New AFCI Rules Expand Protection for Branch Circuits
The purpose of the National Electrical Code (NEC) is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of
electricity. Arc-Fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection has been one of the effective ways to accomplish this goal.
The AFCI device is intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning
to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected. De-energizing the circuit before an arc fault that can cause a fire is a key preventative measure for the protection of life
AFCI protection for branch circuits supplying laundry rooms is required. Even though the number of fires caused by arc-faults in
laundry rooms is only about 4% of the number of reported electrical fires, expanding the use of AFCI protection is a very effective means to further reduce the potential
for fires as a result of an arc-fault. Such protection is afforded either by means of a listed combination type AFCI to provide protection for the entire
branch circuit or by a listed outlet branch circuit type AFCI installed at the first outlet to protect the circuit downstream,
In dwelling units, additional protection of 120 volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying kitchens could have
protection form arc-faults.
Although incremental steps in expanding AFCI protection have been taken eventually we may see whole house AFCI protection.
Still another requirement requires AFCI protection for branch circuits supplying devices as well as outlets. There are several instances where a branch
circuit supplies a lighting outlet that is in an area that does not require AFCI protection. However, the switch that controls the lighting outlet is in an
area such as a bedroom that does require AFCI protection. The inclusion of devices in addition to outlets supplied by branch circuits will clarify that the branch circuit in such
areas also requires AFCI protection. AFCI’s must be installed in a readily accessible location.
Additional areas are afforded AFCI protection to provide safeguards that can save lives at a relatively low cost.