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Over zealous inspector?


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I know many of you have been involved with displays that require inspections and code compliance so I am hoping to get some insight on what I feel was an over zealous inspection.

We had a 250 thousand LED display at our local zoo this year. As it was the first year, many carts were put in front of horses which led to a lot of scrambling and in a few instances, carts that were pushed by horses for the season :shock: Nevertheless, it was a huge success.

One of these horse/cart inter-positions was that the LOR boxes were added in well after the LEDs were all up and inspections had been done. I didn't give it a second thought when I went down and put in the eight 16 channel boxes.

Days before lights up, I get a frantic phone call from co-organizers that the inspector is at the zoo and he is not at all happy. UH OH...

What it all came down to is that, first of all, he thought we were trying to pull something over on him by sneaking in the boxes at the last minute. Second, he was unhappy about the bunching of the Dangle cords out the bottom of the LOR boxes, saying that the clamps were not designed to have that many cords running through them and you can't guarantee that one of the inner cords won't be loose and be able to be pulled off the board. His comment was... "These boxes aren't to code, these are something someone jury rigged together in their garage. They are not acceptable..."

Those were fightin words because I am sure he was talking from somewhere south of his head. As we all know, these boxes are used in public venues the world over. Besides, he didn't have to make all the derogatory commentary (most of which I haven't included here) about the boxes.

Well, I started to mount a defense when my colleagues (who have much more experience dealing in these realms) tempered me and within about 5 minutes the guy had weighed the options in his head and realized how huge of a deal this was and what kind of a blow it would have been to the city. The buzz around town by then was already beyond belief. So, he said... "...fine, go ahead with it this year.... but it can't be this way next year..."

So finally, I come to the point, has anyone ever had such an experience? Does this guy have a valid point? Are these codes set and enforced on a local, state or national level? I was basically told later that even if it is a bunch of hooey, he has the power to say "no go"

If you've read this far Thanks! I look forward to your input

Steve

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My experience with most inspectors is it really comes down to the individual. They have a position of "power" and most enjoy that "authority". The ability to act upon people and their projects becomes the driving force beyond common sense and decency. I have had a few inspectors in my days walk right past blatantly obvious code violations just to nit-pick on a more "gray area".

Not all inspectors are like that and some are actually human. It will just come down to the individual...not the code violation or compliance. Just like in your example he eventually let the show go. He even deemed it not to code and would be in direct violation for not shutting down your show. If it was really in code violation and something happened his job would be on the line too.

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I haven't seen a box, so I really can't comment on how they are put together
I can only comment on the electric code that I know & Inspectors

Code dictates how many wires can be clamped down by a specific device
In almost all cases (residential) this is limited to (2) wires
The size of the clamp must be rated for the gauge wire
The same clamp may hold (2) 14g wires, but only rated for (1) 12g wire
The electrician that worked on my panel was using 1 clamp for every run
Despite the fact the clamps were rated for 2 wires
I had to redo much of the work

An Inspector has the authority to red flag anything that does not meet code
Unless there is a seperate clamp for every 2 wires, he may feel justified to do so
An Inspector that has never seen a setup like this would be VERY inclined to do so
It's an attention grabber from a code stand point

Does a temporary display need to meet code since it is only temporary?
Don't know
Does a Public display need to meet code for safety reasons?
Very possibly

Get an Inspector mad/upset with you & you are looking for trouble
In all fairness, it is the Inspectors job to certify that the installation meets code
He is also certifying that it is safe - very critical for a Public setup
To install something AFTER inspection - to an inspector - just screams that someone was trying to avoid to avoid the inspection

Most (if not all) inspectors will work with you & are not trying to mess things up
If something were to go wrong, and someone were hurt, it's their job on the line

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If you only new how many time we deal with issue like that you be surprised, he in Washington state any type off equipment that is installed in a commercial building has to have a recognized listing label, such as( UL, CA . I have done restaurant where the equipment is from other country's no listing on the equipment, it has to be removed or get it listed. This always come up days before opening, yes I have seen where the equipment removed and the inspector is ok with that, and signed of the permit, then they want to bring back the equipment and have us hook it up, we will not do it, we don't want to get in trouble with the inspectors, they have a great memory.

