From what I've gathered, the German VDE 0100 is to introduce AFCIs in their next edition. I don't think they'll be mandatory, but so far I'm not aware of any other European regulations even mentioning AFCIs. The German term translates to "Fire prevention switch". Interestingly enough, a German name was chosen, whereas a few years ago attempts were made to introduce all-English terms for various devices, e.g. RCD instead of FI-Schutzschalter. The current edition uses the German term again.
The uncomfortable truth is that, [although we don't do politics here], the European Project is falling apart and National Standards are reappearing. The Brits will likely take their cricket bat and ball home as soon as they get a referendum, Germany has resurgent patriotism and the unspeakable National Front hung the Socialists and Gaullists out to dry in recent local elections in France, with one in 4+ voting for them. No surprise with 25%+ unemployment in southern Europe and getting worse.
I'm not that sure about that. Far from wanting to leave the EU, Germany is actually trying to take the lead and pull the cart out of the mud, regardless of whether we think their methods and ideas are up to the task or not.
Technical standards are an entirely different matter. While we have the various harmonisition documents, about every country has so many national addendums that the actual regulations vary considerably. I see this all the time with Germans trying to give advice to Austrian DIYers (or even prfessionals in fields they aren't familiar with) and vice versa. For example, in a German TT supply with RCD-protected circuits the earth resistance is only limited by the prospective fault current, that's around 1600 Ohms for a 30 mA RCD. In Austria, there's an absolute limit of 100(!) Ohms, less than 1/10. A German setup would instantly fail testing for that reason (unless earth resistance happened to be low enough anyway). The Brits and Irish extended zone 2 in bathrooms (surrounding baths and showers) from 60 cm to 2 m, the Belgians added a zone 3 (essentially to the same effect), etc. etc.
Hi Ragner, I'd like to put my spoke into this wheel. Over here in NZ, there are moves (from I don't know where), to maybe convert us to a TT supply system, when we currently use the TN-C-S (Multiple-Earthed Neutral), this is the same system used in Australia and it works down here, why change it? AFCI's are not going to do a damned thing for anyone, it will save no more lives than a smoke detector, but it will end up being bypassed when it gives false trips.
I'm not exactly pleased by this development either and I'm afraid we'll eventually end up seeing it in Austria too. The fact alone that nobody but the manufacturer knows how an AFCI works is enough to give me serious doubts. By comparison, the way an RCD works is well-documented and it is fairly easy to determine whether an RCD works as it should.
It's interesting to see that NZ is converting to TT, whereas Austria has been going the opposite route for the past 15 years. In 1998, the TN-C directive was introduced, effectively a national law forcing the conversion of all supplies to TN (with very few exceptions such as installations in the immediate vicinity of 16.7 Hz railway power systems). TT supplies now require two series-wired RCDs as backup protection.
High-frequency noise is mentioned as a way of detection, but how are they going to reliably ignore noise from things like switching power supplies and brush motors? (Sure, such items have filters; but they don't completely block RF, and the filter capacitors can deteriorate and drop in capacitance.)
And if they're so confident in the efficacy of AFCIs, why can't they come up with a standardised test?
I'd just want to see independent proof of their performance in realistic scenarios, to be convinced. (I can't say I've succeeded in maintaining an arc between a normal 240V plug and socket under load, so make of that what you will...)