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Re: [APD] light fixtures for aquariums
Please note that I have shamelessly merged Scott's and Steve's posts
together for my own convenience in replying :-) Flames must, as a result,
be carefully scrutinized before sending so as to ensure the proper
individual is yelled at...
In the US, building codes are established locally at the
county or city level, although standards stated by national
standards organizations may be the basis for some codes.
Most areas in the US, and I think also Canada use the NEC (National
Electrical Code) which is "NFPA 70" (National Fire Protection Association
document #70). There are often local codes that make things more stringent,
or that take into account any special local considerations.
There can also be state-level codes and a few federally mandated ones. For
example, at least here in Michigan, any school requires a STATE fire
inspection -- not just a local inspector.
The building codes usually apply only to realty and not
personalty. IF hte hood isn't permanently attached, it's
not a building code item. There might additionally be fire
codes that apply to personalty and those definitely vary
from locale to locale. They are usually a subset of the
building codes though.
The NEC says everything must be "approved", which is usually meant as
listed by a certified testing lab like UL, CSA, etc.
The building codes do normally apply to things that are part of the
permanent structure, but many insurance policies will state that everything
must be listed/approved/whatever (remember that UL was originally out there
to protect *insurance companies*). If you ever have a fire, and your DIY
light fixture was found to be the cause, you might have a problem with an
UL is a manufacturer-sponsored organization that gives
approval only to items submitted for approval along with
the appropriate fee. The standards are set, to some degree,
by the manufacturers.
They are not exactly manufacturer "sponsored". They charge us lots and lots
to test and list things. Lots and lots. And lots. Arhhh.
Some of the standards are set by industry groups like the IEC and NEMA, but
many of the testing methodologies are somewhat arbitrary and are set by the
testing labs. In the US, the government approves testing labs, and those
testing labs can then list items. UL has a competitor here but I can not
remember the name at the moment... CSA is the Canadian version of UL. There
are others in Europe. If you look at a product sold globally (many computer
power supplies, for example), you can see all kinds of testing lab marks on
> Apparently our hoods and hanging lighting fixtures made
> from wood aren't
> CSA or UL approved. No surprise since they're home made.
> According to
> the inspector, the ballasts and wiring are supposed to be
> within a metal case. Wood just won't do.
Nothing you don't submit to UL or CSA will ever be UL or CSA approved. The
testing labs do all kinds of things to products they test to determine how
flammable they are, how likely they are to self destruct, etc. It's not
cheap to do.
The ballasts really *should* be in a vented metal enclosure though, and the
enclosure should be grounded. Ballasts occasionally fail in a rather
catastrophic way, and a wooden enclosure may well constitute a fire hazard.
Luckily cheap vented metal enclosures of suitable size are easy to find on
the surplus market. I have a 3-ballast MH unit I built using a $20
enclosure from Fair Radio Sales (http://www.fairradio.com) which may or may
not still be available. They have enclosures that might be useful, as do
lots of other places. Even Radio Shack has a small metal box with vents in
the sides that I've used to hold two 13 watt PCF ballasts.
Metal is the best material for ballast boxes since it's not flammable and
won't have a problem with high heat levels. If you rebuild your ballast
box, make sure the metal enclosure is also *grounded*. Basic ballast
enclosures should have a grounded metal enclosure (preferably with vents),
and a fuse or circuit breaker in the "hot" line right as the power cord
enters the enclosure.
> Since we don't sell our fixtures, what exactly is the
> "law" regarding
> this? Does it differ from province to province and from
> state to state?
Yep. It differs in different countries, and in different states/provinces
within those countries. You can get a copy of the NEC from the NFPA (it's
about a $60 book though), but it is difficult to read and understand if
you're not in the industry. It would be a lot easier to call your local
government office and ask to talk the electrical and/or fire inspector
since most of the codes relate to those two areas. They should be able to
give you an idea of how the local and national codes will apply to anything
you might want to do or construct.
As soon as your are INSIDE EQUIPMENT though, the NEC doesn't really apply
any longer -- industry standards and UL/CSA specs take over. Groups like
the IEC and NEMA require certain spacings between terminals for certain
voltages, fusing in a certain location with a certain rating, and lots of
> Where are the regulations? How does this affect our home
> policies? Do our governments provide these regulations
> convenient such as on a government website?
The governments usually use the NFPA's code books at least as a starting
point, and they have a website at http://www.nfpa.org (they are a private
organization). The codes are commercial products though, so I don't think
you'll find any online versions. Local codes should be available from your
local government for free or for a document duplication charge. As above
though, your local inspectors should be able to offer you some freebie info
and advice. Your insurance agent might be able to offer some info too, but
they probably won't be very helpful except to say "if you built it and it
blows up, and it wasn't approved, then it's your problem" ;-)
The NEC will probably be available in your library though, and NEMA
(National Electrical Manufacturer's Association) has a website WITH SOME
INFO at http://www.nema.org/ They have some design standard documents which
you may find useful.
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