NFPA requirements have gone overboard (too high of a requirement), cost vs risk!

Fishbrain

Member
Location
Continental US
Occupation
EC/EE
Cost benefit calculations are made every day by every manufacturer ...there is a point where the cost to save a few lives just does not make any economic sense. Look to the Fort Pinto case.
Just because those benefit calculations--that are made at corporate level doesn’t mean it is the ideal way to run a business going forward..

There had been several instances where cost-cutting--for the sake of profit-making, greed and preferrable investment return become more important than consumer safety.

We (includes corporate environment) have learned over the years that this approach doesn’t make even more sensible economically.

Some CEOs were fired and businesses went belly-up because of this.

Case-in-point (below) demonstrate that it costs more in damage control when their cost-cutting scheme were put into action and eventually discovered.

..Toyota ECU (electronic control unit causing speeding)

..Volkswagen Diesel Testing emission rigging.

..Boeing 737 Max nose diving for no reason.

To mention a few.

Your Ford Pinto example is just a drop in the bucket in the sea of manipulation by corporations motivated by greed.

Fish
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
Run the numbers of how many fires would be prevented if the AFCI was 100% effective, something that no one claims, and if AFCI protection was on 100% of the dwelling circuits, something that is not currently required.

Assuming a cost of $600 per dwelling for the AFCIs, assuming that the AFCI will prevent 100% of all dwelling unit fires of electrical origin, and assuming one million new homes per year, you would expect, over a 20 year period, to prevent ~11,500 fires at a cost of slightly more than $1,050,000 per fire prevented. Not cost effective!
 

Fishbrain

Member
Location
Continental US
Occupation
EC/EE
Run the numbers of how many fires would be prevented if the AFCI was 100% effective, something that no one claims, and if AFCI protection was on 100% of the dwelling circuits, something that is not currently required.

Assuming a cost of $600 per dwelling for the AFCIs, assuming that the AFCI will prevent 100% of all dwelling unit fires of electrical origin, and assuming one million new homes per year, you would expect, over a 20 year period, to prevent ~11,500 fires at a cost of slightly more than $1,050,000 per fire prevented. Not cost effective!
Something that is not currently required makes it difficult in vetting the viability of purported benefits from AFCI.

If no one claims that they are 100% effective how do we know-- given several complaints from users.

As for assumptions. . . .they are conjectures, speculations, hypotheses, and guesses. They are not based on facts.

Assumptions are no better than guesses.

Anyone can make an uneducated guess. They are (assumptions) unconscious beliefs that are not usually justifiable.

Fish
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
Something that is not currently required makes it difficult in vetting the viability of purported benefits from AFCI.

If no one claims that they are 100% effective how do we know-- given several complaints from users.

As for assumptions. . . .they are conjectures, speculations, hypotheses, and guesses. They are not based on facts.

Assumptions are no better than guesses.

Anyone can make an uneducated guess. They are (assumptions) unconscious beliefs that are not usually justifiable.

Fish
Fish, you missed the entire point of the exercise. Don made every assumption in favor of AFCI's in his argument, and they still don't make the grade. Real life is going to be even less favorable to the AFCI case.
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
Something that is not currently required makes it difficult in vetting the viability of purported benefits from AFCI.

If no one claims that they are 100% effective how do we know-- given several complaints from users.

As for assumptions. . . .they are conjectures, speculations, hypotheses, and guesses. They are not based on facts.

Assumptions are no better than guesses.

Anyone can make an uneducated guess. They are (assumptions) unconscious beliefs that are not usually justifiable.

Fis
Assumptions for something that that are required...otherwise you have to wait out the 20 years to get the actual data. The assumptions were applied to the exact same fire cause and origin data that was used to justify requiring AFCIs for dwellings.
What I showed with the assumptions was to show the AFCI in the most favorable light possible.
 

