Electrical inspections that ensure any electrical system operates safely, efficiently, and is compliant with the National Electrical Code, as well as help in electrical maintenance since you get to anticipate and undertake all electrical repairs on time.
The exact costs incurred for complete electrical inspections of any building may vary depending on the electrical system’s size and complex structural integrity. However, despite the convenience and the expenses, electrical inspection has unmatched benefits that range from ensuring the safety of the occupants to guaranteed efficiency of the electrical systems.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hard for homeowners to get willing electrical contractors for in-person inspection due to the imposed lockdowns. Many jurisdictions in Denver, CO, and around the globe resorted to remote electrical inspections to minimize costly downtimes in building projects and maintain safety standards during the pandemic.
The pandemic passed, but the world discovered remote electrical inspections’ convenience, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, which is why remote inspections are embraced globally and are becoming standard practice in different industries.
This article investigates the concept of remote electrical inspections and how they will affect the way electricians serve their clients.
Understanding Remote Electrical Inspections
Remote electrical inspections are part of Remote Video Inspections for building safety. Under RVI, inspections are carried out virtually with the help of live video and other digital tools. The electrical inspector liaises with an electrical contractor on-site who videos different components of the electrical system and relays it to the inspector. The inspector then rates the system against a checklist for electrical inspection.
In Colorado, remote home electrical inspections generally follow the RVI procedure as follows:
- Ascertaining eligibility as not all electrical works qualify for remote inspection. The process is limited to only a few areas, and many jurisdictions also require the person scheduling the inspection to be a qualified electrician.
- Scheduling with the local electrical inspectors and ensuring all documentation is in order.
- Setting the ground by ensuring the quality of internet connectivity, availability of necessary tools, and eliminating disruptions.
- The inspector identifies the job site on video and begins the electrical inspection, closely maintaining communication with the on-site electrician.
- The inspector then enters the inspection results into AHJ’s database and communicates the same to the electrician and customer, such as happens with the AHJ in Denver, CO.
Tools for Remote Electrical Inspections
Currently, remote electrical inspections rely heavily on non-specialized hard and soft tools, whose major advantages are handiness and ease of use. Smartphones, tablets, and computers are the leading hardware used.
The technology remote electrical inspections rely on includes:
- Audiovisual equipment for live video streaming.
- General communication apps like Microsoft Teams, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.
- Specialized virtual inspection apps that perform scheduling, data collection, report generation, and file-sharing functions with the ability to interact with digitized codes and checklists.
- Digitized code and checklists for electrical inspection.
- Internet connectivity.
Regulatory Framework for Remote Electrical Inspections
Remote electrical inspections have been regulated within the larger framework of RVIs for building safety. A lot of the regulation has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly at the state and county level. However, a major attempt can be traced to NFPA’s position paper in 2018, which recommended regulation around permits, plan review, and inspection software. Of particular emphasis was the need for site verification, strictly requiring the video inspection to begin outside the building and capture identifying landmarks.
A regulatory framework, the NFPA 915, has been in the works since 2019. It covers the requirements and inspection processes, including eligibility for remote inspection. NFPA 915 will also offer guidelines on the requisite qualifications of the inspection assistant.
In 2020, the International Code Council (ICC) also issued a guidelines handbook on the process of remote video inspections and necessary training.
In Colorado, the RVI guidelines, under which remote electrical installations fall, stipulate that only occupied residential establishments can be remotely inspected for final inspections, re-inspections, and rough-in inspections.
The regulations deal with the following key components:
- Remote site coordination.
- Address and permit verification.
- Detailed inspection.
- Quality assurance.
A local electrician in Arvada, or any electrician near Denver will request the inspection for you if you are in their vicinity. They then have the duty to schedule and be on-site for the inspection.
Advantages Of Remote Electrical Inspections
If you are yet to have Arvada electricians or other professionals within Denver, CO inspect your buildings, here is why you should advocate for remote inspections.
Remote electrical inspections are a very cost-effective way of performing electrical inspections, especially in circumstances where resources are strapped. Indeed, among the earliest applications of remote virtual inspections was by a tiny cash-strapped inspection team in Clark County, Washington hoping to increase capabilities.
