Electrical Ethics Question


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Old 01-23-03, 01:07 PM
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Electrical Ethics Question

about a month ago, i had an electrical water heater installed by home depot and their subcontractor (who will remain nameless for now).

unknown to me (and the contractor who's business it is TO KNOW these things) at the time, it was the contractor's responsibility to install a disconnect box or switch near the water heater. i failed the inspection today and when i called the contractor to come back out and remedy the failure, he quoted me the price of $110 parts and labor.

my feeling is this - he should have known the codes since he was the one filing for the permits in my municipality and i should maybe have to pay for the part (i looked on home depot's website and i can't find a disconnect box for more than 13 bucks).

anyone else think i'm getting gauged here? it just seems like they screwed up and now they want me to pay for all of their screw up... i'm sure the 110 bucks at least covers the plumber's travel time (which i shouldn't have to pay for since they missed this code requirement the first time).

i await your thoughts on the ethicality of this guy's wanting more money from me.... on the other hand....

i think i could add this disconnect box myself - it seems fairly elementary work, no? is there a standard part for this that i could pick up at home depot?

what's involved besides 1) turning off the breaker 2) cutting the existing romex wire, 3) splicing in the new box with a few more feet of new romex and 4) attaching it to the rafters above the water heater?

i'm just really pissed since i'm already into this water heater for $600 with everything else involved and i want to put a lid on this project once and for all...

thanks in advance.

Austin
 
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Old 01-23-03, 01:53 PM
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First off,,, is there a written code that says it has to have a disconnect?
 
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Old 01-23-03, 01:53 PM
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Ummm, why has it taken a month to find out about this?

Anyway, if you contracted with Home Depot for a turn key installation (including the complete wiring) then what remains to be done to pass inspection should be at no charge to you. However, if the electrical wiring was separate and you were responsible for the wiring then you certainly cannot request that Home Depot pay...but you certainly can expect your electrician to have wired it properly to pass inspection.

With what you have stated it is my opnion that the electrician should come back and do whatever is necessary at no charge so it will be approved.

In answer to your question about the cost of material, etc. I suspect material would cost him less than $25.00 depending on what he uses. He is most likely figuring the job based on one man-hour plus maybe a service call charge and material that is marked up with profit.

The bottom line is this: who was the agreement with to install the water heater's electrical wiring? That is who needs to pay for it to be ready for approval by the inspector.

Why did it take so long for the inspector to come?

Kooter
 
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Old 01-23-03, 02:01 PM
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Austin said
i'm sure the 110 bucks at least covers the plumber's travel time
Are we dealing with a plumber or an electrician here?
 
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Old 01-23-03, 02:04 PM
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Plumber with Electrician License - at least that's what they told me when they were here...

austin
 
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Old 01-23-03, 02:11 PM
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Without knowing what HD's contract included as far as installation,I would venture to guess that it doesn't include a disconnect for the water heater.However,the plumber/electrician is supposed to know the local building codes in the area that he is working in and should have brought the disconnect issue to your attention and quoted you a price instead of hooking up the water heater without one.
BTW...That is 1 very expensive water heater
 
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Old 01-23-03, 02:39 PM
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If your original agreement was with Home Depot, I think you should be talking to Home Depot, not their sub. Before you do, you should read all the fine print on anything you signed to see exactly what was agreed to.

Who got the permit, and who called for the inspection?
 
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Old 01-23-03, 02:41 PM
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i guess my main beef is that i think they're trying to get me to pay for a full brand new visit when they could have put this item in while they were here (and should have since they were the ones who filed for the permits and should have known the local codes) i don't mind paying a marked up price for a part, that's only good capitolism.

i do, however, think that it would not have added significant labor to my 'exrtras' which according to home depot, now, i would have had to pay. its a glorified light switch, for pete's sake.

bottom line, the guys screwed up missing the code violation when they were here and should concede some, if not all, the labor charges involved in remedying the screw up.

am i being unreasonable? i don't think so...

i'm waiting to hear from the local home depot manager to see if i can excise some satisfaction out of this whole thing...

geez gimme a $50 gift card to the store and i'll shut up!!

austin....
 
