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New AFCI Requirements for 2014’s National Electrical Code

April 3, 2016

House with Plug

Keeping electrical wiring up to date is a crucial part of home upkeep, but one that is often overlooked as much of a home’s electrical system are hidden in the walls. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) approximates that nearly 13% of home fires are electrical in derivation and about half have occurred from an electrical arc in the home’s wiring.

AFCI’s (Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupters) are devised to detect an electrical arc inside the wall and de-energize the circuit if it sees the fault striking repeatedly. Arc faults are different from other electrical surges, with a low current that doesn't trip the breaker, resulting in recurring arcs that melt the wire insulation and can cause fire. Installation of AFCI’s is especially important in older homes. As wiring ages, it’s more apt to have an arc.

AFCI’s are not new. They were first required in 1999 but were limited only to the wall outlets in bedrooms. NEC expanded in 2002 to include lights and switches in bedrooms. In 2008 the NEC expanded once again, requiring AFCIs in most rooms except the kitchen, bathroom, garage, laundry and exterior where GFCI’s (Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters) were more common.

The 2014 requirements extend into the kitchen and laundry and more notably, require all AFCI outlets or circuit breakers to be “readily accessible.” This signifies that outlets hidden behind the refrigerator are no longer acceptable.

Homeowners should be knowledgeable of the new requirements as they will influence any modification in preparation for sale or remodel.  Any changes to branch circuit wiring will be subject to the new rules, even if you are simply adding one outlet or moving a can-light.

Regardless of the cost of upgrades, having AFCI’s in your home is like having an electrical inspector on-site at all times. AFCI’s detect bizarre electrical glitches that are undetectable by regular breakers and shut off that circuit. Last but not least the peace of mind that comes with safe wiring is immeasurable. 

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