An article entitled “Are All Those GFCIs Out There Working?” was printed on pages 66-68 of the November/December 1999 issue of the IAEI News. The printing of that article was in error and I wish to extend an apology to readers of the IAEI News and other interested parties for the premature release of that article. The material was submitted to the IAEI for consideration and a working copy was reviewed. I declined to authorize the printing of the material and that information was relayed to the submitter. Apparently a copy of the submitted article was processed for publication with the assumption that it had been approved. It is apparent that we will have to do a better job of controlling the process of developing and producing IAEI publications. Specific guidelines are currently being developed to help avoid such incidents in the future.
The article raised questions as to whether or not GFCIs in existing installations are working properly. The IAEI is interested in obtaining reliable information regarding the safe installation and use of electrical equipment and products. Should evidence be found that GFCIs or other electrical equipment are not performing correctly, that information would be of interest to inspectors and other IAEI members. Such information could be used in a very productive way to improve product standards and to develop appropriate electrical safety rules. While it is evident from the article that considerable effort had been made to obtain data from the field regarding incidents of failures, it appears that additional information needs to be gathered and evaluated before any conclusion is reached that will affect code rules or installation procedures. A study conducted under strict research guidelines that includes gathering of data on GFCI installations and testing those units that do not function correctly to determine the cause can provide valuable information for the industry.
I understand that the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is planning to initiate a research program that will involve a study of GFCI installations and performance. A thorough study of this issue should provide answers to many questions raised as to how GFCIs perform over time. There appears to be interest in determining if reported incidents of GFCIs not working properly are actual equipment failures or due to other causes. Evaluation of devices that have failed in the field can result in a better idea of what caused the equipment to fail.
Lightning damage is indicated in the published article as one potential cause of GFCI failure. It is widely recognized that energy released through lightning strikes can cause damage to electrical equipment as well as to property in general. It would be beneficial to find out more about the significance of damage to GFCIs and other electrical equipment caused by lighting and the NEMA study should be able to answer many questions as to the impact lightning has on GFCI equipment and operation.
Many items printed in the IAEI News generate discussions and result in different opinions by readers. The stimulation of discussion is generally productive. It is hoped that the inadvertent printing of the article on GFCIs in the November/December issue of the IAEI News will have a positive effect by generating good discussion of the matter and result in an appropriate solution to any problem that may exist. For additional information on this subject, see the article by the NEMA Ground Fault Personnel Protection Section on pages 38-39 in this magazine.
IAEI Bonus Points Program
The IAEI tries hard to find ways to appropriately recognize members who demonstrate their continued support of the organization and its objectives over the years. These individuals are the ones who help make the IAEI strong through their participation in organizational activities in promoting the electrical safety system that benefits the public. An IAEI policy implemented several years ago provided a complimentary copy of the National Electrical Code to members who requested it. That policy was amended to include certain IAEI-developed publications with the intent to provide a variety of publications in addition to the NEC. It is commonly known as the bonus points program and includes the provision that points accrue each time membership is renewed on a consecutive basis with a limit on the maximum number of points permitted to be accumulated. It should be noted that including the NEC as part of the program would not be possible without the cooperation and support of the National Fire Protection Association. Including IAEI-developed publications in the program has added a significant financial load. It was made possible only because costs were kept to a minimum by the way material was developed and by the type of books produced. When the IAEI began producing books with much more extensive material and in four color, the cost of production changed dramatically.
It is the intent that the IAEI continue to improve on its publications, both in content and in appearance. According to comments received, this appears to be what IAEI members want. The objective is to have the best educational material available and to present it in a fashion that is technically accurate, easy to understand, and enjoyable to study. The down side of this is that producing material of this quality is extremely expensive and affects the ability of the IAEI to provide the publications as an option in the bonus points program.
The IAEI Board of Directors reviewed the bonus points program during the November 1999 annual meeting and determined that it needs to be adjusted. It was concluded that the plan should be similar to what it was before where only the soft cover edition of the NEC is provided. In order to provide a reasonable time during transition to the revised program, members who have the required three (3) annual renewal points (bonus points) achieved through three consecutive years of renewal may exchange those points for either a soft cover 1999 NEC or one of the IAEI publications presently included in the program by December 31, 2000. Following that, IAEI publications will no longer be part of the bonus point program. Effective January 1, 2001, those individuals who qualify will be able to select the soft cover edition of the NEC while supplies are available.