An arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a circuit breaker located in your electrical panel that serves the functions of a normal breaker but also senses hazardous arcing on its circuit and will trip off for this. It can be identified by the special colored test-button near its handle. These breakers are designed to sense an arc, which is an electrical leak. These breakers are sensitive and are known for nuisance tripping. If you experience nuisance tripping a qualified electrician can further evaluate and correct the issue. It may be the equipment/appliance plugged into the outlet that is causing the tripping and not the actual breaker.
Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders are all examples of emergency equipment used in homes to take action when a fire occurs. An AFCI is a product that is designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire. Conventional overcurrent protective devices do not detect low level hazardous arcing currents that have the potential to initiate electrical fires. It is well known that electrical fires do exist and take many lives and damage or destroy significant amounts of property. Electrical fires can be a silent killer occurring in areas of the home that are hidden from view and early detection is key to safety in the home. The objective is to protect the circuit in a manner that will reduce its chances of being a source of an electrical fire.
The 2005 NEC® states that AFCIs must be placed on bedroom power and lighting circuits. The 2008 NEC® may expand this requirement to other areas in the home. As with all property protection and life saving devices, the ultimate use, beyond the Code, rests with the homeowner. The 2017 210.12 NEC® states that Arc-fault circuit-interrupter protection shall be provided as required in 210.12(A), (B), and (C). The arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location. (A) Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms or areas.
AFCIs were developed in response to an identified electrical problem causing fires in the home as noted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other prominent organizations. An AFCI breaker provides a higher level of protection than a standard circuit breaker by detecting and removing the hazardous arcing condition before it becomes a fire hazard.
Feel free to contact Midlands Home Inspections or a local electrician for more information.
Information provided from AFCI Safety