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Committee votes down update to state electrical code over fire prevention device

(WZTV FILE)

Tennessee lawmakers voted down the chance to upgrade Tennessee’s electrical code requirements on Thursday.

Right now, state law recognizes the 2008 National Electrical Code. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance asked the committee to bring state law up to date with the 2014 code. A joint government operations committee voted down the update during a Thursday meeting.

At the heart of the debate is a device called an arc fault circuit interrupter.

"To a reasonable degree, arc fault circuit interrupters have been proven to prevent fires and to save lives of homeowners and firefighters,” said Kevin Walters, TDCI spokesperson.

They're designed to stop electrical fires before they start. Right now, state law requires they be installed in bedrooms of all new homes.

The 2014 National Electrical Code says they should be mandatory in other rooms of new homes.

The devices are about $25 to $30 more expensive, and some Tennessee builders say that's not cost effective

"It offends most of the home builders when they say we're not about life safety,” said Charlotte Peak, home builder and Bradley County commissioner. “We are, but it's an undue burden. The cost is undue to home builders in Tennessee."

The committee voted down the option to adopt the newest national electrical code, despite pleas from the TDCI.

"The department is disheartened by the decision that occurred today,” Walters said.

The department will have the chance to revise its proposal for consideration next year, but for now state law will stay on-par with the 7-year-old National Electrical Code.

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