Often this appears to be just another load on the system and we rely on technology like ground-fault circuit interrupter protection to safeguard against these types of events. But OCPDs help to protect against shock by de-energizing the circuit before a person can come in contact with surfaces that are generally not supposed to be energized. This is where overcurrent protection needs a little help from the effective ground-fault current path. By connecting the normally nonenergized parts of equipment to this intentionally created low impedance path, we create a circuit that will open the OCPD in the event that these parts do become energized. This prevents shock by controlling the path that current takes in a way that tells the system that something is wrong and it should be addressed. 

Lastly, how do we use overcurrent to protect people from arc flash? If you are familiar with NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, then you already understand that the risk to employees is completely dependent on how much current the system is going to supply in an arc flash and how long is it going to take the upstream OCPD to open the circuit. The NECaddresses this in two spots specifically aimed at OCPDs in 240.67 for fuses and 240.87 for circuit breakers. These two sections require that the system take measures to reduce the arcing energy when we are dealing with large systems that can supply large amounts of incident energy. This is typically done with installing certain types of OCPDs or by adding features that allow workers to manipulate the parameters of an OCPD in order to reduce the risk during the work period. Energy-reducing maintenance switching and reducing the instantaneous trip setting are just a couple of the methods that the NEC requires for safeguarding workers from arc flash through the installation of overcurrent protection.

Understanding the role that overcurrent plays in our electrical safety ecosystem hopefully makes it clearer why we install electrical systems the way we do so we can all build, use and benefit from safe electrical installations.

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Battery Prices Fall as Electrification Grows
Battery Prices Fall as Electrification Grows aconstanza Fri, 12/13/2019 - 11:51

Battery Prices Fall as Electrification Grows

A recent report documents a significant drop in the price of batteries just as electric vehicles are taking off in new directions.

The market research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released its “2019 Battery Price Survey” on December 3.

The report examines the worldwide market for batteries. It finds that prices for batteries have fallen 87% in real terms, from $1,100 to $156 per kilowatt/hours (kWh) between 2010 and 2019.

A number of factors have contributed to this sharp decline according to Bloomberg. Increasing order size, growth in battery electric vehicle sales and the continued penetration of high energy density cathodes have all played a part.

BNEF also finds that the drop in battery prices has come at the same time that electrification has expanded into different sectors of transportation, such as commercial and high-end passenger vehicles.

The survey forecasts the trend of falling battery prices to continue. BNEF projects battery prices to reach $100/kWh by the year 2023. New pack designs and falling manufacturing designs are expected to support that trend going forward.

Not coincidentally, the company also sees that as a bit of a tipping point for the electric vehicle sector, describing $100/kWh as the point at which EV’s reach price parity with traditional, internal combustion engines.

Of course, the trends are mutually reinforcing. As prices drop for batteries and EV’s, sales will also continue. BNEF expects the worldwide battery market to be worth $116 billion by the year 2030.

BNEF suggests that battery prices may fall even further, reaching $61/kWh by 2030, with new technologies like silicon or lithium anodes, solid state cells and new cathode materials, all playing a part.

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Construction Starts Continue to Strengthen
Construction Starts Continue to Strengthen aconstanza Thu, 12/12/2019 - 16:36

Construction Starts Continue to Strengthen

2018 was strong for construction starts. Although there was talk of slowing down in the latter half of 2019, that did not happen. In fact, the last half of 2019 has seen even stronger growth than the first. 

The early months of 2019 saw the Dodge Momentum Index, published by Dodge Data & Analytics, hovering in the mid 140’s (based on an index in which the year 2000 is set at 100). The Index is a monthly measure of the initial report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which has been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. In July, the Index took a deep dip to 138.9¾from 145.6 in June¾but bounced back slightly in August to 139.6.

Then, rather than continue to dip as predicted by some industry observers, the Index has actually been climbing ever since: 143.6 in September, 150.9 in October and155.3 in November.

The increase in November was the result of a 6.5% increase in institutional construction starts, from 126.5 in October to 134.8 in November, and a 0.7% increase in the commercial construction starts, from 170.6 in October to 171.9 in November.

