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August 7, 2008 A Penton Media Publication Vol. VI No. 15
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) Protection

What's Wrong Here?

Code Q&A

Code Quiz

Learn About the Changes in the 2008 National Electrical Code

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    Top 2008 Code Changes

    Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) Protection

    By Mike Holt
    Arc fault circuit interrupter protection requirements for 15A and 20A, 120V dwelling unit circuits were expanded again. Section 210.12(B) now reads as follows:

    "All 15A or 20A, 120V branch circuits that supply outlets in dwelling unit family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar areas shall be protected by a listed AFCI device of the combination type."

    The 120V circuit limitation means AFCI protection isn't required for equipment rated 230V, such as baseboard heaters or room air conditioners. In addition, AFCI protection is not required in rooms or areas protected by GFCIs. Though not required by the Code, both AFCI and GFCI protection can be provided for the same branch circuits or receptacle outlets, as the different protection technologies are compatible.

    In addition, a new Fine Print Note clarified dwelling unit AFCI protection requirements of fire alarm circuits, and the rules on locating the AFCI device were rewritten to relax the restrictions.

    "FPN No. 3: See 760.41 and 760.121 for power-supply requirements for fire alarm systems."

    Smoke alarms connected to a 15A or 20A circuit must be AFCI-protected if the smoke alarm is located in the bedroom of a dwelling unit. The exemption from AFCI protection for the "fire alarm circuit" contained in 760.41 and 760.121 doesn't apply to the single and multiple station smoke alarm circuit typically installed in dwelling unit bedroom areas. This is because a smoke alarm circuit isn't a fire alarm circuit as defined in NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code. Unlike single and multiple station smoke alarms, fire alarm systems are managed by a fire alarm control panel.

    "Exception No. 1: The AFCI protection device can be located at the first outlet if the circuit conductors are installed in RMC, IMC, EMT or steel Type AC, and the AFCI device is contained in a metal outlet or junction box."

    Type MC cable without a bare aluminum grounding/bonding conductor does not fall within the scope of this exception because the armor cable is thinner than that of Type AC cable.

    "Exception No. 2: AFCI protection can be omitted for branch-circuit wiring to a fire alarm system in accordance with 760.41(B) and 760.121(B), if the circuit conductors are installed in RMC, IMC, EMT, or steel armored Type AC cable."

    This new Fine Print Note alerts Code users to the fact that AFCI protection is not required for the "fire alarm circuit," but caution must be exercised because 760.41 and 760.21 don't apply to the single and multiple station smoke alarm circuit typically installed in dwelling unit bedroom areas. This is because a smoke alarm circuit isn't a fire alarm circuit as defined by NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code. Unlike single and multiple station smoke alarms (smoke detectors), fire alarm systems are managed by a fire alarm control panel, which qualifies it as a fire alarm system.

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    Code Challenge
    What's Wrong Here?
    By Joe Tedesco
    Think you know how this installation violates the NEC? Visit EC&M's Web site to see the answer.

    Hint: Is it live, or is it Memorex?

    Code Q&A
    By Mike Holt
    Q. What is the maximum number of bathroom receptacles that can be placed on the 20A, 120V bathroom receptacle circuit in a single-family dwelling?

    Visit EC&M's Web site to see the answer.

    Code Quiz
    By Steven Owen
    Q. When bonding a swimming pool shell, which of the following shall be considered conductive materials due to water permeability and porosity?

    1. poured concrete
    2. pneumatically applied or sprayed concrete
    3. concrete block with a painted coating
    4. concrete block with a plastered coating
    5. all of the above

    Visit EC&M's Web site for the answer and explanation.

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    Shows and Events

    Learn About the Changes in the 2008 National Electrical Code
    In two informative and interest-filled days with Mike Holt, you'll learn about major NEC changes that will impact your work, whether you're an electrician, contractor, engineer, designer, or plant/facility maintenance person. You'll also earn continuing education hours and professional development hours.

    Two conferences are scheduled for later this year:
    --September 4-5 in Portland, Ore.
    --September 8-9 in San Antonio

    For more information and to register online, go to

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