One of the most common causes for house fires in America is when a blown out circuit sparks until a nearby item ignites. The National Electric Code (NEC) wants to make sure that people are safe and sound within their homes—and that their electrical devices don’t end up causing a devastating fire. Back in 1999, the NEC specified that Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCIs should be used to protect the branch circuits that supply power to bedrooms.
AFCI circuit breakers can trip or disconnect electricity to all attached wiring if an arc current travels or sparks because of the hot lead of the circuit. There are times that heat will travel from a circuit breaker into electrical items and start a house fire. Thankfully, with a combination-type AFCI installed, homeowners can be sure that there won’t be sparks between the ends of a single broken conductor. These combination-type AFCIs have been a staple purchase for every home since the NEC chose to make them mandatory for homes built after 2005.
Now, the NEC also requires ACFI protection of branch circuits in almost every room in your house. This means that if you have branch circuits in your home that supply outlets, they need to be protected by AFCI. This event includes the types of outlets that supply electricity to hard-wired devices like lights and fans.
The Fight to Make AFCIs Mandatory
Out of all 50 states, the only state that does not require AFCI installation in residential buildings is Indiana. However, in 2015, the Alabama Energy & Residential Codes Board considered deleting their AFCI requirement from the code. Advocates of mandatory AFCI installation have included former burn victims and the Chief Electrical Inspector of Shelby County, Donny Cook.
Cook believes that removing the legal requirement for AFCIs will eventually result in their disappearance from homes entirely. With 67,000 house fires a year caused by electrical malfunction, this is an incredibly high gamble for Alabama lawmakers. AFCI advocates wonder why remove it at all when there is clearly so much benefit to their use and the technology exists to prevent tragedy.
On the other side of the argument, builders and building associations believe the AFCI is far too costly to make into a housing requirement. For a 2,400 square foot house, the cost of installing AFCIs was approximately $300—not including the cost of repairs and replacement over the life of the house. The issue is also that AFCIs do not raise the appraisal value of a home, so the cost falls on builders alone.
Charlie Donaghe, a house fire burn injury victim, vehemently disagrees with that assessment. “How does spending 300 dollars compare to the cost of being hospitalized, treated for burns for months and the lifelong impact of these injuries?” Donaghe said. “How does that compare to losing a loved one to an electrical fire? This isn’t a political issue. This is a public safety issue, for me. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.” Arnold & Itkin is inclined to agree with Mr. Donaghe wholeheartedly.
AFCIs vs. GFCIs: Preventing Fire & Preventing Electrocution
AFCIs are not the same thing as Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which are designed to prevent electrical shocks. GFCIs interrupt the current flow of energy in a home when the hot lead of the circuit doesn’t match the flow of the neutral lead in the same circuit. These devices are required in some homes and rooms in homes as well and are considered “protection for personnel.”
AFCIs are installed because they prevent against fire, but GFCIs are used as protection against electrocution or electric shocks of any kind. Oftentimes, GFCIs are required in placed in rooms that use water such as bathroom, pool houses, kitchens, or garages, as water’s conductive nature makes these high electrocution-risk rooms.
Seeking Compensation for Missing ACFIs
Both AFCIs and GFCIs were created to protect people and property in America from injury, damage, and tragedy due to a malfunction in your electrical system. If your home does not have ACFI and GCFI protection and you were not aware of this, or if your rental space does not have these protections and your landlord has not taken action to get them installed, then you need to hold your landlord or home developer accountable.
If you were harmed because of an electric shock because of the lack of a GCFI or your home was burned in a house fire because there was not AFCI circuit breaker installed in your home, then you need to talk to a personal injury attorney at Arnold & Itkin to discuss this issue today. At Arnold & Itkin, our Houston personal injury attorneys are dedicated to quality representation for all men and women across the United States.
We have won more than $1 billion for clients in the last 5 years—call (888) 493-1629 to speak today.