AFCI Nuisance Tripping #QST

Dennis - WU6X

This is an interesting subject for those of you trying to understand the difference between GFI and AFCI, the latter which has been required by the National Electrical Code in all bedrooms of new construction for the last 10 years or so. Supposedly, this prevents an arc caused by a "bed or dresser" getting pushed back against a plug in an outlet behind the furniture. Well, okay ... I submit that fires caused by arcs of this sort are likely very small, and more likely caused by poor or incorrect wiring being done in the first place. California's building inspectors in most cities and counties are more focused on catching common wiring problems, but this is not so in many other states.

For example, while chasing some weird or intermittent electrical issues at a house my Daughter bought in Alabama, I found hot or neutral wires twisted together and taped with black electrical tape, rather than using "wire nuts" as is required here. The ground wires were not "staked" either, simply twisted together and taped. Many of these twisted connections were coming loose and causing lights to flicker or not come on at all, and some plugs were not working at all. Very scary!

A problem I have with AFCI is the breakers are expensive and often cause "nuisance tripping" for the homeowner when using treadmills (common in a lot of bedroom environments), televisions and some fluorescent lights. Home Electrical Products (HEPs) are getting better preventing nuisance tripping, but many products being built in foreign countries (like China) are not paying attention to this issue. And, you wonder why the cost of new homes is going up, with required GFI, solar, AFCI and other things? I sometimes wonder if the manufacturers themselves are coming up with these new devices to increase their revenue.

In summary, some electronic devices simply give AFCI devices problems. Newer generations of AFCI breakers are less prone to problems, but are certainly not immune. There is plenty of information, white papers, etc. about this subject on the Internet.

Dennis - WU6X
(retired General Contractor)

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