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  • AFCI Circuit Breakers and the New 2008 Electrical Code.

       Wiring Home > Electrical > Arc Fault Circuit Breaker Article
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    Since electrical problems spark an estimated 67,800 home fires on an annual basis, it was no surprise that the National Fire Protection Association expanded the requirement of arc fault circuit breakers to include more locations of your home than only the bedrooms as previously required in the 2005 code.

    The 2008 code requires that 15 and 20 amp circuits in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas be protected by a combination-type listed arc-fault circuit interrupter.

    From a fire safety standpoint this is a great idea that should reduce fires that are started by a home electrical system, but not everyone is in agreement with the new requirement. Some local jurisdictions are debating on adapting the new requirement due to the increased cost to new home construction which could be as much as two or three thousand per home. Others are concerned about problems with false tripping which is not only a hassle but could lead to unnecessary service costs for some home owners.

    If you are doing a new installation in an area that adopted the new code you really have no choice but to use AFCI circuit breakers, like it or not, that is if you want to pass inspection. So the only question that remains is, should you upgrade your existing electrical panel to the new code.

    I’m sure if you asked someone who had a fire in their home they would do it regardless of the cost. That type of experience leaves a long lasting impression, one that you never want to return. For others the cost of around $40 per breaker may prove too steep even with the reduced risk of fire. I would say that if you can afford the upgrade to go ahead and do it. In my opinion the safety of you and your family outweighs the expenditure and any hassle of false tripping especially if you are electrically inclined enough to do it yourself. I would suggest educating yourself about how these new breakers work and what conditions make them trip.

    Note: If you want to install an AFCI breaker on an existing circuits that utilize a shared neutral - One three conductor wire caring two circuits to the same location and sharing a single conductor for the neutral of both circuits. This form of wiring will not work with AFCI circuit breakers, and new cables would need to be installed for it to work properly.

    Siemens makes a new combination type that I like, it has LED trip indicators that help electricians and home owners pinpoint the type of problems that may cause the device to trip. The LEDs will light for the specific trip condition, arc fault, ground or over current. They will work with Siemens, Murray, I-T-E, and Crouse-Hinds load centers.

    Important comment: I have found that some people get an AFCI confused with a GFCI. Although they seem similar they are not, the purpose of an AFCI is to trip when a hazardous electrical condition from an arcing circuit exists. The purpose of a GFCI is to trip when a shock hazard exists to protect a person from electrocution.

    Will they completely eliminate the chance of an electrical fire in your home, no they will not. But they will greatly reduce your risk when certain dangerous electrical problems exist in your electrical system.

    In conclusion arc fault circuit breakers are much like smoke detectors they are only important when you need them.

    Identifying Combination Arc Fault Circuit Breakers By Manufacturer Type.

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