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Question DetailsAsked on 1/3/2017

I am being charged per circuit outlet installed $55 CAD and then again for each outlet that is AFCI $65 + breaker

I was given an estimate to wire my home renovation project. The original estimate included 27 circuits and 6 of those were to be arc faulted, the code changed from then to now. They ended up installing 51 circuits in total ( this discrepancy was not initially caught on the estimate as they did not include Qty's and now because of the code change 38 of them need to be AFCI. My problem is that they are charging me $120 per AFCI circut outlet, and then and additional $85 per circuit (total of 4) How can they charge me twice for the same circuit outlet? My invoice is over $3000 more than my estimate. Is charging double plus common for AFCI as I explained above?

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First you need to clarify WHY it jumped from 27 to 51 circuits - that alone would be unusual unless he forgot lighting circuits or such, and that increase would NOT be mandated just by the AFCI requirement, because what was previously planned as a non-AFCI circuit could for almost all applications just be changed to an AFCI circuit, even if not all the uses on that circuit require AFCI breakers. So unless someone screwed up the estimate (which does not address who bears the cost of the screwup), the number of circuits should not have changed or at least not more than a couple, as I see it, unless the code change required certain items now have independent circuits when that was not originally the case.

I have not dealt with the Canadian or Quebec building codes for decades, and don't intend to start again now, so I can't say specifically what any recent changes may have required. If you have an architect on the job, he/she should be able to address whether these changes were reasonable or not. Another thing to address is whether the code changes actually applied - if the job was under way and the permit had been issued, generally that stops the clock as far as having to incorporate code changes - usually the code that was in effect at pearmit issuance or at start of construction is what applies to the entire job, though of course local regulations might vary by area - again your architect could advise on that for your specific locale.

As for the cost - Sounds like original bid/estimate was $55/circuit (or did you mean outlet - you said circuit outlet so a little unclear there) plus $65/AFCI outlet plus breaker - which then became $85/circuit plus $120/AFCI outlet ? OR did you mean $85/regular outlet (the 13 not AFCI protected) and $120/AFCI protected outlet.

Something is screwy from ground zero here - so much per circuit plus so much per outlet is a reasonable way to bill it because that breaks the wiring and running the circuit out from the outlet and box and wiring it up costs, and the breaker could either be part of the per-circuit cost or separately per breaker - adds up the same.

$55 or $85/circuit sounds in the ballpark (assuming this is bare studwall installation) though normally 220V circuits would be billed differently than 120V, but maybe he just averaged it out for the building (sounds like this is a very large house or a duplex ?) - though of course if the iniital cost was $55/circuit (or per outlet) then after the addition should still be $55, not $85/circuit or outlet - and $65 for the AFCI ones not $120 per.

$55 or 65 per outlet in addition to the circuit itself was probably on the higher side - I would expect more like $40-50, but not out of range, especially if in a high priced area.

Certainly several things need clarification -

1) did the code actually require that most outlets go to AFCI protected for your job, given the status of permit and construction when the code changes came into effect - if not, he certainly had no right to make the change without an authorized change order approved by you. Actually, even if the code DID require it, a signed change order still should have been done, though your only recourse other than signing it would have been to change contractors on the basis of his change order amount being too high, if you felt that was the case.

2) The $55/65 numbers, whether per circuit or outlet (sounds like per outlet) going up to $85/120, as I see it, makes no sense - he would have to justify his pricing if he demanded a change, but since you have regular and AFCI outlets in the pricing in the first place, I see no justification for repricing - it is just a matter of buying and installing a different type of breaker, which he had already priced.

3) The change from 27 to 51 circuits certainly, if required, would have required probably a larger breaker box than originally planned, though if NOT bought and installed yet that is only a $50 or so difference in materials cost and no change in labor. Maybe $100-300 or so more if the panel(s) were already installed but not wired in, depending on whether he could return the original smaller one or not for credit. Of course, if already partly wired and then had to replace with a larger panel for the added circuits, or put in a secondary panel for the added circuits, then that would bump the cost up several hundred $. However - the key question is why the added circuits - because AFCI can be put on most circuits.

4) In addition, if so many circuits need AFCI protection, then why were those circuits (or the entire house possibly) put on a central AFCI breaker - one main AFCI breaker covering many circuits at a cost of maybe $200-300 for the breaker rather than the maybe $20-40 more per breaker for AFCI breakers ? Granted, if some circuits could not handle AFCI protection for some reason, then it would require two panels - one AFCI protected by a main AFCI breaker and the other not AFCI protected, but would certainly have bee cheaper than 24 additional circuits, if that is what increased the count. The advantage of AFCI main breakers is you can (at least under US codes) also still use GFCI breakers in the distribution panel to provide GFCI protection for damp areas - a major benefit (and required in many or most areas) because GFCI and AFCI protect against different things. However, AFCI (or GFCI) main breakers do have the disadvantage that some devices trip them, also ANY fault would trip the house rather than just the guilty circuit, so it takes the whole house out AND also makes tracing the fault harder - so both good and bad to whole-house or whole-panel GFCI/AFCI protection. I know personally I would not do it - have had too many false trips due to surge protectors, devices with motors or switching power supplies, etc.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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