“The overall Momentum Index has staged somewhat of a resurgence over the last few months, increasing nearly 15% from its lowest point earlier in the year,” the report said. “In fact, it is currently flirting with a new cyclical high.”

The reported added that month-to-month planning data continues to be “lumpy in nature,” as the presence or absence of large projects leads to greater volatility.

As far as 2020 construction starts are concerned, Dodge Data & Analytics is sticking by the prediction it has been making for the last several months, that “the underlying trend of the Momentum Index continues to suggest that construction activity in 2020 will not crater but will moderately ease relative to this year’s level.”

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The Global Fire Protection Market is Growing
The Global Fire Protection Market is Growing aconstanza Wed, 12/11/2019 - 12:51

The Global Fire Protection Market is Growing

As more governments around the world adopt international fire protection standards, sales of fire protection systems are increasing dramatically, according to the “Fire Protection System Market Research Report--Global Forecast 2025” published by Market Research Future.

The global market, valued at $53,546.2 million in 2018, is projected to increase at a 9.43% compound annual growth rate to reach $97,594.4 million by 2025. It is “perceiving extensive development during the forecast period,” the report states.

“Governments across the globe have intended specific codes and standards intended to lessen the possibility and effects of fire and other risks in a facility,” the report states. “These initiatives promote the adoption of fire protection systems across the world.”

For example, the NFPA 3 standardizes the commissioning of fire protection and life safety systems, and NFPA 4 standardizes combined fire protection and life safety system testing.

The global fire protection market is divided by continents, and North America holds the largest. It was valued at $18,775.1 million in 2018 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 12.10% by 2025.

“North America is predicted to control the global fire protection system market during the forecast period due to technical advancements and growing adoption of fire protection systems across several industry verticals in the region,” the report states.

The major companies functioning in the global fire protection system market are now focused on entering untouched markets, according to the report. 

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OSHA: A Year in Review
OSHA: A Year in Review aconstanza Wed, 12/11/2019 - 12:34

OSHA: A Year in Review

After several years of a reduced number of inspections, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration performed more inspections in 2019 than they in any year since 2016.

From fiscal year (FY) Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 3, 2016, the OSHA performed less inspections across the three years, falling from 39,228 to 31,948 inspections. OSHA’s FY is Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. In the last two years, inspections hovered around 32,000 per fiscal year at 32,408 in FY 2017 and 32,023 in FY 2018. 

OSHA data released on Dec. 3, show a significant increase in number of inspections and “a record amount” of compliance assistance in FY 2019. OSHA conducted 33,401 inspections this past year. 

It also provided 1,392,611 workers with training through various educational programs, including OSHA training institute education centers, the OSHA Outreach Training Program and the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program.

Additionally, in FY19, OSHA’s no-cost On-Site Consultation Program identified 137,885 workplace hazards, and protected 3.2 million workers from potential harm. This program offers no cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. These services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations.

“OSHA’s efforts--rulemaking, enforcement, compliance assistance and training--are tools to accomplish our mission of safety and health for every worker, said Loren Sweatt, principal deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

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Pro Tips: Sticky Feet and Staying Organized
Pro Tips: Sticky Feet and Staying Organized aconstanza Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:28

Pro Tips: Sticky Feet and Staying Organized

First Place

A clean heat

When wiring control boxes, cabinets, electrical panels, etc., and using adhesive cable-tie mounts (sticky feet), it helps to clean the surface with alcohol wipes and heat the area. The wipes remove dust and contaminants from the surface. With the heat source, torch or blow dryer, you can see the moisture dissipate from the surface. Doing these two steps greatly aids in proper installation and keeps the adhesive mounts in place.

--Eric Branning
Fort Wayne, Ind.


ConductorOrganized pairing

Have you ever had problems keeping your neutral and hot conductors paired and organized when terminating several NM cables in a panel? What I have found to be my best practice is to cut a 2-inch piece of the NM jacket, write the circuit name and number on it, slide it over the neutral and hot conductor, and then bend a hook on the end of the wire so the label doesn’t slide off. This label can also be left on the conductor to easily identify circuits when the panel cover is off.

--Cody Siebrandt
Valparaiso, Neb.


Write awayParking lot lighting.

