Safe and Sound Electric was established to provide safe electrical services. It was founded by Chadwick Ferguson who grew up in Washington. Chad’s family has been in the electrical trades since the seventies. Chad has worked with thousands of families with unique problems and original ideas. Chad has worked in the electrical industry for 17 years and in that industry his roles have been many; from lead journeyman, administrator, project manager, vice president and now owner. Chad will listen to your choices, tell you of any potential pitfalls to craft a compelling solution.
One would think that Article 100 Definition of “Readily Accessible” would apply to this safety switch. However, in Picture 2 we see:
We can see the Safety Switch is near the equipment it is supplying. And we can see the applicable codes making this a conforming installation. 404.8 Exception 2
404.8 Accessibility and Grouping.
(A) Location. All switches and circuit breakers used as switches shall be located so that they may be operated from a readily accessible place. They shall be installed such that the center of the grip of the operating handle of the switch or circuit breaker, when in its highest position, is not more than 2.0 m (6 ft 7 in.) above the floor or working platform.
Exception No. 2: Switches and circuit breakers installed adjacent to motors, appliances, or other equipment that they supply shall be permitted to be located higher than 2.0 m (6 ft 7 in.) and to be accessible by portable means.
240.24 Location in or on Premises.
(A) Accessibility. Overcurrent devices shall be readily accessible and shall be installed so that the center of the grip of the operating handle of the switch or circuit breaker, when in its highest position, is not more than 2.0 m (6 ft 7 in.) above the floor or working platform unless one of the
(1) For busways, as provided in 368.12.
(2) For supplementary overcurrent protection, as described in 240.10.
(3) For overcurrent devices, as described in 225.40 and 230.92. (4) For overcurrent devices adjacent to utilization equipment that they supply, access shall be permitted to be by portable means.
The original patent for the “Electrical outlet for three-prong locking plugs,” filed in 1955 by Wilbur R Smith NEMA would recognize as 5-15(p/r) features a diagram of ground side up
In hospitals the AHCA requires the ground prong up. Many safety publications state that a ground pin upwards shall protect better from sheet metal contacting the hot and the ground-ed-ing conductors.
So why in your home are the outlets orientated one way or the other? There is no enforceable correct orientation beyond safety in homes. Here are a few reasons why one outlet might be a different orientation in the house than the others:
Designation of 1/2 hot (1 of the 2 outlets on a “duplex” receptacle outlet) or switched outlets used for freestanding lamps controlled by a switch
Repair that was improperly executed
Now if all the outlets are orientated with ground pin up:
Safety conscience specifications, ignoring societal norms and trendy outlet faux pas
We have come across homes with all ground prongs up but were wired without an equipment grounding conductor. This is not a conforming method of installing a grounding type receptacle.
Are you considering an outlet job? Give us a call 360-633-5413. We will install outlets in any orientation you wish, including Bocchi 22
Arlington’s TVBS503 provides a secure, easy way to mount a TV flush against a wall. TVBS503 is able to be used for power or low voltage for Class 2 wiring of satellite, cable TV, speakers and more.
The finished job looks great! Plugs and connectors stay inside the box, without extending past the wall.
Comes with a steel box and a paintable white non-metallic trim plate. The steel box is designed for use in new or old commercial work where metal raceway is used. It’s great in hotels and other settings for placing furniture or appliances close to the wall.
We recently installed a 3-gang form factor variation of these behind the TV for 4 outlets, ethernet, and 2 HDMI keystone jacks. These are awesome!
Power Tool Institute identifies easily employed best practices
Power tools and their batteries are rugged instruments designed to perform tough jobs, but they still require care to maintain safe, optimum performance. There are steps users can take to extend tool and battery life, and help keep power tools operating at peak performance for a longer life cycle.
The Power Tool Institute has compiled a list of best practices for safer use of batteries and power tools.
Safe handling – Start by reading the manufacturer’s instruction manual – and only use original manufacturer’s system components of tool, battery and charger. Do not impact or damage a battery (for example, do not use it as a hammer), use it solely for the defined purpose as specified by the manufacturer. If a battery has received a sharp blow, been dropped, or is damaged, discontinue use.
Regularly inspect batteries for signs of damage, such as crushing, cuts, or punctures. Be mindful of abnormal battery behavior, such as failure to fully charge or hold a charge, longer-than-usual charging times, noticeable drop in performance, liquid leakage from the battery, or melted plastic anywhere on the pack. These are indications of an internal problem.
Never modify, disassemble, or tamper with the battery because the performance can become unpredictable and dangerous. As a general practice, it is best to unplug battery chargers and remove battery packs from them when not in use.
