AFCI breaker installation in older homes

Things always seem to occur in threes, so within the past week I have had three electricians call me to tell me that recommending the installation of AFCI breakers in older homes is irresponsible. I’ve only been doing so since around January of this year at the recommendation of my attorneys and insurance providers.

The electricians have stated that such a recommendation creates more problems than it solves because it would involve complete rewiring of the appropriate circuits, which could involve many tens of thousands of dollars of wall, ceilling, and floor tear-out for what they consider very little extra protection; i.e., the benefits do not justify the cost (until, of course, someone’s house burns down).

While I’ve never been concerned about the cost to make something better while the property is owned by someone else, can the electricians amongst us weigh in on this, please? I might decide to reword my AFCI verbiage based on this thread.

What is everyone else doing?

Here’s three files stored at About Homes that I reference my Clients to:

INF-0002, INF-0003, INF-0126

On pre 2001 homes I make a note that there are no AFCI’s on the bedroom circuits and you may wish to have AFCI’s installed as a safety upgrade.:slight_smile:


You just knew I could not resist…Bait Monger…:slight_smile:

I recommend AFCI’s on all homes wired from 1985 to today…obviously 2002 took care of the formal request…lol…But I may suggest it earlier IF I feel the wiring can support it…I dont for example on K & T…but you get the point.

But I wanted to comment on the guys you stated that call you are moaning about…AFCI’s…

The AFCI may be required now on bedrooms…BUT it wont HARM anything to be in other locations and in fact soon the NEC will probably increase the locations and requirements…

Their is nothing wrong with you recommending AFCI’s my friend…and I would not stop doing it…any standard wiring with a Grounded and Ungrounded conductor can use an AFCI…it simply adds to the level of safety and nothing wrong with it.

I would not let the local electricians give you any hassle…I am sure they are doing it because it shows up on your report and the seller does not want to include them…because the buyer want’s them…either way I am sure the electrician is hired by the seller…anyway…

I know plenty that started moaning about the GFCI’s years also as well…

P.S…tell the electricians to call me…I will explain to them MOST homes have maybe 3 circuits MAX that cover bedrooms…so they put 3 AFCI’s in…and it happens to cover some recepts outside of the bedroom…who needs to rewire anything…so they are protected also…no harm…no foul…nothing needs to be re-wired !

Moi? On Cinco de Mayo? Surely you jest. :mrgreen:

Thanks for your thoughts.

The three homes in question were 1971, 1994, and 1996.

I have no problem suggestiong AFCI’s in all those homes…You are fine my friend…

The idea of having to rewire to be able to gain the protection is simply outragous…not sure where they were going with that unless it was on a house that was K & T…which in that case SHOULD be rewired and yes will cost thousands to do so…but thats a given…NOT on the homes and years you have listed…

Have one on me…:slight_smile:

My employees would like to know if they can have one on you also. They are very easy to please, so say “yes.” Thanks.

Did the local AHJ adopt the AFCI’s in 2002?

There’s Todd.

I’ve been wondering where you were.

Todd I can’t do all of your leg work.:wink: :stuck_out_tongue:

Fine 2002. Dangit Todd.

The reason you may have trouble with AFCIs will be multiwire circuits. I see a lot of homes where the bedrooms are on the other end of the house from the panel and they run a 14/3 to a ceiling box and run the MW to the outlets. That is a valid design decision, for voltage drop issues, if wire was free. Wire is far from free and getting higher every day.
Personally I would probably ignore the 6’ rule 210.12(B)ex(a) and put a “device” AFCI in the first box down from the split … if my panties were in a wad about not having AFCIs. Not legal but a workable, non-invasive solution.

