Let's Talk Code With Ryan Jackson

Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) adds A Complete Guide to the 2020 NEC® Changes to the library of educational materials and resources available for apprentices, ourneymen foreman and contractors. This photo-rich book highlight the major code changes affecting electricians and help uncomplicate the NEC®. The book include hundreds of photos and illustrations and easy-to-understand analysis of the changes. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Jackson, Author and Code subject matter expert to learn about his background and what we can look forward to.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and career. 

A: I started in the industry when I was 18 and grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the state of Utah you have to be licensed, even as an apprentice, which requires you to be at least 18. As soon as I was able to legally get into the trade I did. I was a journeyman electrician for about five years and then became an inspector. I was an inspector for 16 years and started teaching seminars locally and then nationally. In 2005, I met Mike Holt and I started writing books for him. I started editing his books first and then started writing his code [NEC®] books from 2008 until 2016. I was wearing quite a few hats. In 2016, I left Mike and quit inspecting so that I could just focus on my own stuff. The trade has been really good to me. I always tell people that are first coming in [the industry] that there are many different directions that you can take. If you don't like being a construction electrician, you don't have to be. There are different career paths that you can get into, whether that is working 
at a hospital doing maintenance or teaching. My brother does really well for himself as a construction electrician and he loves doing it! 

Q: What's new in the 2020 NEC®? 

A: There are a lot of really big changes in the 2020 NEC®, more than any since I've been teaching. I started teaching code changes under the 2002 edition. Since then there are definitely more changes in the 2020. There are also global changes in reorganization. One of the big global changes is the concept in the use of reconditioned equipment. 

This is something that first appeared in the code back in 2017, and it was like opening Pandora's box. After Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, there was demolition work on damaged buildings and then the selling of the removed parts. These parts were sold as reconditioned or refurbished, although nothing was actually done to salvage. For example, you could have a circuit breaker from Hurricane Katrina that was underwater in saltwater for months. The electrician removed the panelboard and replaced that panelboard with damaged breakers and then would remove the damaged breakers that were just installed to sell them.

Circuit breakers are not even intended to be reconditioned. They are steeled units, and not meant to be opened, taken apart, and fixed. Manufacturers were remanufacturing parts that were never intended to be remanufactured. In the 2017, subject matter experts added a little bit of language about reconditioning but not much. In the 2020 code, this issue was addressed on a global scale. The code now states what can and cannot be reconditioned and when it's appropriate. I think the biggest changes are in Article 210. The changes for GFCIs in the 2020 code are just absolutely huge. We have been reviewing GFCIs in the code since 1971, increasing protection requirements but never to this extent. Now everything has to be GFCI protected, even if it's in a basement. Also, everyone is talking about GFCI protection for outdoor equipment for dwelling units. Any equipment outdoors other than lights have to be GFCI protected for residential. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in decades.

Q: What can we look forward to in A Complete Guide to the 2020 NEC® Changes book? 

A: Emergency power disconnects for dwellings is a hot thing to discuss right now depending on what part of the country you're in. If you're in the Eastern part of the country, you may have never seen a house disconnect on the outside. If you're in the Western states, it's very common. You’re going to have an emergency disconnect on the outside of every dwelling unit. It’s for firefighter safety. Firefighters now have a way to shut off power on the outside. 

Q: What topics should our readers pay close attention to and why?

A: Emergency disconnect and GFCI protection are topics that people need to know about. You don't want to be surprised by it in the field. If you miss GFCI protection when working on a house, you're out ten dollars and labor costs. If you miss having a disconnect on the outside of your building, you're out a few thousand dollars. For example, you don't have to have those service disconnects on the outside, but you have to have an emergency disconnect. Usually you are going to install the service disconnect on the outside. If you didn't know about that, you're now looking at not just adding a disconnect on the outside but also grounding and bonding, and re-routing all of your grounding electric conductors outdoors. Missing that rule cascades into a whole host of problems. Even if you're not adopting the code immediately, it's worth knowing about the major changes. If you do have a schedule to adoption date, you're going to want to know about these many changes as soon as possible before you can adopt it. 

Q: What sets this publication apart from others? 

A: Like our previous comprehensive guides, this book has a lot of real-world photographs. Sometimes it's nice to have a drawing and we do have drawings in the book when appropriate. I have found that people want to see what the product actually looks like in real-life applications. Someone who resides on the East Coast can see the techniques that someone on the West Coast applies and vice versa.

In comparison to other code changes books, ours covers the equal number of the changes. We do not spend a lot of time addressing changes that directly affect the manufacturer. It’s important to keep our audience in mind. We’re talking to electricians and there is no need cover a lot of things that are manufacturer-specific. Also, most people don't want a thousand-page textbook that covers every single change in as much depth as humanly possible. We cover the same number of changes as anybody else, but we don't get into some of the minute details. I limited myself to a couple of paragraphs per change. I didn’t spend page after page talking about the mundane. It goes rather quickly within those 400 pages, given the amount of material. Readers will be very happy at how quickly they can get through the material.