Safe storage – Do not store batteries on their chargers. Always use and store the battery within the temperature limits stated by the manufacturer. Do not store in a closed location where sunlight may cause elevated temperatures, such as near a window or inside a vehicle. Do not store or transport the battery in a container with loose metal objects, such as coins, keys or nails, which may contact the terminals.
Safe response to overheating – Though batteries and chargers are safe to use when operated properly, in rare instances a battery may overheat. If the battery is exhibiting signs of overheating (flames, smoke, smoldering, or melting), immediate action is required. If connected to a charger when exhibiting signs of overheating, always unplug the charger first. After unplugging the battery charger, then pour copious amounts of water on the battery and then submerge the battery (including any attached tool or charger – do not directly touch/disconnect the battery) in a sturdy container filled with water. When transferring the battery, avoid direct contact with the battery (use a long-handled shovel) and use appropriate personal protective equipment to protect face, hands and body, since there is a risk that overheated batteries may vent, explode, or emit flame.
If the battery is exhibiting flames, continue using copious amounts of water until the flame is extinguished, then submerge the battery (including any attached tool or charger) in a sturdy container filled with water. If water is not available, dirt, sand or a conventional ABC extinguisher may be used in an attempt to smother and cool the battery until water is available.
Keep the battery submerged, in a well-ventilated location, for at least 24 hours and at least 15 feet away from any combustible items. Contact the manufacturer for guidance on proper disposal.
Inspecting Electrical Connections for Proper Torque
The year: 2007. The place: Tucson, Arizona. It was my first IAEI Section meeting. The education program was “Causes of Electrical Fires.” I did not know which causes would be mentioned in the class, but I knew that if loose connections were not included, I would have to bring up this topic. As expected, by the end of the training session, torquing had not been discussed. Nervously, I walked to the microphone ready to face ridicule, but knowing how important it was not to miss this opportunity. When I explained that improper torquing was yet another cause of electrical fires and that my employer, Palo Alto, California, had been verifying torque for the past few years, as expected, there was laughter by several attendees. Maybe this response was prompted by a lack of knowledge or comprehension of the importance of proper torquing. The response received on that day is, and no doubt will continue to be, repeated during electrical inspections. Do not let this response deter you from providing information. You don’t have to be the instructor of a class or seminar to be an educator.
After the presentation on the “Causes of Electrical Fires” was over, one of the equipment manufacturers came up to me, wanting to discuss torquing. He was glad that I had brought up the subject, and he explained that connections sometimes vibrate loose during transport and that this situation is not verified in the field. He also noted that customer complaints related to loose connections are not uncommon. As you can see, torquing is an issue, but it may not be talked about as often as necessary.
My goal for this article is to answer some commonly asked questions, to address misconceptions, and to show that torquing the connections is perfectly natural. The practice may not seem natural at first, but this crucial part of an electrical installation is not to be ignored.
Loose connections cause fires
Loose connections may operate satisfactorily for a time, but eventually they will experience thermal runaway that will result in extremely high temperatures causing equipment damage and, in some cases, structural fires. I have seen several instances of failures and fires that were confirmed to be caused by loose connections.
For many electricians, the idea of torquing terminations is a new concept, but the benefits are clear: safer installations. Torquing is not new; in fact, automobile mechanics have been using torque tools for almost as long as they have been making cars. A quick search of Wikipedia reveals the following history: “A torque wrench is a tool used to apply a specific torque precisely to a fastener such as a nut or bolt. It is usually in the form of a socket wrench with special internal mechanisms. It was invented by Conrad Bahr in 1918 while working for the New York City Water Department. It was designed to prevent overtightening bolts on water main and steam pipe repairs underground.”
There are likely electricians who have never seen a torque screwdriver or even know that these tools exist; some will not know where to purchase the tools. As electrical industry professionals, we need to be ready to provide information if the circumstance calls for it.
Besides installing equipment according to the listing and labeling requirements as required by NEC 110.3(B), there are several reasons connections should be torqued. In a time when being “Green” is all the rage, what better way to “be green.” Loss of energy can be prevented when connections are tight. After all, property owners may be paying premium prices and would want the benefit of each electron instead of losing energy that is dissipated at loose connections.
Fire prevention is another great reason to torque connections. When the conductors are not making good contact, this can create arcing, sparking and overheating, with the result being a fire.
When torquing, not only are we looking for loose connections but there may be some connections that are over tightened and now stripped. A stripped connection is not always evident by visual inspection only. You may notice a skewed setscrew or damaged setscrew on a mechanical lug, which could indicate a stripped connection. When breakers are stripped, there may be no obvious visual sign.
