Canadian Electrical Industry News Week


ampacitiesPierre McDonald

Sizing conductors as per the Canadian Electrical Code (CE Code) has been a necessary skill requirement for electricians, designers and engineers for as long as I can remember. The rules associated with conductor ampacity have virtually remained unchanged over the years. In fact my 7th edition, 1958 Canadian Electrical Code Rule 4-006, Current Carrying Capacity of Wires and Cable, referred the user to Tables 1 through 4 in the same way the latest 22nd edition CE Code does. What has changed is the requirement to apply temperature ratings in a manner that aligns with the rules of the 2012 edition CE Code.

It’s good to note that harmonization between the CE Code and the National Electrical Code (NEC) has been an ongoing process over several years with a lot of valuable input from organizations that matter. The latest changes in the 2012 CE Code have resulted in the harmonization of conductor ampacities in Tables 1 through 4. These changes are a result of the Task Force on the Harmonization of Ampacities. This task force was sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and consisted of members representing both of those organizations as well as members of the Canadian Electrical Code Part I, NEC, Underwriters Laboratories, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, cable manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and Canadian consumers.

This task force’s scope of work was to harmonize conductor ampacities between the CE Code and the NEC, including any adjustments, corrections or other factors impacting conductor ampacity. This resulted in the new Rule 4-006, Temperature Limitation, as well as several changes to the amperage values within Tables 1 through 4. In fact, the ampacities within Tables 1 through 4 of the CE Code are now harmonized with Table 310.15(B)(16) and Table 310.15(B)(17) of the NEC.

Temperature ratings are nothing new in the CE Code. We are already dealing with temperature requirements in many situations, including Rules 2-122, 2-318, 26-264 and 28-104, to mention just a few. It should be no surprise that several pieces of electrical equipment, including circuit breakers and panelboards, are all evaluated, tested and certified to Canadian product standards based on a maximum permitted operating temperature.

Sizing conductors based on ampacity and temperature ratings has been a common practice for users of the NEC for some time. It is just now, with the 2012 edition CE Code, that we must include the parameter of maximum permitted operating temperature within our selection of the appropriate conductor size.

Applying Rule 4-006

Rule 4-006 appears very straightforward. For equipment marked with a maximum temperature, select a conductor from the appropriate temperature column to meet the ampacity requirements. For equipment not marked, use the 90°C column.

4-006 Temperature limitations (See Appendix B)

(1)     Where equipment is marked with a maximum conductor termination temperature, the maximum allowable ampacity of the conductor shall be based on the corresponding temperature column from tables 1, 2, 3 or 4.

(2)     Where equipment is not marked with a maximum conductor termination temperature, 90°C temperature shall be used by default.

The Appendix B note further provides the intent behind the rule as well as an example demonstrating the use of this rule. To elaborate, a piece of electrical equipment with a temperature marking of 60°C would require code users to size conductors using ampacities based on the 60°C column. Likewise, a piece of electrical equipment with a temperature marking of 75°C would require code users to size conductors using ampacities based the 75°C column.

In the past, users of previous editions of the CE Code have always sized conductors based on the 90°C column, even for equipment marked for 60°C or 75°C. Most users were unaware the temperature rating of the equipment had any effect on conductor sizing until now (with the exception of certain rules such as 28-104). The good news is that, in the past, the practice of sizing conductors based on the 90°C column never really created a hazard as the ampacities in Tables 1 through 4 were substantially lower. Since this 2012 edition CE Code has some very significant changes to the ampacities, particular attention must be placed on the application of Rule 4-006.

So does this rule now prohibit code users from installing an RW90 conductor to that piece of equipment rated at 60°C or the one rated at 75°C?

It should be noted that Tables 1 through 4 are based on an ambient temperature of 30°C. At maximum current flow to the applicable values of the tables, the conductor temperature reaches the rated temperature (based on Tables 1 through 4).For example, if the equipment is rated 75°C and the installation comprises of 3 copper conductors, #3 AWG rated at 75°C, installed in a conduit, these conductors will operate at that 75°C with 100 Amps of current flow (see table 2). Installing the RW90 conductor could easily be done provided the ampacity of that conductor remains at 100A (based on the appropriate temperature column). This will ensure that the operating temperature of that RW90 conductor remains at 75°C, the temperature rating of that equipment.

Code users have expressed some concern with the significant changes (increases) to conductor ampacities in the 2012 CE Code — justifiable concerns if equipment temperature ratings and Rule 4-006 are not also brought into the big picture. Understanding how the temperature rating affects conductor sizing and ensuring Rule 4-006 is applied will enable code users to still size conductors in a safe manner and maximize the cost effectiveness of higher ampacity tables. Harmonization of these requirements in the CE Code and NEC in this manner has also created equal safety requirements for North America.

More from Pierre McDonald:
- Conductor Ampacities and Their Temperature Rating
- Code and Public Safety
Section 62: Fixed Electric Heating Systems
- Establishing When the CE Code Becomes Mandatory
- UL Code Link
- CAN/ULC-S576-14, Standard for Mass Notification System Equipment and Accessories
- Canadian CE Code Changes: Section 20 and More
- Meeting National Building Code of Canada Requirements


Pierre McDonald, CET, is Senior Regulatory Affairs Representative/Répresentant Principal, Affaires Réglementaires, Underwriters Laboratories of Canada Inc. Based in St. Albert, AB, Pierre has been a member of the Canadian Electrical Code Part 1 technical committee as well as several subcommittees including serving as Chair of Sections 6 and 76 and as a member representing regulators on several other CSA committees. Pierre is still active with code development and interpretation.

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