Trying to keep track of part numbers and other necessary information for parking lot lighting can be difficult, especially since you want to have the correct items on hand before you begin any relamping or troubleshooting project. One solution we use is to keep a paper copy of the pertinent information (lamp sizes, LED driver part numbers, one-line power diagrams, etc.) on the inside of the panelboard door that supplies power to the lights. You may save yourself considerable time and effort the next time you or your crew go to work on the fixtures.

--Rick Harrahill
Palmer, Neb.

Share ideas that have saved you time or money on the job with readers of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. Your fellow electrical professionals would like to hear about them. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea if you can; hand-drawn sketches may be hard to interpret. Note that some similar ideas are sometimes submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. 

Each published author in Pro Tips receives a $50 Lowe’s gift card. In addition, the first-place winner will receive a $100 Lowe’s gift card. 

Use the online submission tool at www.ecmag.com/protips to send your tip and photo, or email it to protips@necanet.org or send a letter and photo to Pro Tips Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372.

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Neither ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR nor Lowe’s, Inc. assumes any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. 

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Changes to Chapter 5: Special Occupancies
Changes to Chapter 5: Special Occupancies aconstanza Tue, 12/10/2019 - 15:14

Changes to Chapter 5: Special Occupancies

this Article focuses on revisions in Chapter 5 of the 2020 NEC , “Special Occupancies,” and it includes the requirements for equipment, systems, and wiring in hazardous (classified) locations, healthcare facilities, temporary wiring installations and so forth. This part of the series provides a look at some of the significant changes in articles 500 through 590.

Section 500.5(C)(1)(3) Class II Locations

The words “in normal or abnormal operating conditions” were added to 500.5(C)(1)(3). The revision clarifies that the classification of the area applies regardless of operation condition. Equipment and wiring within such locations must meet the applicable rules in Article 502 for Class II, Division 1 locations in both abnormal and normal operating conditions.

Section 500.7(L), (M) and (N) Protection Techniques

Three new protection techniques have been incorporated into Section 500.7, which provides the protection techniques under the Division system. Each new protection technique is directly related to optical radiation, which, in some instances, is a source of ignition for explosive atmospheres. A reference to ANSI/UL 60079-28 has been added where additional information about protection from optical radiation can be obtained.

Section 500.10(B)(1)(3)(4)(5) and (6) Wiring Methods

The phrase “include an equipment grounding conductor in addition to a drain wire” has been added in items (3), (4) and (5). Equipment grounding conductors are required to be connected at both ends, and some drain wires are not. List item (6) now includes PVC-coated rigid and IMC as an acceptable wiring method for use in areas where corrosion is a concern.

Section 502.10(A)(2)(7) and (8) Wiring Methods

Two new list items and wiring methods have been incorporated into Section 502.10(A)(2). List item (7) addresses Type TC-ER-HL and (8) addresses Type P Cable. Both are limited to use in industrial establishments with other specific restrictions that must be met.

Sections 511.12 and 513.12 GFCI Protection

Sections 511.12 and 513.12 have been revised and simplified to reference Section 210.8(B). The general requirements for GFCI protection in other than dwelling units are already covered in 210.8(B). There is no longer a need to list the types of equipment connected to circuits and receptacles that are required to provide GFCI protection.

Section 514.11 Emergency Electrical Disconnects

A new last sentence has been added covering emergency electrical disconnects. The requirements for emergency controls require disconnection of the grounded conductor as in 2014 NEC. The revision also clarifies that equipment grounding conductors must remain connected.

Section 517.2 Dental Office

A new definition of the term “Dental Office” has been added. The definition is derived and extracted from NFPA 99, and it includes care limited to outpatient services, no overnight stays for patients or 24-hour operations. The new definition provides the needed differentiation between the term “Medical Office” and “Dental Office.”

Section 517.10(B)(3) Not Covered

A new second-level subdivision item (3) has been added to Section 517.10(B). This clarifies types of patient care and procedures that do not have to comply with the wiring requirements in Part II of Article 517. Designers, installers and inspectors benefit from this practical relief that conveys what was intended in practice.

Section 517.16 Use of Isolated Ground Receptacles

This section has been revised to clarify the isolated equipment grounding conductor requirements for areas outside a patient vicinity. The IG equipment grounding conductor is in addition to the two paths required in 517.13 and must be identified using the color green with one or more yellow stripes.