Both loose and overly tightened connections create a risk of failure. Neither equipment manufacturers nor industry standards recommend periodic retightening of connections. Even when a “hot” connection is detected during an infrared inspection, simply tightening the connection probably will not correct the deficiency.1 The connection must be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled with the proper tool and torque. Additionally, cutting off the previously connected end of the wire and making the connection with an unused section of wire is the safest solution.
What tools are needed?
When the inspector arrives at a job site for a panel inspection, one of the first things that should be asked of the electrician is “Where are your torque tools?” Common responses to this question are, “I have been doing this for thirty years” or “No one has ever asked me to do this.” These responses usually come from electricians who do not use or do not own a torque wrench or torque screwdriver. Often when I ask to see the torque wrench and torque screwdriver that was used, an Allen wrench set is what materializes. The Allen wrench seems to be the tool of choice, but this is not the right tool to complete the job. Can you really torque by feel? Can you calibrate your arm? My guess is that if someone has used a torque wrench for years, they may come pretty close, but is “close” good enough? Research2 has shown that only about 25% of connections performed without a torque wrench are within +/- 20% of the manufacturer’s recommended torque value. That means 75% of the connections are wrong! Do you feel good about doing a good job 25% of the time?
Having the right tools for the job is a good place to start; otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for failure. To start with, every electrician must have a torque wrench. An inch-pound torque wrench will be required, and depending on the job, a foot-pound torque wrench may be required. You will also need a torque screwdriver, square drive and slotted bits, Hex socket set (both standard and deep socket), and a pair of tongue-and-groove pliers (commonly known as “channellocks”). For a residential 200-amp service panel, a foot-pound torque wrench may not be required. The highest torque value for a 200-amp service panel usually is around 250 inch-pounds. These connections are for the service-entrance conductor (SEC) terminations with an Allen set screw termination. A foot-pound torque wrench will have the higher ranges needed to achieve values higher than 250 inch-pounds and will be required for service equipment over 200 amps.
The torque screwdriver is used for the circuit breaker and ground/neutral bus terminations. Smaller service equipment, such as 100 amps with smaller service-entrance conductors, will likely terminate at a smaller mechanical lug with a slotted setscrew. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the torque value for a slotted setscrew is not over 50 inch-pounds.
The hex socket set will be used for the Allen setscrew found at service-entrance mechanical lugs, and at larger breakers typically found in commercial switchgear and panelboards. This is where your deep socket hex set will come into play. The setscrew on these larger breakers is set back within the breaker some three inches and the standard hex socket will not fit even with an extension. The openings to access these recessed terminations are very minimal.
Channellocks or similar pliers must be used to back up or hold mechanical lugs in place while the proper torque is being applied. The means by which the mechanical lug has been attached to the equipment may not have been tested to withstand the same torque as the lug and, therefore, must be securely held in order to avoid damaging the equipment.
Damaged equipment imposes additional costs and time delays that could have been prevented. It is fairly common to see factory-installed mechanical lugs attached to the ground/neutral bar. These lugs are located either at the top or the bottom of the bar. If securing the lug while torquing is not taken into consideration, it is likely that the bus will split. Each bar has multiple holes for the equipment ground and/or neutral conductors to terminate. If you notice that the bar is starting to bend while torquing, a better hold of the mechanical lug is required, or you will have damaged equipment to replace.
Have you ever heard the phrase “torque seal” used and wondered what it is? Torque seal is used by manufacturers at the factory and by electricians for field connections. Torque seal is a stripe of lacquer applied to a bolt/nut/set screw after torque has been applied. It is usually packaged in poly squeeze tubes and is available in an array of colors. Torque seal is a good method to confirm which connections have already been torqued. Note: torque seal is not a substitute for using the right tool! It should only be applied after tightening the connection to the proper value.
What is a torque wrench and torque screwdriver?
A torque screwdriver is not a regular screwdriver, but is very similar. The torque screwdriver can be used to tighten and loosen screw connections, but its primary function is to tighten torque connections to a specific value. A torque screwdriver will have adjustable torque settings in increments of 1, 5 or 10 inch-pounds with a range between 5 and 150 inch-pounds. A torque screwdriver is used in a straightforward motion by twisting the handle. A torque-limiting clutch is built in, so that the screwdriver will disengage when the preset torque has been reached.
