A Junky Junction Box
This mess comes from the basement of a local business. It’s a junction box for the underground service conductors. The lack of a cover was what caught Russ’ attention. The missing box cover violates Sec. 314.25. Since the cover was missing, he decided to get a closer look and noticed there were no bonding bushings or grounding locknuts installed on any of the service raceways. This lack of proper raceway bonding and grounding is a violation of Sec. 250.92(A) and (B). He also observed that the junction box was not bonded to the grounded conductor either. This is another violation of the rules in Sec. 250.92. Further examination revealed that flexible metal conduit (FMC) was used for enclosing one set of the service entrance conductors. Section 230.43(15) does permit the use of FMC for wiring of services of 1,000V or less, with some limitations. The FMC must be no longer than 6 ft between raceways — or between a raceway and service equipment. This FMC was close to 20 ft long. A supply side bonding jumper (SSBJ) must also be routed with the FMC. Although this FMC does have an SSBJ, it’s improperly connected to the clamping screws on the outside of the FMC connector instead of being bonded to the grounded conductor.
Troubles in Paradise
This is just one of many Code violations one of our readers spotted while visiting a restaurant on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico. James Hickman, a master electrician and vice president for One Hour Electric, Inc., in Maryland Heights, Mo., shared this extraordinary photo with us. Although Russ wasn’t sure which electrical code is used in this jurisdiction, this installation certainly makes for a great conversation starter when it comes to discussing NEC violations. To begin with, using electrical nonmetallic tubing (ENT) in this sun-filled outdoor location would violate Sec. 362.12(7), unless the ENT is specifically designed to be sunlight-resistant. Burying the ENT directly in the ground violates Sec. 362.12(4). The position of the ENT on the tree could also be considered a violation of Sec. 362.12(8) because it could easily get damaged. The cover used for the receptacles is a violation of Sec. 406.9(B)(1), since it does not provide an enclosure that is weatherproof when an attachment plug cap is plugged into the receptacles. It’s barely weatherproof now because the cover is not designed to be mounted in this position. Installing a cover in a position other than what it is designed and listed for violates Sec. 110.3(B).
A Hidden Secret
Take a look at this fantastic Code violation. Brandon Killian, an electrician from Coconut Creek, Fla., encountered this danger when he was called out to troubleshoot entranceway lighting that was not working outside a gated living community. While replacing a bad photocell, he noticed the new camera system was fed via a transformer that was plugged into a 2-wire extension cord tucked right into the 60A panel. He also noticed that the 240V/120V panel was only fed with 120V; however, the main lugs were jumped-out so all bus tabs were energized. Cutting off the male end of the cord set and connecting it directly to a circuit breaker could be considered a violation of Sec. 400.12(1). Using flexible cord sets, or extension cords as they are commonly called, in place of fixed wiring is simply not permitted. Per Sec. 110.3(B), using an extension cord in this manner would also violate the instructions included in the listing or labeling of the product. A closer look at the bottom left of the panel also reveals the PVC conduit installed for the camera wires is just shoved into the opening without the use of any conduit connectors. This would most likely be considered a violation of Sec. 352.48.
Service Station Shenanigans
Russ came upon this disaster while driving by a vehicle service station. Of course, he immediately parked his car, and jumped out to take a few pictures. It appears there once was some type of wooden “doghouse” type of enclosure built around this equipment to provide some protection from the weather. The deteriorated remnants of the enclosure have left this equipment exposed to the elements, which offers up a variety of violations. The panelboard enclosure is not suited for use in a wet location as specified in Sec. 312.2. It is now subjecting the equipment to rain and moisture. Wet circuit breakers and bus bars could create a dangerous situation. Section 110.28 provides choices for selecting the correct type of enclosure for specific locations. For example, a Type 3R enclosure might be a good choice for this situation. The receptacles located below the panelboard are also exposed directly to the weather because the box cover is broken off. This is a violation of Sec. 406.9(B)(1), which requires a complete weatherproof enclosure be installed to protect these receptacles even while equipment is plugged in. An outlet box hood for this receptacle box would need to be rated as “extra duty” type.
How About a Show of Support?
Somebody needs to have a discussion with this installer about the Code requirements for using 3/8-in. flexible metal conduit (FMC). Generally speaking, 3/8-in. FMC is not supposed to be used unless permitted by Sec. 348.20(A). For this installation, 348.20(A)(2)(a) would allow installers to use up to 6 ft of 3/8-in. FMC to connect these motors. While the length of this FMC may not be a problem, the lack of supporting means certainly is. Section 348.30(A) requires FMC to be securely fastened within 12 in. of the conduit terminations and at intervals not exceeding 4½ ft. Perhaps the installer was trying to apply one of the four exceptions noted in Sec. 348.30(A). Unfortunately, none of those exceptions are applicable to this installation. Exception No. 1 does not apply, since the FMC was not fished in. Exception No. 2 has no provisions for 3/8-in. FMC. Exception No. 3 does not apply because the FMC was used for wiring motors, not luminaires. Lastly, Exception No. 4 is not applicable because this installation is not above an accessible suspended ceiling. Think this installer remembered to install an equipment grounding conductor (EGC) as required by Sec. 348.60? Probably not — and don’t even get Russ started on the lack of EMT supports.
