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  1. #1
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    Default water heater cable

    I inspected this new town home several weeks ago. I called out this water heater cable as a deficiency. I've now received a nasty email from the agent saying the electrician claims it is installed to code and I was wrong to call it out.
    Forget that I verbally explain home inspections are not code inspections, and that the code is the bare minimum. Is this actually installed to code ?

    I don't know the code numbers but a couple of things come to mind when I look at this particular install, and I don't call out every water heater where un protected NM cable is used, but this one to me is sloppy.

    Exposed cable not protected from physical damage.
    Cable not closely following the framing or running board.
    Cable not secured within 12 inches of box ( I consider the water heater the box and I don't consider a zip tie to the hot water line a suitabe method of securing cable)

    Can I get some opinions please ?
    Would you call this out ?
    If you have them the code references would be educational for me.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    That electrician is on glue if this is acceptable work. I would just let the agent know that you disagree based on regional and national standards. Also advise them that they should get and provide the homeowner with documentation from the electrician so in the event of a problem or they sell the home they have the proof. The electrician owns it now so make sure you hold on to that e-mail.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    I don't put a lot of stock in what a third party says. Things can get pretty twisted around when someone is trying to prove a point. I'd make a call to the electrician.

    I had the same thing a couple of weeks ago. When I quizzed the agent he admitted that the electrician was not really an electrician but rather was a buddy of his. When I talked to the buddy he said that he really didn't look at the panel very closely because a thunderstorm was approaching. How in the world that made a difference is far beyond my ability to understand.

    Don't take statements at face value. If you probe into a situation you'll likely find where people who disagree with you went off the rails.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  4. #4
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Eric has a good point. Several times I've had roofers and other trade people who "disagreed" with me, only to find out that the realtor was talking about a completely different thing with the roofer. We weren't even talking about the same part of the roof. I'd ask to see what the electrician put into writing before I'd even bother responding to it.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  5. #5
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Subject to physical damage is subjective and not defined by the NEC. You and the sparkie can argue about that all day if you so choose. Cable tying NM cable to the water pipe is definitely not code compliant as a means of securing the cable as required by the NEC.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    I emailed the picture to the Cities Building Code Official. He clearly stated the install is not to code. I've attached his comments to my reply to the Realtor.

    This stuff usually just rolls off my back, but the tone of this Realtors text got under my skin. A polite, to the point rebuttal and I'll move on.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Robert, could you expand on your comment about not be able to be secured to the water line? I would not secure the cable to the hot side of the WH, but securing to the pipe to bridge the gap between the wall and WH would not be an issue in my mind.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    Robert, could you expand on your comment about not be able to be secured to the water line? I would not secure the cable to the hot side of the WH, but securing to the pipe to bridge the gap between the wall and WH would not be an issue in my mind.

    I don't see a problem with the cable tie if the water line temperature doesn't exceed the insulation rating of the cable.

    Now that I've looked at the photo again I'm unsure if it violates any specific codes if the cable tie is within 12" from the connector. My initial thought was that it was more than 12" and should be secured to something other than the pipe. Maybe I was just objecting to it looking ugly.

    What do you think Jim?


  9. #9
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    I would not see the issue if the cable was zipped to the cold line to secure it within 12" of the wiring compartment.

    As shown the cable looks to be flopping in the wind before being zipped to the hot. It may actually be run at a diagonal on the face of the studs, which is ugly but not a violation. I would still not have zipped to the hot.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    Robert, could you expand on your comment about not be able to be secured to the water line? I would not secure the cable to the hot side of the WH, but securing to the pipe to bridge the gap between the wall and WH would not be an issue in my mind.
    Sure, here are my thoughts.

    The water line is not structural, so the cable is not truly secured.
    If the water line leaks, water could run down the cable into the electrical connection.
    The way that cable is diagonally passing through the air, when the residents fill the utility closet up with all their crap and something falls onto the cable, which it eventually will, now instead of affecting just the electrical we are causing potential damage to both the electrical and plumbing.

    I always use the analogy that you don't wear a bicycle helmet for the ride, you wear it for the crash.....same thing in a house. That cable may look innocent enough to some on the average day, but a lot of what we call out is for the atypical day. GFCIs, grippable hand rails, tempered glass to name a few.

    The Building Code Official specifically stated that the cable should not be tied to the water lines.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Cables and conduits can be secured to drop wires in a ceiling and they are just as structural as a water line, if not less. The code does not say only structural members, it just says secured. Cables and conduits cannot support each other.

    Regardless of the wiring, water leaks above the top of the WH could leak into the wiring compartment.