Section 517.29 Type 1 Essential Electrical Systems

Section 517.29 and its title were revised to specifically address Type 1 Essential Electrical Systems and to align with NFPA 99. Type 1 EES are required for Category 1 (critical care) spaces. Category 1 (critical care) spaces shall not be served by a Type 2 EES.

Section 517.31(C) Wiring Requirements

Item (1)(a) provides an identification requirement for raceways, cables and enclosures of an essential electrical system at intervals not exceeding 25 feet. Item (3)(f) has been revised and broadened to all types of ceiling structures. Luminaires are now permitted to be wired using flexible metal raceways or metal-sheathed cable assemblies.

Section 518.6 Illumination

New Section 518.6 requires illumination for all equipment working spaces installed outdoors. Assembly occupancies typically locate service and distribution equipment outdoors. Section 110.26(D) generally requires illumination of working spaces installed indoors only.

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Significant changes in the 2020 NEC, part 7
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Remaining Focused Through Change
Remaining Focused Through Change aconstanza Tue, 12/10/2019 - 15:14

Remaining Focused Through Change

NECA’s president, Larry Beltramo, has a mission to further develop growth for the association and aid the electrical construction industry with the rapid transitions underway. As contractors navigate the changing tides of construction methods, deadlines and technology, his goal is to help ensure that NECA provides the resources and tools to help them. Beltramo has reason to set his goals high—he’s made a lifetime habit of it.

Beltramo, president and COO of Rosendin Electric Inc., was elected NECA president in September for a two-year term that commences Jan. 1, 2020. He served as vice president at-large of the association since January 2018 and as interim president since April 2019.

Beltramo was raised in San Jose, Calif., and has spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay area. He was interested in either teaching or coaching in high school. However, he was hooked when he took on an electrical apprenticeship program with IBEW 617 San Mateo County at his father’s recommendation.

At Rosendin Electric—one of the largest U.S. electrical contracting firms, with offices in nine states and a volume of more than $2 billion annually—Beltramo has been a superintendent, project manager and executive VP of operations before being named president and COO in 2005.

NECA members many not know their newest president is a martial-arts champion, teaching the sport at his California home, and a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Both his career and athletic background have helped him develop life skills and a leadership style that focuses on perseverance, a dedication to learning and a passion for helping others be their best.

Now, taking the reins at NECA, he will help oversee the association’s 119 chapters. He has served on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations, training and safety committees and on the NECA Large Contractor Group that meets regularly to talk about trends and challenges in the industry.

“I was asked a few years ago to serve as chair for that group,” he said, adding that this led to his involvement on the executive committee. He headed the search committee for NECA’s new CEO and then accepted the position as interim president.

“I’ve been a little bit honored, and a little bit surprised” to find himself where he is today, he said. But he’s grateful for the chance to contribute. “I thought it would be a good way to give back to the industry.”

It’s a pivotal time for the industry, and Beltramo has seen this evolution firsthand as he moved from apprentice to leadership positions.

“We’re making a lot of changes and technology is driving a lot of that,” he said.

One of Beltramo’s primary goals is to help NECA contractors stay ahead of those changes and benefit from them.

“I feel the people at the top are going to have to drive that initiative,” he said.

Technology in the industry

Beltramo sees the shortages of skilled workers and management as a challenge for contractors of all kinds possibly leading to a change in the culture of customers who expect real-time results with shorter deadlines than ever.

One of the primary challenges for contractors is the change in technology, not just in the form of tools available to those contractors but the systems they install as well.

“We’ve got tons of software entering the marketplace, which is a benefit as well as potentially a huge distraction and disruptor for us,” Beltramo said.

In some cases, a general contractor, a customer and the EC itself may each have different views of the software they want to use on any specific project, and contractors can’t afford to retrain their team on new software systems for every project.

Then there’s the technology related to the installations themselves—power over ethernet, internet of things (IoT) and lighting controls, to name a few.

“Those technologies offer tremendous opportunities for the electrical contractor. Those are markets we have to be at pace with,” Beltramo said.

With more deployment of these systems, roles for contractors are still changing. ECs used to work in a black-and-white market of cable installation in contrast to everything else that was taken on by other contractors. That’s not always the case today.