I have found it a lot easier to just tell the inspector what you have planed and there are more then willing to work with you, and maybe even suggest a better idea. Yes some of the inspector get a big head, maybe even a power trip, I have gone to there supervisor and complained and I would say that is a last resort. If anything have the inspector come out and walk him or her Thu what you have planned and this will prevent most of the problem, just make sure you write down everything hes or she said.


As for LOR control boxes the inspector is correct on not being able to use one connector for multi able cables.

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Daniel Hall wrote:

... they have a great memory.

... just tell the inspector what you have planed and there are more then willing to work with you, and maybe even suggest a better idea. ... ... If anything have the inspector come out and walk him or her Thu what you have planned and this will prevent most of the problem, just make sure you write down everything hes or she said.

For almost 8 years I was a housing inspector and from that view point Daniel has hit several nails right on the head!

Inspectors have great memories? Yes, because we write everything down. For an inspector, documentation IS the GAME.

Here are my 2 cents (pease take it as such) on Inspectors/Inspections/Inspecties:


Inspectors really DON’T like finding problems. Any findings = a LOT more work for the inspector.

Look up the codes that relate to your project and understand them. Some areas of the country use only the Federal codes while some use not only the federal but the State, County and City codes. If you can’t find what you need, ask the inspector. I was always more than happy to show people where to get their hands on the codes I had to deal with. Someone who knows the codes normally meant someone who would adhere to the codes, or at least not give me S*** when there was a finding.

Changes after the “finished” inspection WILL make an inspector think you were trying to hide something, no matter how innocent your actions may have been.

Normally you can ask for a pre-inspection, if in doubt ask for one. This is a great way of getting things corrected before the real inspection as well as picking the inspectors brains regarding your final plan.

Some courts have held Inspectors personally liable for problems stemming from things they missed on inspections. In these situations, the best case scenario was that the inspector ONLY lost their job.


Being an inspector is a thankless job and you get it from ALL sides, Every Single Day!:(



Happy not to be an inspector any more.
-Phyllis
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Steve Bang wrote:

[snip] inspector is at the zoo and he is not at all happy. UH OH... [snip]

What it all came down to is that, first of all, he thought we were trying to pull something over on him by sneaking in the boxes at the last minute. Second, he was unhappy about the bunching of the Dangle cords out the bottom of the LOR boxes, saying that the clamps were not designed to have that many cords running through them and you can't guarantee that one of the inner cords won't be loose and be able to be pulled off the board. His comment was... "These boxes aren't to code, these are something someone jury rigged together in their garage. They are not acceptable..."



The inspector is incorrect. The ShowTime boxes are in the final stages of approval to the UL508 standard. The enclosure with the dangle configuration has been certified by the testing lab.

Once you show him that the boxes have been certified electrically and for outdoor use, the case will be closed.


edit: fixed some spelling errors.
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Daniel Hall wrote:

The UL508 will only apply to the LOR that are purchase from LOR right ?


For now we are only having the 16 channel cards certified. (by far the majority of sales). The CTB16D is certified as a controller card so when purchased you get a stamp. Also the LOR1600W, LOR1602W and LOR1602MP3 are being certified.

You are correct that if you purchase a CTB16D then put it in an enclosure that the final assembly would not be UL approved.

This is the case with Steve Bang's Zoo display. Steve built his own controllers from CTB16K Kits and built is own outdoor units. However no matter how well built they were they would not certified for two reasons. 1. the kits can not be certified... only assembled cards. 2. Even when using a UL approved card, the final assembly must be certified(the certified card makes the certification much easier).

