Why AFCI Requirement (210.8) Should be Removed from the 2005 NEC

When AFCI’s were adopted in the summer of 1998, the actual product (AFCI) did not exist because the UL standard had not yet been developed! The current UL standard for AFCI does not require this product to rotect against a fire from arcing at loose terminals/connections.

Many in the electrical industry (as well as the public) thinks that this protection device will reduce the incident of fires from arching at loose terminations/connections. Why should they not believe this, Cutler-Hammer calls these breakers “FIRE-GUARD Circuit Breakers” and Square-D states that their AFCI circuit breaker protects against “loose electrical connections”!

Cutler-Hammer invited me to a demonstration where an AFCI would prevent a fire from arcing at loose terminations/connections in a typical electrical installation (switch, receptacle, light/fan), where a standard model case circuit breaker of fuse would not. Each of these scheduled meeting were canceled by Cutler-Hammer.

Unsafe electrical installations and fires from arching at loose terminals/connections will continue to exist and the AFCI protection device as currently listed will not prevent them. However, the public, as well as many in the electrical industry think that if their homes are AFCI protected, they will not need to have their home inspected by a qualified electrical contractor/electrician. The result is that people will let their guard down, unsafe electrical installation that should have been inspected, tested, and corrected will not be, and people will die unnecessarily.

The public and the industry trusts the NEC and the NFPA. They feel that if AFCI’s are required by the NEC then this technology must protect them from a fire in the event of an electrical arc of any type. The problem is that the UL standard for AFCI’s does not required this product to protect against arcing at loose terminals/connections. If the AFCI does not protect against arcing at loose terminals, then what good is this product? In reality, how many electrical fires are NOT caused by arching at loose terminations/connections?

My experience as a legal consultant leads me to predict that there will be many law suites because of wrongful deaths in homes that have AFCI protection devices in the near future. Manufactures of these products, electrical contractors, UL, the National Fire Protection Association, and even the individual Code panel members as well as the organizations that they represent are at great legal risk if they do not insist that this product protect against arcing at loose terminals/connections.

We as an electrical industry will be letting the public down, if we do not removed the requirements for AFCI’s from the NEC until this technology is demonstrated to prevent a fire from arcing at loose terminals/connections. Yes, there’s lots of technical paper stating how wonderful and great this technology is, but in reality, it does not perform as expected by the industry and public.

Mike Holt's Comment: If you have any feedback, please let me know ASAP, before I submit this proposal. I must send it in no later than Tuesday AM October the 29th.

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