Unlike the torque screwdriver, the torque wrench uses a lever action. The levered action of a torque wrench provides an easier way to apply a higher torque value. Users should be aware that there are usually two torque values given on each side of the torque wrench handle. On one side of the handle, the values are given in newton-meters and on the other side of the handle the values are given in inch-pounds or foot-pounds. (Both can be hard to read because they are etched into shiny metal. See photo 6.) Be sure you are looking at the right values before you start, or you may be applying a higher torque than what is called out, thereby causing damage to the equipment. The lines next to the torque value are not always straight across and can be misread. Applying excessive torque can also strip out the lug. Always double check the values specified by the manufacturer of the equipment and the adjusted values on the torquing device.
What torque value do I use?
Always use the torque value provided by the manufacturer, when available. Newer equipment will always have the torque values provided, but you may have to hunt for them at times. Torque values for terminals within the enclosure can be found on labels on the inside of the cover, the dead front or elsewhere in the enclosure. These terminals include the SEC (service-entrance conductor) lugs, ground/neutral bar, busing connections, lug attachment and bolt-in breakers.
Torque values for circuit breakers are not found on the equipment label. These values will be on the breaker, not on the enclosure. See photo 4. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the electrician looking for this information (unsuccessfully) on the inside of the enclosure in which the breaker is being installed. This information can be found in different locations depending on the manufacturer. For example, the Square D breakers will have the torque values embossed on the side of the breaker whereas Murray breakers will have the information printed on the face of the breaker.
One of the downsides to having the information on the side of the breaker is that you may have to remove the breaker to read the values. Or maybe the electrician has a spare breaker on the truck that will allow you to verify the values without removing the installed breaker. You may also need to bring a magnifying glass or someone with young eyes when looking for the torque values on breakers. This information can be very difficult to read due to the very small font size used.
Where there is no torque value available — which is often the case for older equipment and breakers — default torque values can be found in the 2008 National Electrical Code Handbook (after section 110.14). In the 2011 NEC and newer codes,3, 4 they can be found in Annex I. These values should never be substituted for the manufacturer’s instructions. I cannot stress enough the value of always following the manufacturer’s instructions since the equipment may be listed using a different torque value than the default.
How can the inspector implement verification of proper torque?
If an inspector questions what authority he or she has to implement verification of proper torque, the Code is there to back you up. Section 110.3(B) in the National Electrical Code requires that equipment be installed according to its listing and labeling. This requirement includes verifying the given torque setting. Not only do we have the authority, but it is also our obligation as inspectors to ensure life safety. An example of a torque inspection policy from Santa Ana, California is included in Exhibit 1.
Before you start implementing this in your jurisdiction, make sure that you have the support of the Building Official. When the Building Official authorizes you to move forward, you become the educator for the electricians and general contractors. While some electricians are very knowledgeable and are accustomed to using torque tools, you can’t assume that every electrician owns the proper tools or knows how to use them. You may need to tell them what tools they will need and where they can purchase them. They may need direction in locating the torque values, and you may need to help them to read the torque values on their torque tools.
Which connections should be torqued?
All field connections must be tightened using appropriate torque tools. The connections that should be torqued in the field normally consist of bolts, connectors and terminals including the following items:
Mechanical, insulated, piercing lug
Bolts on compression-type connectors
Mechanical lug & Lay-in lugs
MSB bussing, bolt-in breakers
Although factory connections in equipment should be tightened to the proper value when they arrive at the job site, there may be indications of loosened connections apparent to the inspector. If loose connections are detected, they may need to be retightened to an appropriate torque value.
Before you torque…
All tools should be calibrated to allow for an accurate torque value. New torque devices come fully calibrated and will stay calibrated for a year. Each year thereafter, recognized companies must calibrate the equipment and apply a sticker showing the date the calibration was done.
The manufacturer may also require an oxide inhibitor/antioxidant for field-installed wiring. Always check the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Proper torquing methods
Circuit breakers installed within 200-amp service equipment and panelboards may have a variety of setscrews. Not all will require a square tip #2 and not all will have a slotted setscrew. You may use a straight slotted bit for both, but if you have the option to use a square tip bit, you might want to consider using it. The square tip bit will seat better in the setscrew and will be less likely to slip off or jump out of the indentations of the setscrew. When torquing a standard slotted setscrew, you must be sure to apply enough pressure into the termination while applying the torque required to reach the accurate value. This process is not always an easy task, and you will find you may have difficulty keeping the bit to stay in the slot of the slotted setscrew. If the bit is not exactly in the middle of the setscrew, you will not always be able to attain the desired torque value before stripping your connection.
When preparing to torque a mechanical lug with a hex setscrew, you must remember that if your bit is not completely seated into the connection you will round out the connection, potentially making it impossible to reach the manufacturer’s specified torque value. You will either need to require that the electrician replace the entire mechanical lug or find a replacement setscrew to complete the task. If a hex setscrew connection is part of a breaker, the entire breaker may need to be replaced if replacement parts cannot be found. Damaging a breaker with this type of connection is usually a costly mistake, and may cause a time delay that could have been easily prevented if only the hex bit had been completely seated into the setscrew. The key here is to not rush the electrician when he or she is preparing to torque connections.
