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What do people do when a breaker is required to meet code but nobody local stocks it? How do you pass inspection? Do you trust random sellers on Amazon?

Context: I re-did my oven wiring when I discovered it was not up to code (previous installer had hijacked ground as neutral to support a 220/120V oven on a 3-wire cable, and was using a 40A breaker when the oven pigtail was only 12AWG) by running 12/3 Romex and replacing it (temporarily) with a 20A 2-pole breaker. My home is in a NEC 2020 state so it requires AFCI for pretty much all indoor circuits, and I've been upgrading breakers to CAFI as I go. I'd like to find a CAFI breaker for the oven circuit since I'm getting it inspected.

Problem: I can't find a Square D Homeline 20A 2-pole CAFI breaker in stock anywhere. I know they exist (HOM220CAFIC) but they're out of stock at the big box stores, don't seem to be available at the local electric supply stores that I've checked, and SE seems to have them listed for $625 USD!

I did find an Amazon listing for $189, but I'm generally skeptical of buying safety devices from there since I can't guarantee the quality and it feels like possibly price gouging.

What do people do in such shortages? Surely they don't stop building or repairing faulty wiring?

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  • Due to cost and supply issues - and availability at all for some older (but still functional) panel types, many jurisdictions have held back on the double-breaker AFCI requirement. In addition, you may have a grandfathered situation if the oven is in the original oven location (as opposed to a total kitchen renovation). So, have you checked with your local inspection department to find out if AFCI is an actual requirement? There may also be a difference between plug-in vs. hardwire, so if you are doing plug/receptacle check with inspector to see if hardwiring helps with the AFCI rule. May 29, 2023 at 19:54
  • First what does the oven require? There should a label on the oven listing the amperage. Then you can use the right size gauge wire and breaker size for the oven. Wires attached/supplied to a device by the manufacturer can be a small guage than allowed.
    – crip659
    May 29, 2023 at 19:55
  • I went through my state modifications to NEC and couldn't find any exemptions for AFCI. Also, last time I called the inspection office with a technical question I was directed to read the state rules.
    – peter
    May 29, 2023 at 19:56
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    Have you tried finding your nearest Square D distributor and asking them? Different supply houses are distributors for different brands of products. May 29, 2023 at 20:38
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    240v AFCI requirement? The 2020 NEC in 210.12 specifies only 120v 15 and 20A, so you aren't looking for exemption, we are looking for addition. What State? May 30, 2023 at 1:04

1 Answer 1

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Generally

First, you check code to be sure your requirements actually are what you presume them to be. I'm talking to you here.

Second, you talk to the AHJ and describe the problem and ask for a waiver. If you're having the problem, it is probably coming up on literally every job and they have an answer for it.

In fact, this reared its ugly head on an NEC revision that required a single disconnect switch. This had an unforeseen impact on 400A residential services, which are normally implemented as dual 200A breakers side by side. I think NFPA believed manufacturers would simply position the 200A breakers next to each other and come up with a $2 handle-tie... but this proved much more problematic than that. So states deleted the rule and/or AHJs simply said "keep using normal equipment this code cycle".

In your case

previous installer had hijacked ground as neutral to support a 220/120V oven on a 3-wire cable

Illegal using "/2+gnd" cable. Legal prior to 1996, but by no means safe, using "/3 no ground" (white neutral)... or "bare mesh neutral" SEU cable.

and was using a 40A breaker when the oven pigtail was only 12AWG

Actually, that's the one place in a house the "Tap Rules" are allowed to be used. Yeah, if the oven is good on a 20A circuit that's fine.

by running 12/3 Romex and replacing it (temporarily) with a 20A 2-pole breaker.

But-but-but- why not run 6/3 Romex and replace the entire -- Oh wait, I see what you did there.

Yeah. The oven needs the neutral, not the stovetop. (for reasons which are now dumb: the need to use "common everyday 120V incandescent bulbs that everyone has plenty of" as oven lights).

Now, whatever your old 40A range wiring is, that'll be fine for a no-neutral range. /2+gnd is legal for that. SEU can have its neutral converted to a ground. (NEC Chapter 3, SEU section). With "/3 no ground" you can destroy the white insulation and make it a ground.

[Citation needed]

My home is in a NEC 2020 state so it requires AFCI for pretty much all indoor circuits... I'd like to find a CAFI breaker for the oven circuit since I'm getting it inspected.

I'm all for people putting in AFCI breakers when they don't have to, to protect old wiring, particularly aluminum (which is perfectly safe when attached to terminals correctly; the problem is gold-standard practices in 1980 were very wrong).

"They're making us put AFCIs on everything!" is also great at the anti-big-government political rally.

However, your motivation is "to pass inspection". What matters is what Code says. In your case I can't find a darn thing that calls out AFCIs for 240V circuits in dwellings. There's a great deal about >>G<<FCIs for 240V circuits, and that actually creates a conflict... 2-pole GFCIs are common, 2-pole AFCI breakers exist in catalogs, but 2-pole GFCI+AFCI is a tall order. And NFPA is reluctant to mandate products which do not exist, but rather strident on their GFCI requirements... so I don't see them sacrificing those to get AFCI instead.

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  • Sigh.. you're right again. I haven't been thinking straight and totally forgot this was a 240V circuit so AFCI requirements don't apply. I guess I'm good to go on the breaker side.
    – peter
    May 30, 2023 at 2:09
  • "SEU can have its neutral converted to a ground" -- the cable I replaced was aluminum SEU, with its ground converted to neutral. The oven's neutral + ground were both bonded together, and hooked up to the SEU's ground (which was taped white) using a Polaris connectors. I believe this is illegal and unsafe, correct?
    – peter
    May 30, 2023 at 2:13
  • "But-but-but- why not run 6/3 Romex and replace the entire -- Oh wait, I see what you did there." I'm not following this part, why would I need 6/3?
    – peter
    May 30, 2023 at 2:15
  • "Actually, that's the one place in a house the "Tap Rules" are allowed to be used. Yeah, if the oven is good on a 20A circuit that's fine." -- what are Tap rules?
    – peter
    May 30, 2023 at 2:15
  • @peter with SEU, SE stands for Service Entrance, its primary use - and in a service entrance, ground doesn't exist yet. Therefore yeah, the outer mesh actually is neutral, and it's insulated for that. The neutral can be converted to ground. It's perfectly suitable for a 240V-only range. What you describe was legal from 1966 to 1995 due to a weird exception, where ranges and dryers got to attach their chassis to neutral. It was thought this would be safe... it was not :( May 30, 2023 at 8:48

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