NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), first required arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in the 1999 edition. The 2005 edition required combination AFCIs, which respond to both parallel and series arcs, for all electrical circuits that supply outlets in bedrooms of new homes. The 2008 edition of the NEC further expanded the use of combination AFCIs beyond bedroom circuits to other areas of the home, such as the family room, dining room, living room, closets and hallways. The 2014 edition added kitchens and laundry areas to that list.
AFCIs have been on the market since about 2000. They differ from ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which were introduced into the NEC in the 1960s, by protecting branch circuit wiring from arcing faults instead of protecting people from shock if parts of an electric appliance or tool become energized due to a ground fault.
The electrical problems AFCIs are designed to prevent occur overwhelmingly in older dwellings built to outdated codes. Since the 1990s, numerous changes have been made in both the NEC and product safety standards which mitigate against similar fires in newer homes—even as they age. For that reason, NAHB and other housing affordability advocates see their inclusion as an unnecessary expense.
Local Success Stories
If the builders in your state or local jurisdiction have experienced success in fighting the spread of AFCI or GFCI mandates, please contact Dan Buuck so we can share what you've learned with other builders across the country.