Oftentimes an extension is needed. When you have a lug that is set back deep into the enclosure, you will need to extend the bit by using an extension. If you do not use an extension, you will find that you will not have full range for your torque wrench or it will cause your bit to not fully seat into the connection again, causing the setscrew to round out damaging the equipment. Always use an extension when needed.
The importance of how to hold a torque wrench may never have occurred to you. You should never use only one hand since that could throw off the center of force, causing a misread or damaging the equipment. One hand should be placed on the handle and the head of the device should be cupped in your other hand providing stability. Pay close attention to the proper technique for using the tools.
Are all torque wrenches the same?
When the electrician is required to provide the torque tools for the inspection, chances are this could be the first time he or she is using the tools. You, the inspector, must pay close attention to the type of torque wrench being used.5 You must know if the device you are using is a foot-pound torque wrench or an inch-pound torque wrench and adjust the values accordingly. If a foot-pound wrench is being used where an inch-pound value is given, no problem. All you need is the ability to do a little simple math to convert inch-pounds to foot-pounds. Divide the number given in inch-pounds by 12, since there are 12 inches in a foot. Now you have the value in foot-pounds. For example, the torque value given for the main lugs and neutral lug on a 200-amp panelboard is 250 inch-pounds. [ 250/12=20.8 ft-lbs.] Remember that there are usually two different values given on the side of the torque wrench, Newton-meters and foot- or inch-pounds; be sure you are reading the correct side or your values will be wrong.
Torque screwdrivers of different capabilities can look identical but be very different. Once while doing an inspection while the electrician was using a torque screwdriver, I knew something was not quite right by the sound the torque screwdriver made when it reached the set torque. The sound was very faint compared to others I had encountered. After investigating, I discovered the torque screwdriver being used was measured in inch-ounces. There are identical looking torque screwdrivers that have increments given in inch-ounces and inch-pounds. See photo 2. The in-ounces torque screwdrivers will not work for values given in the electrical equipment that you are inspecting — an in-pounds torque screwdriver must be used.
Each brand of torque wrench will make a different sound when reaching the specified torque value. A big difference between the torque screwdriver and the torque wrench when reaching the specified torque value is that a screwdriver will disengage, whereas a torque wrench will continue to tighten if you do not feel or hear the click it makes. If you are not familiar with the sound the torque wrench makes, I suggest lowering the torque value by 25% and torque the termination to verify what the click sounds like; then turn it back up to the specified torque and tighten the rest of the way. Some are so quiet that you practically need to put your ear next to the wrench to hear it click. Sometimes the setscrew will make a sound when turning, making you think that it is the torque wrench clicking as it reaches the correct torque value. It is important that you know the difference.
When verifying connections are not under-tightened, a value that is 10% less is a good rule of thumb to be sure that you do not overtighten the connections. Ten percent below the torque specifications, especially on old equipment, is a good place to start.
The specified torque value should never be exceeded. The theory of “more torque is better” is just not true. Applying a higher torque value than is specified may cause damage to the connection or equipment.
Torquing should never be performed on energized equipment; if it must be done, ensure that proper PPE is utilized.
Prior to energizing the service, the electrician should demonstrate that he or she has properly torqued terminations.
Loose electrical connections are one of the leading causes for electrical failures.
Tools are used to precisely apply a specific torque to a fastener.
Necessary tools for making electrical connections:
Screw driver (for opening the de-energized equipment)
Default torque values
Channellocks (to secure lugs)
Torque wrench (inch-pound and foot-pound)
Bits-standard/slot and hex; including extra deep bits
Socket set (for bolt connections)
Sure, torquing takes additional time to verify, but it is worth the extra time to do a complete inspection. If we do not verify torqued connections properly, have we done all we can do to verify a safe installation? According to NEC 90.1, “The purpose of this Code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity.” Properly torqued connections increase the safety and reliability of electrical installations.
