Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits, so they don’t protect against arcing conditions. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), on the other hand, are innovative circuit breakers designed to detect dangerous electrical conditions that may spark a fire in the home.
AFCIs provide a safeguard against hidden issues that either exist (dubious wiring that may have been done over the years) or may occur during a remodel, such as electrical wires damaged during installation or light fixtures or outlet grounding problems.
Updated Electrical Safety
ACFIs have been in the National Electrical Code (NEC) since 1999 and were previously required to be installed during new-home construction to protect the circuits that power bedrooms.
The 2008 NEC expanded the AFCI requirement to include dining and living rooms, sunrooms, and other gathering areas in the home, and the 2011 NEC requires that AFCIs be installed in the bedrooms of existing dwellings. The NEC’s new requirements emphasize that AFCIs are important for existing homes where older wiring and outdated electrical work may increase the threat of an electrical fire.
Upgrading to AFCI protection at the start of a remodeling project is not only cost-effective but also significantly enhances the overall safety of the home. Below are three common remodeling scenarios where the home’s electrical system may need to be altered in some form. While the complexity of each remodeling project depends on the construction of the house, an opportunity to install AFCIs still exists.
—Gerard Winstanley is a program manager for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the May 2012 issue of REMODELING.