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I'm assuming that it will protect against arcing in the appliance that is plugged into it.

Will the AFCI receptacle trip if an arc is detected in the wiring from the panel to the receptacle?

Will the AFCI receptacle protect items downstream or upstream in the branch?

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Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) receptacles only provides sufficient arc fault detection and protection in the portion of the circuit downstream from the receptacle.

If AFCI receptacles offered adequate protection for the full circuit, you could install one receptacle and be done. However, NEC requirements for AFCI protection where an AFCI receptacle is used always require some additional form arc-fault protection for the portion of the circuit leading up to the first AFCI receptacle of the circuit.

The means of protection for the portion of the circuit leading up to the first AFCI receptacle include:

  • Combination-type AFCI breakers (here, no AFCI receptacle is required because the breaker provides sufficient protection for the entire circuit downstream from the panel). Refer to section 210.12 (A) 1 of the 2014 NEC.
  • Different types of supplemental arc protection breakers or AFCI breakers to detect arc faults in the portion of the circuit leading up to the first receptacle. Refer to sections 210.12 (A) 2-4 of the 2014 NEC.
  • Nonflexible metallic conduit, MC, or some AC to protect against a fire caused by arcing with flammable materials in the portion of the circuit leading up to the first AFCI receptacle. Refer to section 210.12 (A) 5 of the 2014 NEC.
  • Metallic, nonmetallic conduit or tubing or MC cable encased in not less than 2 inches of concrete to protect against a fire caused by arcing with flammable materials in the portion of the circuit leading up to the first AFCI receptacle. Refer to section 210.12 (A) 6 of the 2014 NEC.
  • For individual branch circuits to a fire alarm system installed according to specific requirements in other parts of the code, including being fully enclosed in RMC, IMC, EMT, or steel sheathed cable, AC or MC with metal outlet and junction boxes, AFCI protection is not required in receptacle or outlet form because the entire circuit is protected against arc faults with flammable materials by the metal enclosure. Refer to the listed exception for section 210.12 (A) of the 2014 NEC.

From the 2014 NEC:

210.12 Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection. Arcfault circuit-interrupter protection shall be provided as required in 210.12(A) (B), and (C). The arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

(A) Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by any of the means described in 210.12(A)(1) through (6):

(1) A listed combination-type arc-fault circuit interrupter, installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit

(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 that it is the first outlet of the circuit.

(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:

  • a. The branch-circuit wiring shall be continuous from the branch-circuit overcurrent device to the outlet branch-circuit arc-fault circuit interrupter.

  • b. 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 conductor or 21.3 m (70 ft) for a 12 AWG conductor.

  • c. The first outlet box in the branch circuit shall be marked to indicate that it is the first outlet of the circuit.

(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:

  • a. The branch-circuit wiring shall be continuous from the branch-circuit overcurrent device to the outlet branch-circuit arc-fault circuit interrupter.

  • b. 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 conductor or 21.3 m (70 ft) for a 12 AWG conductor.

  • c. The first outlet box in the branch circuit shall be marked to indicate that it is the first outlet of the circuit.

  • d. The combination of the branch-circuit overcurrent device and outlet branch-circuit AFCI shall be identified as meeting the requirements for a system combination–type AFCI and shall be listed as such.

(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 a listed outlet branch-circuit type AFCI at the first outlet to provide protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit.

(6) Where a listed metal or nonmetallic conduit or tubing or Type MC cable is encased in not less than 50 mm (2 in.) of concrete for the portion of the branch circuit between the branch-circuit overcurrent device and the first outlet, it shall be permitted to install a listed outlet branch-circuit type AFCI at the first outlet to provide protection for the remaining portion of the branch circuit.

Exception: Where an individual branch circuit to a fire alarm system installed in accordance with 760.41(B) or 760.121(B) is installed in RMC, IMC, EMT, or steelsheathed cable, Type AC or Type MC, meeting the requirements of 250.118, with metal outlet and junction boxes, AFCI protection shall be permitted to be omitted.

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    Point 5 also allows type MC or some AC cable to be used in lieu of metallic nonflexible conduit/wireway/guttering. – ThreePhaseEel Jan 6 '17 at 12:46
  • @ThreePhaseEel Thank you for catching the omission in my paraphrasing. Answer updated. – statueuphemism Jan 6 '17 at 12:59
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The AFCI will protect wiring that may have been damaged or become damaged if in the breaker panel. AFCI's also protect against arcing (like damaged electric blankets) this helps to prevent fires and was the reason they were originally required in bedrooms. AFCI's do have a few drawbacks, they cannot tell the diference between an arc and a variable speed motor controller, also with switching power supply's and light dimmers on modestly loaded circuits they tend to trip. I hope the additional information is helpful if you are planning on doing some home upgrades.

  • So the receptacle WILL protect wiring that runs BACK to the panel? That's awesome. What about other branches downstream and upstream from the receptacle? – milesmeow Jan 6 '17 at 9:55
  • Your first sentence is ambiguous. It could be read as indicating AFCI receptacles provide protection for the entire circuit because the question is specific to AFCI receptacles, however I believe you meant to indicate that the statement only applies for combination breaker-type AFCIs in the panel. – statueuphemism Jan 6 '17 at 11:07
  • I don't mention AFCI breakers in my question. I only mean receptacle. – milesmeow Jan 8 '17 at 1:07

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