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afci recommendations


Jerry Lozier
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I always recommend clients upgrade to current standards when it comes to gfci protection if the home is lacking....

However had not thought much about recommending homes (especially older) be upgraded with afci protection to current standards in bedrooms.(at this time)

And it sounds like before long the new houses will be completely afci and gfci protected.

Question:

So whats the prevailing thot here, is that something you address specifically in your report on say a 30+ years old home and possible report wording??

thanks.... Jerry

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There's no cut/dried way to answer this, and I've been asking the same question of myself lately.

AFCI's can't be installed in all older homes (...unless they're also going to replace the panel). They simply don't make AFCIs for some older panel types, and if a panel is full with 1/2 width breakers there isn't room without adding a subpanel. It's not the same simple solution as GFCI's which can be installed in virtually every older home.

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I am quick to install GFCI's in my own home. This is in wet areas and also where my dog might chew a wire. Then I don't worry about my dog so much!

I have not installed ANY AFCI's though. (Nor do I intend to.) This is because I keep reading about all sorts of problems with certain appliances false tripping these. Things like vacuum cleaners, a dehumidifier, and I think a computer in one case.

With the new NEC rules and AFCI's installed everywhere but the kitchen/bathroom/garage/outside (GFCI'S), AFCI problem posts are popping up all over the internet. People are having to plug their vacuum cleaners into kitchen or bathroom outlets so they can vacuum (GFCI).

From what I have read, the industry approach to this problem is to get appliance manufacturers to change the designs of their appliances so they will not trip AFCI's. This will take some time.

They even have a false tripping report page for AFCI's...

http://www.afcisafety.org/report.html

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I'm still kinda curmugeonly on the whole thing.

The places they're desirable and/or necessary are old dumps with completely outdated electrical systems that can't accommodate them, i.e., the places no one can afford to install them, or the slumlord simply won't.

Walter's recommendation makes the most sense, but it still kinda strikes me as one of those things that's going completely over the heads of every one of my customers.

It's another of those things I'd put in the general FYI category, but without much emphasis.

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I always recommend clients upgrade to current standards when it comes to gfci protection if the home is lacking....

However had not thought much about recommending homes (especially older) be upgraded with afci protection to current standards in bedrooms.(at this time)

And it sounds like before long the new houses will be completely afci and gfci protected.

Question:

So whats the prevailing thot here, is that something you address specifically in your report on say a 30+ years old home and possible report wording??

thanks.... Jerry

I love modern GFCIs. I think that they're excellent safety devices that save a lot of lives each year at a very reasonable cost.

AFCIs on the other hand have been, until recently, expensive hunks of mostly worthless plastic. I'm not convinced that a single AFCI anywhere has ever done anything other than cause people inconvenience.

The new combination AFCIs however, might just change my mind. The technology has improved dramatically and they might actually be able to prevent fires now.

I'll have to break down and buy a couple to use in my own house to see how they work.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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THe 2008 NEC requires AFCIs in all living spaces not protected by GFCIs for new constrcution.. I know there is still a question about bath and kitchen light circuits. The agency that licenses us in Texas (TREC) requires us to "write-up" older houses which are not AFCI protected (almost every house). I tell my clients this is not a large safety concern and live with what you have! Many panels cannot accomodate the AFCI breaker.

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So what are you all going to do about recommending tamper-resistant receptacles in older homes?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Huh,

You must be referring to those damned plastic thingies they stick in plugs. I call 'em anti-inspector devices.

They used to only be required in "pediatric areas" and psychiatric wards. The 2008 NEC requires them in new and renovated residences.

They contain spring loaded shutters that open only when both are compressed. It's to prevent little Kurt from doing this:

2009224195532_Boys-will-be-Boys-01.jpg

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THe 2008 NEC requires AFCIs in all living spaces not protected by GFCIs for new constrcution.. I know there is still a question about bath and kitchen light circuits. The agency that licenses us in Texas (TREC) requires us to "write-up" older houses which are not AFCI protected (almost every house). I tell my clients this is not a large safety concern and live with what you have! Many panels cannot accomodate the AFCI breaker.

