In a world where dependence on electricity grows exponentially, the safety of electrical installations becomes paramount. A major concern in this regard is the risk of fires caused by arcing faults which can go undetected by “classic” thermal-magnetic or RCD protection. This is where Order 959/2023 steps in, bringing significant changes to the Romanian i7 Standard (‘Normativul i7’), with a focus on the use of Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) to minimize these risks. This article will explore these changes and their impact on the design, execution, and management of electrical installations in Romania.
To understand the changes brought by Order 959/2023, we first need to grasp the context in which they appeared. The i7 Standard, titled “Standard for the design, execution and operation of electrical installations related to buildings”, was published in 2011. Although the reference standards have undergone multiple revisions since then, the i7 Standard was not appropriately updated to keep up with technological advancements and to enhance the safety of electrical installations. Order 959/2023 intervened in 2023, bringing this Standard up to date, with a particular emphasis on using AFDDs to minimize the risk of fire.
What is an Arc Fault and What is an AFDD?
An arc fault is a dangerous phenomenon that can occur in electrical installations, involving the bright discharge of electricity through an insulating medium, often accompanied by partial volatilization of the electrodes. There are different types of arc faults, including series or parallel, unintended, and hazardous between conductors, parallel arc faults, ground arc faults, and series arc faults.
Arc faults can generate intense heat, potentially igniting nearby flammable materials, and ultimately causing a fire. To prevent such situations, Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) have been designed. The role of these devices is to reduce the likelihood of a fire outbreak in the final circuits of a fixed electrical installation, as a result of the effects of arc fault currents that can pose a fire risk under certain conditions, if the arc persists.
Requirements for AFDDs
An AFDD should be designed by the manufacturer, in accordance with the recommendations from SR EN 62606, to be a unique device equipped with a system that allows the opening of the protected circuit under specified conditions. The AFDD should be capable of detecting ground, parallel, and series arc faults. The main technical features of an AFDD include nominal current In, nominal voltage Un, and nominal frequency.
When is the AFDD Mandatory and When is it only Recommended?
Order 959/2023 stipulates that to reduce the risk of fire, AFDDs should be used in the final alternating current circuits, in accordance with recommendations from SR EN 62606 and SR EN 60364 4-42/A1. AFDD is mandatory in Romania as a special measure of protection against the effects produced by arc faults for all alternating current circuits with a nominal current that does not exceed 32 A in certain situations, such as sleeping spaces in residential buildings, accommodation units, and certain healthcare facilities, among others *.
Effective Date of the Changes and Exceptions
Order 959/2023 came into effect starting from July 12, 2023. The Order does not apply to investment objectives/projects for which works are in progress at the date of its entry into force or for which technical projects/feasibility studies/intervention approval documentations had started the public procurement procedures until the entry into force of the Order, among other exceptions.
Order 959/2023 marks a significant step in aligning Romania with the electrical installation safety standards of the European Union. By mandating the use of AFDDs in the mentioned situations, it brings substantial changes to the i7 Standard, with the potential to significantly reduce the risk of fire caused by an arc fault. While implementing these changes may involve considerable financial effort for beneficiaries, whether individuals or legal entities, the potential benefits in terms of fire prevention and the protection of life and property are undeniable.
* As per art. 220.127.116.11 ot the Romanian i7 Standard: In order to reduce the risk of fire, devices for detecting electric arc faults (AFDD) shall be used in the final alternating current circuits, according to the recommendations of SR EN 62606 and SR EN 60364 4-42/A1. The provision is mandatory as a special measure for the protection against the effects caused by electric arc defects for all alternating current circuits whose nominal current does not exceed 32 A, according to the specifications of point 18.104.22.168, in the following situations: spaces arranged for sleeping in residential buildings, accommodation units (tourist reception structures, dormitories, care and social assistance centers), nurseries, kindergartens, primary education; spaces in health buildings with people who cannot evacuate on their own;spaces that endanger irreplaceable material goods from museums, historical monuments category A and B, libraries, archives; constructions with wooden structure with level of stability III-V; spaces at risk of fire due to the nature of the stored materials, classified BE2 (including storage batteries), from accommodation units, nurseries, kindergartens, primary education, museums, historical monuments category A and B, libraries, archives; shelters for animals within agro-zootechnical constructions.
Disclaimer: This article is a summary of the main changes brought by Order 959/2023 to the i7 Standard. It is intended for the general information of readers who may be interested and it is not meant to provide a comprehensive overview and should not be considered as legal advice due to their general nature. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal counsel for specific and personalized guidance.