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Thread: arc fault protectors

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Default arc fault protectors

    I'm a bit curious about these.

    My bedroom lights and receptacles are on seperate circuits. Should each circuit be protected with an arc fault? I have done this for the main floor, but curious if I should do it for the 2nd floor bedroom and den wiring as well?

    I will no doubt do it for the receptacles on the 2nd floor, just cuious if I should do it as well for the lighting circuit as well.

    Are they required in any other rooms besides sleeping quarters? I have an old house, so I'm sure it is exempt, but trying to be safe...

    I'm not certain, but the 2nd floor bedroom might be on the same circuit as the bathroom, which has GFCI's installed. Will installing the arc fault breaker affect the GFCI's? I plan on seperating the circuits, just not sure when that will happen.

    Thanks

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    For better or worse, these became code after my place was built!

    You can get electrical fires for numerous reasons, but a loose connection that arcs can get things hot enough to burn and not trip the circuit breaker. So, these were mandated for bedrooms, where the risk of a fire at night could be more of a problem. This could occur in a wall and be burning nicely before enough smoke made it into the room to trip the also required smoke detector.

    These things will likely (if not already) to be mandated for other areas of a house.

    From what I've heard (all hearsay - I've never lived in a place with them), the first generation were prone to false tripping. Something like a hair dryer with brush type motor can generate a lot of sparks, for example. The current ones are said to be less prone to this nuisance tripping. The pros probably have some real-time advice about what currently works, and what to stay away from.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3

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    Are they required in any other rooms besides sleeping quarters?
    National code, yes....... but a lot of areas (most?) have not yet adopted the new AFCI requirements. Here, in AZ, they are still only required in bedrooms.

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    Sr. Systems Engineer, Biotech
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    In Mass, I finished a sunroom addition last year. With that, I ran two new circuits; one for the outlets and the other for the ceiling fan / lights and recessed lighting. My local code required that I install the ACFI breakers. The light circuit has nuisance tripped on me 4 times in the last year - pretty annoying. When I had my final electrical inspection, he only required me to press the 'test' button on the breaker and then reset them. Thankfully they did not require me to have to change out other breakers in the panel at that time.

    I'm in the starting phases of planning to add a 26x26 great room over the garage. I have a feeling that I will have to update to the latest code on smoke detectors (one if every bedroom, etc..) when I do this. Currently I just have one detector on each level, all hard-wired. Not sure if they will require me to swap out any breakers to AFCI at that point. At $35/ea and more, it will be expensive.

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    My understanding on codes is that you don't have to go back and fix what was done prior to a code change, but that any NEW work has to be to code.

    With that said, when I bought the house last year, I had the panel upgraded from a 60amp federal pacific panel to a 200amp Cuttler Hammer Panel with a sub panel to the garage and a sub panel to the basement. I wasn't required to put in any arc faults in any rooms or to add wired smoke alarms. The alarms brings another question, that maybe I'll ask on another thread....

    In my case, adding the arc faults would be tough as I don't believe they make them for the small double breakers, which is primarily what is in my panel. I would have to once again go with a larger panel. I have room to add them to the bedroom circuits, but not much else...

  6. #6
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
    National code, yes....... but a lot of areas (most?) have not yet adopted the new AFCI requirements. Here, in AZ, they are still only required in bedrooms.
    So honest opinion, if adding new breakers would you add those or not? I will install them in all bedroom circuits, but it isn't required here for the rest of the house, but would you slowly upgrade? Are they really worth it?

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The codes are written to cover a lot of what-ifs. This is true for plumbing as well as gas and structural. What if you have a party and 50 people decide to stand in the room...will the floor collapse? What if everyone flushes the multiple toilets in the house at the same time? What if someone didn't install the wire nut on the connection tight and the leads arc?

    How many people have had a home fire in a house they were living in? So, will it save your life? Maybe. It's like insurance. You could harwire all of the circuits or put a penny in the old fuse box, and get away with it for years, but plug in one too many thing and overheat the wiring, you could burn the house down that Christmas when you added those extra strings of lights the wife wanted to make the house prettier.

    So, are they necessary, no. Could they save your life, yes. Is it likely, probably not, but that depends on the quality of the workmanship and the materials used. Code is just trying to cover those what-ifs, and maybe save your life or your property. Note, the arc fault will protect you from a defective device as well as the infrastructure.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    So, are they necessary, no. Could they save your life, yes. Is it likely, probably not, but that depends on the quality of the workmanship and the materials used. Code is just trying to cover those what-ifs, and maybe save your life or your property. Note, the arc fault will protect you from a defective device as well as the infrastructure.
    I will admit, I'm obviously not an electrician, but I am doing most of the wiring myself. I do feel very confident in my abilities and I tend to research heavily before doing things such as this.

    Over the last 100yrs this house has been wired, rewired, etc more times than I could count and I finally have most of that mess out of here. I'm actually suprised nothing caught fire with the old wiring, but the old wiring for the clothes dryer did come close, the box and taking action when we smelled burning plastic took care of that one. I had the electrician out to find the issue and he said we are lucky the house didn't catch fire. Basically the wires in a junction box shorted out, I assume those are the types of things acr faults are meant to catch?

  9. #9
    Senior Robin Hood Guy Ian Gills's Avatar
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    They sometimes also give a degree of ground fault protection, although this is rarely highlighted, starting at approximately 30 milliamps. This ground-fault protection is not personal protection though, as would be the case for a GFCI function with tripping levels of between 4 and 6 milliamps or higher.
    Last edited by Ian Gills; 10-13-2009 at 12:06 PM.

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