Fault breakers detect faults and break the circuit to protect it from damage.
They are recommended for circuits serving comfortable rooms.
Fault breakers can be a nuisance if they keep tripping the circuit, but that would mean they are effective.
So, Do Mobile Homes Require Arc Fault Breakers?
Functionally, YES, they are required. However, from the perspective of national standards and codes, it will depend on how you choose to use your home. For example, the HUD Code doesn’t require them, whereas NEC (National Electrical Code) only requires them when the home is installed permanently in one location. This means you don’t need to install them if your home is always on the move, which would be under the HUD code.
However, if you choose to install your home on a fixed home site, then the National Electric Code (NEC) will require you to install them just as you would with a site-built home.
NEC vs. HUD – Understanding The Two Codes
Most of the homes sold in the country come with a metal nameplate pinned on them, indicating they are HUD certified.
HUD-certified homes may not have to observe the most up-to-date NEC requirements, especially for fault breakers.
This is what NEC (NFPA) says about fault breakers:
HUD 3280.801 (b), along with the requirements mentioned in this section and Part ll of Article 550 in National Electrical Codes (NFPA No. 70 – 2005), the applicable sections of other Articles found in NEC shall be followed for all electrical installations in mobile homes. In cases where the requirements outlined in this standard diverge from the NEC, these standards apply. The use of AFCIs in line with Article 210.12 (A) and (B), 440.65, as well as 550.25 (A) and (B) of NEC, NFPA No. 70 – 2005, is not required. However, in situations where fault breakers are provided, their use must comply with NEC, NFPA No. 70 – 2005.
Check out the Code Of Federal Regulations.
The handbook is clear on the matter: you don’t need to install fault breakers, but if you do – such as if you install your home in a permanent home site, in which case your home would be very much the same as a site-built home – they must comply with the outlined requirements.
Contrary to What You Might Think, HUD Code and NEC Standards for Fault Breakers Are Not in Conflict with Each Other
You might wonder: “Why do HUD Standards, which are intended for mobile homes, not recommend fault breakers whereas NEC (NFPA Standards), which are more general, recommend them in certain situations?”
The reason is that these two codes serve different purposes and hence can’t speak in one voice.
The HUD Code ensures safety in mobile homes – it does so from a quality perspective.
It is more concerned with how homes are constructed and transported and how these processes impact the buyer’s safety.
Regarding fine details about electrical wiring and equipment (in this case, fault breakers), the HUD Code 3280.801(b) will refer you to the relevant clause in National Electrical Code.
On the other hand, National Electrical Code is restricted to the safe installation of all electric wiring and equipment in homes.
The guidelines ensure electric wiring and home equipment are correctly installed to prevent electric fires and related accidents.
The Reason Why Fault Breakers Are Not Required in Movable Mobile Homes Is That These Homes Are Off-Grid Most of the Time
Electricity drawn from the national power “grid” can be erratic sometimes, more unstable than off-grid sources such as solar energy and gasoline generators.
Homes installed permanently on a home site will likely be connected to the national power grid.
This means your home is more vulnerable to surges and other interruptions.
Besides age, faults can be caused by overheating and overloading the circuit.
While overheating is normally caused by poor design or manufacturer, accidental or frequent power surges may play a role.
More surges may mean a high likelihood of circuits developing issues that may lead to faults, hence the need for fault breakers.
Electricity derived from these sources is stable and easier to control compared to that drawn from the national grid.
Electrical faults are unlikely to occur, meaning fault breakers are not necessary.
Just Because One Set of Regulations May Say Fault Breakers Are Not Required Doesn’t Mean It Is Safe to Operate Without Them
While the HUD Code does not require fault breakers, the devices are critical safety equipment that shouldn’t be ignored.
Smoke alarms, escape ladders, and fire extinguishers are examples of emergency devices in modern homes to help you contain a fire.
Fault breakers detect an arcing electrical fault and break the circuit to prevent a fire. Electric arcs indicate the presence of loose connections. Loose connections are bound to occur as the home ages.
According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), an average of 46,700 electricity-related home fires were reported in the last half of the previous decade.
An average of 390 people perished, while 1,3330 injuries were recorded each year in the same period.
Electric arcing – which you are stopped by installing fault breakers – was the source of heat in 3 of every 5 home fires (or 63 percent) caused by an electrical failure.
Data shows that an electrical malfunction is more likely to occur in the winter when electricity use peaks in many homes.
Mobile homes installed permanently on a home site are put on the same standards as site-built homes.
Since such homes are more likely to connect to the national grid, which can sometimes be unstable and trigger problems with your home circuit, NEC requires installing fault breakers.
If the home is not installed permanently on a home site, you are probably planning to move.
It means you are likely to use stable off-grid power sources, which removes the need for fault breakers.