According to BURNDY, an electrical connector manufacturer,
“The use of mechanical connections for electrical service to residential and commercial customers is common practice. However, the installation of mechanical wire connectors requires the application of the manufacturer’s recommended torque. The use of a calibrated torque wrench, torque screwdriver, or other device for measuring applied torque is the only way to ensure that the manufacturer’s torque is achieved. Each year there are failures in electrical connections due to misapplied torque as per the connector manufacturer’s recommendation. This is not due to poor workmanship; it is rather a lack of understanding of the physical connection between the conductor and the connector. Without using the proper tools, it has been shown that even experienced electricians cannot consistently tighten the connector to the recommended torque value. For electrical connections the old adage ‘hand tight plus a quarter turn’ is not sufficient to produce a proper mechanical connection. The mechanical interface between the connector and the conductor is an integral part of a safe and reliable electrical connection. The mechanical connection applies a force on the conductor which creates a greater area of contact. The manufacturer of mechanical connectors designs and tests the connectors to establish the correct amount of pressure (torque) to apply to meet the requirements of mechanical reliability and current flow.”
Rhonda Parkhurst wishes to thank Christel Hunter for her excellent editorial input.
The Bottom Line
At Safe and Sound Electric we practice proper torque techniques. A lot of jobs we do for customers involve fixing outlets on the verge of causing a fire, serious property damage, and death. If your electrical system is failing with flickering lights, parts of the circuit that “Haven’t worked for years,” Or “Been that way for 50 years,” Or “Was that way when we moved in and its never made sense,”
Learning without safety with knowledge, not sound,
learning by trial, by others not taught,
often had brought a disturbing shock.
If the body had firm path, from heart to ground,
surprise of shock would be more than a squawk.
(c) 3-02-2022 – Roger W Hancock
Times are hard. Material availability difficulties have been the hallmark driving delays within the construction industry. Thats why Safe and Sound Electric can help consumers make informed decisions on the products they patronize in their home.
I’ve been given so many reasons for material shortages delays; the Evergiven being stuck, hurricanes in the Dominican Republic, the Texas storm, COVID-19, and countless others. Bottom line is there are breakers that are required to be installed by code and they cannot be purchased from every manufacturer. The shortage could be likened to having to go to Safeway for eggs, but they are out of milk so you must go to Costco for the milk. A dedicated electrician knows how to find solutions, commonly same day to solve material shortage woes.
As an informed consumer ourselves, we would like to know which store has a banana for sale and is fair value. I don’t want you to be stuck searching craigslist for breakers or trying to buy them from amazon retailers for inflated prices.
So here are our Availability and Cost picks for 2022:
Square D Homeline
No surprise here Homeline is the most available and most competed for breaker product you can buy. If you want to be sure your project is done on time with minimal surprises go Homeline.
ABB must be doing something different than Cooper. We’ve had good experience procuring GE brand breakers and a number of retailers and wholesalers.
This is a surprise. While not available everywhere, Leviton breaker products are very widely available after they changed from a hydraulic magnetic to a thermal magnetic trip unit.
We would put GE, Leviton, and Siemens in the same tier for cost and availability.
A monitor alone won’t save you money but changing your habits will. All that an energy monitor does is provide accurate electricity usage data to help you identify energy inefficiency, make informed decisions, and track your progress toward energy reduction goals.
An energy monitor is a wonderful way to discover power-hungry appliances that may be perniciously stealing energy. This may be a device that you forgot to turn off, an always-on appliance that consumes more electricity than you’d expect or something that isn’t operating properly. Such energy hogs can easily go unnoticed but will show up loud and clear with a monitor like Sense.
Sense reports its average user saves 9% on electric bills. Given the average monthly electric bill is $117, or $1,400 per year, an energy monitor saves the average homeowner $126 annually and will pay for itself in about two and a half years.
Sense Energy Monitor
The Sense Energy Monitor with Solar’s dashboard has built-in cost calculations to compare the energy produced and energy consumed in a side-by-side view, information that can minimize the amount of power to purchase. The longer it’s plugged in, the more this monitor learns, which helps the monitor determine patterns in energy use and find ways to improve.
The Sense monitor identifies individual appliances and offers information about specific devices: when they’re on, their efficiency, vampire tendencies, and more. The energy monitor sends notifications about potential issues, including solar system alerts. Sense fits right into the electrical panel and is best installed by a certified electrician. It then connects the home to a smartphone via the power of Wi-Fi.
Whole-house energy monitoring system
Tracks solar generation and output
No ethernet port option
Slow to identify devices
Emporia Energy Gen 2 Vue Smart Home Energy Monitor
Receive up-to-the-moment data about energy cost and usage anytime and anywhere with EMPORIA ENERGY’s Gen 2 monitor. The monitor comes with 16 sensors that clamp onto the main and individual circuits in the breaker box, which are best attached by a professional, though they come with DIY instructions.
