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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    New Mexico
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    1,222

    Default Bathroom Water Heater

    OK, I'm trying to help a friend, so don't lecture about the obvious. His house has a small electric water heater under the vanity in an addition bathroom. The electric water heater has a NM cable and plug (i.e. Romex) plugged into a 15 amp receptacle under the vanity. The NM cable was called out by the home inspection as being unsafe. The wiring is behind the water heater, and there is very little access to the receptacle or the wiring without removing the entire water heater from under the vanity, if it will even fit out of the cabinet doors.

    So, the proper cable is to be protected by flex or MC cable.
    My questions are: 1: Is the protection of wires applicable in all locations, including underneath a vanity? I only wonder because a garbage disposal with a flex cord plugged into a receptacle is perfectly ok in our world, but a disposal with a NM cable plugged into a cord is not, which I never really understood. Romex is that much weaker than a flex cord and plug? Not that it has to make sense. I don't see how this cord would be subject to any physical damage, but maybe that doesn't matter in this case. Hell, you can barely even see the thing under the vanity.

    To replace the wiring with a flex conduit, not to mention some type of disconnect under the vanity would be a lengthy job. It would involve removing the entire water heater, replacing the wiring, re-installing the water heater, etc. On looking at the install, I thought about installing a GFCI breaker on the power supply to the water heater.
    Question 2: Would a GFCI not satisfy the intent of protecting the wiring on an electric water heater, even though it may not be specifically addressed in the NEC?

    I'm just trying to help out without having to remove and rewire the entire water heater, which I'm thinking would take almost a whole day for what I'm seeing as very little benefit to the homeowner.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Similar Threads:
    OREP Home Inspector E&O Insurance
    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Posts
    2,284

    Default Re: Bathroom Water Heater

    Jim,

    To my way of thinking, there is a difference between "wrong" and "unsafe". I doubt that I would have written "unsafe" in my report.

    That said, I would check with the manufacturer of the water heater or review the installation instructions. It may be that an appliance cord (like the disposal) is acceptable by the manufacturer.

    Other than that, the only suggestion that I have is a switch or possibly a fusetron to the MC.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    25,304

    Default Re: Bathroom Water Heater

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    To my way of thinking, there is a difference between "wrong" and "unsafe". I doubt that I would have written "unsafe" in my report.
    Most thing which are now "wrong" by code are that way because they were deemed "unsafe" from prior history, injuries, accidents, and deaths.

    Code are, by and large, "minimum" "life safety" standards.

    I guess it comes down to 'how you define "unsafe" '.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    25,304

    Default Re: Bathroom Water Heater

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    To replace the wiring with a flex conduit, not to mention some type of disconnect under the vanity would be a lengthy job. It would involve removing the entire water heater, replacing the wiring, re-installing the water heater, etc.
    From the 2008 NEC (and not new to the 2008). (bold is mine)
    - 314.29 Boxes, Conduit Bodies, and Handhole Enclosures to Be Accessible.
    - - Boxes, conduit bodies, and handhole enclosures shall be installed so that the wiring contained in them can be rendered accessible without removing any part of the building or, in underground circuits, without excavating sidewalks, paving, earth, or other substance that is to be used to establish the finished grade.
    - - - Exception: Listed boxes and handhole enclosures shall be permitted where covered by gravel, light aggregate, or noncohesive granulated soil if their location is effectively identified and accessible for excavation.

    - Accessible (as applied to wiring methods). Capable of being removed or exposed without damaging the building structure or finish or not permanently closed in by the structure or finish of the building.

    Thus, that installation *should not have been* installed as it was in the first place.

    On looking at the install, I thought about installing a GFCI breaker on the power supply to the water heater.
    GFCI protection is only for protecting people, not for protecting wiring and circuits. There is the risk of damage, overheating, arcing and fire - none of which GFCI protection addresses.

    Question 2: Would a GFCI not satisfy the intent of protecting the wiring on an electric water heater, even though it may not be specifically addressed in the NEC?
    See above.

    I'm just trying to help out without having to remove and rewire the entire water heater, which I'm thinking would take almost a whole day for what I'm seeing as very little benefit to the homeowner.
    Why? Why offer yourself up to the seller (your friend) to offer you up to the buyer should something 'go wrong' with 'your against the code fix to make it easier'?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Be a friend to your friend and explain to him that he should do it the correct way for his safety and peace of mind, and for that of his buyer, and for your safety.

    (I am assuming that your friend is the seller and not the buyer, the same advice applies if he - or she - is the buyer.)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Reno, Nv. - Now St. Louis, Mo.
    Posts
    369

    Default Re: Bathroom Water Heater

    Many such water heaters either come with, or are intended for use with, a flexible cord and plug. In a sense, this is preferable, because the receptacle is then required to be GFCI protected. On the downside, 120 volt water heaters don't work so well.

    Directly hard-wiring the unit may not require a disconnect; I believe the presence of locking tabs at the breaker fulfill the code LOTO requirements. In a similar manner, I believe that the use of NM (romex) is an approved wiring method. On the downside, a hard-wired unit is not required to have GFCI protection.

    The real problem, as I see it, is the use of the plug with the NM. Having actually performed the tests, I can state quite simply that the plug's strain relief will not grip the NM well enough to pass the test ... so, sooner or later, the 'tug to unplug' is going to be transmittes to the wire connections - not a good thing.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Osceola, AR
    Posts
    277

    Wink Re: Bathroom Water Heater

    I was always under the impression that NM had to be protected. Going with that I have always terminated NM in a junction box, then used an appliance cord set or liquid tight conduit, or at least BX to go to appliance, along with the proper connectors at the J-box and the appliance. That's the way I was taught, vaguely remember NEC addressing such methods, but it's been a while since I really did much electrical, maybe I was wrong all this time........


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