AFCI’s and our future.
You may or may not be familiar with the term AFCI. An Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is a circuit breaker that breaks the circuit when it detects an electric arc in the circuit it protects to prevent electrical fires. An AFCI selectively distinguishes between a harmless arc (incidental to normal operation of switches, plugs, and brushed motors), and a potentially dangerous arc (that can occur, for example, in a lamp cord which has a broken conductor).
Arc faults are one of the leading causes for residential electrical fires. Each year in the United States, over 40,000 fires are attributed to home electrical wiring. These fires result in over 350 deaths and over 1,400 injuries each year.
Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits, so they do not protect against arcing conditions that produce erratic, and often reduced current. An AFCI is selective so that normal arcs do not cause it to trip. The AFCI circuitry continuously monitors the current and discriminates between normal and unwanted arcing conditions. Once detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur.
AFCIs are not new. In fact, they've been required by the National Electric Code (NEC) since 1999. You may have never heard of AFCIs because your home was built prior to their widespread use. As of the 2014 NEC, AFCI protection is required on all 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, and similar rooms and areas. My prediction, is that AFCIs will be required for every circuit at every home in America, probably very soon. Safety and Security have come a long way in the last decade or so. Electrical systems can provide a tremendous amount of power and convenience to a home, with little to no concern or responsibility on the part of the homeowner. It's important for your home to have a certain level of safeguards installed in your electrical system, which could include AFCIs or other safety devices.
As a reminder, your responsibility as a home owner or occupant is to test your AFCI breakers (if installed) at least monthly.
How do you know if you're home has this safety device installed? The only way to know for sure, is to hire a licensed professional home inspector to check before you buy. If you'd like to learn more about AFCIs and other components of your home, please check back on my blog, as I plan to update often with great content!
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