The requirements for AFCI protection of outlets in certain areas of dwelling units continue to evolve with each new edition of the National Electrical Code. The 2014 edition will be no exception. While there are a couple of steps remaining in the process to produce the 2014 NEC, here's what the revised rules look like today:

A new opening paragraph is being added as is a requirement that AFCI devices be installed in a readily accessible location. Similar to the requirement for GFCI devices being installed in a readily accessible location, this will facilitate the required monthly testing of the AFCI devices.

The responsible code panel intended to add kitchens and laundry areas to the rooms or areas requiring AFC I protection. Outlets installed in bathrooms, garages and outdoors are not included in the rooms or areas requiring protection.

AFCI protection is permitted to be provided in one of six ways or methods:

  1. A listed combination type arc-fault circuit interrupter, installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit. A circuit-breaker type AFCI would be required to comply with this option.
  2. A listed branch/feeder type AFCI installed at the origin of the branch circuit in combination with a listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed at the first outlet box on the branch circuit. The first outlet box in the branch circuit shall be marked to indicate it is the first outlet of the circuit. No specific wiring method is specified for wiring to the first outlet box.
  3. A listed supplemental arc protection circuit breaker installed at the origin of the branch circuit in combination with a listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed at the first outlet box on the branch circuit  where all of the following conditions are met:
    1. The branch circuit wiring shall be continuous from the branch circuit overcurrent device to the outlet branch circuit arc-fault circuit interrupter.
    2. The maximum length of the branch circuit wiring from the branch circuit overcurrent device to the first outlet shall not exceed 15.2 m (50 ft) for a 14 AWG or 21.3 m (70 ft) for a 12 AWG conductor.
    3. The first outlet box in the branch circuit shall be marked to indicate it is the first outlet of the circuit.
      • The term "listed supplemental arc protection circuit breaker" is new for the 2014 NEC. Additional research will be required to determine what type of product provides this protection.
  4. A listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed at the first outlet on the branch circuit in combination with a listed branch circuit overcurrent protective device where all of the following conditions are met:
    1. The branch circuit wiring shall be continuous from the branch circuit overcurrent device to the outlet branch circuit arc-fault circuit interrupter.
    2. The maximum length of the branch circuit wiring from the branch circuit overcurrent device to the first outlet shall not exceed 15.2 m (50 ft) for a 14 AWG or 21.3 m (70 ft) for a 12 AWG conductor.
    3. The first outlet box in the branch circuit shall be marked to indicate it is the first outlet of the circuit.
    4. The combination of the branch circuit overcurrent device and outlet branch circuit AFCI is identified as meeting the requirements for a "System Combination" type AFCI and is listed as such.
      • This is a new option for the 2014 NEC, which allows standard overcurrent device branch circuit protection, and outlet type AFCI device with the limited links of branch circuit wiring between.
  5. If RMC, IMC, EMT, Type MC, or steel armored Type AC cables meeting the requirements of 250.118, metal wireways, metal auxiliary gutters and metal outlet and junction boxes are installed for the portion of the branch circuit between the branch-circuit overcurrent device and the first outlet, it shall be permitted to install an outlet branch-circuit type AFCI at the first outlet to provide protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit. Additional flexibility is provided by this option. If the specified wiring methods are used between the branch circuit panelboard and the first outlet and metal outlet and junction boxes are installed, an outlet branch-circuit type AFCI protective device is permitted at the first outlet to provide protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit.
  6. A listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed at the first outlet on the branch circuit where the portion of the branch circuit between the branch-circuit overcurrent device and the first outlet is installed using a listed metal or nonmetallic conduit, tubing or Type MC cable is encased in not less than 50 mm (2 in.) of concrete. The informational notes have been revised as well. Informational notes are just that, informational. They are not intended to be enforced by the electrical inspector.

(B) Branch Circuit Extensions or Modifications - Dwelling Units. In any of the areas specified in 210.12(A), where branch-circuit wiring is modified, replaced, or extended, the branch circuit shall be protected by one of the following:

  1. A listed combination-type AFCI located at the origin of the branch circuit.
  2. A listed outlet branch-circuit type AFCI located at the first receptacle outlet of the existing branch circuit.

A new exception has been added to provide relief for minor modifications of branch circuits in dwelling units. It reads:

Exception: AFCI protection shall not be required where the extension of the existing conductors is not more than 1.8 m (6 ft.) and does not include any additional outlets or devices.

A new requirement is being added for AFCI protection in dormitory units, but applies to only bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, closets, and similar rooms. This new section reads:

(C) Dormitory Units.  All 120-Volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dormitory unit bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, closets, and similar rooms shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter meeting   the requirements of 210.12(A)(1) through (6) as appropriate.

It appears these requirements will make it through the remaining steps of the NEC code change process as most all the members of the Code Panel are supporting these revisions.

Phil Simmons