Justification for Emergency Administrative Rule Adoption

JUSTIFICATION FOR EMERGENCY RULE ADOPTION
Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
16 Texas Administrative Code, amendments to Chapter 75, §75.100

The Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation (Commission) adopts amendments to an existing rule on an emergency basis at 16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 75, §75.100, Technical Requirements, regarding delaying the applicability of Section 210.8(F) of the 2020 National Electrical Code. The effective date for this emergency rule is May 20, 2021.

EXPLANATION OF AND JUSTIFICATION FOR THE EMERGENCY RULE

The rules under 16 TAC Chapter 75, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, implement Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors.

Pursuant to 16 TAC, Chapter 75, §75.100(a)(4), electrical work performed by air conditioning and refrigeration contractors must be performed in accordance with the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC). Section 90.4 of the 2020 NEC authorizes the Department to waive specific code requirements when doing so will not have a negative impact on safety.

Section 210.8(F) of the NEC requires certain outdoor outlets to have ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection. An incompatibility between most GFCI products on the market and certain types of air-conditioning and heating equipment has resulted in that equipment failing by persistently tripping circuit breakers. The approaching summer heat poses a serious threat to Texas residents whose air-conditioning systems have failed or are malfunctioning. Adopting the emergency rule would help keep Texas residents safe by ensuring installed air-conditioning systems are not subject to failure due to equipment incompatibility. Additionally, the Department’s technical experts have confirmed that adopting the emergency rule would not have a negative impact on safety.

In short, the continued application of Section 210.8(F) of the 2020 NEC presents an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare requiring adoption of the emergency rule on fewer than 30 days' notice.

SECTION BY SECTION SUMMARY

The emergency rule amends §75.100 by adding new subsection (a)(5) to state that compliance with Section 210.8(F) of the 2020 NEC is not required until January 1, 2023. It is widely expected that manufacturers of both electrical and air conditioning equipment will have resolved the compatibility issues by this date, at which point the danger to Texas residents will subside.

COMMISSION ACTION

At its meeting on May 18, 2021, the Commission adopted the emergency rule without changes as recommended by the Department.

FUTURE RULEMAKING

Under Texas Government Code §2001.034, the emergency rule may be effective for 120 days, and may be renewed once for an additional 60 days. The Department may propose this or a similar rule under the normal rulemaking process and will consider any additional action necessary in the event unforeseen issues arise with the adopted section.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY

The emergency rule is adopted with abbreviated or no notice and with an expedited effective date under Texas Government Code §2001.034(a) and §2001.036(a)(2).

The emergency rule is adopted under Texas Occupations Code, Chapters 51 and 1302, which authorize the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation, the Department's governing body, to adopt rules as necessary to implement those chapters.

The statutory provisions affected by the emergency rule are those set forth in Texas Occupations Code, Chapters 51 and 1302. No other statutes, articles, or codes are affected by the emergency rule.

  • 75.100. Technical requirements.

(a) Electrical Connections.

(1) On new construction of environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, and process cooling or heating systems, licensees may connect the appliance to the electrical line or disconnect that is provided for that purpose.

(2) Licensees may replace and reconnect environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, process cooling or heating systems, or component parts of the same or lesser amperage. On replacement environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, process cooling or heating systems where the electrical disconnect has not been installed and is required by the applicable National Electrical Code, the licensee may install a disconnect and reconnect the system.

(3) Control wiring of 50 volts or less may be installed and serviced by a licensee. Control wiring for commercial refrigeration equipment of any voltage may be installed by a licensee with the commercial refrigeration endorsement as long as the control wiring is on the equipment side of the disconnect installed for that purpose.

(4) All electrical work shall be performed in accordance with standards at least as strict as that established by the applicable National Electrical Code and the International Residential Code, where applicable.

(5) Notwithstanding subsection (a)(4), compliance with Section 210.8(F) of the 2020 National Electrical Code is not required until January 1, 2023.

(b) Piping.

(1) Fuel gas piping for new or replaced environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, or process cooling or heating systems may be installed by a licensee. Fuel gas piping by a licensee is limited to the portion of piping between the appliance and the existing piping system, connected at an existing shut-off valve for such use. Existing piping systems, stops, or shut-off valves shall not be altered by a licensee.

(2) Drain piping associated with environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, or process cooling or heating systems shall be installed by a licensee if it terminates outside the building. If the piping terminates inside the building, a licensee may make the connection if the connection is on the inlet side of a properly installed trap. Such drain piping shall be installed in accordance with applicable plumbing and building codes.

(3) Other piping, fittings, valves and controls associated with environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, or process cooling or heating systems shall be installed by a licensee.

(c) Duct cleaning.

(1) Duct cleaning and air quality testing, including biomedical testing, may be performed by a person or entity that does not hold a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1302 if:

(A) the task is limited to the air distribution system, from the supply plenum to the supply grilles of the unit and from the return air grill to the air handler intake of the unit;

(B) no cuts are made to ducts or plenums;

(C) no changes are made to electrical connections; and

(D) the only disassembly of any part of the system is opening or removal of return and supply air grilles, or registers that are removable without cutting or removing any other part of the system.

(2) Biomedical testing may be performed by a person or entity that does not hold a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302.

(3) Biomedical remediation requires a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302.

(d) Process Cooling and Heating.

(1) Process cooling and heating work does not include cryogenic work.

(2) Process cooling and heating work is limited to work performed on piping and equipment in the primary closed loop portions of processing systems containing a primary process medium. Once a primary closed loop process system has been deactivated and rendered inert by a licensee, a person or entity that does not hold a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302 may perform maintenance, service and repairs on the secondary open loop components including piping, heat exchangers, vessels, cooling towers, sump pumps, motors, and fans.

(e) Standards.

(1) The standard for the practice of air conditioning and refrigeration in a municipality is the code the municipality adopted by ordinance that is consistent with the standards established under the Act and this chapter.

(2) The standard for the practice of air conditioning and refrigeration in an area where no code has been adopted is:

(A) The applicable edition of the International Residential Code for one- and two-family dwellings, and multiple single family dwellings (townhouses) not more than three stories in height with separate means of egress, together with the applicable editions of the International Fuel Gas Code and the International Energy Conservation Code;

(B) For commercial work and any multiple family residential work that exceeds the limitations of subparagraph (A), the contractor performing the work may choose between:

(i) the applicable edition of the Uniform Mechanical Code; or

(ii) the applicable editions of the International Mechanical Code, International Fuel Gas Code and International Energy Conservation Code.

(f) System Testing and Balancing.

(1) System testing may be performed by a person or entity that does not hold a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302.

(2) System balancing requires a contractor license under Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1302.

REVIEW BY AGENCY COUNSEL

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the emergency adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency’s legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, on May 20, 2021.

Brad Bowman
General Counsel
Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation