CodeWatch readers had a wide range of opinions as to what to do with 210.12 on AFCIs.
• There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring AFCI protection on branch circuits. New Mexico has been enforcing 210.12 since the 2002 code cycle with few problems. Wisconsin and other states are probably bowing to pressure from homebuilder groups in an effort to keep building costs down - a mistake when it comes to life-safety issues of the NEC. The New Mexico Electrical Code does amend 210.12 by requiring AFCI protection on "receptacle" outlets only, giving the electrician the option of not including lighting, ceiling fan and smoke detector outlets on AFCI circuits. The NEC should probably take a look at this option.
• Allow AFCI[s] in receptacles, this solved the problem years ago with GFCI's.
• In my opinion, the AFCI requirement should not be applied to smoke detectors. it appears to negate the purpose of smoke detectors if the AFCI is tripped. Even though new housing requires battery back up units, how many of us change the batteries regularly. The requirement for an AFCI also tends to to increase the number of outlets and lights on one circuit. I have seen many three and four bedroom homes served by one AFCI circuit because of the cost. I originally thought the initial requirement was made to prevent extension and supply cord fires. I do not understand how this expanded to all bedroom outlets i.e.: switched ceiling lights. Let's be reasonable and not use regulation to overkill a good idea.
• I am glad to see that Wisconson has not fallen for the AFCI hype. I have had nothing but problems with these very expensive breakers tripping for no apparent reason. The neusance trips are a very sore point with me. I will not use them. Nor will I warrent them when a customer insists on there installation. To date 95% of the one I have seen installed are removed and thrown away within one year. I have yet to see any benifit from them. Maybe one day if the technoligy matures, and the price comes down to be competitive with regular circuit breakers, and the nusance trips for no apparent reason quit, I might try them again. I believe the manufacturers should put thier money where there mouth is and reimburse the labor costs of call backs.
• Many Contractors and Electricians question the reasoning behind this new requirement. An experience I had about 20 years ago is my response: My electric blanket had a wire/heating element that broke after years of flexing and started shorting out. It was very evident of the arcing that happened not only because of the burn marks that was left but also the visual and audible sounds that occur when an arc is present. Would an AFCI gave me the protection I could have needed had I not been awake and was sound asleep? As far as making the requirements acceptable you have to give good reasoning as to why this change is being implemented and be consistent on Code enforcement between municipalities. The end product has to be reliable to prevent home owners from being disgruntled and replacing the AFCI’s with standard breakers. Remember the high failure rates when GFCI’s came on the scene?
Bay City, Mich.