Because the inspector had specifically questioned the ability of the clamp to provide strain relief to the bundle of cords I think there are two ways to address it for next year.

One is to simply show a picture of a LOR1602W with approval and show that such an arrangement is acceptable. Second is to take cable ties and tie the cords together into overlapping groups of two or three. That way there cannot be a loose wire because the bundle becomes a single group.

We have tested that there are no loose wires at the torque settings we use and know that this is not an issue.
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LightORama wrote:

Daniel Hall wrote:
The UL508 will only apply to the LOR that are purchase from LOR right ?


For now we are only having the 16 channel cards certified. (by far the majority of sales). The CTB16D is certified as a controller card so when purchased you get a stamp. Also the LOR1600W, LOR1602W and LOR1602MP3 are being certified.

You are correct that if you purchase a CTB16D then put it in an enclosure that the final assembly would not be UL approved.

This is the case with Steve Bang's Zoo display. Steve built his own controllers from CTB16K Kits and built is own outdoor units. However no matter how well built they were they would not certified for two reasons. 1. the kits can not be certified... only assembled cards. 2. Even when using a UL approved card, the final assembly must be certified(the certified card makes the certification much easier).

Because the inspector had specifically questioned the ability of the clamp to provide strain relief to the bundle of cords I think there are two ways to address it for next year.

One is to simply show a picture of a LOR1602W with approval and show that such an arrangement is acceptable. Second is to take cable ties and tie the cords together into overlapping groups of two or three. That way there cannot be a loose wire because the bundle becomes a single group.

We have tested that there are no loose wires at the torque settings we use and know that this is not an issue.





Great information Dan!

Maybe with a UL certification my wife won't think I'm trying to burn the house down! :shock: :laughing:

Question though: Will the UL certification also include the PC-CTB16PC-COMPLETE? Knowing your track record, I assume it will.

rns
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LightORama wrote:

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We have tested that there are no loose wires at the torque settings we use and know that this is not an issue.






This is exactly why I prefaced my post with the title/question "Over-zealous inspector?"

We all know how well these are built and even though I showed him my showtime box that I purchased 3 years ago and told him that these are used in huge city/public displays all over the country, he still had issue with the bundled cords.

In fact, one of the co-organizers asked him, if we made a seperate exit hole with seperate strain relief on each one, if that would be acceptable. He said "exactly, that's what needs to be done." He had no problem with anything else.

However, notwithstanding that huge flaw in his common sense, he seems to be a nice guy and does want to work with us (I mean geeze, he let the display go on despite his disapproval) I would be willing to bet that he would go for the 2-3 overlapping cable tied solution that Dan brought up. Then again, I kind of get the impression he is a very literal (letter of the law) type of guy. Kind of like if you told him that the Toyota truck rolling down the highway was a "vehicle" and then he saw a VW bug, it wouldn't be a "vehicle", it looks nothing like the Toyota.
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rstephenrrtx wrote:


[snip]
Question though: Will the UL certification also include the PC-CTB16PC-COMPLETE? Knowing your track record, I assume it will.

rns


The CTB16PC-COMPLETE cannot be approved because we do not put it together. Only fully assembled devices can be approved. In order to get approval, our facilities must be routinely inspected by the testing lab to ensure we are building according to specifications. The lab cannot certifiy if they do not know who/how things are assembled.

Any/all lessons learned in the certification of the Showtime products will be incorperated into the PC line of controllers.
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Hey Steve,

I'm glad you are working with the inspector - and you should, but the only reason he let your show go last year is because it was too late to shut it down. He obviously would have been lynched by the town officials if that was bringing people to there village. He had no exact reasoning to disappoint all of those people and the buzz around town over a technicallity. You are doing the right thing now - you should meet with him and work it out. All of us need to be on the same page as the inspector because of the caliber of Christmas Displays we put up.

I'm not against inspectors but everyone has to realize that it is Christmas Lights. I'm sure if we went all over our town we could find violations at most peoples house's becuase they just don't know.