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Old 01-23-03, 04:59 PM
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Austin, I agree 100% with you that since you contracted for a complete installation including the electrical someone (other than you or another installer) should install the disconnect switch free of charge.

If you paid for the water heater and installation with a credit card you can stop or withold payment until the job has been completed...and approved.

I'm curious, why did it take so long for the inspector to come and what was said [by the inspector] that allows you to use ths water heater without his approval? Did the inspector give you a grace period to get the switch installed? Do you have any paperwork from the inspector that you can show the Home Depot representative that the water heater wasn't installed properly to meet inspection?

Kooter
 
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Old 01-23-03, 06:34 PM
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I am just curious as to the disconnect. Its not an argument just curiosity. Is there a local code for a disconnect and did the inspector quote it by number. Was this an electric inspector or some other kind? I don't think NEC calls for one in residential but there certainly could be an amendment.
 
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Old 01-23-03, 06:35 PM
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i think its local code (amended to the NEC, i guess)
 
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Old 01-23-03, 06:44 PM
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And as I posted in Plumbing Forum, UPC Code does not call for one.
 
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Old 01-23-03, 06:48 PM
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so can i or the contractor argue that with the inspector and save everyone some money/headaches? the old heater didn't have one...
 
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Old 01-23-03, 08:12 PM
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Unhappy

Not likely.
 
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Old 01-23-03, 08:30 PM
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Again, just curious, did the inspector quote something,, a section of code or did he just say it needs a disconnect? Was it a electric inspector or someone else?
 
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Old 01-24-03, 06:52 AM
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the electrical inspector did not quote me a specific code chapter an verse - he just said it needed a disconnect and handed me the dayglo orange failure sticker.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 07:16 AM
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Even if it is a "local" code, the contractor should be aware of it, and it is the electrician's job to know what code is and abide by it. Home Depot may very well take care of this, they should anyhow. As far as whether you can put the disconnect in yourself. You're right that it is not a difficult thing to do, but it could also void any warranty on the water heater.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 07:16 AM
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I think that other posters are correct -- you are going to probably get the most positive outcome by calling HD and going up the chain until you find some manager willing to do whatever it takes to make you happy. The one thing I have learned from my wife is that with the proper *****y attitude, and talking to the person highest up on the food-chain, almost anything is possible. :-)

That said, adding a disconnect yourself will probably cost you $25 and maybe 45 minutes of your time... I would probably do it myself just to avoid spending hours on the phone, unless it is a strong matter of principle.

Good luck!
 
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Old 01-24-03, 07:28 AM
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i've got the asst mgr at home depot calling the subcontractor to see why the installation of this simple unit is costing so much. i'm sure the contractor isn't going to budge on this but you're right i'm going to keep up the heat on home depot since they were the ones taughting the whole one-stop-shopping convenience aspect of using them... i've got the manager next on my list after this guy...
 
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Old 01-24-03, 07:44 AM
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You may be right, but I'll tell you this much, if I was the subcontractor and dealt with home depot very much, I'd be at your house real quick-like and make it right, if for no other reason that to keep my business coming from home depot!
 
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Old 01-24-03, 09:05 AM
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Hmmm I wonder if you actually need one or he busting someones chops cause they are Home Depot,, never know. Call the code office and see. It isnt in the electric code and it isnt in the plumbing code and he didnt quote it,, it isnt even a legal turn down. He needs to give you a written reason with the particular violation so you can look it up to comply. A sparky from your area would know if it needs it or not. Maybe one is here. I see a couple from Texas.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 09:41 AM
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i just put in a call to code enforcement and asked if someone could send me a fax of the exact code that i failed for. of course, no one was there to do it (they're probably out failing all sorts of homeowners for something...)

