When Good Codes Go Bad – ACCA Is on Guard
With guidance from the Codes Subcommittee, ACCA has been publicly fighting for our members against several “bad” code requirements. Sometimes you alert us about code issues, and other times ACCA’s participation in code hearings gives us insight into proposals that would result in potential nightmares for the HVACR industry. Here are some examples that we’re currently involved with that keep us awake at night.
National Electrical Code GFCI Protection for Outdoor Equipment – Nuisance Trips
Last summer, an ACCA member notified staff of a new requirement in the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC). Paragraph 210.8(F) expands GFCI protection for outdoor equipment from receptacles to disconnects, including HVACR disconnects.
It has been discovered that available GFCI devices are responding to the amount of leakage current coming from today’s HVACR motors and compressors, and therefore causing nuisance trips. “Class A” GFCIs will trip when a ground fault current exceeds 5 milliamps – in less than 1/10 of a second. ACCA has been investigating the specifics through a variety of efforts, including discussions with Trane Technologies. Trane carried out an informal but robust investigation of this problem. There was extensive testing on various HVACR equipment and several GFCI devices. The preliminary conclusion is that nuisance trips can occur on most equipment/GFCI combinations, especially equipment with variable speed motors and compressors that drive high-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners. Single-stage motors do not appear to be affected as much, but the research is ongoing. This puts ACCA members in a lose/lose situation: comply with the NEC and suffer unnecessary callbacks for nuisance trips. The alternative is to get the local inspector to allow a variance from the code to guarantee normal operation.
States Already Adopting the 2020 NEC
Eleven states have adopted the 2020 NEC as their current code without the above knowledge. Another 11 states are processing its adoption. In response, ACCA’s Codes Subcommittee developed a template for members to request their local or state jurisdictions to remove the 210.8(F) requirement when they adopt the 2020 NEC. In addition, ACCA has been sending the word out to members via blogs and through many of ACCA’s Allied Contracting Associations (ACOs) in various states. It should be noted that Massachusetts and Utah had already deleted the above requirement when they adopted the 2020 NEC. The Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association (TACCA) recently conducted a successful lobbying effort with its membership to get their state to delay the requirement until 2023.
The GFCI device manufacturers are developing a device that will eliminate the nuisance trip problem, but changes to the UL standard that tests such devices will be needed. The approved devices will then have to be made available in the marketplace, which could take a few years. In the meantime, we continue to probe for information from the HVACR and GFCI manufacturers for obvious reasons. In addition, a proposal has been submitted for the 2023 edition of the NEC that would exclude variable speed equipment. ACCA will monitor this as well. Hopefully, the OEMs will have a solution by 2023.
Elimination of Refrigeration Press-Connect Fittings From Uniform Mechanical Code
Another “head-scratcher” came about during recent “virtual” code proposal hearings of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC). This code change cycle will result in the publication of the 2024 UMC. During the hearing, several proposals were narrowly approved by the UMC Technical Committee (TC) that would eliminate the use of press-connect fittings for all refrigeration piping systems.
Such fittings are currently allowed by the 2021 edition of the UMC as tested and certified to UL Standard 207. The TC action was taken despite strong opposition from the HVACR industry in attendance, including ACCA and OEMs like Goodman, Rheem, and others. A large voting block on the TC clearly represented (or supported) the unionized trades’ position that all refrigerant piping joints must be brazed. Opinions and unsubstantiated fears against the use of press-connect fittings were expressed during the hearing. However, research has shown that such fittings certified to UL 207 are safe as installed per the manufacturer’s instructions.
The above code hearing was basically round one in the IAPMO UMC code change cycle. ACCA and others will be submitting public comments opposing the above actions to preserve press-connect fittings as a valuable and safe option for contractors, in addition to brazing.
ACCA, its Codes Subcommittee, and its members are becoming more vigilant to find code proposals and requirements that adversely affect our members. Therefore, if you encounter any “bad codes,” please contact ACCA’s Manager of Codes and Standards at email@example.com.
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