“It’s getting to be gray: installations are different,” he said, adding that it means opportunities that wouldn’t have even been a consideration a few decades ago now can be.

Looking ahead

Larry Beltramo.
Image source: Mark Morgan/ Rosendin 

For contractors to succeed in that environment, they need to be trained, he said, “NECA has great programs, and, going forward, they need to be really on the cutting edge.”

He hopes to further efforts already underway to restructure training programs. According to Beltramo, NECA already—under new leadership that includes former president David Long—has brought in new directors of innovation and education, and that’s the focus he hopes to continue to support.

Beltramo said he expects the association to focus on aligning CBAs with today’s construction market. Many of the CBAs were written a long time ago, he said, adding that, “we have to look hard at our classifications.”

He also sees growth as a key value for NECA. As part of the NECA 1025 Initiative—launched to increase the association’s market share by 10 percentage points by 2025, NECA has brought in more contractors, while focusing on giving confidence to contractors to expand their business and helping to diversify their offerings. The ECs achieving most, he noted, are willing to move into promising new fields.

“You can’t take the complacency highway,” in an industry that is expanding and changing the way it is, he said.

NECA members’ market share today averages between 35% and 43%. The association aims to support members to grow further into building information modeling, prefabrication, service and maintenance, design/build, energy project finance, energy-efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, low-voltage, systems integration and IoT work.

Beltramo is also mindful of NECA’s diverse membership, which includes new contractors finding their way into a complex environment to contractors facing retirement who need succession planning help.

NECA focuses on understanding technology globally by partnering with organizations in Europe and elsewhere as well as development in Canada and Mexico.

“Education is so important as well as our safety programs,” he added. He also pointed to the work the association’s Government Affairs team accomplishes in Washington by keeping NECA members’ interests front and center for legislators.

“That support on Capitol Hill is really critical,” Beltramo said.

The process that powers success

Success for NECA companies is the central goal for Beltramo. Achieving that goal, or any goal, is a process—a lesson Beltramo learned from personal experience.

“Whether you’re an athlete or someone developing a product, it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.

A successful process requires discipline, focus and support, which is where NECA can help, he said, adding that “we’re going to have the contractors out there who are the No. 1 choice for customers.”

Beltramo grew up playing sports and was especially good at baseball, but he started boxing at 14 and it became his passion. He learned karate and kickboxing, and competed on a global stage to win seven European championships. He still trains young kickboxers when he’s home and helps them with their own learning process.

“If you’re going to be good, you’d better be disciplined. Those are the principals I took out of my own life. It’s all about the process. There’s no secret to it,” Beltramo said.

“Consistency is a great quality to have. If a customer says I know what I’m going to get because the contractor has a great process and they stick to it” that company is more likely to succeed, he said.

Discipline and focus will help as technology and building demands change.

According to Beltramo, one of the current challenges contractors have is that there are so many technologies, and six months later something else will come out.

“You’re really going to have be disciplined as to how you select the tools you use. You can’t chase every little shiny thing out there,” Beltramo said.

In the coming months, he will continuing to meet members and nonmembers in the industry. Beltramo was pleased with the interactions he had at NECA’s 2019 convention and trade show in Las Vegas.

“The biggest take away from NECA in Las Vegas was the positive feedback,” he said, adding that contractors are positive and motivated. “Most people really didn’t know me, and when I have the opportunity to meet with people they understand pretty quickly that I’m about making our industry better,” he said.

Beltramo wants NECA contractors to be the best they can be. And that means the confidence to know it’s true.

“You have to be confident; you have to know the training you’re doing is correct, the type of work you take on is right for you, and that you have good plan for the company,” he said. “Those are the attributes I want every contractor to have. I would feel really good if I got even close to that goal.”

Beltramo lives in California with his wife, Julie, daughter Jessica, son-in-law Dathan Bittner, grandson Hudson, and son Alex, an estimator for Rosendin.

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Current NECA President, Larry Beltramo. Image source: Mark Morgan/ Rosendin


Clamp Meters
Clamp Meters aconstanza Tue, 12/10/2019 - 15:14

Clamp Meters

Clamp meters provide a convenient way to measure current without breaking the circuit, which is ideal for troubleshooting. The user simply clamps the meter around cables, wire or other conductors at any point in an electrical system, and the current is measured.

