Avoid Counterfeit Electrical Parts & Equipment

If you go to eBay to buy a voltage relay, you might choose Omron—oops, actually that's Omrch. It's a counterfeit part. It looks like Omron. Except, it's fake.
Omron relays are real. Omrch relays are fake. On the technology and software media website Hackaday, Al Williams describes the fakes: "Your ear can detect the counterfeits by the varying sounds they make during operation." He writes the investigation went deeper after the relays were tested at their rated voltages and heat dissipation measured.

"The results were not surprising," he writes. "At lower voltages, the relays seemed to do okay, but closer to the maximums it's obvious the components in the fakes are not rated for enough power to work. You can even see some charring of a resistor and its plastic holder from having too much power for the component's rating."

Then the clincher: "The conclusion was that these relays might work for light-duty projects, but for commercial projects or operating near the edge of the ratings, you want to give these a pass."

Scenarios like this are becoming more common, and there is no telling how many electrical products are fakes. But they are for sale all over the internet and aren't always easy to detect. In fact, it's hard to know if a website, which offers what you're looking for, is legit at all. Many are set up to sell products that are made from fabricated intellectual property.

In May 2018, Rogelio Vasquez, the owner of PRB Logics Corp. in Orange County, Calif., seller of electronic components, was arrested for selling counterfeit integrated circuits. Worse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the products could have been used in military applications.

Vasquez used discarded integrated circuits from Chinese suppliers. They were repainted and remarked with counterfeit logos. Then they were remarked with altered date codes, lot codes or countries of origin and relabeled with more recognizable names like Xilinx, Analog Devices and Intel. It was outright deception. Customers would think they were new.

In the report, "Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Illicit Trade," the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented a comprehensive look at this issue. Electrical contractors need to be fully aware of the prevalence of fakes and counterfeits available for sale from global sources.

The report states: "The volume of international trade in counterfeit and pirated products could amount to as much as U.S. $509 billion. This represents up to 3.3 percent of world trade. This amount does not include domestically produced and consumed counterfeit and pirated products, or pirated digital products being distributed via the Internet. The previous OECD-EUIPO study, which relied on the same methodology, estimated that up to 2.5 percent of world trade was in counterfeit and pirated goods in 2013, equivalent to up to U.S. $461 billion."

The report refers to various products and equipment—not just electrical related. Many such items are on websites that appear legitimate. The prices are attractive, but the products are fake. In 2018, approximately 33,600 website domain names were criminally seized through a joint effort with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, Europol, Interpol and police agencies from 26 different countries.

"Caveat emptor"—buyer beware—says it's the purchaser's responsibility to research goods before buying them. For the average person, the consequences of not heeding this advice is usually benign, but electrical contractors can't afford to risk purchasing any product that is fake or counterfeit. While officials work hard to sift such products out, they still end up in finished goods, original equipment and installed systems.

In 2017, Mary Denison, trademark commissioner of the Congressional Trademark Caucus, raised caution about the cost of counterfeit goods and the safety risk they pose.

"Counterfeit goods cost the United States billions of dollars and countless jobs annually," she said. "They also undermine consumer confidence in brand integrity when purchasers encounter knock-off goods of inferior quality. They reduce tax revenue, support organized crime and terrorism, undermine national security, reduce brand owner profit and innovation, increase prevention and enforcement costs, and yes, sometimes even kill people."

The best defense is awareness and skepticism. If a price seems too good, it very well may be. If a product looks brand name, but something is missing, it may be fake. Unless a product has your full confidence, proceed with caution.

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2020 NEC First Draft Now Open for Review and Public Comment

The National Electrical Code (NEC) is the most important and comprehensive document created for the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the use of electricity and its hazards. Right now, the 2020 edition is headed through the standards development process, and you have a chance to review the changes and submit public comments.

"The NEC is developed using an open consensus process that is governed by ANSI," said Michael Johnston, executive director of standards and safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). "The NEC is the industry's electrical code, the best and most widely adopted electrical code in the world. As such, the NEC development process is transparent, allowing everyone to view what is being changed for the next edition and providing an opportunity to weigh in."

Johnston encouraged everyone to be part of the solution and tremendous work that goes into each edition of the Code.

The closing date for the public comment period is Aug. 30, 2018. Any objections or change requests must be made during this period.

