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Question DetailsAsked on 12/3/2013

Should I change out my current breakers to Arc Fault Circuit Interruptor (AFCI ) breakers? And the cost?

Background: I have just had an electrician change out an old Federal Pacific breaker box for a new breaker box. I am getting ready to put in a house surge protector next and put a microwave onto its own separate circuit. I have also had an electrician change out ground-level receptables for tamper-resistant receptables and am probably going to schedule a whole-house inspection just to feel a bit with an aging house (built 1971). Now I learn there is something called AFCI breakers that I could have installed instead of the regular breakers! So my questions are: (1) should I have the newly installed regular breakers changed out for AFCI breakers, in order to feel safe, and (2), how much should it cost to do so? I have already spent a lot on changing out the panel.

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3 Answers

Voted Best Answer
1
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If the breaker box replacement was permitted then you had a city or county inspection of the work. If this is correct, then the inspector was OK with the standard breakers.


AFCI breakers are a good thing to have where combustible material may contact the plug-receptacle connection such as clothes closets and behind curtains and drapes


The archetypal example of the hazard prevented by AFCI is the following:

An electric banket, which is a high wattage appliance, is plugged into a receptacle in contact with low hanging curtians or bedding. The person rolls over, the plug jerks out of the receptacle, creating a large spark which ignites the curtains or bedding.


I haven't experienced this problem with any of my customers. However, insurance companies have paid significant claims because of these types of fires.


Source: http://kestrelelectric.com

Answered 5 years ago by Kestrel Electric

1
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I am a general contractor so you could take this advice with a grain of salt. I would think that as long as your work was inspected and passed you should be fine. I have heard there are some problems with the new AFCI breakers and if you do want to swap them out I might wait till they have been used for awhile. They can do all the testing they want in a lab but untill used in a real life setting they do not know all the weaknesses. I can remember when the GFI outlets came out there was one brand that would blow out when the electrical inspector came for inspection and tested it with his test tool. It took alittle while for them to fix that.


Don

Answered 5 years ago by ContractorDon

1
Vote

I was reading a professional article a month or so about AFCI's - there are a number of code jurisdictions that are now holding off on requiring AFCI's, and a few have reversed their requirements for them because they have too much of a tendency to trip without good cause.

Problems I have heard about them include tripping when a microwave tube turns on, stove high-amperage surge when oven or broiler cycles, due to connected surge protector strips trapping power surges, during thunderstorms when the main power line is hit (not necessarily near the house), on hot humid days followed by cool nights (and after thunderstorms and tornadoes when the temperature drops fast) when humidity goes to 100% rapidly due to the cooling causing minor condensation and micro-arcing in house electrical circuits, light switches arcing when turned on or off, brush-type motors in ceiling fans arcing and tripping them out, plugs being plugged into and pulled out of outlets, micro-arcing across dust in clothes dryers and bathroom fans, and due to garage/shop power equipment such as high horsepower saws, welders, vacuum systems, and such. Devices that cut in and out intermittently can also trip them out, like battery chargers, electric car chargers, and thermostat and photocell and humidity switch controlled devices. Many types of dimmers and transistor-controlled LED and CFL light bulbs also trip them.

You can read more on the false trip issue by googling this search phrase, if you are interested - causes of false AFCI trips

I tried one a few years ago to replace a GFCI breaker that kept tripping out even after it was changed out for a new one. The circuit problem turned out to be a slightly arcing surge protector plug strip, but even after that was removed and the circuit checked out clean the AFCI kept tripping weekly or so on several different circuits I tried it on. I just don't think the whole concept of them is sound, because there are so many things in electrical circuits that arc slightly in normal use.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

I'm living in a small house which is paid for by housing assistance and was required be code to have an AFCI installed. I had experience with the county inspector a couple years ago where It first learned about these breakers when I was rewiring a home for a disabled couple. These breakers were only required in the bedrooms. My experience in electrical if from a 75 year old still active electrician who still retains all licenses and is up to date. Anyway, I called him up about having a problem with this house I'm staying in, he came by. At first he started looking at my coffee maker and portable heater. Then he went out to the breaker box and discovered three AFCI's where there was only one needed. The landlord/do-it-yourself kind of guy messed up according to my electrician. His description was that the AFCI's like to fight with the GFI outlets when the humidity is high. This made perfect sense to my particular situation. The AFCI's go nutso when it's raining or there are storm clouds hanging in the air. And, with three AFCI's, it compounds the problem.


Liking to warm the bathroom with my space heater before a shower if giving my personal heigene fits.

Answered 4 years ago by Chip




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