In 1996 the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) ventured into a major effort to develop electrical installation standards for the electrical contracting industry. The initial effort included the development of NECA 1 Standard for Good Workmanship in Electrical Contracting. This first NECA standard serves as the flagship standard and the foundation for this family of quality and performance standards. The concepts behind standardizing various aspects of electrical work serve to establish a benchmark of quality and workmanship that is measurable. NECA believes there is a great opportunity to have a positive effect on the electrical contracting business by standardizing various quality control aspects of electrical work. This is the primary objective of developing the National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS).
What Are NEIS?
The National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS) family was established with the intent of creating a set of performance standards for electrical installations. National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS) are the first quality and performance standards specific for electrical construction. They go beyond the mandatory minimum safety requirements of the National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC requires electrical conductors and equipment be installed in a manner that is “neat and workmanlike.” This is a subjective rule and is often left in the eyes of the beholder whose standards are limited to experience and training. Everyone has a different set of personal and business standards they uphold in their work.NEISdescribe and clarify what is meant by installing electrical products and systems in a manner that is “neat and workmanlike.”
Photo 1. NEIS standards can help describe what an installation should look like and how it should perform to meet minimum requirements of the Code.
The NEIS are developed and published by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), under consensus procedures accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI standards are generally regarded as being the “official” U.S. standards on a given subject. ManyNEISare also developed jointly with other expert groups. Several subject matter experts have contributed to developing the NEIS family of standards.
There are currently over 30 NEIS that have been developed since 1996. These standards cover many common aspects of the electrical contracting business such as installing conduit, switchboards, panelboards, generators, fire alarm systems, optical fiber cable, and others. Each contains applicable installation criteria specific to that equipment. TheNEIScurrently available are provided in table 1.
As new technologies and equipment are introduced into the electrical industry, NECA performs market analysis to determine the industry needs for new NEIS. A few newNEISin development include NECA-130 Standard for Installing Wiring Devices, NECA-169 Standard for Installing and Maintaining Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters and Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, NECA-700 Standard for Installing Overcurrent Protection to Achieve Selective Coordination. NECA-412 Standard for Installing and Maintaining Photovoltaic Systems is planned for development in 2010.
Table 1. National Electrical Installation Standards
Advantages of NEIS
Everything in NECA’s installation standards comply with theNEC. But because they are quality and performance standards, most NEIS also contain additional requirements that go beyond, and extend, basic NEC safety requirements. With NEIS, the electrical installation you design or install not only meets code — it meets the shared expectations of everyone involved: owner, specifying engineer, electrical contractor, and the authority having jurisdiction. Standardizing installation methods and practices that meet higher standards creates opportunities for growth and competitive advantages in business. Quality is what the customer expects. Conforming to NEIS demonstrates a level of commitment and interest in providing a quality product and service for customers.
How NEIS Make a Difference
Photo 2. NEIS standards describe and clarify what is meant by installing electrical equipment in a “neat and workman like” manner.
Some of the more popular uses of NEIS include contractor and worker training, design and installation, specifications, and marketing. One of the more popular uses of NEIS is to reference them by specification. This saves specification development time for engineers and designers. Many engineering firms reference the NECA National Electrical Installation Standards to ensure a minimum level of performance and quality and integrity in their designs and finished product. Contactors can help their employees understand the difference between a good installation and a higher quality installation of electrical equipment.
The NEC often refers to “neat and workmanlike” installations without clearly defining what that concept means. The NEIS bridge this gap, and over the years they have begun to take a larger role in the day-to-day operations of electrical engineers, specifying designers, electrical contractors, and electricians. Recently, NECA worked with an engineering firm in Baltimore, Maryland, to determine how NEIS could help improve their operations. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company purchased a complete digital set of the NEIS family. This is in line with their company-wide quality control program. Whiting-Turner employees now have the ability to view or print any NEIS that suits the assignment they are working on. This is another good example of how an organization can put the NEIS to work with the digital set of the NEIS. This sets a precedent for others to make similar use of the NEIS in the workplace for specification and quality control in electrical construction.
Value for Inspectors
Although the NEIS are voluntary standards, they do provide details that clarify what constitutes good workmanship in various tasks involved in electrical installations. Section 110.12 and the other NEC rules that address electrical workmanship can be subjective for Code enforcement officials, especially if they have little or no experience in the electrical field. The NEIS help describe what the installation should look like and how it should perform to meet this minimum requirement in the Code. Obviously the more experience and training one has, the easier it is to determine if an electrical installation is workmanlike in all aspects. These voluntary standards have been adopted for use in some jurisdictions.
The National Electrical Contractors Association has developed an excellent family of quality and performance standards for electrical installations. The NEIS clarify what constitutes good workmanship in electrical contracting. The objective of these standards is to establish a benchmark of quality and performance for electrical installations and systems. The NEIS provide value to those involved in installation, engineering, designing, specifying, and other aspects of the electrical contracting business. As the electrical industry advances, so will the NEIS to meet the growing needs of industry professionals in their quest to provide the best service and product for their customers.