Arc Fault Circuit Breakers, and GFCI Questions ?

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Hello:
I guess this post really dates me, and ceretainly does make me feel old.
Have just heard about the relatively new type of circuit breakers termed "arc fault circuit breakers". Have reads up a bit on them, but still have several questions, please:
I live in a 25 year old house in Mass., that has the conventional type of circuit breakers installed.
a. Should I replace all, or just the ones going to e.g., the bedroom outlets with this new type ?
Why ?
b. What about the GFCI ground-fault breakers that I have installed for my few outlets in the garrage, and on the porch ?
What's best for this type of location; the GFCI, or the new arc fault type ? Why ?
c. Do they have any available that combine both features ?
If so, approx. cost ?
Is this a good approach?
d. Anyone familiar with the building codes in Mass. and how it relates to this ?
Not too sure what else to ask, but would like to learn about what types to use in a residence, where, pros and cons, etc., if anyone has a few spare minutes would be most appreciative.
Thanks, Bob
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Robert11 wrote:

"Should" you? I dunno. The bedrooms would be your first consideration since that's what's specifically addressed in the new code. Then, you might consider the circuits that you have reason to fear arcs on but that, for whatever reason, you don't want to fix any other way. For example, old knob-and-tube wiring, or wiring done by the previous hack that owned the house, or maybe aluminum-wired circuits.

I believe the thinking is that arcs in bedrooms cost a disproportionate number of lives because they lead to smouldering fires from which the smoke kills the sleepers before it sets off the smoke alarms. That bedrooms are full of smoulderable fabrics may also be a factor.

Garage and outdoor outlets definitely need to stay on gfci's because they offer protection for wet areas, where current leaking through you to wet earth is a danger. GFCI's are also the outlet of choice on ungrounded circuits, if running a ground is un-doable.
There are no combination devices that anyone's heard of yet so for each circuit you need to choose afci *or* gfci breaker. You could put a gfci outlet on a circuit protected by an afci-protected breaker. In fact I have one; on an ungrounded circuit in a bedroom.
(AFCI protection needs to be at the breaker, not the outlet, because the point of afci is to protect the connections of the wire to the outlet and elsewhere in the circuit.)

Code and common sense require gfci protection for outlets in wet locations. Perhaps a sink in the corner of a bedroom means that all outlets in that room require both? That's a question for your inspector. But there's no reason to think that a garage or outdoor outlet would warrant afci's, as I understand it.
The inspector does not want to hear that you sleep in the garage.

As above, I don't think so, not yet.

Round here, AFCI's and GFCI's push C$90 for my Siemens panel, compared to <$10 for normal breakers. You can take a look at homedepot.com as easily as I can.
They might be unavailable for some older panels.

Doing just the bedrooms in afci's would let you say that those rooms were up to current code, which I'd say is a fine goal.

Not me, sorry.
Nation-wide codes in Canada and the U.S. require afci's in "sleeping areas" for new construction. Nothing in the nationwide codes require upgrading older places. Some local codes try to do this, and some insurance companies have opinions.

Basically you now know what I do: gfci's for wet areas, afci's for bedrooms. The con's of both gfci and afci are the cost of nuisance trips, so fridges and freezers, exit lighting, life-support equipment etc are probably poor choices for either.
Having said that, my sump pump's on a gfci. The sight of a power cord heading straight into a pool of water...
Chip C Toronto
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I've been lead to understand that AFCIs actually _do_ have a GFCI function, but the threshold current is in the range of 30ma instead of 5ma.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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AFCIs are used in the bedrooms because that is where an arc'ing fault could start a fire while you are sleeping. I am guessing that soon all general lighting circuits will be AFCI. The GFCI has a different purpose, protecting against shocks. You should still be using them outside, in unfinished spaces and around water. The level of protection of a GFCI is 6ma, the AFCI has a 30ma ground fault threshold.
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Do you have a grounding conductor? I would be more concerned about a grounding conductor than the type of breakers installed. Electricity has worked for a lot of years with out Arc faults and GFCI's. Do you pour hot coffee in your lap and then sue?
Arc faults are for bedrooms under the new NEC. GFCI's are for areas with water. Garage, bathrooms, outside, kitchens. Brought into the code sometime around 1973. Kitchens 1997 or so I am unaware of any combined protection breakers. Not much reason to combine this kind of protection in my opinion.
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GFCI's could be nice in a kitchen or bath. I wouldn't waste $ installing arcfaults.
Just my .02
AZCRAIG
www.azcraig.us