hopefully i can get a printed copy faxed to me so i can see exactly what the compliance entails.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:03 AM
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I agree with kooter here,, actually it is someones problem besides yours to get inspections that pass. Thats why you hired contractors in the first place, to take care of that. Actually it would be the electric contractor, the plumber isnt sposed to be installing disconnects. You should hand that orange sticker to who ever pulled the permit on wiring. Electric inspector= electrician, I dont think he even had to inform you of anything, he dealing with a licenced contractor, they are bound by agreement to take care of it.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:05 AM
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After a little more research, I'm guessing the water heater that was installed was over 300 volt-amps (volts x amps) in that case you may only use the breaker as a disconnecting means if the breaker is within sight of the heater.... OR the breaker is capable of being locked in the open position. code reference 422.31 (B)
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:13 AM
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Originally posted by lestrician
After a little more research, I'm guessing the water heater that was installed was over 300 volt-amps (volts x amps)
Did you mean 3000 VA(watts). 300 is pretty low.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:16 AM
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By any chance did you replace a gas WH with the new electric one? If so, "standard" installation doesn't cover the additional electrical requirements. The new electrical wiring is subject to inspection.

If the old one was an electric with the same load requirements, why did it need an inspection at all? Why wasn't the existing wiring adequate? After all, all you're doing is replacing an appliance.

Be nice when you call the local building department, and don't say anything bad about the inspector. He might be the one who winds up answering the phone. There are only three inspectors in my town of 80,000 people.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:17 AM
lestrician
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I thought so too, but 300 is what the book says.... if you find something different please let me know.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:22 AM
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This does only apply to "permanently connected appliances", but I believe a water heater would be included in that. Reasoning, there is no cord to unplug, therefor, if someone had to work on it and make sure the power is off.... either a disconnecting means within sight or a breaker that can be locked off would be safe.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:28 AM
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it is connected to a breaker that is on the other side of the basement (not within eyesight of the WH) it is the only thing on the breaker line.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:31 AM
lestrician
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In this case, I believe the inspector was correct, although more info should have been given to you. My best guess (having had my own wh replaced) is that the contractor who installed it was a plumbing contractor not an electrical contractor. In that case, it seems to me the responsibility lies on home depot to make sure they have contractors that know all aspects on what they are installing.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:39 AM
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"the responsibility lies on home depot to make sure they have contractors that know all aspects on what they are installing"

i'm with you there - that's why i've gotten them involved in resolving this matter more cheaply. they're the ones who should be ensuring their subcontractors competency.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 10:48 AM
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I'd still would want to see the code referanced to this, you as a homeowner and I as the contractor have the right to question a call made by any inspector, and they should by all means show you where the rules apply, heck I seen breaker boxes on the outside of buildings, no where near where the water heater was at.

This is disputable if there is no referance to this so called disconnect switch.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:01 AM
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ref code NEC 422.31(B)
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:04 AM
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how do i look this up?
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:07 AM
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It's in the NEC (national electrical code) book. As an electrician I have one here, which is how I found it. Alternatives to buying one, try your local library, or ask an electrician to borrow one. Unfortunately, that's about as helpful as I can be on that one.
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:10 AM
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you mean there's no online lookup for these kinds of things? that would be too convenient, don't you think?

hard to believe there's not if thats the case...
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:12 AM
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lol... if there was, the people that publish it wouldn't get their money! And btw, I still think $600 is a LOT to pay for a water heater!
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:19 AM
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if i remember correctly, it was

220 for the heater
289 for the labor
about 50 for the permits
another 45 for the contractor to install a ball valve at the output from the heater (at my request)

plus tax...

so as you see it all adds up. a few days later, i found out that my brother in law had the DIY know how and the tools for he and i to have done the whole thing ourselves. and yes, i was sick about it too...
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:21 AM
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at least you should feel better knowing the whole thing is under warranty!!!
 
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Old 01-24-03, 11:27 AM
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i do feel good about that but if something happens to the heater and they're going to send over people who don't know codes....

not so good....
 
 

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