Inspecting AFCI Breakers and Conductor Ratings

I’m hoping some of you can offer some insight on how you inspect and report on AFCI breakers; not tripping and resetting them, rather, do you report their absence in certain areas of the home? As I understand it, AFCI-protected outlets are required in just about every room of the house as of 2008. Under what circumstances do you report the absence of an AFCI-protected outlet as a defect?

I am also a bit unclear about how you inspect the conductor ratings and whether they exceed the breaker ratings or not.

Lastly, I use an infrared camera to examine the distribution panel and look for overheating breakers, however I’m not clear on what temperatures dictate whether I should report a defect or not. I’ve found a table (How hot can circuit breakers get? What is the temperature of a molded case breaker?) that states that breakers - unless labeled otherwise - can reach a max temp of 212 F (100 C). That seems very high. Maybe I’m not interpreting the table correctly?

Thanks for your help!

Where to start…

  1. Please head to the control panel and fill in your profile information so we know where you are from

  2. You are not a code inspector… Houses built under one code are not required to be updated to current code unless deemed so by the AHJ. I do note if there were AFCI present or not, and that is about the extent of it. Same with GFCI. I do call out GFCI in kitchens and bathrooms as an upgrade for safety but not a defect. More information on AFCI/GFCI here: Inspecting GFCI and AFCI Protection - InterNACHI

  3. Conductor ratings and breaker ratings… Please explain your question better.

  4. Have you taken any training on the proper use of a thermal camera? Your question is actually not answerable. Testing an electrical system with IR is a mix of qualitative and quantitative depending on what is viewed.

I can add to the answers but more information is needed from you.


1.) Seems to be in order (Salt Lake City, UT)
2a.) This notion is one of the first things I learned when becoming a home inspector and one of the first things I cover with the client when I begin my walkthrough. My intention is not to rattle off a bunch of code requirements in my inspection report, rather to better understand why these codes were put in place and explain to the client the concerns of these standards not being met.
2b.) I always note absent or non-operational GFCI outlets on the exterior of the home, in the garage, bathrooms and kitchen, I was curious if any inspectors call out absent or non-operational AFCI outlets, and if so, under what circumstances.
3.) How do you determine the ampacity of an ungrounded conductor?
4.) What is the definition of a “hot spot” on a distribution panel?

  1. It is not showing in your post. Note mine says “Location: Lancaster, NY”. Not sure why yours does not.

2a) Sure, reasonable. AFCI devices detect the electrical arc often created when say unplugging a lamp that is on. This arc can potentially create a fire hazard and the device is designed to shut down power under this condition.

2b) If I come across an AFCI receptacle I test it using the test button on the device. If it fails to reset I would write that up. I have never had this situation occur. I have had tons of GFCI not reset but never an AFCI. In the service panel, I do trip GFCI and AFCI breakers. I know some don’t but my electrical qualification is much more than most. As far as calling out absent or writing up an upgrade blurb I say no. I like a lot of the posts from structure tech and here is one that is very pertinent to your situation. Should home inspectors recommend upgrading to new AFCIs? No.

  1. The NEC tables tell you the ampacity of the cables. This varies on the type of cable. You are most likely to encounter Copper NM-B cable and that is the left most column of this chart: Ampacity Charts - CerroWire

  2. Again, this is not a black and white issue. Identifying defective or hazardous conditions in electrical panels with infrared requires training. If you don’t know the answer to (3) you likely shouldn’t be doing (4).

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Thanks … Roy Cooke

Thank you Michael, your followup was very helpful.