Arc fault protection, or arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) has been around for some time now but, unless your home was built or remodeled after 2005, you might not be familiar with it. AFCI protection is provided via a specifically designed AFCI breaker, AFCI receptacle, or a combination of the two.
Arc fault protection is designed to detect low level, potentially hazardous arcing on a circuit.
While a standard circuit breaker will trip when it detects an overload or short circuit condition, an AFCI is designed to detect low level, potentially hazardous arcing on a circuit, that could result in an electrical fire. The advanced electronic technology installed within the AFCI breaker or receptacle constantly monitors the circuit for arcing conditions.
If you experienced AFCI protection early on, you are well aware of the problems created by “nuisance tripping”. This was when “normal” arcing that occurs within motor driven appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, ceiling fans, and treadmills would cause the AFCI to trip. We even saw instances of wireless routers, convertor boxes, and chargers causing AFCI devices to trip. What a hassle for the homeowner, and what a nightmare for the electrician to troubleshoot!
Manufacturers worked diligently to refine their technologies so that now, for the most part, AFCI breakers and receptacles recognize the difference between normal arcing and dangerous arcing conditions that result from loose connections or damaged/deteriorating insulation on the wire.
Older wiring systems, such as knob and tube, were installed sharing a neutral wire between circuits. A shared neutral wire condition will result in an AFCI tripping instantly when something is turned on or plugged in on that circuit. Likewise, an AFCI will detect arcing that results from a deteriorating aluminum wire connection to the copper terminal of a wall receptacle, light switch, or ceiling fixture. If the AFCI trips in these circumstances, it’s doing its job to keep you safe. Much like a smoke or carbon monoxide detector, a tripping AFCI breaker or receptacle is alerting you to a problem.
National Electrical Code requirements for AFCI protection.
Currently, the National Electrical Code requires AFCI protection in every room within a dwelling except bathroom, unfinished areas of the basement and attic, crawl space, and garage. Code also requires AFCI protection for 6’ or more of new wiring, and that replacement receptacles or receptacles added in finished areas of a home be AFCI protected.
As a licensed Electrical Contractor, employing only licensed electricians, we abide by the National Electrical Code. More importantly, we install our work with your safety in mind, and believe AFCI protection is an important part of that.