GFCIs are a proven commodity, AFCIs are more hype than substance. <IMHO> They can’t even agree on what kind of fault they will protect you from, other than excess money in your wallet.

lol…suggestions never hurt…and refering to the electrician could determine if the multi-wire issue is present…suggestions never KILLED a deal in my mind…lol…

lol…regardless of panties in a wad…thehehehe…

But the entire rewiring of the house because of an AFCI is not correct…if it is multiwire then it is moot…I have inspected over 2,500 homes and wired about as many…and I do not use multiwire circuits in that method…just more trouble than its worth…

I think you may see it more maybe with todays copper price rise…but in the past it was not as large of a concern in my mind…:slight_smile:

Now…thats why I said K & T was not worth even mentioning because the whole dang thing is like a multi-wire circuit…lol

Arc faults (the breakers) are good.

Look to see more added in the 2008 NEC.

I think the recommendation of AFCI’s is not a good idea unless “you” know for sure that they will be able to be installed in older applications.

Reason I asked is they did not start requiring them in some areas down here until 2005.

Great Point…figured that went without saying…obviously you can only use a AFCI breaker if it is made for a specific panel…glad you pointed that out Mike…quite an important fact…:slight_smile:

I have been to busy to post or read much.:D:(:neutral:

I recommend them in my “additional safety item” section.

Just be careful telling someone that it is simple on a newer home.
If there are shared neutrals with switched outlets from 3 and 4 gang boxes that are full of wires it can take some time to get a newly installed AFCI to stop tripping…

Multiwire circuits also give you a 50% improvement on voltage drop.

Yeah…but due to the "Frekish Nature of the Home Owner " I hate to fry their brain when at some point they are gonna MESS in their panel anyway…and then WHAMO…who knows what they can screw up and if they happen to remove the neutral for some reason…well…you have seen what some homeowners do…even as an electrician I think about this when I am wiring a house.

It’s true that multiwire branch circuits reduce voltage drop, and the number of conductors. However, mishandling or improper wiring of multiwire branch circuits can cause overloading of the grounded (neutral) conductor and/or the destruction of equipment and while I would like to think someone will not mess in the panel after we finish the house…well my years of doing HI work as well tell me different…lol

Failure to properly terminate the ungrounded (hot) conductors of a multiwire branch circuit to separate phases could cause the grounded (neutral) conductor to become overloaded with excessive neutral current which we all are aware of from the little “Multiwire Circuits for Fun” thread I started a few weeks ago…lol

Actually, I dont find much need for it greg while I very much do see your point… in most homes we do the service is 400A and over 4,000 sq ft so I always put a “remote sub-panel” panel centrally located to usually handle the far areas of the house…on homes that large…on the homes we do under 2,500 sq ft…they tend to not be large enough to have to worry too much about the voltage drop issue per say…

really just depends on the layout to be honest with you…when designing the layout all these things come into consideration but you are right…we just bought (10) 1,000 rolls of 14-2 and (5) 1,000 rolls of 12-2 and man…glad I get 60% up front…lol

It may also depend on your architecture. We build a lot of slab on grade here, one floor with what they call “split plan”. You have bedrooms on opposite ends of the house. It is the far bedroom and bathrooms that are likely to see the multiwire. That is going to be 70 feet or more to the split depending on layout. I suppose it is all moot on a new house because of the AFCI.

I inspected, last year, a newly built house in a large development with a big builder (won’t mention the name. Big development, over 500 SF homes, each about 1.7 mil). No AFCIs and the local AHJ did not require them.

I called the out anyway, as not complient with ‘nationally accepted construction standards’ (i.e. NEC). Explained to client, but the builders rep (who followed me around like a puppy during the inspection and kept telling the buyers that I was full of it) said I was just plain stupid. I handed him a copy of the state law and expalined that I was required to call them out.

Did the 12 month builder’s warranty inspection last week. Guess what? They not only installed AFCIs for the bedroom, they did them all on multiwire circuits (had to pull some new wire) and sued red and blue wire to distinguish the two legs. Very neat job. Very professional.

When the inspection was almost done, the electrical contractor stopped by. He took me aside and thanked me for calling it out as I did on the original inspection. He said that he had told the builder about the new requirement, but the builder said ‘Just do it to code, no better.’ My report gave the electrical sub the needed weight to convince the builder. They went around and ‘fixed’ all 500 units.

We, all, can make a difference, if we only stand our ground and speak the truth. :mrgreen: