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Thread: AFCI Question

  1. #1
    Stephen G Sheldon's Avatar
    Stephen G Sheldon Guest

    Default AFCI Question

    Can an existing outlet or outlets be made AFCI simply by changing out the breaker or do you need special outlets and/or wiring?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Yep! AFCI's recognizes faults between line to neutrals. No ground is required.

    Here's a good Q&A on AFCI's

    AFCI Questions and Answers

    Last edited by Wayne Carlisle; 03-27-2009 at 08:47 AM. Reason: added link

  3. #3
    Stephen G Sheldon's Avatar
    Stephen G Sheldon Guest

    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Thanks for the response. How about testing. Is it necessary to check the outlets themselves or can you just test them from the panel?


  4. #4
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen G Sheldon View Post
    Thanks for the response. How about testing. Is it necessary to check the outlets themselves or can you just test them from the panel?
    The test button on the AFCI breaker is the only true way to test it.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  5. #5
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    The test button on the AFCI breaker is the only true way to test it.

    One problem with that (I only test the button on the breaker) is, are all those receptacles in the bedrooms AFCI protected. I guess you will never know unless you test each receptacle. The second problem with that is you need two people so you do not have to go back and forth to the panel 50 times to reset.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    One problem with that (I only test the button on the breaker) is, are all those receptacles in the bedrooms AFCI protected. I guess you will never know unless you test each receptacle. The second problem with that is you need two people so you do not have to go back and forth to the panel 50 times to reset.

    This is the way I checked them on new homes, it is basically the only efficient way to check them.

    First, walk around each room with your voltage sniffer and receptacle tester, testing some with the tester as you go (as many as you want) and checking the rest with your voltage sniffer to see if there is power there.

    After verifying power at all outlets (lights work, ceiling fans work, smoke detector lights are on, etc.) in all of the areas which are required to be protected (at the time is was only the bedrooms), go to the panel and push each test button on each AFCI. Now go back around and make sure nothing in those areas is still working. If anything is, it is *not* AFCI protected as required. Now go back and reset all of the AFCI breakers.

    Done. That simple and easy and saves running all over trying to see what is protected where - it is all on, AFCIs tripped, it is all off. As simple as that.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    Bob Spermo's Avatar
    Bob Spermo Guest

    Default Re: AFCI Question

    I test the AFCI by using the test button. Then I go to the room that it is "protecting" and test the receptacles and the lights. Hopefully, none of them work! To me this appears to be the only way to "test" the AFCI. How does everyone else do it?


  8. #8
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    I guess what I am saying is. Will the breaker pop at all receptacles if there is an electric arc. Yes I shut all the arc fault off and test the receptacles. I should have made that clear. Is there a good enough connection or is the arc fault active enough to pop when you have an arc when snatching a plug out of a receptacles etc etc. I guess we will never know.

    I am one of those, that when I close the frig, does the light go off ?


  9. #9
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    I guess what I am saying is. Will the breaker pop at all receptacles if there is an electric arc. Yes I shut all the arc fault off and test the receptacles. I should have made that clear. Is there a good enough connection or is the arc fault active enough to pop when you have an arc when snatching a plug out of a receptacles etc etc. I guess we will never know.
    *I* don't know, but I am sure that, under laboratory conditions (and that does not always mean 'nice' conditions, just 'controlled, repeatable' conditions) AFCI breakers would not have a UL or other NRTL approval 'is they did not'.

    I am one of those, that when I close the frig, does the light go off ?
    What, you've never gone inside and closed the door to check?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    To answer your question -
    Yes a receptacle circuit can be changed to an AFCI protected circuit by changing out the circuit breaker. This will only work if the circuit is NOT part of a Multi-wire circuit.

    The correct method of testing AFCI circuit breakers, and GFCI circuit breakers is to use the button on the breaker itself. This is the only method recognized method by the manufacturers.

    Yes an AFCI breaker can (will) trip if you yank out the plug while the vacuum is turned on. (I know this from experience)


  11. #11
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    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Just exactly what do you expect an AFCI tester is going to do?

    With a circuit breaker conditions of load can be duplicated with fairly simple equipment - like a piece of wire or a bunch of light bulbs.

    With a GFCI, again, simple items can provide a conclusive test result.

    To test an AFCI, you are going to need to produce exact, repeatable arc signatures on a consistent basis, something I understand is very difficult even under lab conditions. Once you have generated the arc signature it is run through a firmware program in the AFCI that compares it to stored algorithms. If the signature matches, the AFCI trips. Pushing the button on the AFCI runs the comparison against a stored fault model. So, you can test the firmware and mechanics by generating a failure with the push the button and run a "bad spark" model past the brain.

    At this point you are blessed with accepting the fact that the "test to see if the brains work button" is enough. Or, likely spending more than the cost of a house on what will have to be a lab quality device that makes sparks, and will in all likelihood require frequent expensive calibrations and possibly consumable parts.

    Or, I could be wrong.


    Push the button. Be happy. smiley_electrocute.gif


  12. #12
    Fred Warner's Avatar
    Fred Warner Guest

    Default Re: AFCI Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen G Sheldon View Post
    Can an existing outlet or outlets be made AFCI simply by changing out the breaker or do you need special outlets and/or wiring?
    Define "outlet". If you're referring to "receptacles" and the circuit is wired well, replacing a standard breaker with an AFCI breaker should work fine.


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