Invisible Home Dangers: The Risk of Electrical Fire from Arc Faults

Tuesday January 30, 2018


It's one of those electrical terms that just sounds like it is a sign of warning: an arc fault. And in this case, it does.

Understanding Arc Faults

To say that arc faults are a dangerous electrical problem is an understatement, more than half of the nearly 51,000 electrical fires that occur in the United States each year are traced to arc faults. And the damage is devastating.

An arc fault occurs when electrical wiring, appliances or electrical devices become overheated, damaged or otherwise stressed. Most often, arc faults occur when old electrical wires become cracked or frayed, when outlets or circuits become overloaded or when a screw or nail pierces a wire through a wall.

What is an AFCI?

True to their name, they literally “interrupt” an arc fault; they prevent an overheated, overloaded or short-circuited breaker from wreaking havoc in your home. Located in your home's electrical panel, an AFCI functions as a “normal” breaker while providing a higher level of protection. And like a normal breaker, an AFCI will “trip “ – or shut down the electricity – when it senses a hazardous condition. AFCIs often can be distinguished from a normal breaker by a different-colored button near the handle.

Prevention is a Key Part of Electrical Safety

The National Electrical Code – the electrician's “Bible” that establishes electrical standards – has required AFCIs for bedroom wiring since 2002. The use of AFCIs was expanded in 2008 to include the wiring of other rooms in a home, including the living room, dining room, family room, hallways and closets.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that AFCIs could prevent more than 50 percent of the electrical fires that occur every year in American homes. And this statistic points out the obvious: just because the electrical code requires AFCIs doesn't necessarily mean that your home is equipped with them-so if you're uncertain, call us to inspect your home's electrical panel.

The Difference Between AFCIs and GFCIs

GFCIs became common in the 1960s to protect people from electrical shocks if a tool or appliance becomes energized because of a ground fault. This risk was (and is) especially prevalent in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Again, an AFCI protects branch circuit wiring from igniting into electrical fires.

It's important to combine the protection afforded by AFCIs (which protect the wiring) and GFCIs (which protect people). The obvious way to accomplish this is to use an AFCI circuit breaker along with a GFCI outlet (otherwise known as a receptacle). In this way, you can ensure that your home is as safe as it can possibly be.

If you'd like to make sure your home is up to par when it comes to electrical safety, contact Chapple Electric today.



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Invisible Home Dangers: The Risk of Electrical Fire from Arc Faults

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