The New Industry Catch Phrase: “Reconditioned Equipment”

“Reconditioned Equipment” is the new catch phrase in the National Electric Code® (NEC®). Until the 2014 NEC®, the term “reconditioned” was only applied to x-ray equipment in Articles 517 and 660. In the 2017 NEC®, it was expanded to all types of equipment and identified as a practice to install equipment that was reconditioned or rebuilt. The question one might ask is, “Why are we repairing and not replacing the equipment?” One may also ask if the equipment has been physically damaged; or exposed to water, excessive heat, or a corrosive environment. The NEC® has started to address the re-installation of equipment and the approval process of determining if the equipment meets all original safety requirements.

The industry has seen older equipment installed with new components, which were considered upgrades, or replacement of aging parts. For example, motors are rebuilt, rewound, reconditioned, and put back into service. Circuit breakers have maintenance procedures calling for replacement parts as part of the product standard. These types of maintenance procedures have been used by factories for years but are not addressed in the scope of the NEC®. The NEC® will address factory maintenance differently than reconditioned equipment for new or existing installations by electrical contractors outside the scope of industrial maintenance.

The 2017 NEC® is used as an installation guide for contractors, but the purpose of the code is to provide a practical safeguard in the use of electricity, which means providing safety to the end-user over the equipment’s lifetime. There are maintenance programs and standards recognizing the life expectancy of products in the field, as well how the life expectancy could be altered by various factors while in use (i.e., temperature, moisture, vibration). These factors may affect the ongoing performance and safety of the equipment. The 2017 NEC® includes new marking requirements in Section 110.21(A)(2) to identify equipment that has been reconditioned. The section also refers to standards for reconditioning some equipment. Product certification must be evaluated as to whether the process of reconditioning affects the original listing and whether the product must be re-evaluated for safety, as in field evaluation of the product.

The 2020 NEC® has addressed this issue even more extensively by defining “reconditioned equipment.” During the 2020 NEC® Code-Making Panel (CMP) meetings for the First and Second Drafts, each panel was instructed to determine which equipment under their purview could or could not be reconditioned. You will see in the Second Draft that CMP actions clearly state the products allowed to be reconditioned and those that are not.

All this leads to the meaning of “reconditioned” as related to equipment. Several Code Panels developed a definition for “reconditioning,” but the Correlating Committee settled on a definition that both CMP 9 and CMP 10 agreed upon (CMP 10 will have purview over the definition).

Reconditioned. Electromechanical systems, equipment, apparatus, or components that are restored to operating conditions. This process differs from normal servicing of equipment that remains within a facility, or replacement of listed equipment on a one-to-one basis (CMP 10).  

Informational Note: The term reconditioned is frequently referred to as rebuilt, refurbished, or remanufactured.

As noted in the definition and in 110.21(A)(2), industrial facilities are exempt from requirements of marking and reconditioning methods. It is assumed that these facilities’ best practices for maintenance assure proper rebuilding of equipment to be safe and reliable. Many facilities use NFPA 70B Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance as the maintenance standard for their electrical systems. Within that standard are references to NEMA standards that address equipment damaged by water or heat, such as that caused by a natural disaster or a structure fire. These documents provide guidance from electrical product manufacturers to those considering replacing or reconditioning damaged equipment.

In these guidance documents, it is recommended that the original manufacturer be consulted on whether reconditioning is appropriate for the product in question. The manufacturer can provide the guidance to be followed if the product is accepted and approved for reinstallation. The requirement in 110.21(A)(2) requires the original listing mark be removed. For the approval of reconditioned equipment, the product must be re-certified.

The flooding in the Mid-West and storm surge from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast were reasons electrical manufacturers developed guidelines to assure the electrical safety was maintained for products that were water-damaged. These guidelines provide evaluation techniques to determine if replacing or reconditioning is warranted. An example of when reconditioning is not recommended is when electronic life safety equipment is exposed to water and contaminates (i.e., AFCIs, GFCIs, smoke alarms, and smoke detectors).

Heat is also a damaging factor. Guidelines are available for evaluating products exposed to excessive heat and provide direction on what can be reconditioned and what should not.

Note that these guidelines provide recommended practices for evaluating damaged equipment and have no legal standing for the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). They are the basis for many new proposed 2020 NEC® sections on reconditioning. The 2020 NEC® is addressing the safe and practical use of electricity by providing enforceable NEC® language the AHJ can use to approve products that are subject to reconditioning. The contractor can also rely on these requirements to help resolve field concerns on whether a product can continue to provide the electrical safety it was originally designed for.

The 2020 NEC® goes through the final approval stages by the NFPA Technical Committee meeting during the annual NFPA Conference in June and issuance of the standard by the NFPA Standards Council will be in August 2019. The adoption of the 2020 NEC® will help the industry maintain the practicable safeguarding of people and property from electrical hazards.


These molded case circuit breakers were completely submerged in salt water and are not to be reconditioned.

Here is an example of product—fuses—not to be reconditioned.