After the public comment period, the technical committee will review the comments and meet to develop the second draft, which is scheduled to be posted on Apr. 5, 2019, beginning the period for notices of intent to make a motion (NITMAMs). During this time, the public may review the second draft and submit NITMAMs. The NITMAM closing date will be Apr. 26, 2019, and the posting date will be May 17, 2019.

This will conclude the public input and public comment stages; however, the NFPA Technical meeting, which is held each June at the NFPA Conference & Expo, provides a final opportunity to comment and discuss the 2020 NEC. For an opportunity to discuss proposed changes at this time, further NITMAMs must be submitted before the conference.

After that, the 2020 NEC is scheduled for issuance in August 2019.

Stay tuned for more as the 2020 NEC makes its way through the development process.

For more information and to submit a comment visit

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Previewing Changes from the NEC 2020 Code Review

Every three years, members of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) meet to review, modify and add new National Electrical Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, requirements to enhance electrical safety in the workplace and the home. This year's code review is well underway: the second draft of NEC 2020 is complete and the annual NFPA Conference and Expo is scheduled for late June.
What follows is a preview of what are, in my opinion, the most significant code changes on track to pass. In this blog, I'll explore the reasoning for each change and the future steps the NEC may take beyond 2020 regarding:

• Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection
• Service entrance equipment
• Reconditioned equipment
• Performance testing
• Load calculations
• Available fault current and temporary power

This is a high-level overview. In the coming months, my Eaton colleagues and I will dig deeper into each topic as part of a continuing series on the 2020 code review cycle.

GFCI protection
The 2020 change
Code-making panel 2 (CMP 2) removed the reference to 15A and 20A recognizing protection for any amp-rated receptacle outlet in the identified locations.
The rationale for change
This is a movement toward streamlining both 210.8(A) for dwelling units and 210.8(B) for other than dwelling units. Feedback suggested electrical engineers, suppliers and contractors now realize it doesn't matter where a GFCI is installed and that we need not identify different locations. CMP 2 also recognized that a hazard doesn't change when a circuit is greater than 20 amps. Whether an installation is 15 to 20 amps or 60 amps, circuit risks still exist and protection is warranted.
What might the future hold?
As GFCI requirements continue to change, product compatibility (unwanted tripping) still consumes some professionals, often without cause. Nevertheless, I believe the industry will continue to create new products that align with GFCIs. In addition, some believe it's prudent to extend GFCI protection to all branch circuits. I expect spirited debates regarding increased safety versus cost as the industry contemplates future code reviews.

Service entrance equipment
The 2020 change
NEC changes continue the mission of aligning code with product advances. Updates will address an array of safety issues:
• Service panelboards with six disconnects are no longer permitted
• Fire-fighter disconnects for one- and two-family dwellings are now included
• Line-side barrier requirements are expanded to service equipment beyond panelboards
• Arc reduction for services 1200 amps and greater must ensure arcing currents activate arc reduction technology
• Short-circuit current ratings (SCCR): pressure connectors and devices must be marked "suitable for use on the line side of the service equipment" or equivalent
• Surge protective devices are required for all dwelling units
The rationale for change
The NEC recognized the vulnerabilities and hazards associated with equipment and changed many longstanding rules. Because there's no protection from a utility, the NEC began changing service codes in the 2014 cycle and today is more aware of technologies and solutions that help mitigate and reduce the likelihood of arc flash and shock.
What might the future hold?
Rules that we have lived with and accepted for years are now in question as technology continues to advance. With that, safety knowledge within our industry and the NEC will continue to challenge norms.

Reconditioned equipment
The 2020 change
Updates will establish a foundation for future efforts to add clarity, expand and correct requirements within the NEC for reconditioned and used equipment. The changes are the NEC's first foray into ensuring proper reconditioning for electrical equipment.
The rationale for change
While reconditioned equipment has its merits, not all rebuilt devices are re-created equally. With that, the correlating committee put out a public comment to all code panels, asking each to consider equipment in their purview and determine what can and cannot be reconditioned per National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) allowances for refurbished equipment.
What might the future hold?
I see challenges on two fronts. First, the NEC will need to add more clarity to terminology around "reconditioning," "refurbishing" and the like. Secondly, changes do not dictate how resellers must refurbish equipment, which presents a safety concern. With that, resellers must rely on original manufacturer documentation. I believe the industry will see an increase in documentation awareness and raise more questions, such as listing refurbished equipment to one standard or many. The creation of additional listing marks may also stir debate.

