New UL/ULC Standards Open the Door for Greater Use of Low-Voltage Direct Current Systems

In a step forward for the Direct Current industry, The National Electrical Code (NEC) will publish standards for Low Voltage Suspended Ceiling Power Distribution Systems in 2014. Both the U.S. and Canada’s Underwriters Laboratories are working to harmonize the standards in both countries.

The standards will be contained in NEC Article 393, and will include those for low voltage peripheral equipment certified for use with the grid systems. Previously, only standards for lighting equipment were referenced. The move is partly due to efforts by the EMerge Alliance®, an industry association dedicated to the adoption of new standards for DC power distribution within commercial buildings. Nextek Power Systems is a member of their Governing Board.

The new standards open the door for both developers and users to implement a variety of systems and equipment, such as security systems, audio speakers, and HVAC controls into the commercial building environment.

In conjunction, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has updated and published the UL 2577 Outline of Investigation to expand its scope to allow for other low voltage peripheral equipment to be certified for use with the grid systems. That organization, which has standards development organization status in the U.S., will now work with its Canadian affiliate, ULC, to harmonize standards, since both countries have the ability to use low-voltage grid systems.

Low voltage suspended ceiling power distribution systems, now known as DC FlexZone Systems, were developed by Armstrong Industries in 2008. They send low-voltage (24VDC, which is safe to the touch) power directly through the grid, in lieu of wires. Equipment such as luminaires can simply be placed into the grid, and moved to different locations, without the need for expensive and time consuming rewiring.