What is Arc Fault Protection Featured Image

In the recent 23rd edition of the Canadian Electrical Code book, there have been significant changes that you need to be aware of when dealing with renovation projects. The most significant change is rule 26-724 (f), which states as follows: “Each branch circuit supplying 125V receptacles rated 20A or less shall be protected by a combination type arc-fault circuit interrupter, except for…”.

Installation Challenges and Solutions

This means that if you install a new receptacle or plug, such as a microwave outlet in the cabinet above the stove, a built-in vacuum cleaner outlet in the basement, or rec room wall outlets, you are now required to provide arc-fault protection for the receptacle. This can be accomplished in two ways: by installing an arc-fault breaker in the electrical panel or by installing an arc-fault receptacle as the first device in the circuit.

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Issues with Breaker Compatibility

In the case of installing an arc-fault breaker in the existing panel, you may not be able to get a matching manufacturer’s breaker. For instance, in older homes with Bulldog Pushmatic panels, these have not been made since the mid-1950s, and back then, there was no such thing as arc-fault protection. More recent panels (mid-1970s, Nova or Wesco) have also not been made for many years. Today’s manufacturers like Siemens, Square “D”, Cutler Hammer, and Schneider all make arc-fault breakers for their panels. Make sure you match the same manufacturer for both parts.

Ensuring Full Circuit Protection

Some electricians will tell you that some manufacturers will fit into competitors’ brand panels and that you can use them in place of the original. Recently, there have been two documented fires in panels because competitors’ breakers were installed. If you have a situation where installing an arc-fault breaker in the existing panel is not an option, the second method may be used. When you install an arc-fault breaker or receptacle into a circuit, everything after it in the circuit is protected, but everything before it is not.

Wiring Considerations and Exemptions

Rule 26-724(g) states that if an arc-fault receptacle is installed as the first device in the circuit, the wiring between the panel and this first device must be “metal raceway, armored cable, or non-metallic conduit or tubing”. Because of this, we normally install an arc-fault receptacle beside the electric panel using one of the above wiring methods, then continue on from there to the rest of the circuit. That way, everything on that circuit is protected.

Exceptions to the Rule

Here are the exemptions to the rule as stated in 26-724 (f)(1)(2). If you are putting in a sump pump, you do not need to provide arc-fault protection. If you are renovating your kitchen, the two items that do not need arc-fault protection are the refrigerator and the counter/island/peninsula receptacles. Finally, a new bathroom GFI. Remember, the new code applies to newly installed receptacles only. The existing ones are grandfathered, and you do not have to change them.

Ensuring Safety Through Permits and Inspections

Always get or demand from your contractor an electrical permit and inspection from the city issuing the permit. It’s a matter of your family’s safety. For more information about arc fault protection, contact us at 780.238.8195.

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