Performance testing
The 2020 change
The NEC now requires primary current injection testing for some Article 240.87 equipment after installation. Following manufacturer instructions is also permitted as primary current injection testing may not always make sense.
The rationale for change
The stage was set with existing NEC requirements for field testing of ground-fault protection of equipment technologies upon installation, and no requirements exist for testing 240.87 equipment after installation. During public input phases, some in the industry expressed concerns with the cost of transporting test equipment, testing the correct areas of functionality and making sure manufacturers' test instructions are followed. The rule change addresses some of these concerns and, more importantly, advances worker safety.
What might the future hold?
The NEC determines what must be done; how changes are implemented is not something the NEC often defines. In that light, I'm working with NEMA to create testing processes and guidance and look forward to discussions that influence post-installation best practices.

Load calculations
The 2020 change
CMP 2 will reduce load calculation multipliers to account for higher-efficiency lighting solutions in other than dwelling units.
The rationale for change
The electrical industry has a strong focus on sustainability, reducing carbon footprints and creating technologies that reduce energy use. However, the NEC had yet to change load calculations to accommodate. 2020 code changes will account for lower VA usage of lighting loads and adjust calculations accordingly. Energy codes drive the changes; jurisdictions across the country enforce a variety of energy codes (or possibly none at all), and the proposed solution considers them all. Thus, the NEC will take a conservative approach toward reducing multipliers to assure circuits do not trip under normal conditions.
What might the future hold?
Opportunities exist to improve load calculations for other applications such as mission-critical healthcare systems, but the industry must proceed cautiously. The healthcare environment is one where power cannot go out, especially during medical emergencies. I believe the industry will work to understand worst-case load scenarios and determine a reasonable approach to load calculations for devices like feeders, branch circuits and service entrance equipment.

Available fault current and temporary power
The 2020 changes
The NEC will require marking available fault current on all equipment, including switchboards, switchgear and panelboards. Changes will impact temporary power equipment:
• Article 408.6 will extend to temporary power equipment and require markings for available fault current and the date of calculation
• Article 590.8(B) for temporary overcurrent protection devices between 150 volts to ground and 1000 volts phase-to-phase will be current limiting
The rationale for change
Panelboards, switchboards and switchgear were not part of the 2017 code update for marking available fault current. The NEC continues to take steps to increase the likelihood that ratings are higher than available short-circuit current. This is especially important for temporary power equipment that moves from job site to job site and experiences tremendous wear and tear. To ensure proper function, temporary equipment will reduce the power system stresses no matter where a given temporary system is installed.
What might the future hold?
The NEC continues to focus on the basics. Interrupting ratings and SCCR are important for safety, but they're not receiving proper attention in the field. I expect field marking of panels with SCCR and available fault current to drive change in the industry and raise awareness on how equipment is labeled to determine the SCCR rating. Some equipment base SCCR on the lowest interrupting rating overcurrent protection device, but inspectors and installers must be mindful of that scenario to ensure proper installation. Equipment labeling will come under scrutiny, as will the methods used to calculate fault currents.

Looking to the future

2020 code changes will be substantial in that the code-making panel looks to soon modify tried-and-true requirements—some of which have existed for decades. Of course, there are many details to consider both now and in the future. As part of this continuing series, my Eaton colleagues and I will dig deeper into each of the topics I've listed and offer opinions on where the NEC may take safety tomorrow. 

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Harold P. Kopp, 77, invented the first electronic surge protector

This month P3 hosted the Power Quality University seminars on Surge Protection. It is only fitting that we acknowledge the inventor of SPDs: 

Harold P. Kopp: May 31, 1941 — Aug. 16, 2018

When Harold P. Kopp got his initial patent, it was for a device called the Zap Trap. It was the first electronic voltage surge suppressor, the predecessor to the power strips in widespread use today.

David Quagliana, his high school classmate and longtime friend, said it was inspired by a visit to the Standard Electronics store on Main Street in Buffalo to purchase metal oxide varistors, which protect electronic devices from power surges.

