President Chinchilla decrees code for electrical work

A new decree requires electrical professionals to stick to a code. The decree came out Wednesday in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The regulations apply to any additions of remodeling of any structure. And buildings that accommodate more than 100 persons, such as schools, hospitals and dance halls, have to be inspected every five years.

The electrical code was approved by the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos.

The code probably will not do much to eliminate the rats nests that pass for electrical systems in many residential structures. Fire fighters are quick to note that bad wiring is a major cause of blazes.

There are no requirements now in Costa Rica for licensing of electricians. Many handymen do electrical work as well as carpentry and other manual labor. There is a Colegio de Ingenieros Electricistas, Mecánicos e Industriales. One of the conditions of the new decree is that the electrical provider has to
approve a new service and verify that a professional engineer says it meets requirements. The property owner also is responsible to make sure that work complies with the code.

There does not seem to be a standardized system of inspections by third parties as is customary in other countries. Nor is there a system of permitting by municipalities by those who would make changes in existing electrical systems.

Many lower-income residents in Costa Rica build their own homes of concrete block, steel beams and wood. Such homes can be built cheaply because the climate is mild. However, this style of construction usually means that electrical wiring will run on the surface, perhaps in a plastic channel. Frequently, wires simply are tacked to wood beams. Generally there is no inspection past the electrical meter.

In older homes from the 1930s and 1940s, owners have used creative methods to bring in enough power for modern appliances. The decree was by President Laura Chinchilla and the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

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