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Electric Signs & Outline Lighting

Explaining code compliance

By Randall K. Wright

The National Electrical Code (NEC), specifically Article 600 Electric Signs and Outline Lighting, is the document which most electrical inspectors use to control and inspect sign and outline lighting installations across the nation and beyond.

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  • While many jurisdictions have not yet adopted the 1996 edition, corrections and additions to the 1999 version are well underway. The current version of the NEC and the latest round of changes will affect how sign companies (suppliers and installers) do business in the future. This review highlights important items which will have a significant influence on the sign industry and its suppliers.

    A more detailed review is available from the National Fire protection Association in print, in CD electronic form and on the Internet. (NFPA )

    Each of NFPA's NEC" Code-making panels was asked to form a task group to remove all the exceptions and reformat the language into a positive regulation. Code Panel 18's task group, consisting of five code panel members, completed its task and presented proposals to remove all the exceptions.


    The current version of the NEC" and the latest round of changes will affect how sign companies (suppliers and installers) do business in the future.


    There were numerous proposals to add chapters and methods to Article 600. These were all rejected because the style allows all other sections to apply and then be modified by Article 600 as needed, for the special considerations in the electrical sign and outline lighting industry.

    Section 600-2 Definitions.
    Two proposals were rejected; one to remove "Sign Body" the other to add language about other articles.

    Section 600-3 Listing.
    This section, which requires listing, was modified to rewrite the exceptions and was accepted, in principle, with some language change by the panel. Another proposal which included some language about being manufactured off site was rejected.

    Section 600-4 Markings.
    A proposal to add the installers name to the marking was rejected, and an industry proposal to remove the word "after", after visible was also rejected. This section has presented problems to those who build and install signs high in the air where some inspectors will not ride in a bucket or trust field glasses.

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    Section 600-5 (a, b) Branch Circuits.
    Proposals were rejected to require circuits to be outside. Proposals were accepted to place the exceptions in the main text, add the word "accessible", and add the word "Blanch" in front of circuit for clarity.

    Section 600-6 Disconnects,
    This section was modified through various proposals. It will now include the exceptions and will now require branch or feeder circuits to be accessible and capable of being locked in the open position. Another section war added to include signage in fountains and refers to another section of the code(Section 680).

    Section 600-7 Grounding.
    There were numerous proposals for this section. The following is simplification, and the draft and each proposal should be read carefully for an in-depth understanding.
    Some of the basic sections would re-include listed flexible metal and listed liquidtight flexible metal conduit to be used as a bonding means up to 100 feet. This section had been removed in the appeal process in the last code cycle.
    The bonding wire size was changed from No 12 AWG wire to No 14 AWG wire(as was stated in the 1993 and previous Code editions).
    A 2 inch requirement was included for the exclusion of small metal parts when spaced.
    A proposal was accepted for the rerouting and spacing of bonding on nonmetallic conduit for use in dry locations only.
    A statement was added, for clarity, that the building structure may not be used as a bonding means.
    There was even a proposal to delete this complete section and make all references to Article 250: however, the proposal was deleted.

    Section 600-8 Enclosures.
    The exceptions were included in the tent, and a fine print note (FPN) was added.

    Section 600-9 Locations.
    This section was rewritten to include the exceptions. There were some other minor grammar changes for clarity.

    Section 600-12,
    A proposal to include it Section 600-12 for awning signs was rejected.

    Section 600-23 Transformers and Electronic Power supplies.
    This section was reworded to include the exceptions. Another proposal would require marking for the transformers and electronic power supplies which contain secondary fault protection.

    B. Field Installed Skeleton Tubing.
    Various proposals to delete this section were rejected.

    Section 600-32 Neon Secondary Circuit Conductors. Over 1000 Volts, Nominal.

    This was a popular section to comment on. The first accepted proposal was to remove nonmetallic conduit from the wiring method because of a conflict with another section.
    Another proposal, supported by the electrical inspectors, would remove all nonmetallics from the high voltage secondary. Another proposal restricted it to dry location only when spaced from ground at different lengths for transformers and power supplies. Nonmetallic products are not listed by UL for use in damp or wet (outside) locations at the present time.
    The spacing section was cleaned up to allow GTO to be placed in conduit without spacing, and the section with the 20-foot rule on the first secondary run was clarified.

    Section 600-42 Electrode connections.
    A proposal to re-include the language hum the 1993 Code, which would exclude all products other than glass or metal, was rejected. This proposal was accepted by the panel and rejected by the Correlating Committee as not having a two-thirds majority vote.
    A proposal to require a cap on all wet locations where neon penetrates a building was rejected again. This was a proposal from the last cycle. The last proposal require all electrode enclosures to be listed.


    Randall K. Wright is the owner of Wright Sign Company in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. He is also a consultant on signage, neon installation, neon related fires, National Electrical Code Article 600, UL 48 and electrical inspection concerns. Mr. Wright is the director of the northeast region of the International Sign Association (lSA) and is the ISA representative to the NFPA NEC Code-Making Panel 18.

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