Two Electrical Code Changes That Start Now

Starting January 1, 2010, two electrical code changes go into effect in the State of Wisconsin. Tamper resistant receptacles and arc fault circuit-interrupter protection (AFCI) will be required in all new residential dwelling units. The 2008 NEC (National Electrical Code) became effective in Wisconsin on March 1, 2009; however, these two items had their effective dates deferred until now.

Tamper resistant Outlets

What are tamper resistant receptacles?
Tamper resistant receptacles have small plastic covers where the prong openings are on the receptacle. These covers move aside only when both sides are engaged at the same time.

Why are they important?
For safety, especially children’s safety. Studies were done showing many accidents were caused by foreign objects being inserted into receptacles. It was found that other safety measures, like plastic inserts and safety covers, were ineffective at solving this problem.

What does this new requirement mean to me?
It means a safer environment, but not without costs. A few calls to local electrical suppliers turned up an average cost increase of almost 300% (50¢ versus $1.40) for these new tamperproof receptacles. Keep in mind that all 15- and 20- AMP receptacles in the dwelling, including GFCI and weatherproof, will be required to be tamper resistant.

Does every project require tamper resistant receptacles?
No, some commercial projects and existing residential receptacle replacement do not require them. However, if you are remodeling in residential and replacing circuits, you will have to upgrade to the tamper resistant receptacles. Check with your local building inspector for more information.

Read the National Electrical Manufacturers Association fact sheet on tamper resistant receptacles.
Read the NFPAs fact sheet on tamper resistant receptacles.


Arc fault circuit-interrupter protection (AFCI)

What is AFCI?
AFCIs are circuit breakers designed to protect against fires caused by arcing faults in electrical wiring.

Why is this important?
Electrical fires are one of the major causes of fires in the United States. Thousands of home fires start because of damaged or deteriorated wiring in walls. AFCI can detect changes in the current which may indicate an unstable wire before it arcs and cause a fire to start.

What does this requirement mean to me?
All new residential dwelling circuits which are not required to be GFCI protected will be required to be AFCI protected. This is true for ALL new circuits, including those in existing residences and additions. The cost increase from the standard breaker is about $35 each. That is going to add up to a big extra, especially for a whole house.

Does every project require AFCI?
No, only NEW circuits will require AFCIs. Existing circuits will not be allowed to be extended without this protection. Existing circuits which only require a new breaker will be allowed to use traditional breakers. Check with your local building inspector for more information.

Read the US Consumer Product Safety Commission fact sheet on AFCIs.

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