By now, many of us have gotten around to kicking the tires of the new 2002 National Electrical Code. Some of us may have even driven it around the block a couple of times. At very least, most of us have thumbed through the manual, without any real direction or purpose.

The NEC is a work in progress that is constantly undergoing revision as new equipment, technology or information becomes available. We must become familiar with at least some of its new content to do the work we do. When knowledge of the new NEC rules will become imperative depends on when this new Code is adopted in your area or whenever compliance with it is specified. Start getting familiar with it as soon as possible.

At first glance, you may notice that the dot has replaced the dash in the numbering system and, soon afterwards, that the metric system has leapfrogged ahead as the primary system of measurement. Upon closer inspection, veteran Code users will notice that the Code includes some major reorganization in addition to its significant number of changes and revisions. Some things that were once familiar are no longer in their usual places. Many articles have been rewritten and reformatted to make the Code more uniform throughout. This is meant to make the NEC more user-friendly and easier to navigate.

Student and novice Code users will reap the most immediate benefits from Code restructuring. That's because the NEC is now easier to follow, and allows the user to correctly anticipate or guess where certain rules will appear within a specific article. Many of the changes are seamless. Therefore, Code veterans may not, at first, recognize the true benefits of these shufflings. In fact, many simply find the reorganization annoying, because they now must serach for articles whose location used to be second nature to them.

That's why it's more important than ever for the electrical specifier and installer to get guidance in locating and understanding the Code sections and changes that may affect the work they do. Even in jurisdictions that have not yet adopted the 2002 NEC, it can be a distinct advantage to quickly know what the changes are and how to interpret them for the most accurate and Code-compliant bids on upcoming projects. Many electrical contractors might be of the opinion that they will learn the new Code eventually as they go along. Whether this can be done without losing time or money may be a coin-toss. Can you afford to eat the cost of redoing non-compliant installations?

Luckily, help is readily accessible to us all. CEE News, for instance, publishes great articles and information to help us quickly get up to speed on the most important changes in the 2002 NEC. If you can attend a Code change seminar, you will find it well worth the time and expense. It's really the fastest way to get the most information. Seminars have the added benefit of allowing you to hear explanations and real-life examples of new Code rules and to ask questions. Books that explain and illustrate the major Code changes are also a must-have reference for anyone involved in the electrical trade. Other places to get information and insight on the new Code rules are online discussion forums. These can be an excellent resource, allowing you to draw on the experience and knowledge of many, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You have many ways to learn the new Code and help can literally be at your fingertips if you need it. I don't know about you, but I'll probably be looking for “phantom” (moved or deleted) Code articles and references for some time to come. I take it as some consolation that I am not alone when I see that the index in the back of my 2002 NEC, under “Cabinets, cutout boxes, Etc.” lists construction specifications as 373-11 and Installation as 373-1 (Article 373 is not there anymore.) Well, they'll catch it next time.


Bill Addiss, a licensed master electrician, is president of Addiss Electric, Centereach, N.Y., and a Webmaster for the Electrical Contractor Network at www.Electrical-Contractor.net.

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