    Unless there is a local amendment there is no NEC prohibition against securing to the water line.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    You obviously know the NEC a lot better than I do. Your drop ceiling wire is not a good comparison in my opinion though. The drop ceiling wire is in a concealed location not subject to the incidents that can occur with occupant activities.

    If that cable had been run down the wall, then over to the wiring compartment with some slack in it, I would not personally have a problem with it. As tight as it was, it's just piss poor work inviting trouble sometime in the next 15 years of that water heaters hopeful life.

    I do have a follow up question for you. The black plastic cable clamp used where the cable passes into the wiring compartment. Are those treated any differently by the NEC than the older metal clamps ?


  13. #13
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    For the record, I am not defending the way the cable is run. I think it looks like crap. There were much better options to route the cable.

    The black button connectors are considered the same as the older metal NM clamp type connectors. Both need to be listed and used with the proper cable size combinations.

    Here is a link to one brand.

    Non Metallic Fittings And Supports | Black Button<sup></sup> Non-Metallic Push-In Connectors

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    As an electrician I would say that looks pretty bad, like he ran out of wire. If I was questioned on it I would go fix it. The plastic romex connector is fine so long as the ground wire is on the ground screw. I am pretty sure you also need a disconnect switch if the water heater is not within site of the panel. And I've been called out for securing the ground wire to the cold water pipe on the way down to the ground clamp on service changes, although this is a very common practice. I would say if it looks safe and workmanlike minor things like secured at 12" or 18" would not be an issue.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    You obviously know the NEC a lot better than I do. Your drop ceiling wire is not a good comparison in my opinion though. The drop ceiling wire is in a concealed location not subject to the incidents that can occur with occupant activities.

    If that cable had been run down the wall, then over to the wiring compartment with some slack in it, I would not personally have a problem with it. As tight as it was, it's just piss poor work inviting trouble sometime in the next 15 years of that water heaters hopeful life.
    Jim's example about the drop ceiling was addressing the securing issue not the subject to damage issue. His question had me thinking about what the cable tie violated and so far I cannot think of a violation.

    I agree that the installation is a poor one and as Jerry stated a disconnecting means is required.


  16. #16
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    Default NEC reference

    This cable is directly exposed and can easily be damaged. An inspector could cite the following:

    2008 NEC 334.15
    Cable shalle be protected from physical damage where necessary by rigid metal conduit, intermediate metal conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Schedule 80 PVC conduit, (2011 Type RTRC marked with suffix -XW) or other approved means.

    2011 NEC 334.15
    (A) Cable shall closely follow the surface of the building finish or of running boards.


    334 is rife with reasons why this could be cited. It's a valid call out. Not to mention that wiring appears to be attached to the hot water line. Over time that may cause damage to the sheath if the water temp is sufficient.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    The insulation is rated 90 degrees C or 194 F. Most water heaters are set between 120 and 140, well below the rating of the insulation.

    Just because a cable is exposed does not mean it is subject to damage.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    The insulation is rated 90 degrees C or 194 F. Most water heaters are set between 120 and 140, well below the rating of the insulation.

    Just because a cable is exposed does not mean it is subject to damage.
    I have seen even rated cables change color and harden over time after exposure to such heat sources...but I see your point.

    I would have to see a wider shot to determine if the cable were "actually" subject to damage, but it seemed like the OP was going for the zip-tying anyway.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by cuba_pete View Post
    I have seen even rated cables change color and harden over time after exposure to such heat sources...but I see your point.

    I would have to see a wider shot to determine if the cable were "actually" subject to damage, but it seemed like the OP was going for the zip-tying anyway.
    My calling it out was driven by the cable being stretched tightly, diagonally across a storage space that will be soon stuffed full of crap that people can possible drop onto,pull on,get behind,etc the cable.

    I agree with you about the hot water line contact. Over time, constant contact with a heat source even much lower than the cable is rated for will have a detrimental affect on the cable.

    Piss poor work all the way around. It's laughable that the electrician tried to defend this work as being code compliant.

    I've learned a lot here, through this thread and through my communication with the agent and AHJ, which turned out very much to my benefit.


  20. #20
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    Thumbs up Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I emailed the picture to the Cities Building Code Official. He clearly stated the install is not to code. I've attached his comments to my reply to the Realtor.

    This stuff usually just rolls off my back, but the tone of this Realtors text got under my skin. A polite, to the point rebuttal and I'll move on.
    Great answer!

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Where is the required disconnect?

    Occam's eraser: The philosophical principle that even the simplest solution is bound to have something wrong with it.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Where is the vacuum breaker on the cold water supply?

    Ken Amelin
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    Where is the required disconnect?
    Main panel was within sight on the wall behind where I was standing when I took the photo.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Where is the vacuum breaker on the cold water supply?
    This is new to me....can you expand on that...do you mean a shut off valve?


