RVelectricity – National Electrical Code Basics
Everyone says you have to do this or that because its “the Code,” referring to the NEC [National Electrical Code], of course. For RVs, this gets even more interesting. The “Code” has no legal authority unless adopted by a local AHJ, as you are aware. And each AHJ can adopt, reject or modify “Code” provisions at will. Like I said, for RVs it’s incorrect to say “GFCIs are required by CODE,” because there is no local AHJ that governs RVs, so it’s not the Code of the local town. So maybe you could clarify the “Codes” that RVs must adhere to, and who is the “AHJ”? Is it RVIA? —Bill
You are correct on all counts, but some clarification of exactly what “Code” is might be needed. I’m writing this for all the other readers not as well versed in code as you are – so everybody, buckle up as it gets a little confusing.
What we commonly refer to as electrical “Code” for home wiring is actually NFPA 70 (the NFPA is the National Fire Protection Association). Note that this code doesn’t really have the force of law behind it, but because it’s been worked on by thousands of really smart engineers over the last 100 years, it’s generally accepted as gospel for all home electrical builds and lawsuits. Read about the history of the code here.
The NFPA creates safety code for a lot more than just wiring including the transport of chemicals, how to mark and dispose of various sorts of wastes, where to place fire sprinklers, etc. But for home wiring it’s NFPA 70, which has a code cycle of 3 years. That is, every 3 years there’s a new version of the code book which includes the latest safety and hookup information for things like hot tubs, AFCIs, etc. Read a free version of NFPA 70 here. You’ll just have to create a free login name for access.
Now, each state can choose which year’s revision of the code to comply with, and also which parts of the code they choose to reject. For example, in the states of Indiana and Michigan, their inspection agencies have rejected the requirement for AFCIs (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) in new home bedrooms on the grounds that they cost too much and would be a hardship for new home buyers. In reality, a $100,000 home would only require an extra $300 at the time it was built to include AFCI breakers and comply with national code. But it’s not required in two states due to their interpretation of that part of the code.
That’s just at the state level. At the local level you have an entity called the AHJ for “Authority Having Jurisdiction,” basically the local electrical inspector who can interpret the national electrical code any way they feel like, and eliminate or add whatever they deem fit. And this AHJ has the authority to shut down an entire music performance in a theater, or even an RV trade show’s power generators if they don’t like something. So it pays to find out standard practices for a particular AHJ in advance.
Now, to answer your real question/comment. While it’s true that your RV will be driven through and hooked up to pedestals in perhaps hundreds of different code jurisdictions over its lifetime on the road, there is an NFPA code book specifically dealing with how RVs are wired. It’s called NFPA 1192, which you can read here.
And there’s something similar for campground wiring called NFPA 1194, which you can read here. The RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) requires that all manufacturers displaying the RVIA tag comply with NFPA 1192, which is basically electrical code for RVs. And because state and local jurisdictions don’t have a specific code countermanding RV electrical code, then the NFPA Code supersedes anything you may find in NFPA 70 or even a local AHJ. That is, a local Authority Having Jurisdiction can’t make you rewire the internal wiring of your RV as long as it was built to comply with NFPA 1192 in its year of manufacture.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.