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  1. #1
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    Default AFCI - For Safety

    I’ve read countless threads on when a home inspector should go above and beyond their standard of practice or a code requirement and recommend repair or replacement of something if it is to protect life and safety of people.

    And I’ve heard so many times – “After all the codes and standards of practice are only the minimum standards”

    I (and believe most all) agree with that logic!

    I believe that we, as professional home inspectors, always recommend updating outlets in older homes to GFCI protected outlets where required – whether or not – they were grandfathered under older codes. We do this for the SAFETY of the people.

    NOW – AFCI protected outlets are required for all sleeping areas and 2008 NEC requires them for all areas that don’t have GFCI protection (area definitions still under debate). The reason is FOR SAFETY of the people.

    HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS:

    • How many of you advise your clients that all outlets that do not required GFCI protection are UNSAFE , are a potential FIRE HAZARD and recommend that they contact a licensed electrician to update so that all outlets are protected with approved AFCI devices for safety? (Similar to GFCI language).
    • Should we as professional home inspectors TAKE THE LEAD and recommend that these improvements be made in all homes we inspect?
    • Do you believe we are liable if a house burns down, and we did not recommend AFCI improvements for SAFETY?

    Now there’s something to ponder and debate!

    Similar Threads:
    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Plano, Texas
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    4,170

    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Good point Ken.
    We have discussed this here in the past... and I am still on the fence.
    Same story with smoke detector upgrades and I have a little blurb in every report recommending replacement and upgrading smoke detectors to the modern standards.
    That might not be a bad approach with AFCI's.
    I might just come up with a "electrical safety upgrades" section to describe GFCI, AFCI, and smoke detector function and modern standards.
    Of course the cost of AFCI upgrade for an entire house will be pretty substantial for an entire house, but information for our clients to make the right decision is cheap.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  3. #3
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    AFCI are a good idea, I guess. My home has them, but it is a newer home and they were installed when the home was built. As for a preexisting home I'm not so sure one could install AFCI's to comply with the codes without rewiring the circuits, but I don't know.

    I'm sure we still have many parts of the country that are not requiring AFCI's.

    I'm still not sold on AFCI's. I belive it was Douglas Hansen who said that more people smother in their bed pillows each year than are killed from fires that would not have started if the home had AFCI's. Keep in mind that the AFCI requirement has been pushed by their makers and is the only reason that we have them.

    What will be the next requirement? Low voltage lighting throughout the home, because it is safer?

    I will most likely keep reporting them like I have been. Very similar to how I report GFCI, or the lack of them. As Jim said, the information is cheap.

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

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Scott,

    How do you report on homes that do not have AFCI protection? What language do you use?


  5. #5
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    Mar 2007
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Scott,

    How do you report on homes that do not have AFCI protection? What language do you use?
    English!

    I could not resist......

    My verbaige is very similar to homes that do not have GFCI's. I simply report that when the home was built they were not required (or whatever the case is) and tell my client that they should consider installing them for increased safety.

    I keep it very simple and I do not get into the technical reasons behind them. If my client is with me, I will verbally explain what they do and why they might want to install them. The question of their cost will always come up and I reply that it can be an expensive upgrade, but an electrician would need to provide them with a quote.

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

  6. #6
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    Mar 2007
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    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    26,243

    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS:
    • How many of you advise your clients that all outlets that do not required GFCI protection are UNSAFE , are a potential FIRE HAZARD and recommend that they contact a licensed electrician to update so that all outlets are protected with approved AFCI devices for safety? (Similar to GFCI language).
    • Should we as professional home inspectors TAKE THE LEAD and recommend that these improvements be made in all homes we inspect?
    • Do you believe we are liable if a house burns down, and we did not recommend AFCI improvements for SAFETY?
    First Rule of Home Inspection: Do no harm.

    It does NO HARM TO ANYONE to recommend installing AFCI protection.

    Okay, that is out of the way.

    Second Rule of Home Inspection: Do good deeds.

    It is a good deed for your client to recommend, AND EXPLAIN, advances in safety for the systems in the home.

    Okay, that is out of the way.

    Now, where were we?

    Oh, right, doing good deeds for your clients ...

    There are many improvements which have occurred over the years since building codes started, and "improved safety" of the occupants is the primary role for those improvements. Thus, when feasible, installing the newer safety features which are now available into existing construction is a benefit for the occupants of that building, and increases the safety of those occupants.

    "Should we as professional home inspectors TAKE THE LEAD and recommend that these improvements be made in all homes we inspect?"

    I think that is what home inspectors should do, yes.

    "Do you believe we are liable if a house burns down, and we did not recommend AFCI improvements for SAFETY?"

    While that would like never have happened in years past, that is more likely to happen in today's climate, and even more likely to happen in future years.

