AFCI adoption spreads, misconceptions linger

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The 2008 National Electrical Code adoption for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) has generally been going well. The 2008 NEC has been adopted without any amendment to arc faults in 34 states. Last September, the North Carolina Building Code Council voted to continue requiring special circuit-breakers in new homes.

March 01, 2010
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AFCI progress

 

Older homes with ordinary circuit breakers particularly may benefi t from the added protection against the arcing faults that can occur in aging wiring systems.

The 2008 National Electrical Code adoption for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) has generally been going well. The 2008 NEC has been adopted without any amendment to arc faults in 34 states. Last September, the North Carolina Building Code Council voted to continue requiring special circuit-breakers in new homes.

However, despite the widespread adoption, misconceptions still plague the product category. Compatibility issues are first and foremost, says Lanson Relyea, product manager for AFCI manufacturer Eaton. “There’s a misconception that there’s incompatibility either with appliances in the kitchen or they’re not compatible with ground fault receptacles,” he says. “That is totally not

AFCIs have already been adopted in 34 states.

true. There are no compatibility issues. In my house I have them on every possible circuit.”

Another problem nagging manufacturers and contractors alike is so-called “nuisance tripping,” where the AFCI will shut down a circuit.

“The most frustrating thing we get back are breakers that come back but they’re still good,” Relyea says. “We can read the trip code and identify the breaker tripped in that particular situation.” Overwhelmingly, he says, the case is a faulty installation.

The majority of breakers sent back for testing, says Relyea, show that the products haven’t been failing.

“We want to get electricians out of the mindset of replacing it outright and walking away. That can be particularly important in renovations. You can run into all kinds of wiring installations so you never know what you’re going to find behind the wall.”

 

AFCI progress

According to authors Bill Unseld and Alan Manche in their article, “Understanding the Combination AFCI Expansion in NEC-2008,” AFCIs are now better programmed to discern a dangerous arc from normal operation. Although combination AFCIs have been on the market for about the past year or so, Unseld and Manche say the technology in these devices have been extensively field tested by facing day-to-day usage conditions in numerous homes.

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