The Low Voltage Distribution Equipment section (LVDE) of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) announced the publication of a white paper, urging builders, electrical contractors and anyone involved in residential construction to educate home buyers on potential life-saving devices. One such device is the arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI), a relatively inexpensive yet effective safety measure to prevent electrical problems that cause home fires.

The paper analyzes the overall cost of some popular upgrades homeowners make to their home either in the building or remodeling process, and it advises homeowners to consider selecting safety upgrades that may protect their investment.

“While granite countertops, heated floors, custom-built kitchen cabinets and other luxury upgrades may generate a good return when it comes time to sell, homeowners should take a safety-first approach and consider smart upgrades that actually protect their investment and potentially the lives of their loved ones,” said Gerard Winstanley, LVDE technical program manager for NEMA.

Upgrades and options are an integral part of the home-building and planning processes. On average, new homes built in the United States feature an additional 10 percent in luxury upgrades. The upgrade trend isn’t just reserved for the home-building process. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Americans will have spent nearly $233 billion on home remodeling by the end of 2007.

According to Winstanley, education is a key step in the process, noting that many safety upgrades can be made to homes to counter the threat of fire hazards. One important area not to be overlooked is the home’s electrical system.

Recent data from the United States Fire Administration (USFA) show that home electrical problems are responsible for an estimated 67,800 home fires every year, resulting in 485 deaths, 2,300 injuries and more than $868 million in residential property loss.

“The tragic loss of human life and injuries resulting from home electrical fires is real, stressing the importance of making safety the No. 1 priority when deciding on upgrades to incorporate into the building or remodeling process,” Winstanley said.

“While functioning smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency safety ladders increase a family’s chance of escaping injury from an electrical fire, other potential life-saving technology, such as AFCIs, can actually help to prevent fires from occurring in the first place.”

AFCIs were previously required only in bedrooms, but the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) has taken safety a step further and requires them to be installed in additional areas of new homes.

According to CPSC estimates, AFCI protection in homes nationwide could prevent more than 50 percent of home electrical fires.

For more information, visit www.AFCIsafety.org.