New regulations impacting low-voltage luminaires are finally in place, but what do they mean for the industry?

On January 1, 2022, the National Electrical Code (NEC) added section 410.69 to its regulations, changing the color of the wires used for the control conductors on 0-10V luminaires. Luminaires are any type of electric light unit, though the term is typically used in technical contexts.

Until the new code took place, electrical workers were used to seeing gray and violet wires connected to control conductors. This wire was commonly used as the negative dimming lead in low-voltage multilevel dimming devices. Unfortunately, the gray control conductor wire looked like the gray (or white) neutral wire used for branch circuit wiring, posing a dangerous threat to workers who get the two wires mixed up.

In April 2020, a change was made to the NEC allowing for the gray wire on the control conductors to be changed to different color, eventually deciding pink. So why would the NEC wait until 2022 for the new rule to kick in? The rule change gave manufacturers time to produce compliant products, update and republish information manuals, and ensure everything was in place for the official implementation.

What does the NEC color change mean?

As part of the updated code, all gray wires on control conductors in low-voltage luminaires will now be pink. The hope is that the new color will reduce confusion and prevent accidents from occurring.

Although the new guidelines impact all 0-10V luminaires produced today, there are still many old wiring applications that will need to be addressed. According to the NEC section 410.69, gray wiring used for the control conductor must be marked with an identifying tag of some sort.

“A field-connected, gray-colored control conductor shall be permitted if the insulation is permanently re-identified by marking tape, painting, or other effective means at its termination and at each location where the conductor is visible and accessible. Identification shall encircle the insulation and shall be a color other than white, gray, or green.” 

The updated code, which is also supported by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), also ensures all wires meet the same requirements. With NEMA stepping in and selecting pink as a replacement color for gray, it ensures copper wire manufacturers are consistent in their offerings.

What about old low-voltage wiring?

New installations will have the new pink and violet wire combination, but what about the many old wiring set-ups out there today?

Not everything is wrong with the old gray control wiring applications. As with any old wiring application, future electricians can use the wiring as a tell-tale sign that certain control conductors will need to be replaced. It’s a lot like the old knob-and-tube (K&T) wiring you might find hiding inside the walls of older houses. The wiring may still be safe, but the technology is obsolete and is missing key safety features that a new installation could easily fix.

For contractors, despite what seems like a simple code change, the importance of ensuring every wire is safely installed is paramount – not just for themselves, but for every person occupying the location.

“Going forward, if the pink and violet wire colors aren’t visible, these types of installations will not pass inspection,” John Olguin, National Account Manager and Tray Cable Product Manager for Kris-Tech, said. “As a result, they won’t receive the occupancy letter they need to open the doors for business.”

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