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CEDIA Defends Low-Voltage Work in New York City

New York City's Department of Buildings Electrical Code Revision and Interpretation Committee is taking aim at the installation of Lutron's Homeworks lighting controllers by low-voltage contractors.

CEDIA’s public policy manager, Darren Reaman, along with a half a dozen local CEDIA members attended the New York City Department of Buildings Electrical Code Revision and Interpretation Committee’s monthly meeting on March 7 to defend the work of low-voltage installers in the New York metro area. They learned that the installation of Lutron’s “hybrid” low-voltage/line-voltage Homeworks dimmer modules by low-voltage contractors was of specific concern to the committee.

The CEDIA team was invited into the meeting as guest speakers to clarify a position that the committee had take in November when responding to a letter from electrical contractor Warren Ostroff, of Howard Beach, New York. Ostroff had asked the committee for official interpretation of the City’s electrical code requirements for low-voltage work, specifically as it related to installing “a dimming/lighting control system, such as Lutron Homeworks system, with the capability of controlling HVAC, security, audio-visual, lighting and other systems [operating] at below 50V.” Ostroff specifically asked if a person other than a New York City licensed electrician could install “the low-voltage end of the system.”

The committee’s response, which was brought to Reaman’s attention by a CEDIA member, who also happens to be an electrical contractor, cited Section 27-3004 of the Administrative Part of the NYC Electrical Code Amendments, categorically denying a low-voltage contractor from installing the low-voltage end of a dimming/lighting control system, such as Lutron Homeworks system. The committee’s answer was that “The complete system shall be installed by a NYC Licensed Electrician.”

After taking time to educate the Committee about CEDIA’s role in the low-voltage and home entertainment technologies installation market, Reaman and his CEDIA member guests were provided further clarification on the letter’s response. Committee member Rich Sobel pulled a Homeworks dimmer module from his bag and explained that the committee had no problem with the work that CEDIA members perform when it is strictly low-voltage in nature, but that they specifically took issue with the installation of Lutron’s hybrid-style Homeworks module. He said that in an installation, it’s simply easier and safer for an electrician who is connecting the line-voltage wire to also connect the low-voltage wire at the same time.

The CEDIA guests took no issue to this position, but stated their objection to the wording of the committee’s response to Ostroff’s letter. The concern was that their answer did not acknowledge that Lutron also makes a low-voltage-only Homeworks module, which should not be lumped into the answer. The CEDIA guests also expressed their concern that this position could set a dangerous precedent for legislating CEDIA members out of New York City.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee encouraged CEDIA to draft it’s own official letter, to receive official clarification on the record. In addition, Marcovici has invited one CEDIA member to serve as a subject matter expert during the development of the city’s first low-voltage contractor’s licensing test.

For more information, contact CEDIA’s Darren Reaman at [email protected] or 317.328.4336.