I have a question about comercial electrical work. I am an industrial electrician so the commercial side might be a little different but wanted to know if I HAD to run steel conduit or can you use romex in a commercial building? The place that is being rewired use to be a swim club and now is going to be a nail and hair salon. This is for my In-Laws so I should probably have them talk to the town inspector. Thanks for the info and this is a pretty cool forum I am looking forward to using this often.
Craizem, you've picked one devil of a topic to start off with ...
Romex, simply put, doesn't blong in anything but a wood-framed residence thats no more than three floors tall. That's what it was intended for; while the NEC has loosened the rules some, it hasn't changed the fact that the limitations of Romex quickly make it imprctical for any but the simplest uses.
A swim club would have issues, since Romex is not allowed in damp locations. (Read past the 'allowed uses' section, and you'll find this restriction).
A 'hair and nail' salon has a multitude of specific HVAC requirements. Add to that the near certainty that your original layout will not be adequate, you really want there to be some pipe - to make changes easier later.
Not to mention, you are in Illinois. If you are anywhere near the Chicago metropolitan area, the unions have ensured that Romex isn't allowed anywhere, ever, period. You have to use EMT even to wire a light in a shed in those areas!
Chicago was inspired, first, by the "Great Chicago Fire" to develop building codes that focused on fire protection.
Later, the "Columbian Exposition" was held there, showcasing this new thing called "electricity." The very many fires - some of them large- resulting in renewed concern. A direct result of these fires was the creation of UL.
So, Chicago led the way in such code matters- long before anyone ever though to write an "NEC."
With the advent of other codes, Chicago felt little need to follow these latecomers.
Chicago had a point; it's building codes were (and still are) very heavily biased towards brick, steel, and concrete. When you recall that Romex was developed specifically for use in 'balloon frame' houses, you can see that Romex was recognized even by its' makers to be inappropriate for Chicago.
Until quite recently, even the NEC reflected this bias, limiting Romex to smaller residential structures. The parallel "AFCI debate" makes me wonder if maybe Chicago is still right.
One can make all manner of assertions as to the influence of Unions, city corruption, etc .... It's not just with Romex, but with plastic pipe and contractor licensing as well.
As we approach the release of the 2011 NEC, it's a good time to remember that it is the local governemnt that is the AHJ, and not some publisher in Massachussetts.