Just my opinion - Good Luck!

Bill

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LightORama wrote:

rstephenrrtx wrote:

[snip]
Question though: Will the UL certification also include the PC-CTB16PC-COMPLETE? Knowing your track record, I assume it will.

rns


The CTB16PC-COMPLETE cannot be approved because we do not put it together. Only fully assembled devices can be approved. In order to get approval, our facilities must be routinely inspected by the testing lab to ensure we are building according to specifications. The lab cannot certifiy if they do not know who/how things are assembled.

Any/all lessons learned in the certification of the Showtime products will be incorperated into the PC line of controllers.

Ah. Right. Gotcha. Skimmed over and missed the "With a few hand tools you can put together..." part. Makes sense to me.

Thanks for the clarification. Next time I'll RTFM a bit closer.

rns
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Hello Steve,

I would like to add in my 2 cents on this.

As with myself having an amusement ride and dealing with inspectors in the past 3 to 4 years, one thing I have learned is first, work with them (as you have already done), act like you are there for them and realize that safety is the #1 priority with your project (which sounds like your doing as well). If the inspector has a problem with the final output as to what you can do and still not meet code, here in Oklahoma there is such an animal called a "variance". You might check it out in Wisconsin but I'm pretty sure every state has them for situations like this. In my past experience with inspectors, if there is a code that is almost impossible for me to meet, I can apply for a "variance" to that particular code. I apply for the "variance" and then I'm notified of when the next "Board of Appeals" is for me to attend. Having all facts in hand and reasons for not meeting code for the council to see/hear. Doing your homework helps out a bunch here. But depending on your inspector (which should be there as well), he/she will agree to what you both have exchanged in previous inspections so the inspector can vouch that you cannot meet code. The council will visit and ask questions, but if there isn't any serious safety problems with the current situation, then chances are they might approve the "variance" thereby awarding you with the "exception to the code". Then with that in hand, you should be able to get your permit. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Many people think that when something's not to code, you won't get your permit. I've tested those waters several times and that's not the case.

Hope this helps as it has worked for me every time I've gone.

Tom

Edit: wording

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Steve Bang wrote:

In fact, one of the co-organizers asked him, if we made a seperate exit hole with seperate strain relief on each one, if that would be acceptable. He said "exactly, that's what needs to be done." He had no problem with anything else.

However, notwithstanding that huge flaw in his common sense, he seems to be a nice guy and does want to work with us (I mean geeze, he let the display go on despite his disapproval) I would be willing to bet that he would go for the 2-3 overlapping cable tied solution that Dan brought up. Then again, I kind of get the impression he is a very literal (letter of the law) type of guy. Kind of like if you told him that the Toyota truck rolling down the highway was a "vehicle" and then he saw a VW bug, it wouldn't be a "vehicle", it looks nothing like the Toyota.

Bundled cords are a big point for most inspectors
As long as they are under 2' in length, they pass code
If 4 wires are bundled together for a distance of more then 2' then their capacity for the amount of power they can carry has to be (is) reduced according to code

Having more then 2 wires exit the same hole is also something that will draw their attention. By code the clamps must be rated to hold "x" number of wires.
X depends upon the clamp & the wire gauge
Usually 2 wires are the most that are allowed by code to be held in place by a clamp

You should be able to clamp 2 wires at a time, provided you can show the clamp is rated for this use

It sounds like you will be able to work this out, which is usually the case
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Myself I really dont like the idea of pig tail cords. For one loose a lot of time in the dark figuring out which pig tail is cord #1, cord 2, etc. I set my stuff up in a 2 X 6 framed and plywooded box set up with a waterproof housing for the control card, and traditional outlets in gang boxes. Initially I run my controller downstream of GFCI switches but I am undergoing the very expensive process of replacing outlets downstream of my controller to individual channel GFCI's... this means each 16 circuit controller gets 16 GFCI outlets. I would think for a commercial operation that something like my configuration would be ideal. Putting GFCI's AFTER the controller instead of before, means you can loose an individual circuit without loosing the entire 16 circuit lot at once and sometimes in the rain, its not as bad to loose a handful of problem circuits as it would be to loose entire 16 circuit sets of controllers.

