sunMAX - National Electrical Code

What is the National Electrical Code (NEC)?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a set of regulations and standards concerning the safety of electrical systems, published and maintained by the National Fire Protection Association. The NEC is regularly updated to ensure that as electrical technology continues to evolve so do the safety standards. The NEC is important to know because it can help ensure a safe and effective sunMAX installation.

Inspectors and governing bodies use this code as a baseline enforcement standard. If a PV system design and installation do not meet the requirements of the NEC, both the homeowner and installation may be exposing themselves to safety risk and spend excessive time and resources getting sites re-inspected for compliance.

The NEC guidelines may be exceeded by many state and local regulations. As always it is up to those performing the installation to ensure they are aware of such requirements.

The purpose of this article is not to represent an exhaustive resource but rather to give a general description of what the NEC entails for sunMAX PV system installations. With matters concerning electrical code and safety standards it is critical that sunMAX distributors consult with a licensed electrician. Liability to prepare for and address the NEC requirements lies with the party performing the installation.

Where is the NEC used?

The NEC was developed and is primarily used by the United States but has been adopted/is used by a number of other countries:

-Chile
-Colombia
-Costa Rica
-Ecuador
-Mexico
-Panama
-Peru
-Phillipines
-Puerto Rico
-Venezuela

In many countries where the NEC has not been adopted- the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) provides standards for electrical systems and installations including much of the European Union.

For more info on the IEC, visit: http://www.iec.ch/

NEC Update Cycle/Versions

Due to the rapidly changing nature of electrical technology, the NEC requires frequent updating to address relevant safety concerns. The NEC has established a standard updating/re-release cycle every three years. The NEC was updated most recently in 2014, and previously in 2011, 2008, etc. 

As a result of these constant changes in the NEC that are being processed, some state and local authorities may choose to adopt elements from particular versions or immediately adjust requirements at the release of a new revision of the NEC. Because of the inconsistent nature of local applications of the regulations, again it is the responsibility of the installing party to be aware of and comply with local requirements for PV system installations.

The NEC and PV Systems

The NEC covers a lot of area, the greater majority of which will not specifically concern PV configurations.

There are however, many articles of particular importance to PV installations:

Article 110  - Covers general requirements for all electrical installations such as:

-Required labelling of hazards

-Standards for wiring integrity

-Necessary approval of electrical components

Chapter 2, Article 250 - Grounding:

-Types of systems, circuits and equipment and grounding requirements and limitations

-Approved grounding methods

-Correct grounding locations

Chapter 3, Articles 300 - Wiring Methods, examples:

-Requirements for conductors

-Need for protection of wiring against corrosion/decay

Chapter 3, Article 310 - Conductors, examples:

-Standards for conductor ampacity

-Required insulation markings

-Acceptable use of conductors

Article 690 of the NEC, "Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems" is the primary source for NEC standards that will concern sunMAX PV installations. An in-depth examination is necessary to be aware of all the standards set forth within this article. It expands upon much of the previous articles, but offers some specific standards that may amend the requirements offered previously in the more general sections. This article has seen much updating over the last few code updates, and as such it is very important to know its contents.

 The Importance of Safety in sunMAX installations

Although understanding and complying with the National Electrical Code may seem daunting- the importance of such regulations is absolutely critical when it comes to safety. No matter how experienced a solar installation expert may become, safety must remain the focal point of the installation. Staying up to speed on NEC guidelines as they continue to be updated will help ensure that installations are safe and profitable.

For more information, including access to the most recent National Electrical Code, visit the following URL:

http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=70