The device monitors larger appliances attached to the individual circuits, but it integrates with smart plugs (not included) to monitor smaller appliances, set timers and schedules, and increase control through the EMPORIA ENERGY app. Solar homes can use this monitor to see how much excess energy goes back to the grid versus how much energy the home consumes. The app sends notifications based on the data it gathers, so users know which steps to take to conserve energy and control costs.
Eight sensors included, but eight more can be purchased
Solar generation net metering capabilities
Customizable push notifications
Data collected and stored on cloud, not your own device
Difficult to retrieve extra data if desired
Eyedro Home Energy Monitor
See the real-time costs of energy use with this easy-to-use home energy monitor from Eyedro. Its sensors clip into an electrical panel to feed information to an online dashboard using the provided Ethernet cable, but it also has a Wi-Fi option. Log in to the Eyedro website to see energy usage any time, even when away from the house.
As appliances turn on and off, the change to energy consumption displays as an update on a phone or computer screen. Through the dashboard, access monitoring reports and bill estimates and receive alerts if the power goes out at home and the system loses communication. Install this energy monitoring system into an electrical panel in as little as 15 minutes with the included instructions.
Ethernet connection option for reliable internet
Plenty of data options to review
No subscription fees
Only two monitoring clips
Poor installation can cause inaccurate readings
Safe and Sound Electric can also help with that c wire issue you may be having.
The need to save money on heating and cooling cannot be overemphasized. There are diverse ways you can achieve this, and the Nest (the first smart thermostat to hit the market) can be immensely helpful. Also regarded as the “learning” thermostat, the Google Nest has many benefits and a few advantages. We will highlight the most important ones below:
It will save energy and money – Energy-efficiency is one of the biggest benefits smart thermostats like Nest offers. The Google Nest can significantly lower your energy consumption, and this means it can save you lots of money overall. It will also cut carbon emissions.
It makes controlling your AC easier – Google Nest makes controlling your AC a lot easier. It allows you to use your smartphone to control your home temperature, even when you are far from home.
It allows for multiple settings – Google Nest gives you more control over your AC setting because it is programmed with multiple settings. You can even control the temperature in individual rooms.
You can set it and forget it – As a “learning” thermostat, the Google Nest will make you become energy-conscious with minimal effort. When properly programmed, you can leave it to do all the job of temperature control.
It can be fun for techies – Smart thermostats are fun to use, and Google Nest is a lot of fun for techies. It will help you monitor and control your home temperature in a fun manner.
Compatibility issues – Google Nest may not be compatible with your existing AC unit, meaning you will need to invest in a new system. You may also need a C-wire installation to make it compatible.
The price tag – Google Nest is expensive. It is even much more expensive than other smart thermostats.
Leviton Main Panel
If you are considering a panel replacement job for your home, consider a Leviton main panel. These panels feature breakers that not only monitor your energy consumption but also can be turned off from your smart phone (yes, we can also install the plexiglass see-through cover also)
Smart breakers are controllable remotely – Shut off a problem before it does damage, or on high energy use
Wonderful addition to a Leviton Main Panel – You don’t need to buy the Smart breakers at initial installation, you can purchase them later for a spiffy upgrade
The AFCI functionality to our knowledge is of the Current Transformer (CT) variety therefore on an older house with potential circuit collisions or multi-wire branch circuits a Leviton may not be the best choice.
Oil filled breaker debacle – The Leviton breakers were originally oil filled and made in Mexico. They later switched to vacuum sealed thermo-magnetic trip breakers from China. The Oil filled breakers truly made the technology of this panel ahead of the curve. They are no longer available.
Price – The panel, and its breakers are more expensive than alternatives
Availability – Leviton as a brand is not carried at Lowes
Wayne Molesworth, Chief Electrical Inspector Vol. 24 No. 10 October 2021
Safety Tip of the Month
The severity and effects of an electrical shock
depend on a number of factors,
The pathway through the body
The amount of current
The length of time of the exposure
Whether the skin is wet or dry.
The effect of the shock may range from a slight tingle to severe burns to cardiac arrest. GFCIs help by detecting when electricity is not following the normal path through the circuit, but they are not the first method to protect you. Always use lockout/tagout and verify the circuit is off before you work on it.
Question of the Month
What is the proper way for trainees to submit their affidavits of experience? See correct answer on Page 2
Rod Mutch is Retiring!
Rod’s contributions since joining L&I in
2001 are invaluable; he is a great leader and friend to many. He inspired new ideas and drove innovation while serving as an inspector, lead inspector, technical specialist and chief inspector.
We will miss Rod and know that everybody that worked with him over the years will greatly feel this loss. At the same time, we are happy to know that he will be enjoying a well-earned retirement with family and friends.
Please join us in congratulating Rod on a job well done and wishing him well in his new adventures!
