What is arc fault protection?
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, converter 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.
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.
AFCI does not take the place of GFCI protection!
It is important to understand that an AFCI does not take the place of GFCI protection. While ground-fault circuit interrupters protect against shock, they are not intended to protect against fire, as does an AFCI.
So in new or remodeled wiring, many locations will require both GFCI and AFCI protection. This can be accomplished by installing AFCI circuit breakers then using GFCI receptacles at specific locations; or, there are combination AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers that can offer both types of protection to the entire circuit.
It is critical that Code requirements for both AFCI and GFCI protection are followed whenever extending or updating a wiring system. Not sure what to do? Contact us, we’re happy to help!
National Electrical Code requirements for AFCI protection.
AFCI protection is required by the 2017 National Electrical Code® (NEC) for 15 and 20 amp circuits that serve outlets and devices in all areas of new residential construction, excluding bathrooms, garages, and outside areas.
In addition to new construction, when receptacles are replaced in areas where AFCI protection is now required, the replacement receptacle must have AFCI protection.
As a licensed Denver 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.
Arc fault protection is important to keep your home and family safe.