Is overkill a bad thing? Arc Fault and Ground Fault where not required?

ddecart

Member
I'm planning the construction of a new home & detached garage during 2016, and my light reading has consisted of freshening up on codes and planning.

I see that AFCI and GFCI are both required in some rooms. I also see that Schneider / Square D has some dual-function Class A GFCI and AFCI breakers. Great, 2 birds, one stone.
Being that this is a home for myself that I plan to stay in for years to come, I'm keen on doing things better than what might be necessary where practical. Is there any harm in putting these combination breakers in where only a GFCI might otherwise be required? There seems to be little to no price premium for the dual-function units over the GFCI. And I've taken a liking to GFCI breakers, rather than dealing with the bulky GCFI outlets.

Thanks,
Dave
 

GoldDigger

Moderator
Staff member
Two potential drawbacks come to mind beyond the additional
cost:
1. The risk of nuisance trips. Depending on how you count this could be real leakage that you are not concerned about or it could be purely spurious capacitive leakage in very long wires.
2. The chance that the electronics will fail and require replacement.
 

ddecart

Member
Two potential drawbacks come to mind beyond the additional
cost:
1. The risk of nuisance trips. Depending on how you count this could be real leakage that you are not concerned about or it could be purely spurious capacitive leakage in very long wires.
2. The chance that the electronics will fail and require replacement.
By electronics failing, you're referring to the electronics in the breaker itself, not that the breaker could affect anything downstream, correct?
If the breaker fails, then it can be replaced with a cheap breaker if need be, no?


I would never go above and beyond the code where the AFCI is concerned for the same reasons Gold Digger mentioned.
Where is the code headed in this area? I doubt that many people have upgraded to AFCI breakers in their bedrooms if it wasn't required when first installed. Is there some sense of "keeping ahead of the code" in doing more than it requires?

Thinking in terms of "code+" construction. I'm certainly not planning on merely meeting code when it comes to structure and insulation (though I'm pretty well sticking to s*** flowing downhill at 1/4" per foot on the plumbing side). Maybe "doing better" on electrical really isn't doing better?
 

user 100

Senior Member
Location
texas
I would never go above and beyond the code where the AFCI is concerned for the same reasons Gold Digger mentioned.
X2 and with those nuisance trips aside, I will say that I see no need to spend extra $$$ for something that, imo, I don't feel is needed. This is kind of like the old (and excruciatingly endless) argument about the merits of using 12 for LIGHTING in a house or putting 12 on a 15 amp ocpd-some guys say thats how they would do it, but there really only wasting money and copper.

Otoh, you know the code cycle/amendments of your ahj and if you wish to exceed those amendments/NEC, thats your perogative-it's your home and you wire it/ have it wired however you want.:)
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
By electronics failing, you're referring to the electronics in the breaker itself, not that the breaker could affect anything downstream, correct?
If the breaker fails, then it can be replaced with a cheap breaker if need be, no? ...
If the electronics in an AFCI breaker fail, it becomes an expensive breaker that operates like a standard (cheap) breaker.
 

user 100

Senior Member
Location
texas
Maybe "doing better" on electrical really isn't doing better?
No, imo, in your situation it isn't. You would maybe want to meet any possible future code because????
Remember that we have millions of installs that haven't been graced with the very ​latest edition of the NEC that are perfectly fine (barring any of the afci nuisance problems that have cropped up) and will remain so for the life of the structure. A bigger issue here is the number and layout of circuits (along with the types needed) and if your proposed service will meet the expected demands.
 
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JFletcher

Senior Member
Location
Williamsburg, VA
If you wanted to future-proof/overkill it some, some things I *might* do are:

~ 20A circuit where 15A would suffice.
~ Extra dedicated circuits where you might need them (RV outlet, EV recharging, shop air compressor, jacuzzi, etc), or perhaps a box and conduit stub to crawlspace.
~ Heavy-duty switches/receptacles
~ Interlocked smoke detectors
~ Putty pad boxes
~ Cable it for security, sound, cameras
~ LED lighting

You *could* put in AFCI by the proposed codes of 2017; however I wouldnt. Perhaps by the time your area adopts that, newer/better tech will be out, or it will be less expensive than it is now.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Where is the code headed in this area? I doubt that many people have upgraded to AFCI breakers in their bedrooms if it wasn't required when first installed. Is there some sense of "keeping ahead of the code" in doing more than it requires?
Keep in mind there are a lot of people out there that question whether or not AFCI's do what their makers claim they will do, and there has been a controversy in this area since they were first introduced. Not everyone understands them, and the manufacturers seem to think we are just supposed to trust them rather then help us understand them as well.

There is not much controversy over GFCI technology - other then from people that don't understand them.

