Mike Holt Proposes to remove AFCI's (210.12) from the 2005 NEC

When AFCI’s were adopted in the summer of 1998 AFCI, they did not exist because the UL standard had not yet been developed! The UL AFCI standard does not require this product to protect against a fire from loose terminals/connections even though the manufactures. This product/technology was driven by a 1989 study that showed that older homes had a higher incident of fires from electrical wiring/systems, particularly those with additions and new extensions.

My concern is not that an AFCI device by itself is unsafe, my concern is that the electrical industry (especially the consumer) will think that an AFCI device will reduce fires in both older as well as newer homes from loose terminations/connections (which the manufactures state that they will). Notice that Cutler-Hammer calls these breakers “FIRE-GUARD Circuit Breakers”. Square-D states that their AFCI circuit breaker protects against “loose electrical connections”. Cutler-Hammer invited me to a demonstration of an actual electrical installation (switch, receptacle, light/fan) where an AFCI would prevented a fire, where a standard model case circuit breaker of fuse would not. Each of these scheduled meetings were canceled by Cutler-Hammer.

Unsafe electrical installations from loose terminals/connections will continue to exist and AFCI’s will not prevent them. However, the public (as well as many in the electrical industry) will think that if their homes are AFCI protected they will not need to have their home properly inspected by a qualified electrical contractor/electrician. The result is that people will let their guard down, unsafe installation that should have been inspected and/or corrected will not be and people will die unnecessarily. The public trusts the NEC and the NFPA, they will feel that if AFCI’s are required by the NEC then this technology will protect, when in reality it won’t prevent a fire from loose electrical terminations. In reality, how many electrical fires are not caused by loose terminations/connections?

Example: A homeowner might think that by providing AFCI protection for knob-and-tub or 2-wire nm cable, they will not need to replace the unsafe installation because of loose terminations/connections. My experience leads me to believe that there will be many law suites on this issue because of wrongful deaths in homes that have AFCI protection devices. I feel that the manufactures of these products, UL, the National Fire Protection Association, and even members of this Code panel as well as the organizations that they represent are at a legal risk.

We as an electrical industry will be letting the public down, if we do not remove AFCI’s from the NEC until this technology is proven to actually prevent a fire from loose terminals/connections. Yes, there’s lots of technical paper stating how wonderful and great this technology is, but to date no one has demonstrated an actual electrical installation where a fire would be prevented.

Mike Holt's Comment: If you have any feedback, please let me know ASAP. The due date is November 1!

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