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Joseph Ayo wrote:

I would think for a commercial operation that something like my configuration would be ideal. Putting GFCI's AFTER the controller instead of before, means you can loose an individual circuit without loosing the entire 16 circuit lot at once and sometimes in the rain, its not as bad to loose a handful of problem circuits as it would be to loose entire 16 circuit sets of controllers.


We actually discussed this same solution to some of our GFI problems but an electrician member of our group that works closely with the inspector told us that there was no way he would let that fly. He felt that the inspector was going to require that the box itself be plugged into a GFI.

Anyone with other thoughts or insights on this aspect?

Steve
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Steve Bang wrote:

Joseph Ayo wrote:
I would think for a commercial operation that something like my configuration would be ideal. Putting GFCI's AFTER the controller instead of before, means you can loose an individual circuit without loosing the entire 16 circuit lot at once and sometimes in the rain, its not as bad to loose a handful of problem circuits as it would be to loose entire 16 circuit sets of controllers.


We actually discussed this same solution to some of our GFI problems but an electrician member of our group that works closely with the inspector told us that there was no way he would let that fly. He felt that the inspector was going to require that the box itself be plugged into a GFI.

Anyone with other thoughts or insights on this aspect?


Well with site located sprinkler controller housing boxes, yes I can see where they would require the GFCI all the way, but with better boxes like you would put outdoor breaker boxes in, perhaps they would allow this. Put all your GFCI outlets in outdoor approved things. The idea is your electricity cannot stand a chance of getting exposed to people or water, so keep our LOR in stuff that would be suitable for breakers, etc and it might fly. The idea is make sure everything is safe for people. An inspector doesnt want to be responsible for letting a dangerous situation slip by him, it would mean his job if he did. Why not get ahold of the inspector and ask him what would work that would be equitable for both of your interests.

Not only this but what about this concept of using "isolation transformers"? One guy in Australia brought this up and I researched it. They make 16 amp and 30 amp isolation transformers for medical use in this country because you need the electrical protection from shock but if a GFCI trips on medical equipment, someone could die. Well it works out that you could highly probably put your hand on a bare wire hot 110 volt A/C line and put your foot in a lake and actually not get a shock at all with isolation transformer because the A/C current has no desire to seek out an earth ground. The medical UL listed stuff that might pass the inspector costs about $700, but ironically I accidentally ran into the information that most battery backup units for computers actually create an "isolation transformer" circuit! It might not pass your inspector and I havent tested this myself but in theary, run your lights thru a good computer battery backup unit and still use your GFCI but if ground fault situations occur, if the electricity doesnt want to jump out of the circuit and find the ground, seems like your GFCI wont trip! I am going to test this to see but be careful, shorting out a battery can destroy it so you would have to use the largest, highest wattage rated ones you can find.
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Steve Bang wrote:

We actually discussed this same solution to some of our GFI problems but an electrician member of our group that works closely with the inspector told us that there was no way he would let that fly. He felt that the inspector was going to require that the box itself be plugged into a GFI.

Anyone with other thoughts or insights on this aspect?

Steve

Steve, I ran into the same thing with my electrician and inspector. The controllers had to be hooked up (or plugged into) to GFI breakers/outlets.

The way I look at it, if you pop a GFI for one circuit, then it's probably not safe to run the rest of the show if your whole show is dependent on that one GFI. It's not worth the risk. If anything, have a good plan to keep the plugs dry and you won't have to worry about the GFIs (for the most part).

Just my thoughts,

Tom
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Steve Bang wrote:

What do you mean dry?? My plugs are always dry! What are you saying? :laughing:





Are those the new submersible plugs :laughing:?
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