Though not all agree that AFCI is worth it's print in the NEC, it is there and we need to comply even if reluctantly. Some are for the basic concept behind AFCI, but don't believe current products on the market get the job done either.
 

mgookin

Senior Member
Location
Fort Myers, FL
If you wanted to future-proof/overkill it some, some things I *might* do are:

~ 20A circuit where 15A would suffice.
~ Extra dedicated circuits where you might need them (RV outlet, EV recharging, shop air compressor, jacuzzi, etc), or perhaps a box and conduit stub to crawlspace.
~ Heavy-duty switches/receptacles
~ Interlocked smoke detectors
~ Putty pad boxes
~ Cable it for security, sound, cameras
~ LED lighting

You *could* put in AFCI by the proposed codes of 2017; however I wouldnt. Perhaps by the time your area adopts that, newer/better tech will be out, or it will be less expensive than it is now.
I'd add to that emergency lighting in hallway, at the MDP and in the vicinity of wherever you keep your gun(s). Also smokes where the Christmas tree will be and over the dryer.
 

peter d

Senior Member
Location
New England
I would not spend a penny on AFCI protection. If I built a house out in the country with no permits and no inspections, I would not install AFCI protection at all.
 

DanS26

Member
Location
IN
I would not spend a penny on AFCI protection. If I built a house out in the country with no permits and no inspections, I would not install AFCI protection at all.
Well I live in a house out in the country with no permits and no inspectors.....but I believe in the value of AFCI protection. Put in a double pole 20 amp AFCI breaker (yes....paid $253.50 for it) and glad I did. Breaker fed a lighting subpanel with three circuits. Breaker kept tripping until I fixed the three hack neutral ground bonding problems.

Just about all non-motor circuits are protected by the new dual CB's. Yes it's a pain to track down all the problem electrical work that builds up through ignorance or oversight by electricians past.
 

user 100

Senior Member
Location
texas
Well I live in a house out in the country with no permits and no inspectors.....but I believe in the value of AFCI protection. Put in a double pole 20 amp AFCI breaker (yes....paid $253.50 for it) and glad I did. Breaker fed a lighting subpanel with three circuits. Breaker kept tripping until I fixed the three hack neutral ground bonding problems.

Just about all non-motor circuits are protected by the new dual CB's. Yes it's a pain to track down all the problem electrical work that builds up through ignorance or oversight by electricians past.
I think Peter d was talking about building a new house out in the sticks, not existing construction.:)

Can you elaborate a little on the N-G issues you found?
 

DanS26

Member
Location
IN
I think Peter d was talking about building a new house out in the sticks, not existing construction.:)

Can you elaborate a little on the N-G issues you found?
After installing the breaker, it would hold until I closed a light switch on one of the circuits. That told me that the return neutral current was traveling on both the neutral wire and the EGC. Of course, the AFCI sensed the unbalanced load on the neutral and opened. Now I had to find the problem connection.....traced it down to a buried j-box (yes, another issue). In that box was existing two wire conductors without ground from prior construction connected to modern three wire NM romex. The neutral from old wiring was connected to both the neutral and the EGC of the romex creating the parallel path.

Second and third bootleg bonding were in light fixtures where again new and old wiring were combined. Someone just did not know what to do with that extra wire or understand its purpose.
 

ActionDave

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Durango, CO, 10 h 20 min without traffic from wing
Occupation
wire pulling grunt
After installing the breaker, it would hold until I closed a light switch on one of the circuits. That told me that the return neutral current was traveling on both the neutral wire and the EGC. Of course, the AFCI sensed the unbalanced load on the neutral and opened. Now I had to find the problem connection.....traced it down to a buried j-box (yes, another issue). In that box was existing two wire conductors without ground from prior construction connected to modern three wire NM romex. The neutral from old wiring was connected to both the neutral and the EGC of the romex creating the parallel path.

Second and third bootleg bonding were in light fixtures where again new and old wiring were combined. Someone just did not know what to do with that extra wire or understand its purpose.
All that proves is the ground fault portion of the AFCI found a neutral to ground fault. Some new AFCI don't have GF protection in them. I doubt you detected any dangerous arcs.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Tennessee NEC:2017
Occupation
Electrician
After installing the breaker, it would hold until I closed a light switch on one of the circuits. That told me that the return neutral current was traveling on both the neutral wire and the EGC. Of course, the AFCI sensed the unbalanced load on the neutral and opened. Now I had to find the problem connection.....traced it down to a buried j-box (yes, another issue). In that box was existing two wire conductors without ground from prior construction connected to modern three wire NM romex. The neutral from old wiring was connected to both the neutral and the EGC of the romex creating the parallel path.

Second and third bootleg bonding were in light fixtures where again new and old wiring were combined. Someone just did not know what to do with that extra wire or understand its purpose.
You're giving credit to the AFCI, when in fact it's just the GFP in the AFCI that found you're problem. You could have used a plain old GFCI for that. Now some mfg of AFCI have taken the GFP out of their breakers. So now, instead of a "pig in a poke" we only have the "pig"!:happyyes:
 

DanS26

Member
Location
IN
You're giving credit to the AFCI, when in fact it's just the GFP in the AFCI that found you're problem. You could have used a plain old GFCI for that. Now some mfg of AFCI have taken the GFP out of their breakers. So now, instead of a "pig in a poke" we only have the "pig"!:happyyes:
Yes I realize a GFCI would have found the problems I described. My greater concern was and is arc faults in this older 1920's house. Electrified in the 1940's when REMC power became available.
 
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