4x4dually

Senior Member
Location
Stillwater, OK
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
I like how most arguments about code requirements that I've read lately ALL circle back to the AFCI mandate. There's a wagon load of pent up anger over AFCI. Carry on. LMAO
 
I like how most arguments about code requirements that I've read lately ALL circle back to the AFCI mandate. There's a wagon load of pent up anger over AFCI. Carry on. LMAO
Dam right there is. The amount of money and frustration this has caused homeowners and electricians, and how they were pushed in WAY before being ready (and that's even granting they "work" now which is highly questionable).
 

4x4dually

Senior Member
Location
Stillwater, OK
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
Dam right there is. The amount of money and frustration this has caused homeowners and electricians, and how they were pushed in WAY before being ready (and that's even granting they "work" now which is highly questionable).
Oh, I'm on board with ya, don't think I'm not. LOL
 

brycenesbitt

Senior Member
Location
United States
this should probably be moved to the NEC proposal for next cycle section...
also fire data doesn't show that afci devices have reduced fires, yet we are required to install almost everywhere inside. increasing the cost of new construction.

Cost benefit has not been established either. Cost of devices.
Benefit to each prevented fire (both in property and life).
Cost of electricity to power all the GFCI/AFCI devices, which is substantial. Carbon or pollution impact of energy generation.
Lifetime cost, including replacement of defective devices (GFCI's have a much shorter lifetime than magnetic breakers).

Just taking the bookkeeping view, AFCI devices don't look so great.
Taking the emotional approach should not work: there are many places society can invest money and get greater human benefit.

So maybe a new rule: install an AFCI, or as an alternative donate to Unicef :).
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
is there all that much actual evidence that suggests that even GFCIs save lives?
Basic electrical knowledge combined with Common sense tells me that gfci’s save lives. If my knowledge showed that significant numbers of fires were started by arcing electrical wiring and that arcing tech detects this arcing then the same would apply, but there is no valid comparison in my opinion. Now soldering every electrical wiring joint would surely reduce electrical fires more than arc is but no kick back benefit there.
 

pv_n00b

Senior Member
Location
CA, USA
If the only argument for a code change is that the current requirement costs too much it's pretty much a guaranteed rejection. Also, there are a lot of "safety" requirements in the NEC that have no justification by independent testing or instances of reported danger. Someone just says, hey this sounds dangerous to me and if they can get enough support it will go in.
Remember the temperature adder requirement that was just dropped into the code for conductors in conduit exposed to sunlight on a roof? Conduit had been in use on roofs for decades with no indication that the conductors were being undersized using the standard sizing requirements. A copper trade group did a little test that showed the temperature rise in conduit in the sun and based on that the requirement was put in the code, a requirement that would benefit copper conductor manufacturers strangely enough. After a few code cycles, that requirement was rewritten and scaled way back because it was never a problem in the first place. This is how the code sausage factory works.
 

pv_n00b

Senior Member
Location
CA, USA
Then there are the code requirements put in with no equipment available to satisfy the requirement. The CMPs hope that by putting the requirement in the code some manufacturer will build the required device. Sometimes it works, a lot of times it does not and people are just left arguing with AHJs about how they can't comply because the equipment does not exist.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Given the number of existing dwellings and the fact that the data used to support the AFCI requirements showed that 85% of the dwelling unit electrical fires were in units at least 20 years old, it will be decades before there is any statistically valid data showing if the AFCIs have reduced the number of dwelling unit electrical fires.
And considering that, what assurance do we have that the AFCI's will still be functioning properly when they reach the age where such fires are more common is the next thing to throw into this.

I think the surge protection requirements added in 2020 possibly have some relation to this, but still...
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
there have been to numerous other changes to code to be able to extract useful data in the future.

