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Old 02-14-2017, 11:38 PM   #1
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Default AFCI Protection Question

I've been doing commercial work for a number of years but I'm taking on a house for a friend. I know that 210.12 requires protection for damn near every outlet in a house but I'm not fully understanding the difference in the requirements between installing a breaker installation and a "first outlet" installation.

I have looked up some stuff online and all of that seems to indicate that a "first outlet" installation requires conduit or MC cable from the panel and a metallic box. 210.12(4) seems to say you can use outlets at the first box along with a regular breaker (overcurrent protective device) as long as you're closer than 50 or 70 feet, but then 210.12(5) says *IF* MC/Conduit/etc is used then you can use an outlet type device as the first location. I'm just a little confused here. WHY would you ever be running conduit or MC cable in a house unless your jurisdiction requires it? And, why would that matter at all to the circuit? If you can run NM after the first box why does before the first box matter?

My whole reason for this is because the panel for the house is outside and resetting a breaker might be a pain assuming rain/snow/etc. I've read there's a lot of problems with AFCI's nuisance tripping. Seems like the first outlet device makes a lot more sense in this instance.

Just trying to understand this requirement. I was aware of it but not the specifics of it. Was just hoping some romex rats who do this every day could shed some light on this for me.

Thanks.
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Old 02-15-2017, 01:56 AM   #2
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Welcome aboard.

I agree the outside panel is not a good place for an AFCI, they have enough problems inside.
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Old 02-15-2017, 06:24 AM   #3
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I may be wrong, but I believe the logic is simple, if the arc is occurring in conduit, it won't start a fire, if it's in NM in a wall cavity, it will.

As to why you'd be running MC or conduit - well, mainly to use a first outlet installation, unless it's a nipple on the panel?
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Old 02-15-2017, 08:45 AM   #4
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I'd be willing to bet those in your area who do new homes are putting the arc faults in the panel. What code cycle are you on and are there any local amendments?
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Old 02-15-2017, 10:13 AM   #5
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So they give you two choices:
1) AFCI breaker protecting "normal" romex cct.
2) Regular breaker feeding AC90, or conduit, to the first outlet where an
AFCI device is installed. Normal cct thereafter.
Both have there advantages:
1) Simple/fast.
2) Might be cheaper. Saves space in panel. Can be used when adding to
to old panel that has no compatible AFCI breakers.

As to ease of resetting, either could be argued. If the tripped device is close
by, that could be easier, but only if the HO knows where they all are. Otherwise,
it might be easier to have them all in 1 place, where they can be found without
a house wide search.

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Old 02-15-2017, 10:26 AM   #6
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We use the dual function breakers everywhere. If this is a new house just put a sub inside somewhere.
I would hate to have 15 AFCI receptacles hidden all over the house. I would be more pissed to find one behind a piece of furniture than freezing a bit going to the panel.
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Old 02-15-2017, 10:27 AM   #7
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The issue with the receptacles is they need to be accessible, readily accessible, whatever. I use them when dealing with receptacle replacement and panels like FPE or Zinsco. I find where the first receptacle inline in that room and put it in, but it can lost behind furniture, etc. I'd have to look at the rules real closely and see whether, one I could do it with regular breakers and AFCI or Dual function receptacles and whether it was practical.
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Old 02-15-2017, 07:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splatz View Post
I may be wrong, but I believe the logic is simple, if the arc is occurring in conduit, it won't start a fire, if it's in NM in a wall cavity, it will.

I don't follow THAT logic at all. If it were only to protect the wires, then why would aluminum flex, as well as PVC be specifically excluded? I don't understand why MC cable or conduit would suddenly make everything magically better. I honestly don't see the difference between MC and NM in this situation. I am trying to wrap my brain around why this would be a requirement. I mean, GFCI has no such requirement. You install a circuit in a kitchen and install a GFCI receptacle at the first box and then one or two secondary receptacles there is no requirement to make sure there is MC cable to the first outlet or use metallic boxes.

I understand the chasing all over the house for them being a negative but I think outside would be much worse. This is technically an addition to a house but it's like they've built a duplex out of an existing house but with only one service. I've already roughed everything in and about to trim out so I'm not suddenly going to add to my expense and install a sub-panel. Also, this is in a rural setting where there is no AHJ and there will be no inspections of any kind. I'm just trying to do everything best I can to the 2017 codes.

More than anything, I'm trying to fully understand this code requirement and the thinking behind it.
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Old 02-19-2017, 11:09 PM   #9
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Romex is basically unprotected from nails or screws that may come in contact with the wire therefore it could create an arc whereas MC has a much smaller chance of getting nicked by a nail or screw. Maybe this helps explain it?
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Old 02-19-2017, 11:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GDS View Post
Romex is basically unprotected from nails or screws that may come in contact with the wire therefore it could create an arc whereas MC has a much smaller chance of getting nicked by a nail or screw. Maybe this helps explain it?
I rebut your statement with this:
http://i1152.photobucket.com/albums/...psfspvdh98.jpg
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Old 02-19-2017, 11:19 PM   #11
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Old 02-19-2017, 11:36 PM   #12
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Nothings perfectly safe. Suggest you talk to the code committee(s) if your
unhappy with the compromises they've come up with.
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Old 02-20-2017, 08:26 AM   #13
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We have had problems in the past. There was a lot of complaining and some states amended them out. We tried too. However with some negative press perhaps some change has occured. I haven't seen the strange problems that they (manufacturers) blame on us lately. I think you would be well off to wire normally. Pay attention to the make up of boxes during the finish stage. If you want to go an extra step of megging the circuits, before finish, not a bad idea.
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Old 02-20-2017, 04:03 PM   #14
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FWIW Are AFCI receptacles as large as the first GFIs? May have to oversize the box.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:21 AM   #15
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The dual function ones I have seen had a bump on the backside. AFCI only about the size of a standard GFI. The Leviton ones I think are full sized bigger than their shallow GFCIs. I think at least for a while the Pass and Seymours were leviton. Their dual function versions seem to be their own at least externally. I haven't had a problem with newer construction done with plastic boxes in the last thirty years or so. More so with small metal boxes of old. Same trouble you'd run in to with GFI's. Carry some smart or slider boxes for retrofit.
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:41 AM   #16
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There are places for receptacles where they won't get obstructed by furniture (hallways, for example) but it's a valid point. You don't put them where there's a possibility they will be hidden. I fooled around with blank face receptacles at the panel to save a few bucks but it's generally not worth it.
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