Awash in Violations
“We obviously didn’t do it. Done by in-house maintenance. Breaker feeds blower in the tunnel. Correct amperage, wrong style.” That was the quote Russ received from the electrician who sent in this photo. No one would blame him for wanting to remain anonymous after discovering this mess at a car wash in Massachusetts. It looks like “Hack-n-Smash” Electric Co. may have been in a rush to get it done. They may have gotten the power on, but boy did they create a real mess and a few NEC violations in the process. Installing a breaker that was obviously way too big and not designed for this enclosure violates the installation and use requirements of Sec. 110.3(B). With the metal cover cut away so much, it leaves the energized terminals of the circuit breaker exposed and at risk of be contacted. Section 110.27(A) requires these live parts to be guarded against accidental contact by being installed in an approved enclosure. The circuit breaker blanks missing at the top have also created a shock hazard by leaving the bus bars exposed. Section 408.7 requires any unused openings for circuit breakers to be closed with identified circuit breaker closures or circuit breaker blanks.
A Buried Treasure
A knowledgeable apprentice sent in this photo of the wiring he discovered inside of a wall. He knew there were some major problems with this installation. For starters, we can point to the lack of securement for the NM cables. Section 314.17(B) requires NM cables to be secured to the box where metal boxes are used. Section 314.17 requires conductors to be protected from abrasion where they enter a box. Passing conductors through individual openings with no bushings or protective sleeve could easily damage the conductor insulation. Passing conductors through these individual openings is also a violation of Sec. 300.20(A) because they are no longer grouped together. Section 300.20(B) allows slots to be cut between these openings, but Russ explains that’s probably not a viable option here because it would result in an entire section of the box being removed due to the square layout of the openings. He would love to know how this box is grounded, since the equipment grounding wires pass through the hole where the grounding screw should be installed. He’s not sure of the exact size of the box, but he’s sure it doesn’t have enough volume for the conductors and devices as required by Sec. 314.16.
Crazy Cord Connections
This receptacle cover is not only mounted in the wrong position, it’s the completely wrong type of cover in the first place. This cover is designed to be installed so it can open vertically, not horizontally. Installing covers in the wrong position violates the requirements of Sec. 110.3(B) if the listing and instructions require a certain orientation such as “vertical only.” For wet locations, Sec. 406.9(B)(1) requires 15A and 20A, 125V and 250V receptacles to have an enclosure that is weatherproof even when an attachment lug cap is inserted. The cover in the photo would only be weatherproof when it was closed, and of course, if it was mounted in the correct position. Another concern he has is with the extension cord plugged into the timer. It was run underground beneath the grass approximately 100 ft to provide power to a boat dock on a lake. That does not seem safe at all. The cord is not designed to be buried in the ground. Using cord sets in this manner to provide power to the dock area could create a dangerous shock hazard in and around the water if this cord gets damaged. It also violates the requirements of Sec. 400.12(7).
A Call to "Arms"
This sign certainly catches your attention, but for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t the business name or the type of business that caught Russ’ eye. Instead, it was the poor design of the electrical installation used to illuminate the sign that got him excited enough to stop and take a closer look. Those long bending “arms” extending out from the sign are PVC conduits that the installer used to support the lampholders. This is unquestionably a violation of Sec. 352.12(B), which states PVC conduit cannot be used “for the support of luminaires or other equipment not described in 352.10(H).” Lampholders are not described in Sec. 352.10(H). Conduit bodies are described in that section of the Code. Section 352.10(H) reiterates that even these conduit bodies shall not be permitted to support luminaires or other equipment. The effects of gravity, wind, and snow will eventually cause these conduits to break or snap apart at the joints. Broken conduits with energized wires sticking out will then create a dangerous situation. This installation needs a complete do-over before that potential disaster becomes a reality.
Bob Brooks shared this fantastic photo with EC&M, describing in his words, “I found this ‘questionable’ installation in my daughter’s old apartment basement. At least the polarity is right, and the ground wire is bonded to the box. I checked, and the cable feeding the box has its ground tied to the Romex connector. I guess I’d give them an ‘E’ for effort.” While this may be creative, it’s no way to extend the branch circuit wiring. Receptacles are designed for the installation of an attachment plug or utilization equipment with a corresponding contact device. Stabbing wires into the receptacle slots is a violation of Sec. 110.3(B). This method could also result in serious arcing and sparking, eventually leading to a fire. Attaching the equipment grounding wire to the cover mounting screw instead of a “grounding screw used for no other purpose,” is a violation of Sec. 250.148(C). Where NM cable is used with a metal box, Sec. 314.17(B) requires the NM cable to be secured to the box. Section 334.30 requires this NM cable to be secured within 12 in. of the cable’s entry into the box, which, in this case, Russ supposes is through the face of the receptacle.