The National Fire Protection Association is about to revise its National Electrical Code (NEC) for 2014. This code determines all the specific requirements and safety measures that buildings’ electrical wiring should comply with. The new changes proposed to the NEC involve safety related to home rooftop wiring and arc fault circuit interrupters.
See the NFPA codes and standards.
Rooftop Cables & Conductors
Circular raceways are enclosed channels designed to hold wires and cables and are often made of metallic material. While it’s always been agreed that these channels, being exposed to direct sunlight the majority of the time, must withstand a certain level of high temperatures, that temperature level is being called into question. The Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) recently conducted a study on some of the newer materials that circular raceways are made of and determined that the hottest temperature at which most materials are made to withstand isn’t enough.
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
Check out our blog post on arc fault circuit interrupters.
This piece of equipment is a smarter circuit breaker. It not only detects power surges that could damage wiring and equipment, it senses electrical arcs that could cause fires. “An AFCI is like having an electrical inspector in your home 24/7,” says Thomas Domitrovich, national application engineer for Eaton Corp., a producer of electrical devices, including AFCIs. Since AFCIs can detect malfunctions that standard circuit breakers can’t, there is a proposal to require more of them in homes.
The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) takes issue with this proposal, claiming that the cost of this extra equipment will unnecessarily drive up home prices. A standard arc fault circuit interrupter runs about $35 while a circuit breaker could cost $10. The NAHB claims increased usage of AFCIs has not lowered the number of electrical fires but the UL and Consumer Product Safety Commission, both independent researchers, both reported the devices as reliable and effective. According to the NFPA:
The 2013 NFPA report “Electrical Fires” shows that electrical failure or malfunction was a factor contributing to ignition in 84 percent of electrical distribution equipment home structure fires. Arcing (indicating an arc fault) was specifically cited for at least 77 percent of these electrical failure home fires involving electrical distribution equipment.
One area where the proposal suggests expanding the use of AFCIs is the kitchen. Electrical malfunctions resulted in an annual average of 700 home dishwasher fires between 2005 and 2009, according to NFPA’s “Home Electrical Fires” report. General Electric, home appliance and technology manufacturer, proposed requiring the installation of an AFCI on the dishwasher circuit specifically. (Maybe the high incidence of arcing on the dishwasher circuit has to do with how much power they draw, even when on standby. Check out our article on monitoring energy usage!)