ARC Fault Protection - A good thing?

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Home Improvement

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)


What are these?  Are you required to have them? They are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers a that detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.

AFCI’s monitor and detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They are capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. 

The basic definition of an arc is when an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. Example would be a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. These arcs can cause fires.

These arcs can form when

- wires are improperly installed or

- when insulation becomes damaged

- damaged electrical cords  by vacuum cleaners or trapped beneath furniture or doors.

- damage to wire insulation from aging

- damage from nails or screws driven through walls

- natural aging, kinking, impact or over-extension

- spillage of liquid

- loose connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures

Are AFCIs required?

Short answer is: depends on the building codes in a given jurisdiction


Are they a good idea?