  24. #24
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ken Amelin
    Where is the vacuum breaker on the cold water supply?


    This is new to me....can you expand on that...do you mean a shut off valve?
    It's on the cold water side.
    It might only be a MA code requirement?

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  25. #25
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    Question Re: water heater cable

    What kind of room is this and why isn't the insulation sheathed over?

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    It's on the cold water side.
    It might only be a MA code requirement?
    No, we have those here, and call it out if it's missing. Vacuum relief valve.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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  27. #27
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Where is the vacuum breaker on the cold water supply?
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    This is new to me....can you expand on that...do you mean a shut off valve?
    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    No, we have those here, and call it out if it's missing. Vacuum relief valve.
    Only required for bottom fed water heaters - such as most tankless water heaters. The vacuum breaker is just an atmospheric type (but not one for hose bibbs).

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Harper View Post
    What kind of room is this and why isn't the insulation sheathed over?
    This is a utility closet off of a garage, which is the bottom floor of a three floor town home. There was an interior grade louvered door into the closet from the garage. The air handler for the heat pump was directly behind me when I took the water heater photo. The sheetrock installed on the ceiling of this closet was very poorly done with two flexible ducts penetrating the ceiling.

    I called the flexi ducts out as defects, which created yet another drama storm on this inspection, as this is a relatively new home built by a builder generally regarded as reputable. My client on this job was very thorough, though and had the AHJ take a look at that call, which he of course supported.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    I would recomend to install electrical bon on the wall and run MC to WH. It also needs vacuum breaker, as its required by code (all tank WH require it)
    Expansion tank only if house water supply has backflow preventer (come cities require it)


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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Zibby Bujno View Post
    I would recomend to install electrical bon on the wall
    Zibby,

    That's a new term for me - what is "electrical bon"?

    It also needs vacuum breaker, as its required by code (all tank WH require it)
    Do you have a code section for that? Thanks. The only time I know of that a vacuum breaker is required at a water heater is when they are bottom fed.

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Zibby,

    That's a new term for me - what is "electrical bon"?



    Do you have a code section for that? Thanks. The only time I know of that a vacuum breaker is required at a water heater is when they are bottom fed.
    ment box. 4" square with plate and labeled


  32. #32
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Zibby,

    I forgot to add this to my previous post: If the NM cable is being replaced because it is subject to physical damage, MC cable would not be allowed to be used there either as MC cable is not allowed were subject to physical damage.

    By the way, many wiring methods are not approved for use where subject to physical damage, such as Schedule 40 PVC - Schedule 80 is required if subject to physical damage.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  33. #33
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Zibby,

    I forgot to add this to my previous post: If the NM cable is being replaced because it is subject to physical damage, MC cable would not be allowed to be used there either as MC cable is not allowed were subject to physical damage.

    By the way, many wiring methods are not approved for use where subject to physical damage, such as Schedule 40 PVC - Schedule 80 is required if subject to physical damage.
    in this setup, MC isnt subject to physical damage. WH is in fixed location and is not being moved, no vibration, etc. If area is in earthquake zone, then WH should be secured to wall (local code)


  34. #34
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Zibby Bujno View Post
    in this setup, MC isnt subject to physical damage.
    Then what would your reason for replacing the NM cable be?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  35. #35
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Then what would your reason for replacing the NM cable be?
    110.12


  36. #36
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Zibby Bujno View Post
    110.12
    You will need to explain that as doing as you described is no neater and workmanlike in the minds of many than the original NM cable, which itself could be made neater and more workmanlike than MC cable could be ... or at least as equal to MC cable.

    If you tried to enforce 110.12 for something like that ... for basically anything ... you would be incorrect and you would be mis-applying the code.

    Now, if you had said 110.12(A) or (B), and those conditions existed, then, yes, you could apply 110.12(A) and/or (B).

    But trying to apply 110.12 to that wiring? That is a big joke ... hopefully you meant it as such and just forgot to insert the smilely face - like this: , if you did not intend it to be a big joke ... well, then ... you need to get out more.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  37. #37
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck
    Do you have a code section for that? Thanks. The only time I know of that a vacuum breaker is required at a water heater is when they are bottom fed.
    248 CMR MA State Code: 10.14 (9) (h) 5 - Vacuum Relief Valves

    a. Water heaters and storage tanks shall be protected against loss of water from siphoning due to loss of supply pressure by a vacuum valve installed in the cold water supply line at a level above the top of the storage tank.

    Ken Amelin
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  38. #38
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Correction:

    a. Water heaters and storage tanks shall be protected against loss of water from siphoning due to loss of supply pressure by a vacuum relief valve installed in the cold water supply line at a level above the top of the storage tank.
    b. Where heating equipment has a bottom supply, the cold water supply piping shall be carried above the top of the heater before dropping down to the supply connection and have a vacuum relief valve installed in it at a level above the top of the storage tank.