Re-inspection jobs tend to be simple and brief, which makes remote inspections all the more appealing, particularly when inspecting buildings in rural areas with great distances between job sites. Furthermore, as remote electrical inspections utilize commonplace and cost-friendly tools and technology, ubiquitous technologies such as smartphones allow inspection to be free or have only a nominal cost.
Increased Efficiency And Speed
Remote electrical inspections increase efficiency and save time for all parties involved. Since inspectors need not leave their offices, they save on traveling costs. Electrical inspectors can also complete more jobs in a day remotely than they would if they had to travel around. The visual tools used in remote inspections can also give greater detail of the area being inspected than natural eyes would, allowing inspection results of a higher quality.
Electrician contractors and their clients enjoy shorter wait times for their electrical installations to be approved and can move their projects along faster.
Remote electrical inspections in 2020 were popular due to their enhanced safety. By minimizing contact, the building industry could continue without the fear of spreading infections. Even post-pandemic, remote inspections are still a safer way of conducting electrical inspections as there is reduced contact with hazardous elements of the system.
Also, digital inspection tools enhance how the partners interact with the electrical code and regulations during inspection. Such interactions improve compliance and enhance safety.
Remote Electrical Inspections: Case Studies And Success Stories
While few case studies on remote electrical inspections are on record, a few pointers indicate what its destiny has been thus far. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was increased interest in the idea, with the states of Minnesota, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado all releasing guidelines regulating the process. Other stakeholders also showed heightened interest, as indicated by the increased downloads of online resources.
When surveyed by the ICC, 63% of building inspectors admitted they had partially transitioned to remote inspections. However, 60% claimed they lacked the capability to make the transition. West Hartford, CT, and Clark County, WA, are examples of two counties whose adoption of remote inspections can be a gauge. Only a few months into the lockdown of 2020, West Hartford had over 600 remote inspections, while Clark County averaged 50 remote inspections a day, and notably, there was no significant deviation in the number of failed inspections from that typically experienced by in-person inspections.
Despite the rising interest and application of remote inspections, skepticism around the effectiveness still exists within the industry, whether this be due to ignorance, limited collaboration among stakeholders, and inadequate technical skills. Because of this, it is on the industry itself to overcome the barriers that these issues create.
The Future of Remote Electrical Inspections
On many fronts, the future of remote electrical inspections is still an unexploited potential. Though the efforts at formulating a regulatory framework are well underway, there needs to be standardization on such matters as choice of tools, eligibility for remote inspection, and the qualifications of the personnel on-site. The framework leaves these choices to stakeholders.
Primarily, remote electrical inspections utilize smartphones, tablets, and computers with common apps. Not being specialized, these standard tools limit the scope to which remote electrical inspections can be applied. Developing specialized tools would give better feedback and foster closer collaboration. Specialized cameras would provide better images, and the apps would integrate communication, video capability, digitalized code, and other aspects of the inspection process.
Soon, it will be possible to run whatever technology exists on the powers of AI and IoT to provide augmented reality tools for superior remote inspections. As more effective tools become available, it will be possible to extend the scope of situations to which remote electrical inspections can be applied.
Training And Skill Development For Electricians
Remote inspections are a highly collaborative process, and the electrician must cultivate the requisite communication skills to play his bridging role between the inspector and the client. They must develop relevant technical and soft skills to integrate seamlessly into the remote inspection process. The better they can adopt the technology of remote inspections, the faster, safer, and more efficient they can do their job.
Electricians must ground themselves in the whole process of remote inspections, learning about scheduling, site preparation, and collaborating remotely with the inspector. They should also learn the technicality of relevant hard and soft tools, as the more tools they are comfortable with, the smoother the process will be. Moreover, remote inspections demand that electricians on the ground be more active than they are in traditional inspections. Fortunately, the ubiquity of technology means the learning curve is not that steep.
Remote electrical inspections may have been borne of the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, discovering its potential means it is here to stay. It is faster, safer, more efficient, and cost-effective. Electricians can wrap up faster with quicker inspections and approvals so the project can move along.
However, remote inspections still only support in-person inspections because of limited experience, lack of specialized tools, and comprehensive guidelines. But, with advancements in regulations and technology, remote electrical inspections will undoubtedly become the norm in building safety management.