AEMC, Dover, N.H.

Director of Sales and Marketing John Olobri said, while a basic clamp meter consists of a set of jaws that go around a conductor in order to measure the current, input banana jacks on some models allow associated circuit voltage to be measured too. Both present readings on integral screens. The instruments typically can measure AC and DC voltage with DC current capability at an added cost.

“Perhaps the biggest improvement on today’s models is connectivity via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi,” Olobri said. “Other advances include recording capability and downloading via software program, higher voltage and current readings, the ability to measure harmonics, safety via higher CAT ratings and two- and three-line displays.”

Olobri said questions to consider when selecting a clamp meter include: Where will the instrument likely be used? Will measuring DC current be a requirement? What current levels? What voltage levels? Will a record of readings be needed? Is temperature a useful function? Are power and harmonic measurements going to be needed?

“Utilities and project owners are very safety- conscious,” Olobri said. “Therefore, CAT IV 1,000 Volt ratings are becoming more important.”

Flir, Wilsonville, Ore.

Flir’s CM2275 combines thermal imaging with electrical measurements.  www.flir.com
Flir’s CM2275 combines thermal imaging with electrical measurements. www.flir.com

Director of Instruments Marketing Richard Wexler said accuracies of clamp meters have not changed in recent years, and learning to use new models is very intuitive.

“A selection knob permits quick setup for measurements,” he said. “And multifunction capabilities have changed—clamp-on current meters now can measure voltage, capacitance, resistance, check diode operation and infrared guided measurement.”

Primary considerations for evaluating clamp meters include accuracy, service and support, selection of amperage rating, Bluetooth communications with [infrared] camera and mobile software and what other measurement it can make.

“Minimum requirements for a clamp-on meter would be RMS current and voltage measurements,” Wexler said.

Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash.

Fluke 376 FC true RMS clamp meter connects to smart phones with Fluke Connect.  www.fluke.com
Fluke 376 FC true RMS clamp meter connects to smart phones with Fluke Connect.  www.fluke.com

“A clamp meter can be one of the most versatile devices on an electrician’s tool belt,” said Yinzi Liang, DMM/clamp product manager at Fluke Corp. “They make jobs safer, faster and provide better information than ever before. With wireless data collection and transfer, they also can help improve maintenance and installation tasks.”

Liang said clamp meters typically allow measurements of much higher values than through direct connection.

“In-series measurements typically are limited to 10 amps (A),” Liang said. “Measurements through a current clamp or a flexible current sensor can measure as much as 2,500A. Most clamp meters available today also include test leads for measurements of voltage, resistance, continuity, frequency and other parameters.”

Flexibility for improved access, storage and communication of measured values are two differences in today’s clamp meters compared to earlier versions.

“Clamp-on meters now include flexible probes, which can be snaked through a tightly packed bundle of cables for easier access than with a rigid clamp jaw,” Liang said. “This provides far better access to a specific conductor [that] needs to be tested. It also improves safety, as the user is not trying to force or twist a bulky clamp into a cramped wiring cabinet.”

These clamps enable users to save, share and analyze test results.

“Making a measurement is one thing,” Liang said. “Being able to interpret what that measurement means and act upon that data is a far more useful activity. Clamp meters that can wirelessly send measurements to smart phones, tablets and the cloud provide maintenance teams with valuable data that improves the overall maintenance and repair process.”

Safety is always the top priority, and a clamp or flexible probe offers significant safety advantages over an in-series measurement.

“First and foremost, follow all safety procedures as defined in NFPA 70E, starting with the appropriate personal protective equipment. Since the majority of measurements made by a clamp meter (voltage and current) must be made on energized equipment, matching the right tool to the right job is critical. Tools should carry IEC ratings of CAT III 1,000V or CAT IV 600V. Always make sure that the clamp or probe is rated for the appropriate level of current or voltage expected in a given situation,” Liang said.

Greenlee, Rockford, Ill.