    If a knowledgeable person (or a person who presents themselves as being a knowledgeable person) see a potential problem and does not report it, and that is the job they were fired to do (i.e., when a client hire a home inspector), that knowledgeable person did not fulfill the act of why they were hired.

    Thus, yes, that could happen.

    Let's start here:

    1) If a home inspector goes into an attic and sees a fire, they would be derelict in not reporting same. Agreed?

    2) If a home inspector goes into an attic and sees rafters breaking from roof load, they would be derelict in not reporting same. Agreed?

    3) If a home inspector goes into an attic and sees knob and tube with insulation falling off, they would be derelict in not reporting same. Agreed?

    4) If a home inspector goes into an attic and sees 3) above, and is aware of a product *which could* *help detect* "problems" with that wiring and remove power before those problems burn the house down, they would be derelict in not recommending those products. Agreed?

    No, actually, the home inspector should recommend re-wiring in the case of 3) above.

    5) Given 1: A newer home is inspected by a home inspector.
    Given 2: A newer home ages and becomes an older home.
    Thus: Should not the home inspector recommend those products for the protection of that "aging" home with its "aging" wiring system? It is a given that the system *will age and deteriorate*, resulting in conditions similar to 3) above over time.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If you are interested in beginning to track home inspection data so you can do future searches of it prior to going out to an inspection (to give you a 'heads up' on what to expect) - go here: EastWest Data

    Click on the 'New Users Register Here' link and register. This is 'in progress' and I don't have an automatic registration/username/password system going yet, thus, after registering send me an e-mail ( jerrypeck@cfl.rr.com ) and I will e-mail a username and password to you.

    After you receive the username and password, you can click on the 'Registered Users Login' link and sign in to add or search reports.

    I am trying to keep this as simplified as possible, so most of the choices are simply 'select one', however, there are a few 'type in' boxes, but keep that information short and simple, to one major issue.

    This is a 'Catch 22' situation: when uploading the report, you will want it as simple as possible and as easy as possible to add report information; however, when searching for information, you will want as much information as possible. Being as searches will only be beneficial if there are reports to search, adding reports takes priority ... thus keeping it simple wins out - and it only benefits you if you add reports.

    Check out the information and tell me what you would like to have added/changed/not needed.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 09-02-2008 at 10:32 AM.
    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, Georgia
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    1,078

    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    North Carolina adopted NEC 2008 with eight exceptions. One of the exceptions was AFCI for all other circuits. Still need them for bedroom circuits.

    I recently had my service panel upgraded because needed room for some additional circuits. Regular breakers were $6 and AFCI were $38. $32 times 20 breakers is $640 additional. I added AFCI to the bedroom circuits but not the entire panel.

    I have a standard statement in the report indicating AFCIs were present, not present, tested, not tested, not required at time of construction. I do not recommend upgrading to AFCI protection if not present unless required at time of construction. Basically I am just documenting my observations with regards to AFCI.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Posts
    2,476

    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Related/unrelated thread drift.

    I have heard that the 2008 NEC is requiring AFCI breakers to not be stacked next to each other. I have not purchased the 2008 yet and have not confirmed this, so I could be mistaken. I know that JP has advocated separating AFCI breakers before on this board.

    Assuming that my information is correct, now that AFCIs will be required on the majority of the branch circuits in a home, how is an electrical contractor supposed to install these breakers without stacking them? REALLY BIG PANELS?

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    Gunnar,

    The newer AFCI breakers do not (according to the manufacturers anyway) produce as much heat as the older AFCI breakers did.

    This now allows the AFCI breakers to be stacked one above the other without creating an overheating condition in the panel.

    According to what I have been told by the manufacturers.

    Supposedly, since this was first raised so many years ago, they have all tested their new AFCI breakers stacked above each other in their panels, and, again supposedly, this has proven to no longer be a problem.

    Only time will show whether they are correct or not.

    Not that I am a 'doubting thomas' or anything.

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

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Baton Rouge, La.
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    91

    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    I have heard of several instances of arc fault breakers failing due to the excess heat given off the breaker. In my area you never see more than three AFCI'S together. If more than three in a panel, they are offset on the other side of the buss. I would think that if you tried to add Arc fault to all circuits that are not ground fault protected, you may develop problems with breakers failing due to heat.

    James Bohac

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: AFCI - For Safety

    James,

    That is the older AFCI breakers, which is why the manufacturers would make a verbal (but never in writing) recommendation to separate AFCI breakers by at least one regular (non-AFCI) breaker, preferably two regular breakers between AFCIs.

    Simply to allow for the dissipation of the build-up of heat from the power supplies in the older AFCI breakers.

    Which is why I said:
    The newer AFCI breakers do not (according to the manufacturers anyway) produce as much heat as the older AFCI breakers did.

    This now allows the AFCI breakers to be stacked one above the other without creating an overheating condition in the panel.

    According to what I have been told by the manufacturers.


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

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