1

I'm making plans to replace electrical wiring (new wires) and breaker in my apartment. I live in New York city (for code purposes). My breakers are rated as 20 A, NOT GFCI/AFCI. I have some outlets in the living area that are GFCI. I read that in wet areas (kitchen/bath) it is required to have GFCI/AFCI outlets. I also read that stacking GFCI/AFCI protection is not safer, and some would leave them stacked with breaker, some would replace them with regular (non GFCI/AFCI) outlets.

PS: doing it with a certified electrician, of course! But I want to be informed, so here are my questions:

  • Upgrading the current breaker with AFCI/GFCI breaker is the way to go, correct? I don't see a reason to not upgrade it. Is there a situation where it is not recommended?
  • Is there any recent technology I should consider during this upgrade? I read a little about smart power monitor that is installed in the breaker.
  • Considering the breakers will be converted to dual (GFCI + AFCI) protection, do I still need GFCI/AFCI outlets in wet areas? I would say no because everything is already covered by the breaker, but maybe the code still requires it for some reason.
  • Considering the breakers will be converted to dual (GFCI + AFCI) protection, would it be OK to leave one or two GFCI/AFCI outlets in place, or it is recommended to replace them with regular outlets since breaker will already be GFCI/AFCI?
  • My conduits are narrow (old). I rewired two places already. A solid wire is very hard to pass. A stranded is much easier. Would it be OK to use stranded in the whole apartment (living, kitchen, bath, etc.)?
  • I will try to organize the breakers. Currently there is one breaker switching off lights and outlets in different (nearby) areas, I'd like to separate to have better control. Also, one dedicated breaker for the air conditioner. In case a conduit doesn't exit, is NM-B (Romex) cable an acceptable solution here? It seems to me it would require less work to install than a conduit.
  • If I want to create new outlets in the bathroom (small bathroom), what would be the recommended procedure: break the wall and use NM-B cable? break the wall and install conduit? not break the wall and just use a wire cover with a waterproof cable like NM-B? This would be for a new outlet near the sink (shaving, etc.) and near the toilet for future electric bidet installation.
  • Looking up online, I only find THHN stranded. I could not find THWN stranded wires. Why? It seems manufacturers might be using THHN even though they are also waterproof.

Thanks for helping!

  • @JACK While this is a lot of questions in one place, getting answers here (e.g., from Harper or Ed Beal or one of the other regulars) will likely be more complete & comprehensive than Google'ing. Plus there might be someone here who truly knows New York code. I'd answer myself (generically, not New York specific) as I've hung around here long enough to know the answers to most of these questions, but I'm sort of on-strike (no Answers or Edits from me) due to larger StackExchange issues (not DIY specific - the people here are great). – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Apr 13 at 17:58
  • 1
    You need to add your exact location, down to the city. Some cities, I believe Chicago for example, require conduit everywhere. – DoxyLover Apr 13 at 18:57
  • 1
    @DoxyLover Done! (New York city) – igorjrr Apr 13 at 19:15
  • From my limited knowledge of NY code you have to have an electrician do everything. If you have conduit I would wire with stranded THHN. Since I don’t know the type and age of your wiring and that it is in conduit my question to you would be “are you nuts? Or did you just win the lottery? AFCI were originally only required in bedrooms to prevent electric blanket fires , now just about every location has an AFCI or GFCI. I have no problems with bathrooms and any location within 6’ of a basin or in a bathroom needing GFCI but AFCI’s have a really bad track record with any electronic switching – Ed Beal Apr 13 at 19:46
  • Continued, not an answer: with your electrical in conduit other than bedrooms you really have no need for AFCI’s they are there to prevent fires conduit is better without false tripping. I have been called on electronic dimmers tripping AFCI’s, refrigerator’s , vacuums, sewing machines , furnaces electric and gas , sometimes the motor sometimes the igniter. Washing machines with electronic speed control also tend to trip AFCI’s. I am lucky in my state I can replace a nuisance tripping breaker if it is a known issue for the device. don’t think NY has this. Read up before jumping in many are :( – Ed Beal Apr 13 at 19:59
1

AFCI vs GFCI

You're using AFCI/GFCI interchangeably like they're "Thing 1 I don't know what is", and "thing 2 I don't know what is". Actually, they are not similar.

  • AFCI protects wiring in the wall from starting fires (and to a far lesser extent, appliance cords). That may or may not be warranted depending on your wiring, and the scope of your permit/work.
  • GFCI protects humans from shock. It needs to protect appliances that plug in anywhere water could be found, and wires that might get wet.

If you saw all the flooding in Houston where the first floor of buildings was flooded out and people were on the 2nd floor with the power on and A/C running, that's because the overhead service drop and panel are on the 2nd floor, and all the 1st floor circuits are on GFCI (and tripped obviously). Because those places were built to flood.

Scope of AFCI/GFCI

Now in NYC it's common for them to require metal conduit (typically EMT) for all wiring. Metal conduit is not the use-case for AFCI. Code recognizes this to a limited degree; normally AFCI must be at the service panel, but if it's metal conduit, the AFCI protection can be at the first outlet. ACFI receps are half the price, probably because there's more room in a recep; flipside is AFCI receps are huge, and that can sometimes be a problem with metal boxes.