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wrote:

Please, don't make a statement like this without following it up with why you believe they are a waste.
Some of us are willing to listen to what you have to say.
later,

tom @ www.CarFleaMarket.com
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AFCI breakers are designed to protect you from a threat that has about zero chance of killing you. don't even bother, except where required by law.
--Goedjn
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On Fri, 14 Jan 2005 18:40:32 -0500, " snipped-for-privacy@uri.edu"

That logic is flawed. I have a overflow drains on all my sinks, but I have almost zero risk of drowning. Ok, bad analogy :) Sometimes the cost of the breaker(40 bucks) is cheaper than the clean up of a small fire.
later,
tom @ www.BookmarkAdmin.com
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When I priced the AFCI they were less than $40 for the panel I am installing in my rentals. Sounds to me like cheap insurance. Especially if all you need to do is pop out the breaker and pop in the new one.
I am going to install them in the bedroom and the living room.

Safely doing the job never hurts. The little wiring book I have (Wiring Simplified) states:
The U.S.Consumer Product Safety Comission estamates that anually that there are more than 40,000 fires in residential occupancies, resulting in 250 lives lost and 1 billion in financial loss. It has been estimated that 40% of these fires are caused by arcing faults...
===========end quote============== If your house is only 25 years old it should be a couple of breakers and 10 minutes with a screw driver to install them.

--

Roger Shoaf

About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
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Hi,
Thanks for all the good info.
Just curious:
On new home construction, what are they (generally) putting in the distribution boxes these days ? (I live in Mass., but guess this is a general, any area, type question)
Regular circuit breakers, and the arc fault type only in the bedrooms ?
Or, all arc fault ?
Or... ?
Bob
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In my area new or "to code" updating (full replacement) requires arc fault only in bedrooms for residential construction.
The local code pretty much follows the national one as it is adopted. Your area may have standards that exceed the NEC but it is unusual for a community to at least not meet "last year's code".
Most GFIC is done at the receptacle level.
Colbyt
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wrote:

As you have read the new breakers give you an additional safety. Bedrooms are the only place they are called for by code right now but I wouldn't be suprised to see them required in more places soon. They are a good idea everywhere imho. Especially in places where you have outlelts with things plugged in behind furniture or covered by draperes etc. A very good friend of mine died right before Christmas due to a lamp with a bad cord that arced and caused the couch to cath on fire Would I buy a $40 breaker to have him back again. You betcha.

I'm not aware of any that combine both but I'm only the son of an electrician and not the real thing so they could exist and I don't know about it. You don't want to replace you gfci breakers with another breaker that lacks that functionaily. I don't know what would happen if you used an arc fault breaker and then gfci plugs for the apporpriat circuits. If your interested let us know and I will ask my dad about it.
Steve B.
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Where?
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wrote:

them in some new construction; ended up replacing them with conventional breakers because of constant nuissance tripping.

fault to trip; I'd rather leave the gfci breakers for where they are needed.

If you want to protect yourself, make sure you keep mice out of it; wires won't arc unless something has chewed off the insolation or something wasn't installed correctly.
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Wires won't but switches do all the time. Do you reckon that might be a problem? :))
Colbyt
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On Sat, 15 Jan 2005 20:16:03 -0500, "Colbyt"

I wonder how the breakers deal with that. The biggest thing our local university found is that plugging in anything like a fluorescent desk light without having it turned off first would trip the afci every time. I'm sure that the breakers available a few years from now will be better than what is available today.
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wrote:

I speculate that it is more of an issue when a bed is jammed up against the outlet and the plug for the clock radio starts arcing. The fact that the AFCI responded to having a load being switched by the plug is exactly the response they were supposed to have.
--

Roger Shoaf

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On Sun, 16 Jan 2005 15:14:53 -0800, "Roger Shoaf"

Actually, no. When safety devices cause false-positives people bypass/or remove them. For a safety device to work properly, it's not suppose to piss people off in the process. The afci might have been faulty, cause it's suppose to be smart enought to distingish a switch closing and an actual arc.
I would have them replaced.
imho,
tom @ www.FreelancingProjects.com
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He didn't say the breakers tripped when the lamp was switched on, he said:
"The biggest thing our local university found is that plugging in anything like a fluorescent desk light without having it turned off first would trip the afci every time."
When the plug is inserted into the socket there is an arc if there is a load. The breaker is doing what it was designed to do.
--

Roger Shoaf

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