Jan 17

Electrical safety that never takes a break

Q. What are arc fault breakers, and why would my home need them?

A. As homeowners, we take a number of measures to protect ourselves and our property, such as
homeowner’s insurance, smoke alarms in multiple locations, sump pumps to prevent flooding, etc.

Electrical fires are another threat that we need to protect our homes from. Estimates put the number of
electrical home fires at 40,000 each year, and many of those may have been the result of preventable
electrical errors or issues.

Arc-fault breakers (or arc-fault circuit interrupters) are specialized circuit breakers that are designed
to disconnect power when an abnormal electrical arc is detected, thereby preventing damage and
eliminating the potential for an electrical fire caused by an errant arc. AFCIs are not the same as
common circuit breakers – the standard circuit breaker that you are probably familiar with is simpler
in design and only responds to overload and short circuit instances. AFCIs are more selective and can
differentiate between normally occurring electrical arcs and those that are the result of a serious

AFCIs are also different from ground-fault interrupters – outlets that interrupt the flow of electricity
when a faulty ground condition is detected. These are commonly installed in bathrooms and near water
fixtures in other areas of the home according to electrical code requirements. They work on a smaller
scale than AFCIs, and don’t provide the broad protection for the entire home wiring system that AFCIs

National Electric Code (NEC) began requiring AFCIs to be installed in bedroom circuits as of 2002, and in
2008 the code was updated to require their installation in all living-area circuits, such as dining rooms,
hallways, family rooms, etc.

Because of how recent this change is to the electrical code, many older homes and residences do not
currently have AFCIs installed, but they are an affordable and highly valuable safety addition to any

If you are interested in having your home’s wiring evaluated to find out more about installing AFCIs,
call us today. We can provide a quick evaluation and estimate for adding this level of protection to your
home’s electrical system.

Learn more about arc-fault circuit interrupters at GE’s webpage about AFCIs, and at Wikipedia.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.renaissance-electric.com/2013/01/17/electrical-safety-that-never-takes-a-break/

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