Treating the Common Code

November 3, 2008
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Phil Forner

SAUGATUCK, Mich. - The “bigs” rolled into a seaside resort town in Western Michigan to talk about changes in Michigan’s residential and commercial codes. Phil Forner, owner of Allendale Heating Company Inc., Allendale, Mich., former ACCA national chairman, and John Sedine, owner of Engineered Heating & Cooling, Walker, Mich., and current national ACCA secretary are both members of the Michigan Chapter of ACCA (MIACCA). Forner and Sedine talked with attendees of the meeting about some of the major code changes that impact how they design and install residential and commercial HVACR systems.

While not having national implications, the code changes reflect the need for all HVACR contractors to stay current and get involved with the code revision process. In Michigan’s case, the new codebooks established in 2006 finally took effect earlier this year. Sedine said it is a good idea to document everything to avoid conflicts with inspectors and code interpretations. “Document everything you do to support the system you designed and installed,” he said. “Make sure that support is for the design requested by the specific customer and not for what a building’s future use might be.

“Inspectors will be looking for documents that pertain to the one building they are inspecting, not the 10 others that look just like it.”

Forner noted residential code changes such as the location of outside exhaust openings, the impact of Manual S calculations on equipment design, auxiliary drain pans for Category 4 condensing appliances, and termination of exhaust ducting, the latter of which he noted was an area of confusion.

“Termination of exhaust ducting is discussed in two different chapters of the code book with different interpretations,” Forner said.

Forner also talked about the varying definitions of “town homes” and how they differ from condominiums and apartments. The differences are important to note because of codes, which require separate piping to individual units that must be accessible from each unit and must not physically run through adjacent units.

“We are going to have to get creative to solve some of the problems associated with this confusion,” he said. “You need to have a discussion with your builder ahead of time.”

John Sedine

Sedine said there are some changes to the Michigan Mechanical Code which could “bite you in the butt” if MIACCA members weren’t aware of them.

One of the changes involves how a product is used as it is intended to be used in its listing. The code says that it is the responsibility of the engineer, architect, code official, or installer of a listed product to “read the manufacturer’s installation instructions and be familiar with the particulars of the listing for that product.”

Sedine added, “Make sure what you are buying is listed and labeled for the use. An inspector can ask if you are using an approved sheet metal screw for an application, but just saying it is UL listed is not good enough.”

He also discussed the changes in the code requiring guards for roof hatch openings, where access to rooftop units is necessary. “Putting in guards is not our scope of work,” he said. “It is an architectural issue but it is in our code.”

Sedine encouraged contractors to sit in on code review boards and give their input, even though they don’t have voting rights to make changes.

Publication date: 11/03/2008

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