December 2002 Edition

Arc-Fault Interrupters

I’m remodeling my house and I’ve heard talk about needing to use these new arc-fault circuit breakers. What are they for and why do I need them?
To prevent fires, arc-fault interrupters (AFCIs) are designed to trip when they detect low-level arcing (also called an electrical short) that won’t trip a standard breaker. The AFCIs fit into the same slots of your electrical service panel as the standard breakers they replace.
As of January 2002, the National Electric Code (NEC) requires AFCIs in all 15 amp and 20 amp bedroom branch circuits. Does this mean you will have to replace old circuit breakers in your house? Only if you’re building a new addition or undertaking major remodeling. New AFCIs cost about $40.00 per breaker at home centers or through electrical supply companies.

Christmas Lighting Safety

Christmas is the time of year when we pull out lights and all types of decorations to celebrate the season. It is also the time of year that we have many fires associated with Christmas trees and lighting. Here are some tips.
Make sure the lights you use are labeled "UL-listed." Lights rated for outdoor use can be used indoors or outdoors, but do not use lights rated for indoor use outside. All UL-listed indoor light sets will have a green UL label and outside light sets have a red one. Follow the manufacturer's instructions that came with your holiday decorations.
Replace any electrical decorations that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections. When hanging light sets around the outside of your house, use only plastic electrical staples to hold the wires in place. Do not use nails or metal staples.
Do not run too many lights on one circuit. A typical 15 amp household circuit can handle up to 1,400 watts. Do not forget that anything already running on the circuit counts in the total watts. The packaging the lights came in should give you the number of watts per light or light set. If you do not have the package, check the tag on the light string.
Do not leave the lights on when you go to bed or leave your house.
If you still have the large lights that get very hot, consider replacing them with the miniature lights that do not get as hot (you will save on your electric bill too).
When you run extension cords outside, make sure they’re rated for outdoor use and none of the plugs are lying on the ground. Connections that are lying on the ground could allow moisture inside, causing a short.
When you decorate the tree with lights and decorations be sure the main extension cord you use is large enough to carry the load. Do not plug four or five light cords into an extension cord that is the same or smaller size because you will overload the capacity of the cord. Always try to use a larger size or gage cord. If you are not sure if it is adequate, just touch the cord after it has been in use for 20 to 30 minutes and feel if the cord is warm or hot to the touch. If it is, then you will need to replace it with a larger gage extension cord. The undersized wire could heat up enough to melt the insulation and cause a fire.
We hope each and every one of you have a very safe and enjoyable holiday season.
Source: HomeTips December 1997

GFCI Receptacles Failing Widely

Fifteen percent of installed GFCI receptacles no longer work, according to a study funded by Leviton Corp., a manufacturer of electrical equipment.
The study, which was based on data collected by inspectors from the American Society of Home Inspectors, attributes the failure of GFCI receptacles to voltage surges from utility companies and lightning. In regions where lightning strikes are most common, the percentage of failed GFCIs in inspected homes ranges between 23% and 58%. Since many GFCIs can continue to deliver power even when they no longer provide ground-fault protection, homeowners are often unaware of problems with their GFCI outlets.
Source: Journal Of Light Construction

EPA Releases Indoor Air Quality Report

The importance of the indoor environment to human health has been highlighted in numerous environmental risk reports. On average, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, where pollutant levels are often higher than those outside. Indoor pollution is estimated to cause thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have experienced elevated blood lead levels resulting from their exposure to indoor pollutants.
As part of their response to this issue, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report entitled "Healthy Buildings, Healthy People: A Vision for Indoor Environmental Quality in the 21st Century." The report outlines goals, broad strategies, and guiding principles to achieve success in every sector of society over the next 25 to 50 years.
To download the report in electronic form, go to . For a free paper copy call 800-438-4318.

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

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