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Bottom Line: NFPA exempts ALL outdoor HVAC from NEC GFCI protection until September 2026. 

The Details:
An August 26, 2022, NFPA letter has been issued that renders the NFPA Standards Council’s final decision in the matter of appeals submitted on the National Electrical Code (NEC) requirement of GFCI protection for outdoor HVAC equipment – 210.8(F). The appeals were filed by ACCA, Leading Builders of America (LBA) and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Click HERE for a full copy of the Standards Council’s decision.

The Background
It has been a long road to success. It started with ACCA’s August 2020 blog (Code Requires GFCI for A/C Disconnects) and continued to the most recent blog (ACCA Member Ed Lehr Testifies for You!). On August 10, 2022, the NFPA Standards Council held a hearing related to the appeals submitted by ACCA, LBA, and AHRI, to urge the Council to fix a bad code requirement by expanding the current GFCI exemption to cover all outdoor HVAC equipment from the NEC requirement to install a GFCI device.

Shock Waves
The Council’s decision not only impacts those states that have adopted (or have yet to adopt) the 2020 NEC, but also applies to the upcoming 2023 edition of the NEC. ACCA is aware that the State of Florida is in the process of adopting the 2020 NEC. ACCA has communicated this to the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRACCA) to join the fight to exempt the GFCI requirement, and the above Standards Council decision will be influential in that effort.

ACCA’s Fight: A Team Effort
This 2-year fight was a team effort right down the line. Some honorable mentions are shown below.

Ed Lehr, president of Jack Lehr Heating, Cooling & Electric, Allentown, PA

Ed first alerted ACCA staff to the 2020 NEC requirement for GFCI protection 2 years ago, and the concerns related to nuisance trips. He also represented ACCA on the NFPA Standards Council’s GFCI Task Group and testified at the above appeals hearing. Ed also raised concerns that ECM fan motors can result in tripping with a GFCI device. Ed currently serves as vice chair for the ACCA Codes Subcommittee.

Devorah Jakubowsky, Executive Director, Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA)

Devorah assisted ACCA in sending out a TACCA member survey to collect field data on HVAC nuisance trips with GFCI. The data was invaluable in showing that the tripping was occurring on single-stage compressors, in addition to power conversion technology that controls compressor speed. This was very persuasive to the Standards Council and its GFCI Task Group. This data also supported delaying the GFCI requirement by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

ACCA’s Products Committee and its Codes Subcommittee

Both groups monitored the situation and advised ACCA staff on how to proceed with fighting this bad code requirement. The Codes Subcommittee developed a template to assist members in requesting states and other jurisdictions to delete the GFCI requirement based on the nuisance trip issues. In addition to Ed Lehr as vice chair, Manny Chaves, Owner, Chaves Heating & Air Conditioning, Hudson, MA, is chair of the Codes Subcommittee. Rob Minnick, CEO/President of Minnick’s, Laurel, MD, is chair of the Products Committee, and Eric Woerner, VP, A1 Mechanical of Dayton, Dayton, OH, is vice chair.

Allied Industry Organizations

ACCA forged strong ties with industry organizations to create an alliance that represented many affected parties. This included AHRI, LBA, NAHB, AHAM, and many others. Leading this effort was ACCA’s Manager of Codes & Standards, David Bixby.

What Happens Now?
ACCA members are urged to monitor their state adoption activities for the 2020 NEC and respond accordingly. ACCA and some of its ACOs have been successful in getting the word out, which has spread to other states. The ACCA Codes Subcommittee has developed a template to assist in requesting jurisdictions to delete this requirement when they adapt the 2020 NEC. Click HERE to view and download the template. An up-to-date list of states that have either adopted or are in the process of adopting the 2020 NEC can be found by clicking HERE. The NEC update is dated July 1, 2022.

Research Continues
Since the above exemption for the 2020 NEC and 2023 NEC expires on September 1, 2026, we have to look ahead to how this will be resolved by that time. AHRI currently has a research project to find the inoperability issues related to the nuisance tripping and develop solutions for the applicable UL air conditioning standard (UL 2-40), and the NEC itself. Phase 1 of the project will be finished next month. An additional Phase 2 will be focused on technical solutions to resolve the tripping, or an alternative solution that will not require a GFCI device.

ACCA Needs You!
Preventing this code change from crippling our industry required a concerted effort between ACCA members, its committees, the ACOs, and our allies. We could not have done it without you!  Your participation and involvement is key. If you have any questions or comments, please contact ACCA’s Manager of Codes & Standards at david.bixby@acca.org.

To read the press release, click here.

David Bixby
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