This month, Alberta’s Department of Municipal Affairs issued a new Electrical Standata safety bulletin permitting wire-free switching in all new construction projects.
We asked electrical safety expert Pierre McDonald to explain how this regulatory change came about.
Why were wireless switches prohibited in new residential construction?
The National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) has rules intended to ensure the safety of occupants by mandating lighting control as one enters a room or stairway. These requirements were duplicated in the Canadian Electrical Code (CE Code) to allow electrical inspectors to enforce the requirement.
Both the NBCC and the CE Code requirements mandate a “Wall Switch” at the entrance to rooms and at the top and bottom of stairs. The NBCC and CE Code requirements were introduced long before wireless technology became mainstream, and regulators in most jurisdictions have interpreted the rules to mean that a “Wall Switch” must be a wired-in-place switch.
What changed for Alberta safety authorities to recognize wireless switching as an approved method of power control?
Given the advent of reliable wireless technology, the Alberta Safety Codes Council has concluded that using wireless switches in the place of wired switches does indeed comply with the NBCC and CE Code. They’ve published a Standata Safety Bulletin to this effect.
Are there any limitations on how builders and electrical contractors use wireless switching in new residential construction?
The installation of wireless switches must still be installed in accordance with the requirements of the NBCC and the CE Code. This means that the switch locations outlined the codes must be adhered to (i.e. as one enters a room, stairways, and exterior lighting control). With the basic requirements of the NBCC and CE Code satisfied, installers and homeowners can incorporate additional wireless switches anywhere they like.
Wire-free switches in Alberta
Edmonton-based Levven Electronics manufacturers Levven Controls – a wireless switch product now allowed in Alberta residential construction. Levven vice president Marv Verlage is glad for the regulation change. “This is really good news for home builders, electrical contractors and home buyers,” says Verlage. “We appreciate the Alberta Government’s leadership in recognizing wire-free switches as a safe method to control power. The wire-free switch is a game-changer. It delivers real benefits for business, the environment, and the people using the switch day-to-day.”
Pierre McDonald was the Administrator/Chief Inspector for Electrical for the Province of Alberta, and was the Senior Regulatory Representative for Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) from September 2011 to his retirement in June 2017. Prior to his work with the Alberta Government, Pierre taught in the Electrical Program department at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
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