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Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,749
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]


Every office I work in has many of these "outlet strips". One or two under
every desk. When I tell the office managers that these strips are no
substitute for properly wired, permanently installed outlets, they nearly
throw me out of the place. The users cite the "UL" on the device and the
fact that it has a circuit breaker in it as an OK for using them. Am I wrong

A few years ago I found over 75 of these, many of them daisy chained, in the
911 dispatch center for a fire department in a major city!


[This message has been edited by Joe Tedesco (edited 01-24-2003).]

Joe Tedesco, NEC Consultant
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Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 6
Junior Member
I would be incline to agree with ya, however , with the 15 amp overcurrent device in the strip, the manufacturer has covered himself. This also would be the weak link and wouldnt take a genious to fiqure out why 6 office cubicles are going "dark" at the same time. One of those " do it right the first time" deals applied with a little common sense and work ethic. No ??

Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,056
Page 112 of the 2001 UL White Book discusses these "Relocatable Power Taps". They are not intended to be installed as a permanent solution to fixed wiring, nor are they to be "daisychained".

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 597

I'm confused here. Please help me.

Does this mean that Relocatable Power Taps are illegal?

I mean, hypothetically, if I have a duplex in the cubical wall at my desk and I have a laptop power supply, a desk light, an electric pencil sharpener, and a clock/radio loose on the desk top, must I install a second duplex? The things on my desk are not fixed.

Load is not an issue. . .looks like 200 VA total for my cubical.

Now, if I had fixed appliances at the desk, say a light fixture screwed to and mounted in the cabinet, a pencil sharpener mounted in the countertop like a high end food processor, a clock radio built into the cubical wall, etc., then I might argue I had to have fixed wiring for them, . . .

The UL White Book does not use the work "temporary or permanent" when describing the use for Relocatable Power Taps, thefore, the duration of its use is not specified.

Hypothetically, if I set up a desk on the side of a cubical partition that did not have an outlet, and then I drapped a relocatable power tap over the partition to my desk from another cubical's outlet, then I understand this to be a substitute for fixed wiring.



Al Hildenbrand
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691
That is the same question I posed with my post about the use of extension cords on one of the other forums - "When is temporary not temporary." I think it's in the General Discussion forum.

I normally use use these stupid things out necessity. Here at work, I have only one duplex receptacle in a doghouse under my desk.

I have two such power strips:

First one powers my computer terminal's CPU, monitor, speakers, printer. That's all one strip.

The second one shares a triple tap (more on this in a second).

This second socket strip powers my wall clock, my two radios , and the transformer for the speakerphone's power supply. I don't use both radios at the same time - the reason I have two is my original one has a cassette player and the other was a Christmas gift (it's a CD/radio combo so I could play my CDs at work).

Now onto the subject of the triple tap. The other item plugged into the tap is an extension cord powering my pencil sharpener and my time-stamp clock.

So in total, I have 9 appliances plugged into a Nema 5-15 duplex socket.

Most of these devuces are very low wattage and don't get used regularly. Still, I wouldn't mind a second pair of outlets....but by the time I found out about it, the floor was laid down, it was too late. [Linked Image]

Sure, there are other around the room, but they're all covered by boxes of merchandise, One of these powers my box fan at the far end of the room (through a heavy-duty 14-gague extension cord with a right angle plug because the fan's power cord was not long enough to reach it! [Linked Image] ).

I haven't blown a fuse...yet.

This is nothing. I've seen other people's desks where they've got triple-taps plugged into the outlet strips because they need more sockets, more sockets!!!!

And this is in a 1960s-vintage (modern) office tower (#1 Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York City's Financial District) that's supposed to be up-to-date -- entire floors getting gutted and renovated for new tenants who move in.

We seem to be very short on wall sockets! [Linked Image]

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 300
This is of course subject to interpretation. But here in NJ, commercial buildings get regular inspections by the local fire marshal or state fire marshal. The rule all over (and I've worked all over the state) is that extension cords are not allowed but power strips with a breaker are.

I've been through lots of fire inspections in many towns where this was the rule and through state health department inspections where this was also the rule.

Joined: May 2002
Posts: 202
Sounds about like every place i have ever been in. Last week the engineers and drafters called maint to their upstairs offices because power went out. They have a fridge, microwave, coffe pot, several radios, lights and pc's all running off the same breaker. No you lost power really i wonder why. Told them that they need do with out some stuff or put in request to maint to add some dedicated circuits for there appliances. which i think is a joke there are 2 fridges and 4 microwaves at the bottom of the steps to there offices.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
I've seen this issue beat around the internet repetitively, somehow it is felt that it falls in our trades lap.

I say this is wrong.

One cannot even begin to make an educated guess (at least in the residential market) as to where these may be used or for what duration.

I also do not see many large discalimers on strip packaging that would deter marketing.

If in fact there are millions of these strips illeagally used per NEMA, UL, or whatever watchdog is to sanction thier usage let THEM deal with the issue.

Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 1
Junior Member
The only area in the code that addresses temporary wiring is Article 305-3, which identifies that temporary electrical power and lighting shall be permitted during construction etc. for 90 days. It also addresses christmas decorative lighting (those of you who leave your x-mas lights up all year long are violating Article 305-3 in the NEC)and similar purposes. Lets face the facts here; no one wants to spend around $500.00 dollars per circuit to have installed the proper feeds to office partition systems. As we all know typical office partition systems come with the capability to have a full round robin circuit setup. We as electrical contractors have to competitively bid these projects in the real world and to get this work and we design the systems tight. All to often I will find that a partition power feed has all three hot leg connections on one branch circuit. Just about every computer has a power strip on it. Do you remember when the old computers (for the most part)had a connection for monitor power and you didnt need a strip? All too often money talks and is the bottom line. Computer manufacturers know that there are at least four devices (Monitor, Printer, Speaker power, spare for one misc device)that will need power and it sure would be nice if they included plugs for the equipment on their computers but it would cost more money to do this and buyers would rather save money then see the potential dangers in using plug strips. So now we are back to square 1. Plug strips are not so bad but what really bothers me is when office employees plug in floor heaters on these strips!!! Now we are talking dangerous. What do you think?

Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,691

I wouldn't say it's the electrician's fault where the outlets are placed. Don't most ECs have to follow a blueprint drawn up by the architects?

I saw some the blueprints for some of my company's floors when they were being refurbished and they included drawings for light fixtures and wall sockets/switches.

That being said, I wouldn't mind a 10-gang box next to my desk instead of this rat's nest of wires. [Linked Image]

On a side note, I've seen a few of these power strips that have lost the grounding pin on the male plug...and I had one where the switch eventually fell to pieces (literally) - the rocker broke off the workings. In fact the strip in question was a metal one with a neon-illuminated switch, exactly like the one Joe T. posted!!!

Seems like UL labels these days are about as easy to get as a USA postage stamp. [Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by SvenNYC (edited 12-11-2002).]

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