In June, the National Fire Protection Association — which publishes the National Electric Code — voted to greatly expand requirements in the 2008 code for residential use of arc-fault current interrupters (AFCIs). These devices prevent fires caused by faulty wiring; unlike conventional circuit breakers (which trip on gross faults) or ground-fault circuit interrupters (which cut off power to a circuit if they detect an imbalance between the hot and neutral conductors), AFCIs trip in response to unintentional arcs in household wiring. Already, the more stringent rules are provoking debate within the industry — even though they won't take effect until January.

Back story. Requirements for AFCIs aren't new: The devices have been cropping up in the NEC for several years, ever since an amendment to the 1999 code mandated their use in all bedroom receptacles. The 2002 code extended that requirement to all bedroom outlets, including light fixtures, receptacles, and smoke alarms. And the 2005 code reduced...

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