Any AFCI device has LOAD terminals and it can protect any downline wiring (and outlets) connected to those LOAD terminals. Since 90% of the goal of AFCI is to protect wiring, you need to do that, or it would defeat the entire purpose! If AFCI is mandatory, that is mandatory. (What NOT to do: have an AFCI recep at every recep outlet).

GFCI devices also have that LOAD feature. However lots of people don't use it, and that's fine unless the wires themselves have a chance of being flooded or subject to groundwater action (e.g. wiring to a boat dock). But hey, the feature is free.

Since you are wiring a kitchen, really make a point to have the refrigerator be not on a GFCI or AFCI if avoidable. Refrigerators are simply not a use-case for GFCI devices. As far as AFCI, they contribute little when the refrigerator recep is wired in metal conduit.

Questions

Upgrading the current breaker with AFCI/GFCI breaker is the way to go, correct? I don't see a reason to not upgrade it. Is there a situation where it is not recommended?

Refrigerators and other safety equipment. Keep in mind these are safety devices (fault detectors) and they will trip if a fault is present. That seems better now, but it will seem worse when they start tripping due to a fault.

Is there any recent technology I should consider during this upgrade? I read a little about smart power monitor that is installed in the breaker.

Whole house surge suppressors will become Code when your locality adopts NEC 2020. The simplest occupy 2 spaces in the panel, except that being in NYC you will probably need the far rarer 3-phase unit which takes 3 spaces. Electrical upgrades take a lot of spaces. Get a huge panel to suit - 42 spaces is NOT excessive.

Considering the breakers will be converted to dual (GFCI + AFCI) protection, would it be OK to leave one or two GFCI/AFCI outlets in place, or it is recommended to replace them with regular outlets since breaker will already be GFCI/AFCI?

Don't need them. They will be redundant to the point of annoyance - you will need to reset them in a particular sequence.

My conduits are narrow (old). I rewired two places already. A solid wire is very hard to pass. A stranded is much easier. Would it be OK to use stranded in the whole apartment (living, kitchen, bath, etc.)?

99% of my work is in conduit. Solid is a nightmare. I own only stranded #12 wire and I use it for all 15-20A circuits. However, stranded is not allowed in backstabs, and attaching it to screw terminals without it birdcaging is a fine art. Best to either get the $3 screw-to-clamp receps, or pigtail your receps and switches with bits of solid wire (which I gather you have plenty of).

I will try to organize the breakers. Currently there is one breaker switching off lights and outlets in different (nearby) areas, I'd like to separate to have better control.

Try to have the lights and receps for a given room be on different circuits. That way you aren't plunged into the dark when a breaker trips.

If I want to create new outlets in the bathroom (small bathroom), what would be the recommended procedure: break the wall and use NM-B cable? break the wall and install conduit? not break the wall and just use a wire cover with a waterproof cable like NM-B?

NM-B is not waterproof (where did you get that idea!?) It fails quickly when wet. Whether you are allowed to use cable wiring methods is decided by your local Electrical Codes.

Rule of thumb: If all the wiring in the facility is in conduit, Code requires that. People don't put in conduit for their health.

Looking up online, I only find THHN stranded. I could not find THWN stranded wires. Why?

95% of the THHN wire out there is cross-listed both THHN and THWN-2, and meets both standards at the same time.

| improve this answer | |
  • Note that MC (with restrictions) and AC are allowed in the NYC electrical code -- it's not quite as restrictive as Chicago in that regard. – ThreePhaseEel Apr 14 at 0:18
0

By way of condensing this:

  • You do NOT need to have GFCI outlets AND GFCI breakers, one or the other, it's a personal preference.- I personally prefer outlets because they are INSIDE of the house and closer to the point of use so I can see what might be tripping it and if it trips, I don't need to go out to the garage to reset the breaker. But that's based on MY circumstances.
  • AFCI is now a requirement by Code in most areas of the US, so you may not have a choice if your contractor will be pulling a permit. So using combo AFCI+GFCI can save you money. AFCIs however are notorious for nuisance tripping on some types of loads, especially anything with a brush-type AC/DC motor and other things that normally produce sparks, like static air cleaners. I only use them where absolutely mandatory.
  • AFCIs are intended to help prevent fires by looking for arcing faults, often caused by damage to wires in walls from drywall screws or nails. If all of your wiring is in conduit, one could argue the necessity. The Code may not make that distinction however.
  • Stranded wire is fine, just more expensive and SOME end devices (receptacles, switches etc.) are not rated to use it, so you have to be careful.
  • NM-B is fine, but harder to run inside of existing walls without opening up the wall if there is insulation. I would not use surface mount wiring in a bathroom. Conduit is noce, but not necessary in most installations that are covered by walls.
  • The THHN that you can buy over the counter is all THHN/THWN. Plain THHN would be special order.The resellers are just being lazy...
| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.