Many people have never heard of arc faults. However, arc faults are responsible for thousands of fires each year. An electrician can help prevent fires from arc faults by installing arc fault circuit interrupters.
Arc faults happen when there is a high-energy discharge between conductors. An electrical current arcs or jumps between wires. Arcing faults are extremely hot and can ignite flammable materials around them. An electrician commonly sees this type of fault in damaged electrical cords or wiring that has been pierced or pinched. This is why you should not use staples or nails to keep an extension cord in place. This is also why you should be aware of where you place appliance cords so they are not damaged.
Other arcing faults may only be obvious during an inspection by an electrician. Wiring inside walls that have been damaged can cause arcing between wires. Arcing can also happen if the insulation around the wiring has deteriorated.
Regular circuit breakers are not designed to prevent arcing. They can not stop the arcing of electricity to prevent a fire. Instead, arc fault circuit interrupters (ACFI) are used to stop arcing. They offer a higher level of protection than regular circuit breakers. AFCIs are different from GFCIs. A GFCI would protect someone from electrocution or a dangerous electrical shock from a ground fault. An ACFI is able to detect arcs between wires. It would open a circuit to stop the arc from continuing and prevent an electrical fire.
The new electrical code requires that an electrician must install ACFIs in the bedrooms of new homes. The whole circuit in a bedroom would have the proper protection in the form of a circuit breaker. The electrical code has other recommendations of what areas should have ACFIs. The challenge for electricians is in older homes that may not be up to code and the homeowners are unaware of code revisions and changes. During a remodeling project is a good time for homeowners to have ACFIs installed.
Upgrading the electrical panel is another opportunity to install ACFIs. If you are unsure if you have ACFIs in your home, make sure to call an electrician. It is best to have an electrician install ACFIs since the wiring can be very complicated.
Along with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and GFCIs, ACFIs are an important investment for the safety of your home. All these different technologies are a great complement to each other and should be used together to protect your home.