Arc Fault Circuits – What Are They?

Every year, more than 300 individuals worldwide lose their lives due to fire hazards brought on by faulty electrical circuits. Statistics suggest that a majority of these fires are caused due to arc circuits, and can be easily avoided by installing arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) in the building.

Keeping the safety of people in mind, the National Electrical Code (NEC) guidelines as of 1999 have now made it mandatory for every new residential building have an AFCI installed in the bedroom. Licensed Electricians are now busy installing AFCIs in not just new homes, but even in older structures where damaged wiring is the main culprit behind arcing faults.

How an electric arc causes fires

Arcing faults are caused due to the presence of deteriorated wires and damaged cords in your home. An older structure, exposure of wires to natural elements, poorly installed switches or outlets, and puncturing the wire insulation while trying to hang a picture are some of the reasons why home wiring deteriorates over a period of time. Whenever an electric arc is formed, high temperatures are generated that can make combustible material such as carpets, wood, and paper catch fire.

Why Arc Fault Circuits should be installed

'Why do we need an AFCI when our home already has a circuit breaker?' is the first question that is often asked by many people when they hire an electrician. The reason is simple: a traditional circuit breaker cuts off the electricity supply only in the case of a short circuit or overload. It does not offer any resistance to the erratic current that will flow due to arcing conditions.

On the other hand, the internal circuit of an AFCI is so designed that it is able to make a distinction between the normal current and the excessive current during arcing. Whenever an abnormality is observed, the internal contacts of the AFCI trip, leaving the circuit de-energized, which in turn reduces the chances of an electrical fire.

You can kill two birds with a single stone when you hire a certified electrical contractor to install AFCI in your homes. They not only shut off the electric circuit in case of an arcing fault, but also trip when an overload or short circuit occurs.

AFCI installation offers excellent protection for branch wirings and provides limited protection when you are using an extension or power cord.

The installation of an AFCI should not be a DIY project. Hire the services of an experienced electrician to install these safety devices in your home. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.