Inspector Vacancies Are Up – Response Times
For a variety of reasons, vacancies are increasing in the L&I electrical inspector ranks – about 20 openings currently. Maybe more as opportunities improve for 01 journey level electricians, a group that includes all electrical inspectors in the state.
Every inspection request is important. Until staffing levels improve, installations that pose life-safety risks, hold up other trades or industry, or delay property transactions are a priority. Response times for other installations may suffer. We appreciate your patience and cooperation while we work to resolve this issue.
Trainees – Get Credit for Hours Worked Under Temporary Allowances
Trainees working under temporary allowances allowing more time to complete required education may claim hours of experience for that time as follows:
Trainees expiring on or after October 29, 2020 may continue to work after their certificate expires for 90 days and may claim experience hours for that time. This allowance is temporary – end date not known
Until January 26, 2021, after paying their renewal fee without completing educational requirements, trainees
could continue to work and get credit for their hours if their expiration dates were between March 13, 2020 and October 28, 2020.
Tools for Trainees:
Use our Verify tool and search by name to locate your certificate number if you do not have it handy. You can also check to see if you completed 48 hours of education needed to renew. Contact your education provider if credit is missing.
After you meet education requirements, renew online. Despite appearances, you do not have to register as a contractor. Just put in your info and proceed, make selections accordingly. If the address shown there is not correct, update it. Your card will arrive in about 30 days. Some are taking a few days longer.
Find more information about temporary allowances for trainees in the September 2021 edition of this newsletter.
You Submitted a Form, Why is it Taking so Long?
If you sent in an affidavit, a change of assignment, or another paper form, you are probably wondering what is going on. You are not alone; the current backlog of 7 weeks or more is not acceptable.
How did we get here? The shift to telework forced electrical staff to image paper documents so their coworkers could process them remotely. Fewer staff processing and vacancies due to a hiring freeze set us on a tough road.
Wait times will soon improve. We are developing processes to hand off documents to our imaging department to allow staff to focus on processing. We can now recruit for vacancies– having a full staff will help everyone get faster service.
Learn about easy things to do for quicker service:
Only use forms dated 7-1-2021 or after. Even the sharpest eyes play tricks, have someone else look things over and make sure everything is complete. If a fee is required, include it. Questions? Contact your local office by phone for assistance.
Do not email forms. Risks are too high – they could get lost – confidential information may be exposed.
Ugly Picture of the Month:
If viewing this document online, click on the picture to open a larger image.
An electrical inspector found this panel when a property owner complained about a neighbor stealing power. How many code violations can you find?
Mechanical air-gap switch to disconnect load power
Underwriters Laboratories and Canadian Standards Association listed
Lutron controls are rated at 120 VAC, 60 Hz unless otherwise noted
Upon further review the dimmer only does incandescent and halogen loads. What would it take to have a knob controlled triac dimmer with digital fade that catches up to your analogous turning motions? I guess we won’t know for now. These rotary dimmers are just like your step-mother: the new design may seem appealing but underneath its still the same tired 1960’s resistor dimmer that everyone’s had a turn on. This coupled with the fact it will only take incandescent and halogen loads are the reasons Safe and Sound Electric cannot recommend these.
has with its electronic trip unit. You no longer need to land the neutral on the breaker. This is all fine and good, there is one major caveat to these breakers which set them behind the GE Arc faults in terms of compatibility: The tandem and single pole Siemens are not “Slash Rated” (read on label as 120/240v)
So you cannot use handle ties. This gives GE one significant advantage over the Siemens.
There are 2 features that Siemens offer however which make them superior for remodel homes with Siemens or Murray (Yes Siemens breakers are rated for Murray Panels) Main Circuit Breaker Panels, and new construction.
Wire insertion tab indicator
The yellow tabs push in to the case of the breaker as wire is inserted giving
the installer feedback of how deep the conductor should be allowing for and even deeper chin of the molded case to tunnel through before you are in the lug.
We see this feature as muted as the design of the breaker has changed to have a deeper chin, perhaps you will actually need this feedback since it will be more difficult to maneuver the conductor in to place through the expanded case and onto the lug.
Tandem (Peanut) Breakers
Technically peanut breakers are 1/2 size individual breakers, specifically
made by GE. Tandem breakers are Peanut’s younger half sibling; they wish they were the original Peanut but are hindered by their inflexibility.
It is nice that Siemens offers essentially 1/2 sized breakers for say that old 20/40 space Murray you may find on occasion and need to sneak a new circuit in. On New Construction this will also be a boon as the price point of these considering they are 2 breakers in 1 spot essentially cut costs back to wholesale value in a retail package.