Let me gently offer: If the NEC is going to require AFCIs, and TREC is going to require that you "write up" TX houses without AFCIs, do you really want to tell clients that "this is not a large safety concern?" That's a hard -- well, impossible -- position to back up. If, heaven forbid, a house you inspected burns down, what will you say when it comes time to back up your "not a large safety concern" statement?

Why not just tell the customers what NEC and TREC say, and let NEC and TREC hold the hot potato(es)? Why offer a personal opinion when citing respected authorities would work better?

WJ

Should I also tell them that 14 gauge wire is no longer allowed in their jurisdiction? Should I have them install the new tamper resistent receptacles? Should I apologize to them because I have to rip off a shingle to see the nailing pattern (a new TREC rule)? Why don't I write it up if in their 20 year old house their smoke alarms are not wired together? I do explain to them the reason behind the 2008 NEC AFCI requirement. The problem with the rule is that I am required to write this particular "code violation" on every house no matter when it was built. Inspectors have said for years that they are not code inspectors and I avoid that word as much as I can. I do not think this "write-up" makes the house any safer but it does put concern in the buyer's mind. I guess my problem is why did TREC pick this one particular code area to singlke out. It is also impossible to retrofit many panels with AFCIs.
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THe 2008 NEC requires AFCIs in all living spaces not protected by GFCIs for new constrcution.. I know there is still a question about bath and kitchen light circuits. The agency that licenses us in Texas (TREC) requires us to "write-up" older houses which are not AFCI protected (almost every house). I tell my clients this is not a large safety concern and live with what you have! Many panels cannot accomodate the AFCI breaker.

Let me gently offer: If the NEC is going to require AFCIs, and TREC is going to require that you "write up" TX houses without AFCIs, do you really want to tell clients that "this is not a large safety concern?" That's a hard -- well, impossible -- position to back up. If, heaven forbid, a house you inspected burns down, what will you say when it comes time to back up your "not a large safety concern" statement?

Why not just tell the customers what NEC and TREC say, and let NEC and TREC hold the hot potato(es)? Why offer a personal opinion when citing respected authorities would work better?

WJ

Should I also tell them that 14 gauge wire is no longer allowed in their jurisdiction? Should I have them install the new tamper resistent receptacles? Should I apologize to them because I have to rip off a shingle to see the nailing pattern (a new TREC rule)? Why don't I write it up if in their 20 year old house their smoke alarms are not wired together? I do explain to them the reason behind the 2008 NEC AFCI requirement. The problem with the rule is that I am required to write this particular "code violation" on every house no matter when it was built. Inspectors have said for years that they are not code inspectors and I avoid that word as much as I can. I do not think this "write-up" makes the house any safer but it does put concern in the buyer's mind. I guess my problem is why did TREC pick this one particular code area to singlke out. It is also impossible to retrofit many panels with AFCIs.
I gave up trying to make sense of TREC's screwy rules years ago when I first read the requirement to test oven temperature. I think there's way too much meddling in HI affairs by real estate wingnuts down there.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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  • 4 weeks later...

Arc fault detection is primarily a parallel fault type of detection today. This can happen when the insulation is deteriorated such as with old wiring in old homes. The promise of combination type arc fault detection is that it will also detect low current series type faults (loose connections). This type of fault can happen even in new wiring. If older homes have breaker panels that will accept AFCI breakers, they seem to have the best use to gain from them.

Also, GFCI breakers detect ground faults between .004-.006 amps. Regular AFCI breakers detect ground faults above .030 amps. AFCI/GFCI breakers detect ground faults between .004-006 amps. Therefore, all AFCI style breakers will trip if the neutral and equipment ground are touching anywhere on the circuit.

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THe 2008 NEC requires AFCIs in all living spaces not protected by GFCIs for new constrcution..

In Washington the State (L&I) amended the the AFCI requirement of the 2008 NEC, requiring them for the bedroom circuits only.

But then several municipalities, including Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue and more chose to adopt the full 2008 NEC.

2008 NEC Wash AFCI

That will be fun during inspections. Some homes will have them and some will not. I think we need a flow chart. :)

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