When taking on a remodeling project you’re not only building something beautiful; you’re creating a safe living environment for your customers. Fire prevention and personal safety (from electrical shock) are obviously at the top of the safety list. Adding GFCIs to prevent electrical shock has always been top of mind with remodelers, fire prevention should be as well. With new electrical codes established in 2014 (which we’ll get into later) – remodelers need to be sure their projects are code-compliant and equipped with the right electrical components.

In a Qualified Remodeler newsletter last year we reported on fire prevention ….. and we think it’s worth going into here again. According to the ESFi (Electrical Safety Foundation International), the leading cause of residential building fires is electrical malfunction. The ESFi estimates arc faults cause more than 30,000 home fires each year in the U.S. alone, resulting in hundreds of deaths, injuries and more than $750 million in property damage. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) estimates that Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) could prevent more than 50 percent of these electrical fires each year. Additionally according to ESFi, the leading areas of the home in which electrical fires occur are: bedroom 14%, attic 12% and kitchen 11%. According to ESFI, older homes have a higher percentage of electrical fires than newer ones, so it’s imperative to make upgrades to AFCIs in older home remodeling projects.

Outlet Branch Circuit (OBC) AFCI receptacles are an alternative option to AFCI Circuit Breakers. These receptacles are designed to address the dangers associated with both types of potentially hazardous arcing – parallel and series. When installed as the first outlet on a branch circuit, AFCI receptacles provide series arc protection for the entire branch circuit. They also provide parallel arc protection for the branch circuit starting at the AFCI receptacle and continuing downstream to other receptacles in the circuit. OBC AFCIs offer the benefit of localized TEST and RESET with these buttons located on the face of the device itself. This is very convenient for the user and saves a trip to the circuit breaker panel. OBC AFCI devices may be used on all wiring systems regardless of the panel and for this reason are ideal for older homes, which often have electrical panels that may not be compatible with AFCI breakers.  OBC AFCI Receptacles contain electronic components within the device that constantly monitor a circuit for the presence of “normal” and “potentially dangerous” arcing conditions. Based upon an established threshold in the sine wave, the AFCI can be triggered to quickly react and cut off power if “potentially dangerous” arcing is detected.

Equally important to home safety is the prevention of electrical shock and electrocution. As builders and remodelers have known for decades, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) can help minimize this risk. GFCIs are required where electrical circuits are in the vicinity of water, such as in kitchens, baths and laundry rooms.

Just for some background based on the laws of physics, electrical shock, and potentially electrocution, is caused by a “ground fault.” A ground fault is a conducting connection (whether intentional or accidental) between an electric conductor and any conducting material that is grounded or that may become grounded. Electricity always wants to find a path to the ground. In a ground fault, electricity has found a path to ground, but it is a path the electricity was never intended to be on, such as through a person’s body. Because of this potential for shock, GFCI protection is used to help protect human life.

AFCIs should not be confused with GFCIs. While both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different functions. AFCIs are intended to help address fire hazards; GFCIs help address shock hazards.

And lastly, let’s go over an important development in the electrical codes. The 2014 National Electrical Code® (NEC®) requires both arc fault and ground fault protection in kitchens and laundry areas. The Dual Function AFCI/GFCI Receptacles offer a NEC-compliant option for AFCI/GFCI protection in residential kitchens and laundry areas for new construction, modifications/extensions and replacement receptacles. They are also ideal as a replacement for ungrounded receptacles, satisfying NEC requirements for both AFCI and GFCI protection. Just installing GFCI receptacles is no longer enough in kitchens and laundry areas; arc fault protection is also needed. Installing dual function AFCI/GFCI receptacles is the ideal solution given the 2014 code enhancements. One big advantage to installing Dual Function AFCI/GFCI receptacles is cost; they are much more affordable than installing dual function circuit breakers in remodeling projects.

Be sure and discuss the new codes and in which rooms they apply with your customers so they fully understand the importance of the electrical components you are installing in the project.

For complete information on the new codes visit: http://www.electricalcodecoalition.org/free-nec-access.aspx

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