Greenlee CMF 110 clamp meter. www.greenlee.com
Greenlee CMF 110 clamp meter. www.greenlee.com

Product Manager Youssef Takhchi said today’s clamp meters can be more accurate, are easier to use and allow the electrician to do more than just measure amperage to get the job done more efficiently, compared to earlier models.

“Clamp meters, similar to other tools that interact with electricity, are designed to be used in specific applications. Therefore, choosing a clamp meter that is rated for the job following the International Electrotechnical Commission measurement categories is crucial to avoid inaccurate measurements or possible injuries,” Takhchi said. “True RMS and auto-ranging display are considered basic capabilities nowadays that every clamp meter should offer.”

The main criteria for selecting a basic clamp meter are maximum amperage, safety category, jaw dimensions and display resolution, he said. For users looking at multifunctional clamp meters, resistance, temperature, data logging and power factor should be considered.

“In addition, selecting tools that meet IEC and UL requirements provide assurance that a high level of protection is being achieved, which is why we independently test and certify to meet these standards. Safety procedures as established by OSHA should always be followed when performing a job,” Takhchi said.

Ideal Industries, Sycamore, Ill.

Ideal camp meter TightSight display provides easy viewing. www.idealind.com
Ideal camp meter TightSight display provides easy viewing. www.idealind.com

Sales Engineer Dave Kadonoff said there is a continuing trend for consumers to buy the least expensive products, which has resulted in aggressive competition among suppliers vying for that market segment.

“This applies to clamp meters but know that any clamp meter should at a minimum provide AC and DC voltage to 600V, AC current to 400A, resistance to 40,000 ohms, audible continuity and a built-in flashlight. For safety reasons, a minimum of a CAT III 600 rating and a recognized independent listing with UL or other certification lab is highly recommended,” Kadonoff said.

He said knowing the exact requirements for the total measurement ranges, accuracies that will be required and the environment where the meter will be used helps ensure the product will meet needs and make work easier.

“The most recent addition to clamp meter capabilities is Bluetooth connectivity to smart phones,” Kadonoff said.

Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill.

Klein CL380 digital  noncontact clamp meter.  www.kleintools.com
Klein CL380 digital noncontact clamp meter. www.kleintools.com

Product Manager Sabrina Kalsi said a clamp meter can measure large AC current because of the clamp’s ferrite iron core.

“It measures the magnetic field of the current, which is then converted into an AC current reading by the meter. Some clamp meters also measure DC current [by] utilizing a Hall Effect sensor to measure the magnetic flux,” she said. Digital technology has allowed new features that improve users’ experiences. For example, back lighted LCDs for visibility in low light, auto-range for quick, easy measurements, hold, maximum, minimum and relative options to easily review data auto power-off and a battery indicator to manage power.

“A significant improvement in safety is that International Electrotechnical Commission safety standards ensure the meter meets the voltage rating for the environment. For electrical products, the CAT rating shows the meter has been designed to withstand the voltage in the rated electrical environment. For example, a CAT III 600V meter can work with indoor measurements and electrical panels, whereas a CAT IV 600V meter can also be used with outdoor and underground electrical lines. Using the right meter for the electrical application allows the user to take measurements without fear of harm,” Kalsi said.

While the basic functions of clamp meters include measuring voltage, current and resistance, additional specialty functions are available to meet the different applications.

Kalsi said these include a noncontact voltage tester, DC micro amps, in-rush current, capacitance, continuity, frequency, duty cycle, diode test, low impedance, temperature and more.

“We strongly recommend adding true root mean square to a meter’s minimum capabilities,” she said. “TRMS accurately measures both sinusoidal and nonsinusoidal waves. Meters without TRMS work on averages that add a high percentage of error when measuring nonsinusoidal waves. Sources of nonsinusoidal waves are increasing—variable speed motors, electronic ballasts, solid state, HVAC, etc. For this reason, we suggest adding TRMS to your meter’s capabilities.”

Megger, Eagleville, Pa.

Megger DCmn 500 measures DC and AC current to 1,500A.  us.megger.com
Megger DCmn 500 measures DC and AC current to 1,500A. us.megger.com

Senior Applications Engineer Jeff Jowett said clamp meters today provide increased current measurement ranges into medium-voltage applications such as solar testing, improvements in jaw size and contours that increase the variety of test sites that can be conveniently clamped and improvements in the general quality of plastics that make the instruments more rugged.

