AFCI, does it help, or is it a bluff?


Old 08-12-08, 11:15 AM
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AFCI, does it help, or is it a bluff?

AFCI is not kommonly known here (Norway), but the code makers are discussing the need of a simular requirment in our NEK as un the NEC.

If the breaker shold operate only at arcs drawing more than 3 amps (3A*120V=360VA (~W)) an ark in series of a common ceiling lamp will never reach such current, but may still start a fire. exept for heater and coolers this current will only be available at equipment who is manned, and the fault will be detected manually.

Has anyone out there any experince of a GFCI saving their home from fire?

At this stage I am willing to say, somone hase fooled a complete nation to put in expencive equipment who gives a false feeling of safety, and using this money on regular maintainence (with is more difficult to regulate) more homes and lives would be saved.

Am I wrong?

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Old 08-12-08, 12:00 PM
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Depends on the type and age of the structure, the presumed life an AFCI, it's cost, and the presumed discount rate:

Economic Considerations --- AFCI Replacements

OTOH, it's pretty hard to tell the surviving spouse or parent:

"But... look on the bright side... on a average basis, discounted to present value, it's cost effective to have let him/her burn ... so you don't give a second thought to your decision not to upgrade".


My personal opinion - as a home inspector who sees how homes, and especially older homes, are actually wired, and how actual humans connect actual devices to actual receptacle outlets - is that at a minimum the following are circumstances where it's very wise to install AFCI protection even when you are not required to do so:

1) Any residential structure where the wiring is more than 25 years old, or where you have reason based on observation to believe that the integrity of the wiring is been compromised.

2) On any circuit on a residential structure where it is reasonable to suppose that cords connecting appliances will be used in locations where there are not visible or were they are subject to physical damage, for example under area rugs, adjacent to furniture such as dressers, beds, behind bookcases, and the like.

3) On any circuit where it is likely that "power strips", devices intended to increase the number receptacles available at an outlet, extension cords or the like will be installed, for example home office locations and bedside tables and dressers where chargers for large numbers of battery-powered devices are present.

The general objective here is to prevent damage to cords which are likely to create either parallel or series arcs, as these are the kind of wiring where experience has demonstrated you are most likely to have such faults, and/or where the faults will most likely lead to residential fires.
Old 08-13-08, 04:23 AM
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I cant pass up this opportunity to get my 2 cents in Surprised I am the only one with a objective opinion. I would have been happy if your last person was an electrical inspector and not a home inspector because it would be maybe an objectionable issue that could be explained to me. Granted, if I want to know about bugs and if I look in my furnace and and notice my air filter is dirty, those guys will be the first people I call.I follow the code book just as everyone else, but after so many years have realized that every code change is without a doubt a safety issue. However code changes are made due to input from ANYONE. You have a complaint and you address the NFPA , it will be looked at and will be yet another sub-section of the code book. Great! If I eat red meat while watching TV on the deck with a ice cream, the potential is there that i may die of a heart attack or tip my cone over on a already protected circuit---meaning That I understand the safety of people at stake. I have come to believe that I should be a hero because I save lives on a daily basis due to my codebook not only getting twice as big as any good dictionary and did I forget, costing $120 plus and let us not forget about the original question! Did I mention ANYONE can input to adjust the code? Hopefully you have guessed it! If I am a maker of any electrical device and I can lobby to make this a REQUIREMENT. Looks like I have spent my money wisely. It seems to me alot of good changes come out, but alot of "commercial" change come out as well. AFCI's in my opinion may be a good idea in theory, but why only the bedrooms? Is there no danger in any other part of the house? Why are they so sensitive and require so much interaction with customers that they feel they are going to die without them? I am sorry I call bull****! You want to address certain living spaces. Lets just AFCI the main breaker ad get it done with. I will appreciate the unrelenting service calls to fix this, but I actually want to perform a service I was trained to be and not run around stealing peoples money and forced to install something that is maybe a good idea, but totally driven by manufacturers. I know I have a strong opinion about this and would welcome any feedback at [email protected] Touched a nerve I guess!!
Old 08-13-08, 05:52 PM
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Not all fixtures and appliances are fused, either. Only the main wires are fused. Meaning if there is a short in whatever is plugged in an outlet, all kinds of zapping and sizzling could go on in there (maybe a fire), without blowing a house panel fuse or circuit breaker.

A particular scary situation I have commonly run into are light fixtures where the black and white (light fixture wires, not house wires) go through a common grommet in the lamp base and melt together.

A dryer I worked on the other day had 2 legs of a 240 circuit only separated by a fraction of an inch, and the engineers never thought of that if metal filings from a wearing bearing from above fell on the fiber terminal board, that the metal would bridge these contacts and cause explosive-like arcing, like ball-lightening, that caused the metal dryer to reverberate! Then after the filings were cleared away, the carbon tracking etched deep into the plastic switch which caused more explosive arcing until the carbon track was removed (carved away, layer by layer).

I suspect one could make a career out of trying to help change the status quo, but many of your efforts might be in futility. I've fouddn that to be true with calls to City Hall, about no-brainer ideas that they don't care to do since it was not their idea.

Just because a home inspector may not be a licensed electrician, does not mean they are not very capable in many ways. One such home inspector of 20 years and 6000 inspections, is capable enough to have his own call-in radio show on Saturday mornings. In my town here, our health dept. officials, who write inspection violation reports on rentals and other properties, are also quasi-building inspectors, and are on the look out for code violations as well, in the plumbing, heating and electrical fields. They don't miss a thing, including grounded outlets that really have no ground - and a lot, lot more. And they are very sharp, professional people that have been in the business for years.

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