it would be better to ban push connector receptacles then mandate afci's and gfci's everywhere. i've melted 3 receptacles which almost caused a fire (on afci circuits), but no fires were avoided due to afci breakers.
Poor terminations (stab in or not) are a place for heat to develop. Seen many screw terminals and even service/feeder connections with larger conductors succumb to this. Seen main lug of a panelboard glowing red a time or two. AFCI's don't detect this, it is a resistance load to the AFCI, yet I would bet there likely is more fires started by this than by arcing. Arcing at 120 volts can only be sustained for limited time before you need to feed more conductive material into the arc - just like you need to keep feeding more material into the work when arc welding to maintain that arc or else the gap eventually grows too big to maintain the arc.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
I like how most arguments about code requirements that I've read lately ALL circle back to the AFCI mandate. There's a wagon load of pent up anger over AFCI. Carry on. LMAO
Recent GFCI requrirements changes however are just about as stupid. GFCI requirements is fine, was fine, up to maybe 2008 NEC after that changes to it become mostly a joke as well.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
is there all that much actual evidence that suggests that even GFCIs save lives?
Thing with them when there is an EGC in good condition is that they generally trip before things develop into a situation that might kill someone.

When there is a compromised EGC, they still pretty effective though you more likely to become part of the fault path, and you will get a good jolt from that even though the GFCI does trip, but it should be limited enough duration that death isn't likely.
 

steven765

Member
Location
NY/NH
Occupation
engineer
The ford pinto is great example, but one that is a sign of broken oversight and regulation. There is a difference between the need to achieve absolute safety and the cost value proposition of a change. While the former includes the latter, it would be immoral to simply look at the latter or cost in making a decision.

That said total fire deaths from 2020 NFPA report were about 3500. Of these from 2015-2019 there was a combined total of 430 deaths attributed to electrical causes of the fire. The predominance of which were caused by arching events 63%, of the subset that was caused by electricity. However electrical fire related calls resulted in on average 33,000 fire dept calls we all pay for in our taxes.

In addition there were 126 deaths from electrocution in 2020.

So in total deaths nation wide assuming a constant per year average for the span period is 212... nationwide.

Now lets compare this with the top ten reasons for death in the United States:

  • Heart disease: 696,962
  • Cancer: 602,350
  • COVID-19: 350,831
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 200,955
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 160,264
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 152,657
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 134,242
  • Diabetes: 102,188
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,544
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 52,547
As you can see electricity or fires or BOTH combined are still not even within two orders of magnitude of the top ten. Which to the OP's point should we do some things at cost? Would the money americans spend on extra arc fault or gfci breakers be better spent on cancer research or research into artificial kidney filtering? The better question is does this change even have an effect? Electricity has gotten very safe with a continual decline the last 40 years in accidents and deaths. PoE will only reduce this further. At such low numbers of death the litmus test should be will said change even have a measurable effect in the statistical sense? The numbers are getting to the point where variance and sigma decimals start to matter... a lot.

Personally I think we've achieved a good level of safety and the effectiveness of more regulation is questionable at best. Assuming half those arcing deaths were from faulty or old wiring, the public would be better served by increased help to bring wiring up to standards. New rules which are not retro active serve only as a trailing indicator, let the last 20 years catch up as houses are upgraded the next 20 years and I suspect that number will be sub 100/ year before long.

Sources:



 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
Another thing is how many fires are called electrical fires that aren't really due to improper installation or failed electrical components?

Example - electric heater ignites combustible material that was too close to the heater. Maybe lightning event or even higher voltage line drops onto lower voltage line and results in starting a fire inside a structure via an electrical item, so they call it an electrical fire. A little misleading as it may appear to some that there was something not installed correctly when really it was more of an Act of God situation.

The number of such reports maybe isn't too significant, but there is some such events that end up being categorized incorrectly.
 

retirede

Senior Member
Location
Illinois
Another thing is how many fires are called electrical fires that aren't really due to improper installation or failed electrical components?

Example - electric heater ignites combustible material that was too close to the heater. Maybe lightning event or even higher voltage line drops onto lower voltage line and results in starting a fire inside a structure via an electrical item, so they call it an electrical fire. A little misleading as it may appear to some that there was something not installed correctly when really it was more of an Act of God situation.

The number of such reports maybe isn't too significant, but there is some such events that end up being categorized incorrectly.

Years ago when I had a subscription to EC&M magazine, there was an article about how the cause of fires is determined. The basic conclusion was if the cause can’t be determined, and there was electric service to the building, the cause was attributed to electrical. This was in the 80s, maybe it’s different now?
 
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