Over a few decades, Jowett said, clamp-on ammeters have evolved from specialty items to core toolbox instruments that not only provide the critical benefit of saving time but also meet high-quality accuracy and range demands.

When evaluating clamp meters to purchase, Jowett said make sure the instrument fits the application.

“An inexpensive, basic function model may be all that is required. Why pay extra for functions that will not be used, such as frequency measurement, data storage and other esoteric features? On the other hand, be sure to get everything that will be needed—multifunction models are available. Assess future work requirements as thoroughly as possible and select a tester that has all the functions plus the ranges that will need to be covered. Where earth leakage measurement is to be performed, appropriate clamps are typically dedicated to that job,” Jowett said.

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AEMC clamp-on Model 407 is rated at 1,000V CAT IV for all electrical environments.
www.aemc.com


Illuminating Options
Illuminating Options aconstanza Tue, 12/10/2019 - 15:14

Illuminating Options

Since optical fiber transmits light, it’s obvious that it could be used for illumination. Put a bright light at one end and most of that light will come out the other end. Many people are familiar with this application because of the widespread use of decorative fiber optic lamps and Christmas trees, but there are many other uses for fiber optics in lighting. Special fibers have been engineered for specific requirements to produce functional lighting.

Fiber is used in many lighting applications because of its unique properties. Since fiber transmits light with low loss, the lighting end of the fiber can be quite remote from the light source. It is possible to place a solar collector on a roof and bring light into a building without adding heat from lamps.

Fibers are made from thin strands of glass or plastic that are flexible and allow light to be found in areas that would be difficult for most lamps. The tiny illuminating end of the fiber can be slipped into small and hard-to-reach spaces to provide illumination. This is especially useful when combined with fiber optics for the visual inspection of hard-to-reach areas such as inside objects, engine cylinders or human bodies. Fiber’s flexibility allows it to be used in other ways too. Fibers have been woven into clothing for decoration, included in artwork and made into unique decorative gadgets.

Since optical fiber, either glass or plastic, is nonconductive, the light source can be electrically isolated from the light itself. This has made fiber optic lighting popular around water, fountains and other underwater applications where electrical safety is a concern.

Since the electrically powered light source is remote, the heat generated is isolated from the light exiting the fiber that allows the bright illumination of objects that could be damaged by heat from conventional lamps.

Museums have always appreciated this aspect of fiber optic lighting because it protects valuable display pieces. A lens can be added on the end of the fiber to focus light in a small spot. This is ideal for small objects such as jewelry and would preclude the need for mounting a large, hot lighting fixture in the same cabinet.

Fiber optic lighting offers simple ways to change the shape and color of illumination. Early systems used bright halogen lamps such as projectors to emit white light. This light could be filtered to any color, and motor-driven color wheels could be used to vary the color over time. Today, light sources are more likely to be LEDs, and some can be programmed for different colors to provide dynamic and varying light displays.

Fibers’ small size makes them useful for pinpoints of light. This allows for the illumination of small objects, but it also enables designers to create starfield ceilings for science museums, planetariums, fancy homes and even the ceiling of a Rolls-Royce.

Fibers used in communication are designed to transmit light with minimal loss. However, engineering the fiber to have high loss allows significant light to exit the fiber surface, which produces a fiber that looks like a neon lighting tube. These edge-emitting fibers are generally flexible large-core plastic, and can be bent into shapes to mimic neon tubes. However, they are much simpler and less expensive to fabricate. Fiber can change colors by varying the source and can make displays with more functionality than neon tubes. Edge-emitting fiber does not require high-voltage power supplies.

Before LEDs were developed for signs and pixel displays, arrays of fiber optics were used with a single fiber for each pixel. The complexity and cost of these displays limited their use, and LEDs became a better choice when they became available.

In fact, that’s one of the primary reasons fiber optic lighting is not used more widely. It has always been more complex and expensive than conventional lighting. LEDs offer low power consumption, many color choices and lower costs. Because of this, LEDs have dominated the lighting market. Fiber is still a better choice in some applications, but competition from LEDs has greatly affected its use.

Deck
Other uses for fiber optics, part 4
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