    Ken Amelin
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  39. #39
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    You will need to explain that as doing as you described is no neater and workmanlike in the minds of many than the original NM cable, which itself could be made neater and more workmanlike than MC cable could be ... or at least as equal to MC cable.

    If you tried to enforce 110.12 for something like that ... for basically anything ... you would be incorrect and you would be mis-applying the code.

    Now, if you had said 110.12(A) or (B), and those conditions existed, then, yes, you could apply 110.12(A) and/or (B).

    But trying to apply 110.12 to that wiring? That is a big joke ... hopefully you meant it as such and just forgot to insert the smilely face - like this: , if you did not intend it to be a big joke ... well, then ... you need to get out more.

    Anyhow wiring looks slopy, thats all I can say. But I still would fail it on missing vacuum breaker


  40. #40
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Quote Originally Posted by Zibby Bujno View Post
    But I still would fail it on missing vacuum breaker
    Only in Massachusetts or someplace where that is in the code.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Correction:

    a. Water heaters and storage tanks shall be protected against loss of water from siphoning due to loss of supply pressure by a vacuum relief valve installed in the cold water supply line at a level above the top of the storage tank.
    b. Where heating equipment has a bottom supply, the cold water supply piping shall be carried above the top of the heater before dropping down to the supply connection and have a vacuum relief valve installed in it at a level above the top of the storage tank.


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  41. #41
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    Default Re: NEC reference

    Quote Originally Posted by cuba_pete View Post
    This cable is directly exposed and can easily be damaged. An inspector could cite the following:

    2008 NEC 334.15
    Cable shalle be protected from physical damage where necessary by rigid metal conduit, intermediate metal conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Schedule 80 PVC conduit, (2011 Type RTRC marked with suffix -XW) or other approved means....

    334 is rife with reasons why this could be cited. It's a valid call out. Not to mention that wiring appears to be attached to the hot water line. Over time that may cause damage to the sheath if the water temp is sufficient.
    Even citing 334.15, I once had a city inspector tell me that "...it was a residence, you didn't need to be so strict as you would be if it was a commercial building." As if mechanical damage only occurs in commercial buildings, not residences.


  42. #42
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    I think "subject to damage" gets pushed entirely too far in many instances. The reality of things is that NM-B, AC, MC, and flex conduit is subject to damage any time a home owner is turned loose with wiring in a wall and long deck/drywall screws and/or nails. Personally I've never seen NM-B used as a supply to a water heater damaged and have repaired plenty of "in-wall" wiring damaged by people hanging cabinets or shelves. Actually, I've had these fasteners damage wiring in EMT (yeah, the screw went in pretty hard! - seemed like awful hard wood) (we had a point in time where residences around the area were wired with EMT)

    Additionally, NM-B can be in a far more precarious situation when following the rules for exposed installations - of course depending on your definition of "subject to damage.

    There's plenty of other stuff to be found in a residence to get REALLY concerned about. Note the installation is not quite to snuff and move on.

    Occam's eraser: The philosophical principle that even the simplest solution is bound to have something wrong with it.

  43. #43
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    Default Re: water heater cable

    Personally,

    ANY electrician that defends the installation as depicted would be classified as a "B" contractor.

    That's from an electrician with 30+ years of contracting experience.

    If one of my people made such an installation, they would be educated that it was unacceptable.

    It takes just as much time to "follow the contours" and "install in a neat and workmanlike manner" as it does to do it sloppy and half-a**ed.

    I can get any monkey to install it like that.

    I need an individual with pride and integrity to install it correctly.

    I guess that's why some jurisdictions allow un-licensed contractors.

    Yes, some licensed contractors are associated with sloppy installs as well as some un-licensed ones are associated with neat installs.

    If you're defending such an installation and arguing for whatever arbitrary reason, you're the sloppy contractor.

    Your customer deserves better.

    As an electrical inspector. as previously stated:

    - It does not follow contours of construction.
    - It IS subject to physical damage due to the above.

    As one whom encounters such installations and arguments defending such on a daily basis, I can tell you that what such an installation indicates to me is that the installer is "willing to cut corners."

    Where else should I be concerned with his/her work?

    Such installations are subject to further scrutiny because if you're willing to be proud of such a lack of attention to detail in something that is so apparent, that probably carries through to that which may be concealed.

    As for the comment on above a suspended ceiling....

    NM cable is not permitted above a suspended ceiling in other than a 1 or 2 family residential.

    Why?

    Because it is considered as "subject to physical damage."


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