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Electrical Rip off


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Wife wanted to replace some existing 4 way standard toggle switches with the paddle type decorative switches. Now since she doesn't have a great deal of faith in my electrical expertise she said to talk to an electrician.


Found out that if I get an electrician involved, by code, they will also have to go into the main breaker panel and replace the associated breaker with one of the new AFCI breakers. These are about $40.00 apiece. Realize the actual switch replace is basic electrical, Class A, like-in-kind replacement that involves no new circuits, no new wiring. Now, because main panel work is involved, it also requires a work permit and presumably an inspection. Apparently the only place that is exempt is the garage. So now what was an hours worth of labor and some $5.00 dollar switches will now, when all is said and done, cost probably two to three times that amount.


I can understand the requirement being applied to new construction and maybe to new circuits or additional wiring. But to existing, no change basic electrical makes no sense. Sounds more like manufactures and over zealous government get the benefit.


If I do it myself apparently the rules don't apply. So, any marginal safety benefit from requiring AFCI's will probably be negated by the do-it-yourselfers who aren't going to going to pay a lot more $$.



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If I do it myself apparently the rules don't apply.


I'm not sure about that. But... who's going to know? Arc Fault breakers have been the code for bedrooms and certain living spaces for a while now. Around my parts, I've not heard of a requirement to replace older breakers if swapping out a switch. Nor have I heard of a permit required for such work. It sounds like your electrician is trying to make his trip worth while. You might try someone else.




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I checked with 4 different electricians in three different counties and as of July 2014 the code requires AFCI's when replacing switches, outlets, except garages. Apparently it doesn't apply to replacement of light fixtures. The work permit would only be required for the breaker replacement. Maybe your state has an exception but WA does not have one.

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As a former licensed sparky, is say that living in a place called soggy bottom is likely the main problem. Way to much moisture there!

I remember when my lil darling had soggy bottom, thanks for the memories bro, and good luck.

Seriously, those 3-4 ways aren't that bad, do you have a buddy in the business? Might be the best approach if intimidated.

How many switches control the lights?

If 2 then you have 2 3-way switches.

If 3 you have 2 3-way and one 4 way.

Determine that before proceeding and post or PM.


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Changing switches is probably the simplest electrical DIY project ever.

I admit that 3 and 4-way switches ARE more complicated, but if you read the instructions and label the wires carefully before disconnecting anything, you (probably) can't screw it up.

If SWMBO still won't let you try, maybe you can find a 'handyman' in your area who can take care of this simple task without the expense/hassle it sounds like you'd rather avoid.

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It's probably less daunting than it looks. Most are singles, with 3 three way and one four way, twenty seven total. I figure if I haven't burned down the house or turned my self into a cinder by switch 15 I should be okay.

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