I have always been one for safety but been having a hard time to wrap my arms with the new AFCI requirements. When they start tripping, you will only know what circuit is tripping, not where or why. That can turn into a hellish nightmare for contractors and customers alike. The only way to find the fault is to pull it all apart and look for a loose connection, providing it the problem is in one of the boxes. The technology is suppose to reduce fires by 50% in the coming years. Although I have not known anyone to lose a home due to arcing, I would also feel bad if it could have been prevented despite my personal feeling about the the trouble that will likely come.
I was doing some research on nfpa.org today and found an interesting article. Aparently there has been a push in the avaition industry for quite some time now for AFCI technology. Older planes have had arcing issues for years. I recall years ago on a news show (back when news meant real news) about how big the problem was back then so it has been a problem for quite awhile now.
They too had the same problem with AFCI protection. It works but where is the problem? Unlike old houses, the wiring is less accessible in a plane, more expensive to fix and stand to lose more if a wire did fail in flight. Given that it costs about a million dollars to rewire a big plane, there was vested interest to find a way to use AFCI protection and have an effective mean to locate the arcing problem.
The attachment is a report about that technology used to locate the arcing. I have no connection with the company in any way. It seems to me that the developers is throwing a little sales pitch in a time or two in the report so I hope this is not a violation of this board's rule. If it is, my bad.
The good thing (hopefully) is it will be a while before today's wiring deteriorates to the point where by the time the technology has come more readily available to where it may be affordible. Granted the bean counters at the manufacturer's level knows how to calculate the value to us sparkies so no matter how cheap it takes to make it, you can count on the cost to us will be $$$.
I am still in the camp that questions how many fires are actually started along the body of a cable inside a wall. A fire inside a raceway, box or cabinet should be contained therein (isn't that what the listing says?) I understand there may be "evidence" based on what a fireman says, "yup it looks like an electrical fire" but is that really the result of a real investigation or just a hunch based on a cursory walk through the rubble, perhaps even charity, to avoid any problems with the insurance claim? The fire department is a political organization in many parts of the US (including Florida).
I personally feel most electrical fires are caused on the load side of the receptacle and that was certainly how this AFCI was originally sold, even if that was not within the capabilities of the original (government mandated) devices. I remember the old "lamp cord pinched behind the bed scenario" as the example when the Cuttler Hammer reps were pitching the concept. That was not what AFCI 1.0 would find. I think that showed up around 2.1 and we are at 3.x now. Unfortunately the poor suckers who were forced to buy 1.0 devices in the housing boom do not have the protection they think they do when they read the current literature.
Greg, this is one matter with which you and I are in complete agreement; we could probably go on for hours on that tangent!
A way to trace the reason an AFCI is tripping is a fine concept, but there's no way to even field test them for operation. The test button? Please .... don't you think some counterfeiter will just make that an 'off' switch?
I fully expect the AFCI makers to vigorously oppose any attempt to market any manner of AFCI testing equipment. "Proprietary arc forms" and all that hogwash.
Yet another reason my BS detector still rings whan I hear talk of the virtues of AFCI's.
I am not a fan of the AFCI requirements and I agree on that the older AFCI's will not cover the the spectrum that the ones today. At the same time the ones in five years will proivde better technology (hopefully) than the one of today. Once they do start tripping no matter what generation, unless the industry delivers a viable tracking device, you think you are upset with them now, wait until you have to trouble shoot the tripping, especically if it is tripping intermittently.