AFCIs Not Needed in New Homes

Filed in Codes and Standards by on December 6, 2016 5 Comments

wireIn 1999, despite opposition from the electrical manufacturers themselves, the National Electrical Code (NEC) began to require that arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) be installed in all new homes.

AFCIs differ from ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), introduced into the NEC in the 1960s, because they are meant to protect branch circuit wiring from inadvertent arcing, which can be a source of ignition, instead of protecting people from shock.

NAHB opposed the proposal. The association cited the excessive cost — about $300 per home — which would impact housing affordability.

But more importantly, statistics released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission demonstrate that new homes don’t even need AFCIs.

The fires that AFCIs are designed to prevent occur overwhelmingly in older homes built to codes that are now outdated. Over the decades, numerous changes have been made in both the NEC and product safety standards to help avoid electrical fires in newer homes.

For that reason, NAHB and other housing affordability advocates see AFCIs as an unnecessary mandate, and have been very successful in removing the requirement through local code amendments or legislation in many states.

NAHB can assist your association, too, with a series of resources and a national map that details the local amendments or state legislation related to removing the AFCI mandate in each state. Find it on the National Electrical Code topic resources page.

For additional information, contact NAHB’s Dan Buuck at 800-368-5242 x8366.

Comments (5)

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  1. robert says:

    NEC is national code and no local can over ride it

    • NAHB Now says:

      Thanks for writing. Actually, the NEC is a “model” code, which is not law until formally adopted by a state or local jurisdiction. While it is adopted in all 50 states, 28 amend the NEC in some form.

  2. Don cain says:

    NEC is a standard not legally binding.

  3. Paul says:

    Could you please post a link to the CPSC data?

    • NAHB Now says:

      The 1987 CPSC epidemiological study, “Residential Electrical Distribution System Fires,” showed that 85% of fires of electrical origin occur in homes that are more than 20 years old (Table 7). This means that the bulk of these homes were wired in accordance with the 1965 or earlier editions of the NEC. Further, they were wired with products manufactured to product safety standards of a similar vintage. In the years since, numerous changes have been made in both the NEC, besides AFCIs, and product safety standards which greatly reduce the number of similar fires in newer homes—even as they age. (Note that this study, which was cited when AFCIs were first introduced into the NEC, included equipment fires at the electrical service entrance which AFCIs are not designed to protect.)

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