Missing AFCIs after nuisance tripping

Hi. I work in the area of codes & standards for the National Association of Home Builders.

I just spoke with a gentleman, who told me his daughter’s home had a pre-sale home inspection, and the required AFCI protection was missing. The house is 3 years old, and the state where the house is was on the 2014 NEC at the time. The code had been amended to remove AFCI protection from kitchens and laundry areas, but it was still required for bedrooms, living rooms, dens, etc. After some questioning, I found out that the owners had problems with nuisance tripping the first year, so the electrician came to fix it. The owners were told that there were ‘builder grade’ breakers in the panel that are only used during construction, and he replaced them with ‘permanent’ breakers. Now the owners want to sell, but the house isn’t up to code.

Has anyone run across this before where AFCIs were required when the home was built but are not in the panel? My guess is this will be a more frequent occurrence in the next few years as more homes go on the resale market in areas that require AFCIs.


It all depends on if your state or municipality require houses to be brought up to code or are sold “as is”. In an “as is” sale, the seller is not required to bring a house up to code.

1 Like

You might get good clarification from the local code official (AHJ).

I’ve been told that in some areas it’s somewhat common to remove the expensive AFCI circuit breakers after the final inspection and install the $5 non-AFCI ones or when the owner is fed up with nuisance trips they fix the problem the same way.

1 Like

Well, that certainly would be a safety hazard, eh?

Yup. :smiley:

“A licensed electrician to further evaluate and correct as needed”. Done.

1 Like

I am an Ohio ESI. The new NEC has been amended to require most everything in the house to be Arc Fault protected. If there is nuisance tripping there is a reason for it - usually in the neutrals and usually a circuit crossover. The electrician didn’t take the time to determine the problem. Your job - Report that a licensed electrician should check the circuits.

I can’t see where the OP is located. In my state (Utah) AFCI is no longer required anywhere in Residential Construction. This took place legislatively about 3 years ago. The reasoning was that a study showed that it cost 2.5 times as much to install, than it saved in property damage (and that was if the AFCIs worked as advertised 100% of the time.) It does not really address if AFCIs were effective or not when it comes to the saving of lives.

I used to test the AFCIs, but only if the home was vacant (using the test button on the AFCI breaker at panel). And I found that about 1 in four were faulty. As in: would not trip, Would trip but then would not rest, or in the case of the very last one I tested, buzzed for about 5 seconds while emitting smoke before finally tripping. I also found that Square D AFCIs seemed to be much more reliable than Cuttler Hammer and others especially when installed in outside panels or dirty environments like garages.

I no longer test them, nor comment if AFCIs are not present.


That’s interesting that they’ve eliminated the AFCI requirement altogether. Here in NJ we have some of the NEC requirements for AFCI protection but not all of them as some of them have been removed by State amendment. If these devices were 100% reliable I would be for it but they’re not. Many others feel the same way (hate them) because of the big cost increase with questionable benefits.

The problem with some of this new technology is that the manufacturers have a big influence when it comes to getting things into the NEC. This is even when their substantiation for a code change is weak or non-existent.


Home inspectors are not building code compliance inspectors. No building codes are universally adopted and enforced. Interpretations of building codes vary. You need to contact the local inspection authority and ask what the requirements were at the time of the installation.

In competitive markets the buyer might make bringing the electrical system up to code at the time of construction a condition of sale. In that case it’s market driven, and it doesn’t really matter what the local jurisdiction requires.

Is that something you heard near you in NJ?

In my immediate area no but I have heard it mentioned at a CEU seminar among a group of inspectors.