"They're the size of a dime," Quagliana said. "The store told him to solder them to the wire coming from a power plug and ground the other wire and if a surge comes along, instead of blowing up your television, these little things will absorb the shock. He invented this little box. You plug it into the wall and you plug the TV into the box."

It was enormously successful.

"I was at his office one day," Quagliana said, "and he showed me an order for a million of these surge protectors."

When Mr. Kopp discovered Radio Shack copied his design, he filed a successful lawsuit for patent infringement and received royalties for the device.

He died Aug. 16, 2018 after a short illness in Banner Gateway Medical Center, Gilbert, Ariz. He was 77.

Born in Buffalo, as a teen he led ponies for a children's ride, was a golf caddy, set pins at a bowling alley, sold baked goods door-to-door, bused tables, shined shoes and bagged groceries.

He graduated from Seneca Vocational High School in 1959 and enlisted in the Navy as a radio repair technician, attaining the rank of petty officer second class. He was stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, maintaining radar equipment, when he met Sarah Boland in a restaurant near the base. They were married in 1961.

Returning to Buffalo, he began working for Ross Pfaff at Sharpe Instruments and the two became not only close friends, but business partners. Forming a company called Sarron, they developed a speech compressor to improve citizen's band (CB) radio transmissions.

He went on to work at Magtrol, Delevan Electronics, Gaymar Industries and Taber Instruments, where he developed and fabricated a variety of electronic items.

He also had been repairing electronics in his basement until 1970, when he purchased a television repair shop at Cleveland Drive and Union Road in Cheektowaga. H. P. Kopp Electronics became one of the earliest factory-authorized warranty repair shops, eventually working with 86 different companies.

After joining with a childhood friend in Polytronics — which produced the Zap Trap — he founded Industrial Commercial Electronics Inc. in 1979, initially offering electronic repair services to industrial and commercial customers. It went on to develop and manufacture more of his inventions.

One of them was SureTest, a portable device for testing power circuits. Another was the Motor Miser, which reduced the use of energy in industrial electric motors.

Writing about the company, Buffalo News reporter Brian Meyer noted: "The SureTest analyzer is to wiring what smoke detectors are to homes. Plug the bright yellow analyzer into an electrical outlet and it will detect deficiencies that could cause fires, equipment malfunctions or other problems."

"Every electrical inspector in New York City has one of those SureTests," Quagliana said. "It will verify if a line can carry 15 amperes or 20 amperes."

Mr. Kopp stepped down as president of Industrial Commercial Electronics in 1993 and continued as executive vice president for engineering until it closed in 2000.

As a result of radiation from radar, he developed cancer and underwent surgery while still in the Navy. He was stricken with esophageal cancer in 1997.

"The surgery was 13 hours long," his daughter, Sarah "Sally" LaPorte said. "When he woke up from the surgery, he was blind."

In recent years, he occasionally regained partial sight in his left eye as he worked on developing Tuff Block, an unbreakable LED lighting system inside glass blocks for driveways and landscaping.

A lifelong amateur radio operator, he got his first license at age 9 and at the time was the youngest person in the United States to receive one. With call letters K2YZO, he was known around the world.

After he and his second wife, the former Kay Metz, moved from Clarence to Gilbert in 2008, he changed his call sign to K7YZ0.

In Gilbert, Mr. Kopp was a mentor to many start-up business owners and was always ready to share stories of his successes and failures.

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Become part of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES)

P3 works in coordination with IEEE and provides seminars through Power Quality University offering IEEE educational credits. If your work involves engineering or working with engineers in electric power and energy, consider belonging to IEEE Power and Energy Society.

As a member of PES, you can make a significant impact on the future of the industry, and thereby humanity. IEEE PES provides numerous ways to make a difference, including lending your expertise to develop standards and other technical works, mentoring young engineers, publishing research, educating your colleagues, participating in humanitarian and other volunteer activities.

Just as importantly, a PES membership can really help you:
• Grow and maintain your technical expertise
• Keep you connected to other like-minded professionals
• Provide ways for you contribute to the future of our industry
• Save you money
... and ultimately help advance your career.

Join the IEEE PES global 38,000+ member organization -- the leading provider of information on electric power and energy for the betterment of society. 

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